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Story by Charles Tilley. Photos by Paul Bickford.

Welcoming the WorldFor ten days in September our city hosted the UCI World Road Championships. The professional cycling event drew riders and fans from more than 70 countries. The international bicycle race was more than three years in planning by the city, as well as groups in our neighborhood.

Last spring a group of FBC members began to plan the Church’s response to the event, given the main races included our block of Monument Avenue Welcoming the Worldand in fact passed right in front of our Church. After much discussion about who would attend the race and what the likely impact would be on our neighborhood, we determined that our best response would be offering Christian hospitality in our own front yard with the message that “God so loved the world.” Our goal was to plan how we could use this opportunity to show the love of Christ to the visiting world and also to our neighbors, the world around us.

Welcoming the WorldWith our mission clear, we set about planning, reviewing and coordinating all the logistics required for the event that would show the world the Christian hospitality of Richmond’s First Baptist Church. Our plan included sharing bottles of cold water, popcorn, American flags, and cow bells, as well as friendly smiles and a welcoming spirit, with the visitors. We wanted the world to know, especially the neighbors who passed our doors, that FBC cared about them.

Welcoming the WorldGiven our location there was a lot of foot traffic by our church, particularly during the last weekend of the race. Many neighbors streamed by our front door as they made their way to the race course. One of those, who was not a member, thanked us for the water, and with heartfelt emotion, thanked our church for the divorce recovery ministry that had helped her more than five years ago. We had a group of cyclists stop by who were from Minnesota and enjoyed a refill for their water bottles and neighborly conversation about our church’s history in Richmond. Several members from sister Baptist churches in the area stopped by and commented how wonderful it was that we had the opportunity to serve the community in this way. There were even several requests placed in the prayer request box we had located in one of our tents.

Welcoming the WorldWhile we may not see another world cycling event in front of our church again, it was clear that FBC made an impact on the world when it came to the corner of Monument and  Boulevard. In Mark 9:37, Jesus reminds His disciples: “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” For ten days in September 2015, FBC welcomed visitors from the world and from our neighborhood with Christian hospitality, helping to bring heaven to earth.

Welcoming the WorldAuthor’s note: The members of the 2015 Bike Race Team thank all who volunteered to hand out water and spirit items and to move tents and staging each day. A special thanks to Bonnie Wilmoth, Janet Chase, Allen Cumbia, and all our church staff for their extra efforts during this event.

 

Watch a wrap-up of the UCI Road World Bike race produced by Allen Cumbia and Sean Cook.

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