Archive for the ‘KOH2RVA’ Category

by Steve Blanchard

Duane Merrill was a mainstay in Richmond’s First Baptist Church’s Community Missions ministry for many years. We first met Duane when he came to FBC as a participant in Community Missions. He had experienced homelessness over the years and came to FBC to receive a hot meal at Grace Fellowship on Thursday nights and to take showers on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday mornings. Duane quickly became much more than just a participant; he became part of our FBC family through his willingness to volunteer with the Compassion Ministry even while participating in the programs. He was a quiet individual but was always on the lookout for ways to help others. He even served as the custodian for the shower ministry.

In the winter of 2017, during a long period of frigid weather accompanied by snow, Duane awoke one morning in his tent by the James River and found that he was suffering from extreme frostbite, which resulted in the amputation of both of his legs below the knees. After extensive hospitalization and therapy, Duane received prosthetic legs and was trying to adjust to his new way of living. Several members of the church helped Duane in a variety of ways, however, the emotional struggles from past and present issues overcame Duane, and he passed away on July 16, 2018.

Duane's DenDuane had become so much more than just a participant in the programs offered through the Compassion Ministry so it was in the latter part of November 2018 that Charlie Ball, Bonnie Wilmoth, and I began to think of a way we could help other homeless individuals during extreme frigid weather so that Duane’s initial situation might not be repeated. The idea of establishing an emergency shelter to help others in this particular crisis began to take hold. As the idea developed, we decided to name the project Duane’s Den to recognize Duane’s deep commitment to the Compassion Ministry. On Wednesday, January 30, Duane’s Den opened unexpectedly during a particularly frigid evening. The first night seven people stayed in the shelter as we only began announcing it that day. However, the next evening it housed twenty-seven.

The shelter will function much like the CARITAS shelter that FBC operated for years in July and November where we, as a partner church, housed and fed anywhere from 35-110 people at a time for one week. Duane’s Den will operate slightly differently in that we will not offer meals or showers except during extended stays. It will simply be a safe, warm place for the homeless to find shelter when the temperature or wind chill drops below 15 degrees, or in the event of a natural disaster such as a hurricane, tornado or severe snowstorm. The shelter will open at 6:00 p.m. and will close the following morning at 7:00 a.m. Hours may be extended in the case of a natural disaster or snowstorm. The shelter has a capacity of 50 individuals.

Duane’s Den, established in Duane Merrill’s memory, honors the life of a quiet, gentle, compassionate man who became part of our FBC family.

Duane Merrill


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By Jeannie Dortch. Photos courtesy of Paul Bickford, Ried Stelly and Mark Williams.

Callout-BLOG-kohx2In September 2013 Jim Somerville explained KOHx2, FBC’s second yearlong mission trip: “How much more possible it would be to bring the Kingdom if FBC partnered with other people, other churches, and other agencies and institutions. Everything is easier when you have a little help.”


SKEINS knitted wares

A little help is what made this story grow into one worth telling!

In December 2012 I heard Ann Curry from the TODAY Show tell everyone listening to the morning broadcast to perform 26 acts of kindness in memory of the children and teachers killed in Sandy Hook, CT. I had promised FBC’s SKEINS ministry (Sewers, Knitters, Embroiderers involved in Needlework for Service) that I would knit hats for children in South Africa, but had not made good on my pledge. It was that number 26 that gave me the goal and end point I needed to begin.


Playground built by money raised
through special offerings

It wasn’t long before I met Mark and Sara Williams, CBF (Cooperative Baptist Fellowship) missionaries to South Africa, who were visiting Richmond, and gave them my first four feeble attempts. Then I learned about more ties between FBC members and the Williamses. June Burton was raising money to dig a well for the villagers in the community where Sara and Mark work. Debbie Boykin and Candi Brown were leading mission trips to that community, and Candi was spearheading a campaign to raise money to build a playground there.

