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Archive for the ‘Missions’ Category

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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Story by Annette Hall.
Photos provided by missionaries and volunteers in West Africa.

calloutWhen you gave to the World Hunger Fund/International Mission Board, your gifts helped purchase a flour mill in Burkina Faso (West Africa) that provides several small villages the means to grind their grain. The income from the mill pays the salaries of those who run it and also pays for a number of training and outreach efforts of the churches in the area.

Your gifts built a mill.Atio is one whose life has been changed because of the mill.

I am married and the mother of six children, four girls and two boys. My first name, Atio, means that I belong to a great idol known to everyone in the village. Since my youth I’ve worshipped this idol. But I never had peace in my heart. Four years ago things took a bad turn in my life. My husband fell seriously ill to the point that he could no longer work. Then I also fell sick. We spent all our savings searching for a solution to our problems. The witchdoctors said that the gods were angry with us. During the night I was unable to sleep.

One day I went to the village grinding mill and heard the story about Jesus calming the storm. That day I gave my life to Jesus. My husband let me tell him the story and he also gave his life to Jesus. Now (we) go together to the Baptist Church…

We are currently sharing the gospel with our sons and daughters hoping they will also choose the way of Jesus. Our health is getting better and better and we bless the Lord Jesus.

Your gifts built a mill.The pastor of the largest church in the area has attended trainings to learn how to craft and tell more than 100 Bible stories in his heart language. He has also helped train believers to use these stories for evangelism and church planting. His team’s goal is to put a trained story teller in each village in the area. The team also wants to send pairs of story tellers to villages with no church to plant churches there. He shares an example of how his team carries out its goals.

While women wait to grind their grain at the mill, team members tell them Bible stories. One day they told the story of the paralytic to about 30 women, who all listened intently. At the end, the story teller asked them the following seven questions:
What did you like in the story?
What bothered you in the story?
What did you learn about God in the story?
What did you learn about people in the story?
Is there something in the story you should obey?
How will you remember the story?
To whom will you tell the story?
When the last question was asked, three of the women gave the only correct answer – they said they were going to return to their village and tell it to their chief!

They did just that. The chief then summoned the story-telling women from the mill and invited all the royal family, as well as his neighbors. When the team told the story again, they were asked for another story. Then they told the story of the Demoniac.

When the chief and his family heard this story, they decided to follow Jesus, and the chief invited the team to put a church in his village. One hundred and three adults worshiped at the first church service. Three young men are being trained in the stories so the work there will continue and grow.

Baptist Global Response is the arm of the International Mission Board that distributes your World Hunger Funds. The funds are used to relieve hunger but as you see from these stories, the funds also bring a spiritual element. Because you gave, these people had the chance to grind their grain and improve their lives. They also had the opportunity to hear God’s Word in the way they could understand and respond.

Baptist Global Response Hunger SundayEditor’s note: On World Hunger Sunday, October 9, 2016, and on any other Sunday, use your gold offering envelope in your packet or in the pew racks. Designate your gift for:
Disaster & Hunger (Baptist World Aid, BWAid) and/or
Disaster & Hunger (Southern Baptist Convention, Global Response).

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Photos by Franklin Hamilton and Shannon Harton

Jon Parks, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel, Roma Ministry in Slovakia

Voices from CroatiaIt was a test case for unmet expectations. This group had come to Croatia, sacrificing their time and their own resources to volunteer at the refugee center. Of course they had expectations of what they’d be doing, who they’d be helping. In the face of uncertain events, we almost always create some idea for ourselves of what might happen, just to help us deal with the uncertainty.

I didn’t know this group ahead of time, so I didn’t get to ask them about their expectations. But I watched as they dealt with the differences in their expectations and their reality. The reality was chaotic – there was a lot of waiting, a lot of changed plans, a lot of previously unthought-of ways of serving. But as an outsider I watched as they adapted themselves – sometimes with frustration, but finally with joy – to doing the unexpected things that God had for them to do.

Voices from CroatiaTo be honest, these folks from Virginia were primed for a unique opportunity. Most everyone at the center – police, Red Cross, translators – had a specific job to do, and it was easy for them to run back and forth doing the things they perceived were important… sometimes missing deeper human needs that a simple bag of food wouldn’t address. These people came with open eyes and ears and were able to see – and meet – the needs others were missing.

