Archive for the ‘Missions’ Category

By Emma Tilley

This year COVID-19 has altered the very way we do life and ministry. During this year, we have stood face to face with the fragility of life. As the book of Ecclesiastes puts it, “all is hevel (or breath).” Our jobs, our food systems, our health: they are all fragile. The COVID-19 pandemic has also revealed so starkly the ways life can be even more fragile for those who are homeless, in minority communities and work in service jobs.

In March, when Richmond’s First Baptist Church went virtual, Steve Blanchard began rethinking how the Ministry of Compassion could continue to serve our neighbors safely in this critical time. Feeding people has become his top priority. Feeding America, the largest hunger relief organization in America, estimates in 2020 about 54 million people in our country will experience food insecurity with 18 million of those being children.1

The food pantry was moved quickly to the corner of Flamming Hall and converted to a walk-up model. A place where our church once gathered together to eat every week now looks like a small grocery store currently serving around 280 people each week. Every Monday and Thursday anyone can walk up to the back door of the gym, be given a list on which to indicate the items they need, and be handed a bag full of their choice of canned goods, toiletries, clothes, shoes, a bag lunch or cleaning supplies. This summer the food pantry also began offering vegetables grown in our community access plot at Charlotte Acres. This partnership allows our pantry to make available fresh, healthy food to those we serve.

Throughout the year the number of clients has steadily increased as the pandemic wages on and word spreads about our ministry. Social workers, agencies or clients can also call ahead and order boxes of food throughout the week for pick up. Starting in August the mobile market resumed going out every first and third Saturdays to St. Luke’s Apartments and Glen Lea Elementary School. The FBC compassion van is stocked with food, fresh vegetables and cleaning supplies. We typically see a surge in clients at the end of the month when federal SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits run out and money is tight. These food supplies help families and individuals have consistent access to food.

Finding a way to operate the shower ministry during the pandemic was another concern. This took some brainstorming to find a safe way to allow our homeless neighbors to have access to a shower. In July, the Baptist General Association of Virginia provided FBC a shower trailer, with individual shower units, to continue to offer showers to our homeless neighbors. The shower trailer is located in the Mulberry Street parking lot and currently operates Mondays and Thursdays.

The Ministry of Compassion would not be possible without our weekly pantry and mobile market volunteers, Charlotte Acres produce delivery drivers, shoppers, shower attendants and cleaning staff, FBC support staff and many others. Above all, we are incredibly thankful for your generous gifts throughout this year. We have not been together in person these past months, but we have felt the love of your gifts and prayer. Every Monday and Thursday, the volunteers in the food pantry are blessed to be the ears of the church. We hear “thank you,” “God bless you all” amid frustration and struggles, and sometimes someone comes in singing a song to the Lord. I hope when you pray and give to this ministry, you hear those voices of gratitude and hope in your heart.

Check out the website for more updates on the compassion ministry.       

1 https://www.feedingamerica.org/about-us/press-room/feeding-america-study-projects-local-food-insecurity-rates-amid-pandemic-could

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By Sarah E. Amick AlZubi

Have you ever walked somewhere and known that, from this point on, your steps along life’s path would be forever changed? (God can work through our feet.)

Have you ever touched something, and in reaching out, realized that you were what was being moved? (God can work through our hands.)

Have you ever seen someone’s face, really looked into their eyes, and felt a soul connection that you knew you would always remember? (God can work in and through our heads and hearts.)

We experienced these types of encounters, and more, throughout our week in Bosnia and Herzegovina last fall. International travel often results in life-changing moments, and mission trips tend to affect us in unexpected ways. We hear and follow God’s call to go and serve, end up receiving much more than we could ever give, and afterward try to express our gratitude for that as much as possible.

Our team of four (Steve Blanchard, Candi Brown and Sarah Amick AlZubi, from Richmond’s First Baptist Church, and Kenny Davis, pastor of Bybee’s Road Baptist Church) all left Richmond together on September 27 and arrived safely in Zagreb, Croatia on September 28. However, shortly after landing, we discovered that our entire plane’s luggage had been left behind at our previous layover stop in Germany! After our initial shock, our minds were quickly put at ease when we were met at the airport by the welcoming face of Elvis, our amazing and experienced host and guide for this trip who has worked with several Virginia Baptist mission teams over the past few years and Tiha, who provided much needed support, advice and a wealth of knowledge and experience regarding humanitarian aid. We made a few minor schedule adjustments, including a stop to buy some additional clothing and necessities, and arrived in Bihac, Bosnia on September 29. It was not lost on us that we had the resources to adapt and purchase new items as needed and that we should not take that for granted. Most of the time when someone is forced to leave their home as a refugee and travel on foot for hundreds of miles all they have are the clothes on their backs and a “carry-on.” If they can survive with that for months or years, we could certainly do so for a week.