I wanted to draw attention to these good causes, too. When the Fine Arts Team sought artists to display their work in the annual Arts and Crafts Show, I wondered if my hats, each unique, were considered show worthy? With a few phone calls, I discovered they were. And with a few more calls, I gathered more SKEINS knitters to contribute their work as well. These hats gave opportunities to share with the show’s attendees about the other FBC ties to South Africa. Gwen and Truman Smith, Sara Williams’ parents, answered questions about Sara and Mark’s work. June Burton provided flyers on “Digging Wells for Eli,” the project she named in honor of the Williams’ son. And a signup sheet for the first mission trip, led by Candi, was available.

Pratt Stelly-250px

Pratt Stelly on mission in Tibet

Pratt Stelly stopped at our Arts and Crafts Show booth and later wrote on Jim’s blog, referring to participation in FBC’s year-long mission trip as riding on a metaphorical bus that stops for passengers to disembark and help those in need: “At the Arts and Crafts Fair I was drawn to the darling baby hats from the SKEINS group. I was given a pattern right there on the spot, and stopped to buy yarn on my way home from church! I knit 10 hats before I left for China …. And this is where I got off the “bus.” While I want to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, I feel like we should also bring the Kingdom of Heaven wherever we are in the world. I took my hats to Tibet in hopes of finding an orphanage, but could not find one that took babies. I decided to give the hats to needy people I passed on the street. … While we did not speak the same language, we shared the feeling of love for one another, and that is what it is all about. I will continue to knit and give hats wherever I am.”

Marian Robinson, another new knitter, says: “I saw the preemie hat … at the Arts and Crafts Fair. I was especially interested in the unusual design pattern. Jeannie sent me the directions. I was thrilled and excited to be part of this mission. I started immediately along with my cousin Kathy who was visiting from Massachusetts.

Mark Larson and kids

Mark Larson on mission in South Africa

We knitted a dozen hats in time for Mark Larson to take with him to South Africa in October. The task was a simple one, but the satisfaction received was more than I could have ever imagined.”

And finally, from Linn Kreckman, founder of SKEINS: “After listening to Gwen Smith speak at Missions Friends in September, Evan, my 6-year-old grandson, wanted to find time with me to knit for ‘the children who don’t have a mommy to keep them warm.’ His hat was a labor of love, full of beginning knitter’s holes, but one that was knit from the start to share.”

South African kids

FBC mission team members sharing hats
with SAF community

It is amazing how so much more can be accomplished when the work is joyfully and willingly shared. Math is not my strong suit, but KOHx2 may just be the easiest multiplication problem I ever worked!

Editor’s note: The goal for “Digging Wells for Eli” is $7,000 for one well. At the time of this writing, almost $6,000 has been raised and digging began November 11, 2013. For more information, contact June Burton.
For information on SKEINS, contact Linn Kreckman.
Jeannie Dortch just finished her 26th hat and plans to continue knitting.

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By Billy Davis. Photos by Sharon McCauley.


Puppet team at RIR

We have all heard the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed – try and try and try again!” This certainly was true for those of us on the Richmond Baptist Association (RBA) team who started a ministry among the thousands of raceway fans coming to Richmond International Raceway (RIR) for the two big spring and fall NASCAR weekends.

We first focused on a Sunday morning worship service. Seeking approval to begin such an outreach effort, we received a “Yes,” but when the NASCAR Daytona executives changed the RIR venue from Sunday to Saturday night, our ministry was no longer needed.

Opportunities did not close to us, however. Motor Racing Outreach of Charlotte, NC, which provided worship, counseling and a children’s ministry for NASCAR drivers and crew member families on Saturdays, invited the RBA team to join them in their work at the Richmond track.

racetrack team SMcCauley

Ministry volunteers at RIR

Early in 2000, Dover and Middle District Associations joined RBA’s team in a broad-based ministry effort at RIR. Then the RIR was purchased by the International Speedway Corporation (ISC). The new ISC president and many of his staff are Christians who knew the value of a raceway ministry. These two changes began a significant time in the development of the ministry now known as Central Virginia Raceway Ministries (CVRM).