• A gentle touch for mothers, frightened for their children’s safety.
• A smile for people shuffling nervously between one country and another.
• A helping hand to gather all the little packets and clothes they’d been given.
• A thanks and a cup of coffee for policewomen and men, always on edge, wondering how to respond if things got out of hand.

When we are PRESENT, when we open our eyes and hearts to what is really needed around us, we’re in a unique place to help.

Voices from Croatia
Ann Carter, First Baptist Church (FBC) staff, Youth One Associate
Voices from CroatiaThe night shift is the place to be. During the day, scores of volunteers from Croatia and NGOs are in the camps, but few work the dark and lonely hours.

At about 1 a.m., we head into sector 3 which is filled to capacity (over 1,000 people).The train will arrive sometime in the night, no one knows when. So while the police protect the sector and the Red Cross mans the supplies, our team makes friends. Often the women and the children are in the tents asleep while the men stand guard outside. Our team pairs up and walks among the tents, smiling, saying good evening, asking if they have everything they need. Sometimes, the words go from pleasantries, answering a few questions and wishing them Godspeed to deep and meaningful conversations.

Voices from CroatiaWe made some friends: Mohammad from Syria; Hamza, also from Syria, traveling alone with his 8-year-old son; Sami, from Lebanon, traveling with his wife and 5 children – three girls and two boys, ages 2-10; Osama, from Syria, traveling with his pregnant wife. We hear harrowing stories of escape and what life was like for them at home – bombs falling on houses, family and friends imprisoned, children who can’t go to school for fear they may not come home. They talk about their families left behind and the ones who have already gotten out. They talk about businesses lost, education unfinished, the lack of work, hiding from snipers in their neighborhoods, about how they would go back in a minute if Assad were defeated and Isis and Hezbollah left their countries.

Voices from CroatiaWhen we hear the train whistle in the distance, everyone immediately lines up. With the crowd pushing ahead and the police pushing back, people are crushed and panicked. Our job is to try to form a single-file line. In the confusion, I lost my new friends but finally spot Sami and his family. The beauty and absolute sweetness of his children take my breath away. I stand with their few small bags as they take the children to the bathroom one last time. The mother pulls out hats and mittens, and I help little fingers into gloves while Sami puts hats on small heads, topping each with a kiss. We say goodbye amid blowing kisses and calls of “God bless you” and “Barak Allah fik!” (May Allah bless you!) I stand there and watch the police load them onto the train. There are no seats left. They must sit in the stairwell, clutching their knees to their chests to be out of the way as the door closes. They have a 6-hour train ride to Slovenia; then to Austria and Germany. Maybe Germany will let them stay? No one knows. And since they are from Lebanon, they aren’t really “war refugees.” Will their journey be in vain? Will they be sent back? I stand with tears streaming down my face until the train leaves, praying for their future and their safety. How could I have grown to love them so in only two hours?

Shannon Harton, FBC member

Voices from CroatiaThe last train out: after two hours of “processing,” our last trainload of refugees – 1200 of them – were on their way north.

We stayed busy this week distributing packs of essentials, sorting clothes, handing out hot tea, guiding families to their temporary quarters, stooping to make friendly eye contact with kids. It’s nearly impossible though to quantify the impact we had, other than the odd opportunity to run to the warehouse to replace a kid’s tattered shoes, to get a smile from an exhausted teenager loaded down with duffle bags and trudging to keep up with his family, or to squeeze in a few moments of friendly conversation to make a worried father feel more optimistic about his kids’ future. But as the train rolled out of the camp under the dawn sky – the last train we get to serve before heading home tonight – the smiles, waves and blown kisses from the windows make it clear that we scored at least a glancing blow against misery.

Franklin Hamilton, FBC member

Voices from CroatiaThe story of the lost shoe began one day in the refugee camp. There were an unusually large number of families with small children, 100s of them. As they rushed to get on the train, the children strained to keep up and some parents ran ahead to be sure their family could all be together in the same train car. I found this shoe on the train track long after the train had left. At first I thought it was a new shoe donated by the Red Cross. But as I looked more closely at the worn straps and the national colors of Syria, I saw stamped on the sole Made In SYR.

This shoe has become a religious icon reminding me of all the little children who have been swept away from their homes by war and hate.