Our first morning in Bosnia was beautiful and sunny and we were ready to get to work! Our team was led and accompanied by Elvis, Tiha and Vlad, another experienced humanitarian aid worker with a truly Christ-like, compassionate heart who joined us in Bihac. We traveled together that morning to the infamous Vučjak camp. Prior to our arrival, we had heard about the inhumane and unsanitary conditions in this “unofficial” camp, but actually being there on the site of a former landfill where people were now being forced to live among rubbish with no running water or toilets, was not something for which we could have fully prepared ourselves. (Plus, there were landmines left over from Balkan wars throughout the countryside and mountains surrounding the camp.) There were no permanent structures for shelter or medical care, just tents of various sizes and conditions. The hundreds of inhabitants of this “tent city” were making the best of a terrible situation, though, and welcomed us to their “home” with kind greetings and curiosity.

Throughout the week we also visited three other camps in Bihac, all filled and overflowing. We received informative tours, saw and experienced incredible hospitality and good work being done by the International Organization for Migration staff and other partners in those camps. It was encouraging to know that not every camp was as troubling as Vučjak. Since that is where the need was greatest, we returned there for the rest of that week. Every day we met new people from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq and Syria, and heard more stories of why they had to leave home, the family members they dearly missed, what their journey had been like so far and where they planned to go next, God willing. We heard horrifying stories of danger and injury, heartbreaking stories of loss and illness, as well as heartfelt stories of hopes and dreams for the future.

Incredibly hardworking and committed Red Cross volunteers were also there every day trying to make the camp as livable, safe and healthy as possible. They oversaw distributing food, and we were happy to help them with this task. We also distributed hygiene kits, snacks, blankets and clothing items. Hardworking refugees residing in the camp were always happy to lend a hand, helping to maintain orderly lines, serving food, distributing supplies and assisting with translation when needed. Every day we worked alongside our new friends, picking up trash and repairing leaky tents blown down by gusts of wind and rain. There was also time for meaningful conversations and a few games, accompanied by genuine smiles and laughter. It was a blessing to be used by God to meet these physical, emotional and spiritual needs all around us, through our hands, feet, heads and hearts.

By the end of the week, a place that no one would choose to call home had begun to feel comfortable in some ways. This was not because of the physical conditions (which were still miserable), but because of the humanity, hospitality and compassion shared by everyone, including refugees, migrants, Red Cross volunteers, our team and even the dedicated police officers standing guard at the camp entrance. It was surprisingly difficult to say goodbye. I found myself blinking back tears as I promised to pray, raise awareness and most of all never forget the wonderful people I had met, all of whom are beautiful children of God, deserving of love, dignity and respect. We all have this in common and truly are connected, whether we realize it or not. If only we can remember that our actions here and around the world impact more people in more ways than we could ever imagine.

Now when I walk outside on a cold, windy evening, I look up at the sky and see the bright moon and stars. I quickly calculate in my head that if it’s 8:00 p.m. here in Virginia, then it’s 2:00 a.m. in the Balkans. I wonder if anyone there is awake and looking up at the same night sky, perhaps one of the many people we met last fall. I wonder how cold it is there now and what the snow looks like in the mountains. I wonder if they are safe and warm inside a building or huddled under a raggedy blanket in a drafty tent or, even worse, camping in the forest, completely unsheltered and unprotected from the freezing temperatures and harsh wind. I know the needs there are still overwhelming and the overall situation is very unstable. I say a prayer for them, that they may experience some comfort wherever they are, feel peace during struggles and uncertainty and, most of all, know they are not alone and not forgotten.

Author’s note: Thankfully, in mid-December, the Vučjak camp was closed and dismantled and those currently staying there were relocated to a more humane, sustainable location near Sarajevo. Thousands of refugees and migrants are continuing to arrive in Bosnia and Herzegovina on their way to the European Union and additional support and long-term solutions to the refugee crisis are still needed.

Editor’s note: On March 22, 2020 Croatia was hit by a series of earthquakes. At the same time, Croatia has been fighting to flatten the curve on the spreading of the Coronavirus. Strict measures have been put in place, asking people to stay at home and avoid social contact. Donate to Croatian Baptist Aid.

