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By Mary Hiteman. Photo by Paul Bickford.

Through God, we love deeply, so hurt is strong.
When tragedy happens, His tears do fall.
We ask why? And where are You? We are too numb to feel.
We’re shocked & we’re angry & we cry. . .and we heal.
          Suzanne Shonnard

June 28, 1998 – do you remember where you were? I don’t remember, but Suzanne Shonnard does. She attended First Baptist’s first Prayers for Healing Service that afternoon. Her mother was scheduled to have surgery the next day to remove a brain tumor. She remembers praying with desperation—could her mother be healed overnight? She felt glued to the pew, arms tightly crossed, staring at the floor while nervously shaking one foot. She didn’t want to be disruptive, so she did not shed one tear because she knew she would end by sobbing. Something happened to Suzanne that night during the Healing Service. The message of hope inspired her, the music comforted her, candles were lit, and most importantly, there were prayers for healing. She did not want to leave the service—she felt a bit strengthened and closer to God, and she was finally able to take a deep breath.

Suzanne Shonnard

Suzanne Shonnard during the monthly Prayers for Healing Service at First Baptist.

According to Suzanne, that’s one thing the Prayers for Healing Service does—it gives you a chance to catch your breath. In the midst of a crisis, you are in a place where you don’t need to be strong. Each month someone shares an intimate story of healing. You hear scripture and prayers and feel the presence of God. You find out what others have done when the moments of peace wear off and the anger, loss and fear poke through. It’s a safe place where prayers are offered for others, where others will pray with you and for you.

Suzanne has become the moving force behind this on-going ministry. She recruits speakers and musicians for each Prayers for Healing Service. She arrives two hours ahead to set up the Chapel. She serves as one of the lay readers of scripture. As she participates, her faith is always strengthened by each Healing Service.

Back to June 28, 1998. Her mother died too quickly from the cancer, but Suzanne will tell you that no matter what happens, God is by your side all the time, with His arm around your shoulder – whether you feel His presence or not – He is there and always promising: “It’s OK, I’ll take it from here.”

In January, 2011, Suzanne felt His presence in a new way. She was facing some surgery of her own. At that month’s Prayers for Healing Service, she walked to the kneeler in front of the Chapel and received prayer. On the Wednesday before the surgery, she was prayed over by the Catalyst Prayer group (whose mission is to pray for FBC’s leaders). She was hesitant and a bit embarrassed on both occasions, but the experience of having folks pray with and for her was very humbling and very powerful. She went into surgery surrounded by the peace and calm of God’s presence.

Editor’s Note: Join Suzanne at the next Prayers for Healing Service, July 10 at 5 p.m. in the Chapel.


Mary HitemanAccording to one wise five-year-old, Mary Hiteman, associate minister for the Weekday Preschool at Richmond’s First Baptist Church, “is the boss of the school who tells us Bible stories each Monday after she says good morning to everyone at the front door.” Mary has led the preschool for 29 years, under its motto: “It’s ok to have too much fun!” Her other great blessing is being a grandmother to Hayden. They both enjoy gardening, camping at the “rivah,” vacationing at the beach, and reading.

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By Mary Hiteman, Minister of Weekday School.

Dr. Len Morrow helps the Weekday Preschool children use the mobile gardening cart.

When was the last time you played in the dirt and made mud pies? Let me introduce you to Mud Pie Annie, who does this delightfully in Mud Pie Annie-God’s Recipe for Doing Your Best by Sue Buchanan and Dana Shafer. Annie makes the most creative, non-edible treats with dirt and other ingredients. And she sings of her inspiration: “No matter what I do in life, I’ll do my very best. I’ll work at it with all my heart, and that’s how I’ll be blessed. Whether I make mud pies or great dishes for a queen, I’ll put my ‘ALL’ into it, for there is no in between. And as I work with all my might-as everyone knows-GOD sees what is in my heart, not the mud between my toes.”