Team members
FBC members: Steve Blanchard, Ann Carter, Jeff Dortch, Franklin Hamilton, Shannon and Heather Harton, Lori Humrich, and Lisa Tuck. Also on the team were Brent Kimlick (Franklin Baptist Church, Franklin, VA), and Jon Parks (CBF missionary).

Related video and blogs
Praying with our Feet, Spotting Jesus–Born on the Run” blog by Jon Parks
Brief Croatian refugee train video by Shannon Harton
Holding Space… Living with Arms Wide Open blog by Ann Carter
A little more like heaven”–VA Baptists Serve in a Croatian Refugee Camp
“Living with Arms Wide Open” sermon by Ann Carter

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Story by Betty Zacharias. Photos by Emily Hubbard and Aylett Lipford.

Callout-BLOGhaitiI had always envisioned myself going on a mission trip and this summer the timing was finally right. I was drawn to the Haiti mission opportunity through Richmond’s First Baptist Church and the Virginia Baptist Mission Board.

Haiti missionWhen I shared my week in Haiti would be spent at an orphanage, several friends asked, “What good does a week do? What do you think you can accomplish?” I had to think about this – I wasn’t sure. But now, having been on the trip, I have the answer: we did make a difference and I know why I went. Our mission was to continue Christ’s work on earth. One week may seem like a short amount of time but when I realize that many groups are doing the same thing, it starts to make sense. We are a small piece of a big chain of caring people who provide ongoing love, hope, encouragement, and Christian values to those who otherwise may not receive them.

Haiti missionOur liaison to the orphanage was Skyler Cumbia, FBC member, who served as a Venturer with the Virginia Baptist Mission Board in 2013 and 2014. (see related stories: I Was Stuck, Something New Is Coming, The Bible and Yogurt Every Morning) She knew the children’s histories and was instrumental in helping us mesh with them. Many of the children came to the orphanage after the 2010 earthquake. They appeared independent and were used to fending for themselves, while also looking out for the younger children.

Our first day was overwhelming. Twenty-eight orphans, ages four through 16, met us at the gate, ready to play. We decided to go with the flow and let the children’s needs and wants determine our schedule of activities. We provided arts and crafts, Bible-themed puppet shows, flute and handbell lessons, and sports activities.

The children loved to express themselves by drawing and coloring. Some wrote “I love you” notes to us. Others wrote “Jesus loves me” – this affirmed to me that the mission teams were making an impact when the children shared with us about Jesus.

Haiti missionMany of us were able to make a connection with one or two specific children. For me it was with a strong-willed 12-year-old. Early in the week our relationship was challenging as she expressed displeasure if I didn’t do as she wished. I was grateful that by the end of the week we had created a bond. Mutual respect and smiles had overcome the barriers, even our language barrier.

Haiti missionGod was definitely among us all and guiding us. We went to Haiti with love and hope in our hearts. The rest fell into place. Having no expectations, I came back with more than I could have hoped for.

Editor’s note: Team members – Allen Cumbia (team leader), Ann Carter, Claire Carter, Ellie Carter, Holly Dunham, Olivia Dunham, Diana Hubbard, Emily Hubbard, Stephanie Kim, Shawnae Lacy, Darius Lacy, Aylett Lipford, Kinsey Pridgen, and Betty Zacharias.

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By Jeannie Dortch. Photos by  Meredith Booth and Ann Carter.

Steve and Meredith Booth, father and daughter, both traveled to Manila, Philippines, to work with indigent families and with inmates of a women’s correctional facility. But not together, nor at the same time!

Callout-heartRecently they compared their trips’ impacts on those they served and the difference it has made in their own lives as Christians. When the purpose of a mission trip is to share with others that everyone is worthy of God’s attention, always loved, never forgotten, time and place become immaterial. And Steve and Meredith’s stories become amazingly similar.

Meredith with Filipino children

Meredith with Filipino children

In August, 2012, Meredith traveled to Manila to serve with a mission team that ministered to displaced families in the aftermath of a devastating monsoon season. They spread God’s love through song, crafts and puppets in over crowded government evacuation centers, as well as through simple worship services inside a maximum security women’s prison.