See Ann Carter’s previous post and another on Virginia Baptist mission teams going to Bosnia.

Story on the former Vučjak camp.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, October 5, 2019 – CBAid partners from Virginia (USA) visit refugee camps Sedra, Bira, Boriće and Vučjak in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

We saw parts of this BBC video being filmed while in Vucjak.

This is another news video filmed in Vucjak while we were there.

Sarah E. Amick AlZubi

Sarah E. Amick AlZubi joined FBC in 2015. She rings handbells, sings in Church Choir and One Accord, and serves on the Compassion Ministry Board. She participated in mission trips to China, Toronto, Romania and Bosnia. Sarah met her husband, who is from Jordan, at VCU, where she worked almost 12 years. She loves to travel and get to know people (and food!) from around the world.

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 by Mary Ann Delano

As the daughter and granddaughter of Baptist ministers, Shirley Robertson followed in their footsteps by devoting her life to Christian service. Born in King William County, Virginia, she moved to Richmond as a young child under sad circumstances. Her grandfather, the pastor of Park View Baptist Church in Richmond, died while returning from the funeral of her great-grandmother. As a result, her dad was called as pastor of his dad’s church and served there for 43 years.

100% Involved

Shirley Robertson in Mars Hill cheering squad; with Mission Board co-workers; at last Eagle Eyrie retreat she led in 1992

Shirley attended Mars Hill College and then transferred to Westhampton College at the University of Richmond where she completed her undergraduate degree. She worked at the Baptist Goodwill Centers at House of Happiness and Cary Street Baptist Center during the summers while in college. Upon graduation, she began her work with Richmond area churches at Broadus Memorial Baptist Church with the goal of starting a preschool. In one year she did just that when five students began attending the preschool. By the end of the year, the enrollment increased to 20 students.

Shirley then moved to Branch’s Baptist Church where she served as the Education Director, and later began working at Second Baptist Church as the Education Secretary. At the time, Second Baptist Church was located downtown at 7 West Franklin Street, near the Jefferson Hotel.

In late 1950s, she began working at the Virginia Baptist Mission Board as Director of Junior and Intermediate Youth, which in today’s terms refers to youth ministry. She was thrilled when the Board decided to address education for youth with special needs, and she was selected to lead the effort. Shirley’s favorite aunt, Margie, who was adored by all who knew her, had special needs.

100% Involved

FBC Eagle Eyrie retreat participants, October 2019

During her 35 years at the Virginia Baptist Mission Board, Shirley also went back to school and completed a master’s degree in education. She continued traveling to conduct training conferences, leading retreats, providing education on special education needs, serving on the faculty at state conferences and at Ridgecrest Baptist Retreat Center near Asheville, North Carolina. In fact, Shirley developed the annual Retreat for Youth and Adults with Special Needs and led the retreat for 17 years during which time she met many members of First Baptist Church’s Lambs Sunday school class. The Lambs Class continues to go to the conference at Eagle Eyrie Baptist Conference Center every year.

100% InvolvedShirley retired in 1992, and soon after that she joined First Baptist and, as she put it, “plunged into everything as usual and was 100% involved.” She always loved children and became a third grade Sunday school teacher in addition to joining the choir. Shirley had taught children and sung in a choir since her teenage days. So, it was only natural that she would find a place teaching children in Sunday school and singing in the choir. Shirley has also participated in First Baptist’s Prayer Ministry and has served as a deacon.

She loves family, children and being active. Shirley is always thrilled to encounter the many, many children and youth she has worked with over the years and loves to find out how those who were once her students are doing as adults. As a 40-year breast cancer survivor, she feels “very blessed” as she acknowledges October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Shirley has lived at Lakewood for 13 years and enjoys the fellowship of many FBC members who also live there.

Shirley Robertson has truly given her life to Christian service and is a shining example of what it means to live a life that is 100% involved in that service.


Mary Ann Delano joined FBC in 1982 and married her husband Chip here. Their grown sons grew up in church, both portraying Joseph in the Christmas pageant. She has been active in Women on Mission and teaching missions to all ages, serving on many church teams and as deacon chair. She enjoys travel, gardening, reading and spending time with family.


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By Sandra Saunders

Working with international students attending Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) through the ministry we have at Richmond’s First Baptist Church (FBC) has been the most rewarding experience of my adult life. Instead of traveling to China, Mongolia, South Korea, Taiwan, Ghana, Nigeria, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, New Zealand, Austria, Egypt, Venezuela, Bangladesh, India, Jordan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and many other countries to see the world, I can meet these delightful and brilliant students right here in Richmond, VA.