CVRM provides chaplains for each race weekend at RIR. These chaplains minister to families in many situations, including when injuries and deaths occur. Our volunteers, both lay persons and clergy, work in four-hour shifts. In addition to counseling, they distribute between two and four thousand pieces of Christian literature, Bibles, driver picture cards, and hospitality packets each weekend. The Virginia Baptist Disaster Relief Unit joins us in handing out cookies, lemonade and cups of water to fans. The Puppet Ministry from FBC has entertained children with their message of God’s love.

Raceway weekends bring to Richmond enough fans to make up a city as large as the fifth or sixth largest in our state. They come with all the needs of any city this size. One fan, a recent Christian, asked if he could hang out with us each day. He said, “I’m a former alcoholic. If I go back to be with the guys and gals I’ve come with, I could fall off the wagon.”

We believe there is a need for the ministry among the 100,000 plus fans coming to RIR for each race weekend. As Dean Kurtz, Executive Officer for Guest Services, ISC Daytona, said, “Everything under the sun is found at a race track and the steeple ought to be also!!”

ICON-billy-davisBilly Davis served as the RBA Consultant for church programs, strategic planning, partnership missions, and deacon, youth and senior adult ministries. Since retiring, he has followed his great passion for Raceway Ministries at RIR where he has served as a chaplain and volunteer coordinator since 2000. Billy and his wife, Linda, have two children, Barry and Susan, and three grandchildren.

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By Clint Smith. Photos by Win Grant.

Rob and Katie Courain aren’t afraid to be honest – in fact, they’ve constructed an entire ministry around it.

RVA United, dedicated to bringing twenty – and thirty – somethings together to worship, study and serve Christ, is about the business of authenticity. Recent sermon topics at their biweekly services include dating, marriage, alcohol, and personal integrity. “Ninety-nine percent of this age group either don’t know or aren’t experiencing a real relationship with God,” says Katie. “We want them to feel safe asking the tough questions that keep them from going deeper.”

RVA-montageRob, a Richmond native, met Christ three years ago. “I believed in God – maybe,” he says. “Even if I had wanted to have a relationship with Him, I wouldn’t have known how.”

Struggling to find his identity in Nashville, Tenn., where he was pursuing a career as a songwriter, Rob accepted an invitation to Kairos, a 1,500-member young adult ministry based out of Brentwood Baptist Church. Describing his favorite seat as “the back wall – not even the back pew,” Rob claims that on his tenth visit, the truth from the pulpit and the overwhelming love of the congregation finally moved him to accept Christ. His romance with Katie and a move to Richmond soon followed, and they have dedicated their first years of marriage to establishing the same type of welcoming, worshipful environment that opened his own heart to the love of God.

Their ministry began when Rob met Dave Allam, a Christian with a shared dream for Richmond’s young adults. Allam’s ministry, RichmondOne, was in its infancy when the Courains came aboard. The program evolved into RVA United, and its leaders went searching for a home church.

“For every reason you could imagine, we heard a lot of ‘no’,” Rob says. “But everything changed when Katie sat down with Lynn [Lynn Turner, FBC’s Senior Associate Pastor]. Before Katie could even ask, Lynn smiled and said, ‘Why don’t you do it here?’ That very week she invited us to a prayer meeting, and twenty or thirty people I had never seen were hugging me and praying for our vision. I’ll never forget that. First Baptist is such a special place.” A short time later, RVA United held its first worship service in the sanctuary at Monument Avenue and the Boulevard.

Every two weeks, the Courains mobilize a small band of volunteers and professionals to make the Tuesday night service a success. The stage is built, the lights are placed, the screens and projectors are hung and focused, the sound is checked, and the food trucks are booked – all before anyone arrives.

Then the greeters, musicians, teachers, prayer leaders, and counselors go to work. A rotation of guest speakers fills the pulpit, already calling upon ministers from the Commonwealth Chapel, Bless Richmond, New Life UMC, and Movement Church. “We are passionate about getting people plugged into church,” says Katie, when asked about the decision to invite guests to deliver the message. “That’s the ‘united’ part of our name – a union of churches that serves one Lord.” The Courains extend invitations to church partners across the city and surrounding counties to both announce their events and welcome young adults into their own congregations.