Steve visited the same correctional facility when he arrived in Manila in July, 2013, but his group spent the majority of its time in Quezon City’s Payatas. Sixty-thousand people live around this large, open dumpsite, sorting and selling whatever they can find. The sheer number of people in need was overwhelming in both settings, something that might foster discouragement, but for one fact. In Manila, Americans are revered. As Steve said, “They knew we were Christians, loved God, and cared enough to spend time with them. They listened attentively to our presentations (of songs, crafts, and pantomimed Bible stories), but getting to know us was more pertinent to them.”

Steve with Filipino children

Steve with Filipino children

Filipinos view visits from American Christians as a sign of hope. They were awestruck that Christians would travel so far to just be with them, listen to their stories and share Bible stories with them. One person told Meredith, “Your being here helps us believe that God knows we still exist! And we know He exists because you came!”

Meredith explained, “I was at home praying that I wouldn’t forget to pack what was needed for the lessons that our group had planned to teach, but the people with whom we worked told us that just our being there was an answer to their prayers. Our presence was that important to them! The props we brought paled in comparison to that.”

Meredith and Steve were struck by the happiness exuding from the people they met in Manila. Steve commented, “They’re so free. We place value on the accumulation of things, but they are not bogged down in trying to protect stuff. They know from experience that what they have today can be gone tomorrow.”

no tables-improvise-MBooth“Yes,” Meredith continued, “even while their shanties were being wiped away by flood waters, people would stand on bridges watching their homes wash away and laugh. Because they have nothing, nothing holds them back in their faith. They understand the transitory value of things and the eternal value of God. Having nothing frees them to put their faith in Him 1,000% and they do.”

Both concurred that the only qualification needed to join a mission team going to this part of the world is just a willingness to go. “The setting equips you,” said Meredith, “and the people pull out of you just what they need.”

Steve added, “Giving yourself is a job anyone can do. Though we had an agenda, leaders and interpreters, the only thing necessary was a listening and loving heart. God provided that for both of us.”

2012 team members: Meredith Booth, Allen Cumbia (Team Leader), Hope Cumbia, Jensine Cumbia, Gladys Johnson, Ralph Starling, Matthew Szucs, Ruth Szucs, Cathy Tankersley, Lynn Turner.

2013 team members: Steve Booth, Ann Carter (Team Leader), Allen Cumbia, Elise Cumbia, Diana Hubbard, Emily Hubbard, Madison Brown, Andrea Culotta, Madeline Surles, Melissa Johnson, Claire Johnson, and Jonathan Kim.

Editor’s note: Since August 2013 we have published three stories of father-daughter mission journeys – a trend reflecting another way our church is blessed and is a blessing. See related stories: Letting Go and Ministering to the Zulu People in South Africa

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Story by Ellen and Michael Lipford. Photos by Charlotte McLaughlin and Debbie Boykin.

calloutMountains graced the horizon as we passed through villages of small huts with thatched roofs. Zulu women carried water and firewood on their heads. Sheep, goats and chickens roamed the streets. We were on our way to our first health clinic in South Africa.

crowd at medical clinicEight mission team members in a van and eight suitcases of medicine in a pickup truck approached two empty buildings devoid of electricity and running water (like most of this part of the country). With nearly 200 people lined up for medical help, Debbie Boykin, team leader, quickly set up the clinic. Anne Carey Roane and Jory SAF-pharmacy_DBoykinChristenson performed triage and organized patients. Dr. Van Williams, Dr. Rod Haithcock and Debbie set up three patient stations. We arranged and stocked a makeshift pharmacy. Charlotte McLaughlin documented our work with her cameras. And we saw patients, that day and every other, until we ran out of light.

Many had HIV, some had tuberculosis. One boy with distorted legs had rickets. And a man carried his dying friend on his back for miles to see us. Most thought American doctors could heal any disease, even blindness. We ministered to their physical needs as best we could, sometimes needing to refer them to hospitals in the country for further treatment.

kids1But what touched us most was the way we were able to minister to their spiritual and emotional needs. Through interpreters, we prayed with them, gave encouraging words, and smiled a lot. Big brown eyes of young children and old men and women smiled back, saying thank you without speaking a word.