VCU International StudentsMany colleges and universities throughout the United States make an effort to recruit international students so that everyone on the campus can gain new perspectives and personal connections with students from all over the world. The Global Office at VCU does just that through programs within the school, as well as reaching out to the community around the school to include everyone in welcoming the students to the United States. When I first started in this adventure, I learned that the office sponsors a “Global Café” on the first Friday of the month during the academic year. The VCU Global Office invites any community members to come, sit around a table, and share with these students. Some students are shy at first but then become more comfortable because they see friendly and smiling faces—people who are not their professors!

Several years ago Ralph Starling, Minster of Christian Invitation at FBC, became our liaison with the VCU Global Office which has opened up so many opportunities for our church to welcome the international students living close to FBC. The Global Office also calls on Ralph to host students, such as Fulbright Scholars, to share a meal and conversation around the table. This year we had students from Afghanistan, New Zealand, England, Austria, Mexico and India attending the dinner. The positive, long-term effect of those meals is that they are now “forever” friends, no matter the physical distance between the United States and the students’ home countries.

You might wonder what else we do with these students besides eat! FBC sponsors “English Conversation Classes” on Sunday mornings during the Sunday school hour and again on Wednesday evenings. Some of these students already have excellent English skills, but I think they are lonely and seeking “community,” and with us, they find welcoming faces and open hearts.

Each year Ralph organizes day trips to Virginia Beach, VA for the students. Osamah, our Iraqi friend, told me he had met Ralph just several weeks after he came to VCU when he went on one of the planned day trips to Virginia Beach. He said he came to First Baptist Church the very next Sunday because he wanted to meet more people like Ralph. He attended worship services, Wednesday night dinners and our English classes. He told me he had enjoyed several Thanksgiving meals in the home of Christy and Jim Somerville, meeting their extended families, and expressed how very special that was to him. I got to know Osamah better by taking him grocery shopping so he could purchase natural foods, such as natural honey. He is a very healthy eater and wanted to continue eating that way, if possible.

Another of our excursions is to Eagle Eyrie for a weekend. Students love to hike and inspect the area around our lodge there. One of our Saturday drives away from Eagle Eyrie has been to Peaks of Otter. This past summer, I watched as Sawsan, one of our international friends from Iraq, stood at the water’s edge and looked across at the mountain peak. She stood speechless, and after a few minutes I spoke to her and she remarked as she stood there, “This is just awesome!”

One of our Kazakhstan friends, Dauren, returned home for the summer between his two years here; he video-chatted me every few days, showing me his two-year-old niece and the things she was learning. They know that we love them enough to care about what goes on in their families’ lives in their individual countries. Some share family illnesses back home that concern them because they know we share in their concerns and hurts and we pray for them.

Besides grocery shopping and planning trips together, there are many times these students need to go to Washington, D.C. to their consulates or embassies. For those who don’t have their own transportation, we offer to take them. We also try to help with their transportation to doctor’s appointments.

FBC members who help with international student ministry, and have grown to love the students include: Carrie and Mark Larson, Linda and Louis Watts, Tom Harvey-Felder, Ann Evans, Helen Wood, Myra Clements, Barbara and Paul Hodge, Rob Reinstein, Jeannie and Jeff Dortch, and J.C. Gascón. Louis Watts has become an experienced furniture mover, physically helping the students move in or out of apartments!

I am so very thankful to be a part of this venture at First Baptist Church. This is my chance to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the world!

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Story by Justin Pierson. Photos courtesy of CARITAS.

shelter family_250pxCARITAS (Congregations Around Richmond Involved to Assure Shelter), began in the 1980s as an all-volunteer effort to provide shelter, cots, and blankets in area churches to those in need for a week or two during the year. The participation of Richmond’s First Baptist Church in the program has been one of the largest undertakings of the Compassion Ministry for over 10 years. Volunteers have cooked meals, taken laundry home to wash, and spent time with CARITAS guests facing crisis in an effort to make a difference in our community for the Kingdom of God.

Through the years, FBC has housed those in the Men’s program during the Thanksgiving week. This grew to include caring for women during a separate week, usually during the summer. However, the constant changing of locations from one church to another each week or two became stressful to guests. In an effort to help alleviate as much stress as possible for their participants, CARITAS has decided to change their model of service for those facing homelessness.