The Courains’ vision for RVA United is packed pews, a rich and diverse network of church and community partnerships, faithful small groups meeting across the city, impactful service projects, destroyed addictions, restored relationships, and most of all, thousands of hearts turned toward Jesus Christ. “We need help,” admits Rob. “It’s a big vision, and it’s big work.”

RVA United is seeking Christians who can serve as mentors and counselors during and beyond the worship services. “Don’t think that you have to be under forty to come on Tuesday night. We very much want and need mature Christians – of all ages – to counsel, mentor and pray with this congregation. If your gifts lie more behind the scenes, there are plenty of opportunities there, as well: equipment set up and tear down, audio, video, light mixing, child care, hospitality, and many others.”

“Our dream is big, but so is our God,” Katie says.

If you are interested in helping RVA United, please contact Rob Courain, (804) 356-6337.

Editor’s note: RVA United meets for worship every other week, beginning September 10, 2013, at 7 p.m., in FBC’s sanctuary.

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By Lee Byerly. Photos by Susan Brown.

It’s been said, “You have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”

Summer Camp at Essex VillageI received an awakening while volunteering for summer camp at Essex Village Apartments (see related story). I have lived! How? I was awakened to the reality of young children, each unique and precious, each needing a smiling face from someone who genuinely cares. I could be that face and didn’t need anything in return.

Every day of camp about 12 children knew the smiling faces and love of FBC volunteers who gave their time, talent and treasure. Several of these children are from Pakistan, Kenya and Somalia and are trying to assimilate into a new culture and way of life, while still retaining their sense of identity. This they did with great joy and anticipation every day.

Mornings were filled with one-on-one tutoring, listening to students read, working out math problems, and playing various games. Higher level thinking skills soared as Checkers became the game of choice among students who wanted to play the adults. After lunch Josie Carver led creative art projects.

In addition to art and core subjects, Steve Blanchard (FBC’s Associate Pastor with the Ministry of Compassion) helped organize field trips. We took the students to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Three Lakes Park and Nature Center, and on a historical tour of Richmond. Steve was an excellent tour guide! Each student took notes of the travels and compiled them into a short personal essay that was shared with the class.

Other outings included lunches at McDonald’s and Sweet Frog where the children found good opportunities for decision making. Those who completed their summer reading were also treated to Chick-fil-A.

That reading can continue with many wonderful books provided by First Baptist for the children and adults of Essex Village. These books and two new book shelves were presented on the last day of camp.

Many exciting moments, many small victories, such a short amount of time. That kind of success happens when there is a combined effort – children, parents, volunteers, all under the direction of Mrs. Ernestine Dockery-Roy and her husband from Seeds of Promise Outreach Ministries, Inc.

Summer Camp at Essex VillageSummer Camp at Essex VillageSummer Camp at Essex VillageSummer Camp at Essex VillageSummer Camp at Essex VillageSummer Camp at Essex VillageSummer Camp at Essex VillageSummer Camp at Essex VillageSummer Camp at Essex VillageSummer Camp at Essex VillageSummer Camp at Essex Village

Lee ByerlyLee Byerly and his wife, Lisa, are members of the Travelers Adult Bible Fellowship. Lee teaches tennis. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with their daughter, Rachel, fishing, camping, snowboarding, and following college sports.

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By Rebecca Ozmore. Photos by Susan Brown and Janet Chase.

When First Baptist hosted CARITAS in July 2013, we didn’t get on the KOH2RVA  bus – the bus brought Richmond to us.

Most of us are familiar with CARITAS from FBC’s tradition of hosting homeless men during Thanksgiving week. Congregations Around Richmond To Assure Shelter provides individuals overnight shelter at local churches. CARITAS was looking for additional summer hosts because it’s a difficult season for scheduling. FBC was looking for another way to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia (KOH2RVA). When we heard 40 homeless women needed shelter, we opened our doors.