While the crowds waited for us to set up each health clinic, we told them stories from the Bible. For some, it was the first gospel message they had ever heard. Both the landscape and the numbers of people were constant reminders of how the crowds followed Jesus to be healed, both physically and spiritually. We felt privileged to model our mission trip on His work.

medical clinicWe also felt privileged to work alongside missionaries we have supported through our offerings, Mark and Sara Williams. (See related stories: Working with them and SKEINS knits for South African children) We led worship through music, testimonies and storytelling at the Emmaus church they helped start, and extended their ministry through six health clinics.

Gogo NtombeThough we had the joy of bringing the good news of the gospel to the people of South Africa, God used them to teach us too. Gogo Ntombe, a member of the Emmaus church, was old and not able to walk the miles to the building. We visited her one afternoon in her small hut; we sang and read chapters from the Psalms. Gogo Ntombe had only been a Christian for three years, but when she pulled out her Bible, written in Zulu, the pages were worn and tattered and the binding was coming undone. She not only read this book, she lived by it. Clearly it was her dearest, most-used possession. From an American perspective, she had nothing. But she was satisfied – her soul was rich with the Lord.

kids2We were reminded that the God working in Gogo Ntombe is the same God that is working in us. He lives inside His people whether in Richmond, Virginia or in Emmaus, South Africa. He is our healer of mind, spirit and body. The people of South Africa inspired us to be better stewards of the Lord’s gifts here in our own community, and to share the good news of a God ready to heal, no matter how broken the surroundings.

Editor’s note: October 2013 mission team members: Debbie Boykin, leader; Jory Christenson, Dr. Rod Haithcock, Michael and Ellen Lipford, Charlotte McLaughlin, Anne Carey Roane, and Dr. Van Williams.

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By Kathy Rock. Photos by Kathy Rock and Skyler Cumbia.

I never thought Christians being compared to sheep very flattering. I think of them as dumb, unable to care for themselves, always needing to travel in a group, and not very clean.

On a recent trip to the Middle East I had an experience that changed my point of view.

sheep

photo by Kathy Rock

calloutDuring our first evening our translator explained that often several shepherds would combine their flocks at night so they could take turns keeping watch. Being a city girl, I asked the obvious question – how do the shepherds separate their sheep in the morning? Are sheep marked with a brand like cattle or do the shepherds just count off the correct number? He explained that each shepherd makes a unique sound in his throat and his sheep recognize their master’s voice and follow him. That’s very biblical, right?

shepherd's flock

photo by Kathy Rock

While traveling to a nomad’s desert site the next morning we stopped while a shepherd and his flock crossed the road. Using my best Arabic hand signs, I asked the shepherd if I could take pictures of him and his sheep. He agreed. As I snapped away, a car door slammed behind me and the sheep encircled their shepherd for protection. But while I continued to take photos, the sheep began to spread out again, away from their shepherd.

It was then that I heard it! At first I didn’t know from where this low cooing sound came, but the sheep knew. They came back to where the shepherd stood; they knew their shepherd’s voice.

camp

photo by Skyler Cumbia

For me the Bible came to life that day: “His sheep follow him because they know his voice.”  John 10:4, NIV

So, do I still think sheep are dumb, dirty, and need someone to take care of them? Honestly? Sure I do. Do I still think it is unflattering, as a Christian, to be compared to a sheep? Not at all. How fortunate I am to be a dumb, dirty sheep in our Lord’s flock! How blessed am I that my Shepherd knows my name, and I know His voice!

Lord,
Thank you for being my Shepherd, a Shepherd who willingly
gave His life for me, His poor, dumb sheep.

In the fullness of my life, when my ears are filled with the harsh sounds
of the world, help me listen for Your voice. Help me hear Your words,
for I know that when You speak life changes. I know that You are truly
the Shepherd who “supplies my needs.”
Amen.

Editor’s note: Debbie Boykin, Skyler Cumbia, Rod Haithcock, and Kathy Rock visited the Middle East in September 2012. They provided medical clinics to open doors for relationships with Bedouins. To participate in a similar trip contact Debbie Boykin.


Kathy RockKathy Rock and her husband, Bill, have four sons and five grandchildren. Kathy is an Exceptional Education Teacher at J. R. Tucker High School. She is a deacon and enjoys working with the Youth II Sunday School Department, leading the Music Makers choir for FBC’s first and second graders, singing in the Church Choir, and playing handbells with the FirstRingers.

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