The Healing Place

The Healing Place

The Men’s shelter program has now moved to a permanent location at the Healing Place, a drug recovery facility operated by CARITAS. The Women and Family programs are operating the same as in the past, but will move to a permanent location in 2020.

New facility rendering

New facility rendering

What do the changes mean for those at FBC who want to help? Leadership of the Men’s program would still like churches to help with meals during their assigned week, as well as the “extras” (building relationships, playing games, showing movies, putting on programs, etc.). However, since the facility now houses approximately 200 men, our specific responsibilities and schedule will be a little different. The facility does have a kitchen onsite with staff, so on our assigned week, FBC volunteers will host a Saturday evening meal. FBC will also host other evening activities during the week, as well as collect toiletry and cleaning supplies that CARITAS may need. Currently, FBC is signed up to help during the week of Thanksgiving. While we will not be hosting the Men’s program in our building, our willingness to prepare and serve food, and visit with those at the facility will be just as important a part of our Compassion Ministry.

The Women and Family’s program is still operating the same and will continue to for the next two years. However, because area churches are no longer needed to host the men, more churches have signed up to house CARITAS for women, leaving fewer weeks for FBC to help. The only weeks available this summer were during weeks when other big events had already been scheduled, so we will not be hosting this summer.

More information will be available in the coming months, but for now, take the summer off, reflect on all that we have experienced through helping with CARITAS in the past, and be ready to take on new challenges come November.

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By Debbie B.

For the love of The Messiah compels us to reason this: The One died in the place of every person; so then every person died with him. 2 Corinthians 5:14 (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)

For the Love of Christ Compels Us

In May, 2017, a medical team from Richmond’s First Baptist Church traveled to the Middle East to serve the refugees from Syria. During the six days they were there, the team saw patients in dire conditions, suffering from significant physical and emotional pain. All of the refugees had been forced to leave their homes because of the brutal ISIS regime that had moved into what had been their towns. All had been traumatized, many were tortured, and some were forced to watch the murders of their family and friends. Panic and fear filled their days before they were able to leave.

For the Love of ChristBut as the team cared for the refugees and listened to their stories, they found many who were Christians with amazing stories of how they had survived the turmoil through their faith in Christ. Here are a few of the stories of the people they met and the holy moments they experienced that the team wanted to share with their FBC family.

For the Love of Christ Compels UsOne of the older women the team met, Hadhirah, fought off ISIS militants who came into her home to force the family to leave. They beat her with a board, and even today she still experiences tremors and is in constant pain. She was also forced to watch as the militants killed her son because he was a Christian. Hadhirah explained that when ISIS came into the village, they marked her home, as well as others who were Christians, with a sign indicating their belief in Christ. The sign also signaled that anyone could do anything to those in the house without recourse from ISIS. Above is the sign for “Christian” like the one placed on Hadhirah’s home. Interestingly, this is translated as “The Nazarene” in Arabic.

Nasir was another believer the team met. He had been tortured and beaten by ISIS militants as they forced their way into his home. During his ordeal, he focused on the words from Ephesians 6. Later, he decided to write the militants a letter, or poem, based on this scripture. Through the translator working with the team, a Christian, Nasir told them what he had written, which follows:

A Letter to ISIS – by Nasir

My place is with Jesus Christ.
If a fox thinks to approach me
he will find me protected in the Lion’s arm.
I will stand up and raise my head higher.
In Jesus Christ only is my salvation.
I will have no fear or slackness.
The Lord of my salvation is our stone (rock).
The Lord has filled me with righteousness.
He robed me with the breastplate of righteousness.
My feet are fitted with the readiness
that comes from the gospel of peace.

Faith is our shield of protection from the arrows of evil.
The helmet of salvation is a crown on my head.
God’s Word is a double-edged sword
that we defeat our enemy with.
Our brothers; we are always ready and awake
with prayers and fasting,

waiting for the day when the Lord will come on clouds.
We are ready.

For the Love of Christ Compels UsAlthough some on the team had medical training and went on the trip to care for the refugees’ medical needs, all felt compelled to go and share God’s love. As Mary Michael Lipford writes, “At first, I felt completely inadequate for the job. I was the youngest on the team with no medical background, no seminary training, and no knowledge of the Arabic language. This is where God came in; reaching out and calling the unequipped for His purpose. There I was, sharing the gospel while checking blood pressures and finger pricks. In 2 Samuel 7, God told David, ‘I took you from the pasture…to be ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone.’ He took an inadequate shepherd boy and turned him into a king, and He calls each of us to do what may seem impossible by equipping us with tools for the job.”