Len Morrow (also known as Dr. Potato Head) and Jeff Dortch share Mud Pie Annie’s inspiration to do their best. Len attended a workshop for Master Gardeners in James City County last fall. He learned about plans for a mobile gardening cart that could be wheeled indoors and out, was at a height children could reach, and was self-contained with tool storage included. It seemed like a great idea for our First STEP Preschool-a partnership with FBC and ASK-Making Life Better for Children with Cancer. When Jeff found the plans inadequate, he created his own and built the cart. Len says of him: “He has the tools, the skills and my admiration.”

On March 11 six children and their teachers learned about soil from Dr. Potato Head and scattered seeds in three trays that fit perfectly in the top of the cart. A week later, lettuce and radish seeds sprouted, as well as garden peas. The children were delighted! They check on their garden each Friday with the goal of eating lettuce, radishes and peas before the school year ends on May 20. All of this gardening takes place in their classroom because of Dr. Potato Head and Jeff (who can think of an appropriate nick name for him?).

Mud Pie Annie’s favorite Bible verse fits everyone involved in this gardening project: “Work at everything you do with all your heart” (Colossians 3:23, NIrV).

For more information about First STEP Preschool, contact Mary Hiteman (Hiteman@FBCRichmond.org).

For more information about the mobile gardening cart, go to http://jccwmg.org/index.html and click on Healing Thru Gardening presentations.

Editor’s Note: see related gardening video

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By Susan Grant.

In May, 1998, I was diagnosed with Leukemia. At that time, the only treatment was a bone marrow transplant.

After a long search a donor, Peter Andrews, was found in England. Peter was deemed healthy enough to qualify as my donor and he readily agreed to the bone marrow transplant. In mid November 1998 in London, Peter’s bone marrow was harvested, flown across the Atlantic Ocean, and it arrived at MCV in time for me to get the transplant the day before Thanksgiving.

I entered the hospital on a Sunday afternoon, November 15th. That evening, the youth of our church stood outside my window with candles in their hands. From my 10th floor window, my daughter Stephanie and my son Wingate and I watched as the youth raised and lowered the candles while they were praying for us. It was a sight I will never forget.

Before the transplant, I worked as a realtor, marketing residential properties. I loved my job with a passion. But after the transplant I made the decision not to return to real estate. Nevertheless I had to work – but doing what? A friend approached me about four years after the transplant and suggested I consider nursing. My immediate response was, “Oh yeah, I’m 53 years old. Not exactly the right time in life to start a new career.” I told her I’d pray about it. She wasn’t a Christian, so I’m sure she didn’t understand why I’d consider even asking the Lord for guidance, but I did.

Peter Andrews and his family. Peter was the bone marrow donor for Susan Grant.

I didn’t get a yes or no from God, but I did pursue the possibility. When I contacted John Tyler School of Nursing, I told them just to tell me I was too old. I said, “I won’t be offended, I just don’t want to waste your time, so just tell me and I’ll be gone.” The head of the nursing program told me on the contrary I wasn’t too old. Their oldest graduate had been 62 years old. So I applied.

I went through the nursing program in six semesters. It was tough. At times I didn’t think I would make it. But I graduated in December 2005, at the age of 56. Seven years after my bone marrow transplant.

Now at Henrico Doctor’s Hospital I work as an RN in Radiation Oncology and in the outpatient infusion unit.

Susan Grant and her son, Wingate at his college graduation.

God has used me mightily over these years. Occasionally I have shared my cancer experience with patients. I believe it’s given them encouragement to see me looking so healthy, and working at my age in a physically demanding field.

Professionally, I want to give my patients the best of care as a way of paying back for the excellent care I received at MCV. But also I desire to do something for God as a way of saying “thank you” for His intervention to extend my life. So every morning as I drive to work, I ask Him to help me minister to His children in whatever way He desires. I see it as living out my life in thankfulness for what He has done.



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