FBC hosts its first women’s CARITAS.Overall, this week was not much different from the men’s week. The women arrived by bus each evening. We provided a meal, opportunity for a shower, and a place to sleep. We also provided toiletry bags with linens, shower items, and a request form for needed items including clothing.

FBC hosts its first women’s CARITAS.We scheduled activities each evening, blessing the women and giving them opportunities to bless others. There were presentations from the Fan Free Clinic and Richmond Police Department. On bingo night, one of the winners gave her prize of a cosmetic bag to another woman who had been hoping to win it. Mt. Gilead Full Gospel International Ministries led a praise and worship service on another night. Several of the women and volunteers commented that they were touched by FBC hosts its first women’s CARITAS.the service; twelve of the CARITAS women went forward at the end for prayers with the ministers.

FBC members volunteered to wash loads of laundry for the women and donate specific items, sometimes within just a few hours of an email request. One church member made 50 pillowcases, no two alike, to give each of our CARITAS guests. She attached Psalm 4:8 to the pillowcases, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe” (NLT).

FBC hosts its first women’s CARITAS.Many of the women expressed their gratitude for staying at the church and the delicious meals provided by FBC members. But perhaps their appreciation was best summed up by their reactions to receiving the items they had requested earlier in the week. Volunteer Vicky Nicholau commented, “Women cried when they opened their ‘Need Bags’ and received things they thought they would never get.”

Heaven was definitely at FBC during this week. And we didn’t have to take a bus ride to find it!

Rebecca OzmoreRebecca Ozmore is an elementary school counselor for Henrico County Public Schools. She and her husband, Gerry, helped start the Young Couples Adult Bible Fellowship of which they are still members. Rebecca and Gerry have two sons, Grant and Charley, who keep them very busy. In her spare time, Rebecca enjoys cooking, reading, writing, and being outdoors. She is a graduate of Virginia Tech and looks forward to Hokie football every fall.

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By Ann Carter. Photos by Ann Carter and Len Morrow.

I’ve had a whirlwind mission-trip season.

Youth 1 gardeningAs part of a six-week gardening class this spring with Len Morrow (see below) Youth 1 planted potatoes in a roof top garden at the former Adams Camera Store. That building is being refurbished through ReEstablish Richmond to assist refugees who have been brought to Richmond by federal programs. The youths also worked with Len to prepare gardens around FBC for planting with summer annuals.

arkansas-cardgame250pxAt the end of June, I took 16 Youth One kids and five adults to Passport Camp, an annual week-long event that focuses on discipleship and hands-on mission time. In July I led a group of 10 children and youths and 15 adults to Helena, Arkansas. This has also been an annual mission trip, where we partner with, serve and love that community.

manila-youth250pxAnd 12 of us finished up the season in July with another bit of heaven in Singapore at the Baptist Youth World Conference, followed by a mission trip to Manila, Philippines—two more weeks of bringing heaven to earth—and experiencing heaven on earth!

These times were heaven on earth for me. I know saying that seems like a stretch. Really? Digging in dirt on a roof top? A week with middle schoolers at camp? Sleeping on the floor of a church with 24 of your closest friends and showering in a trailer? Yes!!!!!

Youth 1 on missionBut let me explain!

There is something really beautiful about traveling together, living together in close quarters, working together, learning together, worshiping together, playing together, laughing together, eating together, resting together, and growing together. Emphasis on together!

At the end of each experience our love for God and our love for each other has multiplied and deepened and strengthened so that we came home longing for more time together.

Youth 1 on missionActually, what we are longing for is heaven. Because I think that is what heaven will be like: people who love God and love each other, living, worshiping, eating, fellowshipping, playing and laughing, resting and working – together.

Look for more information on Len Morrow.
Find out about ReEstablish Richmond or email Patrick Bradford.
Editor’s note: Ann Carter serves on the FBC staff as Youth Associate.

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