For the Love of Christ Compels UsYour tithes and offerings helped cover the costs of Hadhirah’s and Nasir’s pain medicines, as well as medicine and care for many other Syrian refugees. Your gifts have taken good care of those you will most likely never meet. And, your gifts have provided for the love of God to be shared in the midst of suffering and pain. The medical team learned of many refugees of other faiths coming to know Christ. They have called out to God in the midst of the persecution they have endured due to the brutal ISIS regime. The team found that God had revealed himself in mighty ways in the midst of the dire conditions.

Dear Father,
The numbers seem overwhelming at times, but you know each individual refugee by name. Each person bears your image. Each child is loved by you. Open our eyes to their need and their potential. Soften our hearts to their suffering. Move us to action in ways that honor the love and compassion you have for each refugee. In the name of Christ, Amen.
(From Baptist Global Response; ©2017, Pray for Refugees)

Team: Debbie B., Elizabeth and Mary Michael Lipford, Ashley Larson

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Story by Ann Carter. Photos provided by the Surles family and Ann Carter.

I have plans for you.When we dedicate babies at Richmond’s First Baptist Church, we pledge with parents to help raise their children to know and love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength. Pastor Jim Somerville asks parents to nurture their children’s faith, teaching them the songs and reading them the stories of Jesus, bringing them to church to learn about Jesus so when they are old enough, they can make the decision for themselves to choose Jesus. Jim asks the parents, “Are you willing to do your part?” “We will,” they respond. Jim then turns to the congregation, challenging us to do our part. And we answer with an enthusiastic “We will!”

Each baby is given a special verse, chosen by their parents, which will shape their faith journey. And sometimes, if we pay close enough attention, we have the great joy of watching the fruit of that commitment as these babies grow into amazing adults who have committed to live like Christ in lives of service.


I have plans for you.Our church has most definitely kept its commitment with Madeline Surles and has had the joy of watching her grow from a tiny baby being dedicated on the steps of our sanctuary to the young woman she is today. And it is not only Maddie’s life, but her mother’s as well, that has been shaped by our community of faith. This summer was Maddie’s 15th mission trip with FBC and her sixth trip to Helena, Arkansas. It was Laurie’s first mission trip. Ever. I didn’t realize this until halfway through the week: “I have sent my daughter on mission trips ever since she was in the 7th grade, but I have never had the opportunity to go on one myself.”

I have plans for you.I have plans for you.Wait. What? Laurie had never been on a mission trip before? Nope. As a single mom, Laurie worked hard to get Maddie to church for all the children and youth activities our church offers—and all the extra events, too. She worked hard to make sure Maddie could attend trips the youth group went on each summer. Sometimes, there were additional ones like the BWA Youth Conferences in Germany and Singapore, the sports mission trip to China or service in Slovakia, Saint Croix and Manila. Laurie sacrificed to give her daughter all the opportunities she could; and because of these sacrifices, there wasn’t enough money or time off from work for Laurie to go. But in the meantime, her sacrifice paid off. While Maddie’s faith was being formed in her mind and in her heart, it was also being formed in her hands. Now that Maddie is an adult, living independently as she studies for her Master’s Degree at Bluefield College, it was time for Laurie to go. “I witnessed how these trips changed her life and I wanted to be a part of one. So when Maddie asked me to join her, I said ‘Yes!’”

Reflecting on her first mission trip, Laurie said, “The people who go on the Helena trip are part of Madeline’s family and the people who live in Helena are part of her family. I finally got to meet the people who were so special to her. Maddie has been able to go on so many mission trips and I have been able to hear about them afterwards. But this time, I got to see firsthand what she can do. I loved watching Maddie using her talents to serve God.”

I have plans for you.As Laurie spoke, her eyes filled with tears, “People in this church have been praying for my children since the day they were born.” And that has made all the difference. Parenting isn’t easy. We can’t do it alone. What a gift to have a community of faith that partners with parents to shape the lives of our children, so that they serve like Christ, wherever they go bringing the kingdom of heaven a little closer to earth.


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Story and photos by Candi Brown

Poverty in ParadisePoverty in ParadiseMission trips happen in many destinations for a variety of purposes. “How do you go about choosing a mission trip like St. Lucia?” is a question that Steve Blanchard was asked in a recent meeting. Although he went into greater detail, the answer is simple. We were asked by a Caribbean missionary, Pastor John Gilbert, from St. Croix to partner with Gospel Baptist Church, a church that cares deeply about its community and might benefit from the help of a ministry partner. Pastor Gilbert knew Richmond’s First Baptist Church and its congregation and felt that our church could assist them with resources and volunteers in many different types of ministry opportunities.

Poverty in ParadiseOur first experience nearly four years ago in St. Lucia was a simple one. We went there to build. We went to build relationships and help tear down an old fence and build a new one. Most people identify mission trips with humanitarian aid or traveling to countries where spreading the gospel message is a challenge. Our initial request was neither of these. It is a partnership mission. We went to begin a relationship of support which we hoped would help to better equip and empower Gospel Baptist to carry out the mission that God has called them to do in their community, which includes serving and loving their neighbors and sharing the love of Christ and the gospel message.

Poverty in ParadisePoverty in ParadiseAlthough none of us knew exactly what to expect, by laboring together for a week and worshiping together on Sunday, friendships grew. We fell in love with this beautiful island and its warm, hospitable people. Our conversations turned from fences and construction to other opportunities to partner together in the future. The following summer we returned to help with Vacation Bible School, the church’s largest outreach activity. We traveled with suitcases full of craft supplies, puppets, small prizes for children, and teaching materials. Our team performed puppet shows every day and assisted with preschool and elementary age classes. With an invitation from their leaders, we decided to return again for a second year of VBS. We increased our level of leadership and responsibilities. On our most recent trip in February 2017, a team of five volunteers assisted with construction of a new roof for the church. We also began a new outreach ministry at the local orphanage, where we spent an afternoon visiting staff and children and delivering three suitcases of supplies. We hope to continue to assist the orphanage on future trips.

Poverty in ParadiseThrough our partnership work, many FBC volunteers have developed deep friendships within the Gospel Baptist family. One of the unexpected blessings of this mission is the relationships built with the community in Rodney Bay where our team stays. Sustainable mission partnerships provide opportunities to do extended community outreach. Many faith conversations have taken place with people who work at the hotel, local restaurants, beach and shops due to our mission work and recurring stays within the community. Friendships that developed throughout the community have opened many doors for us to share our faith.

As a church family, you can partner with us as we continue to explore ways to reach St. Lucia and work with Gospel Baptist in Babonneau. We hope to continue our support for their VBS and outreach to children in their community and the orphanage. Their church leaders have asked us to consider providing a much-needed health clinic and eye exam clinic, in addition to leadership training for their church teachers and leaders. We look forward to seeing what God has planned for us over the next few years. You can provide support through prayer, becoming a team member, donating money or supplies and providing referrals for possible health professionals to assist in a future trip.

Yes, St. Lucia is a beautiful island in a paradise setting for mission work. But beyond the tourist areas are communities of people living in poverty. It is a blessing to work alongside Christian friends as they fulfill God’s calling to reach out in love to their community, sharing their faith and love of Christ.

Poverty in Paradise2017 Team members: Candi Brown, Team Leader; Tom and Teri Osborne; Franklin Hamilton and his wife, Linda Ringwood.






Candi BrownCandi Brown has served as Children’s Minister since 2007, directing the Preschool and Children’s Ministry and shaping spiritual formation of our children. She has led and participated in mission trips to Arkansas, Slovakia, China, Costa Rica, South Africa and St. Lucia. Candi and her husband, Matthew, have five children, Madison, Adam, Jonathan, Hassan and Husein.

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Story by Bart Dalton and Allie Osborne. Photos and video by Sean Cook and Bart Dalton.

A Tiny Bit of HeavenIn June 2016, a group of FBC’s youths, college students, and adult leaders embarked on a mission to change the lives of the homeless community in Nashville, TN. We were invited by Open Table Nashville to use our limited, but ambitious, carpentry skills and our hunger to help build three “tiny homes.” Once completed, these homes would become part of a larger housing neighborhood for homeless people.

Each home has a tiny bathroom, tiny kitchen, sitting area, bedroom loft, and tiny front porch. The houses are equipped with electricity and running water. However, these are not the most important aspects of the houses. Rather, they provide a way for homeless men and women to instantly become, well – non-homeless. These tiny houses are designed for people to reside in for one year and then move on to low-income housing. Open Table Nashville is dedicated to rehabilitating the homeless community. The most effective way to do this is to give them homes, with the expectation that they will re-enter society as stable participants.A Tiny Bit of Heaven

A Tiny Bit of HeavenIn the 2015-16 winter, 80 homeless people died in Nashville. They were not ill; they were not killed or harmed by others. They simply did not have access to shelter when the temperatures dropped and were forced to sleep outside. These 80 people did not wake up.

Heartbreaking statistics fueled our plans but a one-week timetable was just not enough to complete all three tiny homes. Our work turned out to be the foundation, literally and figuratively, for other groups to continue this ministry.

A Tiny Bit of HeavenAs with every mission trip, there was an aspect greater than the physical results. We did so much more than show up, help out for a week, and leave feeling good about our work. We were given the opportunity to work alongside the homeless, eat meals with them, and visit their shelters. Seeing so many in need and having the ability to do so little to help was a humbling and powerful experience. It was no longer the homeless community that needed our help. It was David and Helen and Steve, our friends, who were suffering. We saw their lives as more than a statistic and more than a stigma. This trip was special because it left us feeling broken for the people we met, and confident that God had used our group, and would continue to use other groups like us, to minister to, worship with, and love the homeless of Nashville.

A Tiny Bit of HeavenBack in RVA, we continue our ministry to the homeless. Steve Blanchard connected us, physically and spiritually, with our local homeless community. Using our new skills and thirst for this ministry, the FBC youths are leading ministry meetings with the homeless on Wednesday nights at the West Marshall Building in Scott’s Addition. We are building relationships with them through discussions, Bible study, worship, and games. With God’s direction, our youths’ ambitions, and FBC’s support, lives are being changed, and a tiny bit of Heaven has come to Nashville and Richmond.

View a video feature from the Nashville mission by Sean Cook.

Bart Dalton

Bart Dalton is the Minister to Students at First Baptist Church. He is married to Marianne, and they have two sons, Joey and Robbie. Bart believes that we learn and grow best when we work together and when we play together. He enjoys creating ways for students and parents to work side-by-side, and to play absolutely epic and mind-blowing games.

Allie Osborne

Allie Osborne, a student at Christopher Newport University, studies Communication with a concentration in Rhetorical Criticism. She grew up at FBC, where she was active in Youth 2 Sunday school, Choir and Girls’ Ensemble. In 2016 Allie served as a summer intern with the Youth Ministry; she looks forward to a future in ministry.

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Story by Ken Storey. Photos by Elizabeth Lipford and Ken Storey.

Love and Presence with Roma ChildrenHow do you work with Roma (also known as Gypsy) children? Vacation Bible School and Facebook are two ways, but love and presence are the foundations of this work. Golgotha Baptist Church in Bistrita, Romania, with its love and presence, developed an outreach program to the Roma people in and around their city. First Baptist Church’s love and presence traveled to Bistrita in the form of a team of adults and youth.

Love and Presence with Roma Children Love and Presence with Roma Children

The team had spent months planning their trip to Bistrita, an “old world” town where a typical worker makes the equivalent of $75 U.S. per week. As one translator told us, “We are the China of Europe; low wages, hard working.” This economy makes the area perfect for the Roma people, who are shunned in much of the rest of Europe.

Love and Presence with Roma Children Love and Presence with Roma Children

Love and Presence with Roma ChildrenBecause modern Romanian children are required to learn English by high school, Golgotha Baptist’s high school and college students translated for us. Perhaps more importantly, they served as Romanian Christian models to the children we worked with.

With five days, three locations, and 60-120 children in each location, we needed all the supplies we took with us and all our afternoons and evenings to prepare the crafts, stories, songs and games for the next day. Each day had a different focus: Jesus calming the storm, Jonah and the whale, David and Goliath, Naomi and Ruth, and Jesus’ resurrection.

Love and Presence with Roma Children Love and Presence with Roma Children We also used the afternoons to help Golgotha Baptist with maintenance of Camp Hope, where we stayed. Our jobs were cleaning and painting its building and grounds. Each evening Bart, Craig and the adult leaders led devotionals and analysis of the day: what worked, what didn’t, and what we could do better the next day.

During our 10 days in Romania, relationships formed through Vacation Bible School and now these relationships continue via Facebook. But those are just tools we use to make tangible what God’s message really is—love and presence.

Author’s note: Team leaders: Bart Dalton, FBC Minister to Students, and Craig Waddell, with Baptist General Association of Virginia Partnerships. Adult leaders: Tia Cochran, Elizabeth Lipford, Ken Storey; Youth Ministry Intern, Allie Osborne; youths: Ann Allred, Adam Brown, Madison Brown, Emily Hubbard, Sarah Jaramillo, Claire Johnson, Tara McKee, Christina Ramsey, Lydia and Will Storey.

Love and Presence with Roma Children

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