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By Jeannie Dortch.

“Do you still love me even though I’m not a Christian?”

Chinese proverbThat was the blunt question a Chinese university student asked FBC Associate Pastor Steve Blanchard during a mission trip to China in October. The encounter between the two took place in Nanjing, where the team of six retired teachers from Virginia, Louisiana, and Texas, and two ministers from Richmond’s First Baptist Church went to work with Virginia Baptist Ambassador Lynn Yarborough.

Students in Nanjing, China

Fourth grade students at Red Mountain Primary School in Nanjing, China.
Photo by Sue Meador.

Lynn invited the team to work with an Amity Foundation project to introduce the Chinese to the outside world through foreign churches. Our goal was not so much to teach English, as to be a loving presence of Christ.

Part of our assignment was to teach in migrant schools – poorly funded elementary schools for children whose parents are not permanent citizens of Nanjing. We became very close to the teacher education students who translated for us. They made it possible for us to implement our lesson plans by translating directions and information specific to each activity in which we engaged the children. Their classrooms held an average of 60 children with desks and nothing but chalkboards on the walls. Despite their lack of resources, these children were focused, well-behaved, and extremely appreciative of our long trip to work with them – so appreciative they even wanted our autographs!

Team with university students

Students at Jiangsu Institute of Education in Nanjing, China, with team members Jeannie Dortch (center) and Sue Meador (right). Photo by Lynn Yarborough.

In the afternoons, we joined our translators and other university students in conversational English using photos of our lives in America to generate questions. These students were not Christians, but our sharing inevitably led to questions, and answers, about our faith.

Steve Blanchard recalls a conversation with one of the students. “He asked, ‘Are you from a Christian church?’” The question surprised Steve because we had not said anything about our church affiliation. He replied, “Yes, I am.” The student followed up, “So, you love God?” “Yes,” Steve affirmed. The student pressed further: “I am Buddhist. So do you still love me even though I am not Christian?” “Of course I do!” Steve answered. A huge smile came across the student’s face. He jumped up and gave Steve a big hug. That exchange sparked an hour-long discussion with the Chinese students. Steve recalls, “We talked about how important it is to love people not because of where they come from or what they look like. We love people because God created all of us.”

Amity Foundation welcomes FBC.

Amity Foundation welcomes FBC team. Standing from left: Steve Blanchard, Sherry Goff, Gwen Garrett, Pat Pierson, and Carol Hall; Seated from left: Sue Meador, Jeannie Dortch and Candi Brown. Photo by Lynn Yarborough.

A few of the students had been assigned an essay about the one word that had changed the world. “Science, cooperation and Apple” were words that they had chosen, but they wanted to know what we would pick.

My choice was “love”; another of our team said “Jesus.” When my translator asked my motivation for being a good teacher, I had an opportunity to make the connection between those two words. In one way or another, we made that same connection with drivers, tour guides, translators, students, and even among ourselves, touching the lives of over 1,200 children and young adults in just four days.

Candi Brown, FBC’s Minister to Children and mission team member, commented on our interactions with students: “The culture of China does not welcome open evangelism, but we agreed to enter each situation with a spirit of love and let the Holy Spirit do His work. We were amazed at how many opportunities arose in which we were given opportunities to answer questions about our faith.”

For more information about the Amity Foundation, go to http://www.amityfoundation.org.


Jeannie DortchJeannie Dortch joined FBC in 1974 after being lovingly mentored by the members of Buddy Hamilton’s Sunday school class. A grandmother of four, Jeannie has served as a deacon, taught in our children’s, youth, international, and adult Sunday school departments, but is presently a member of the WebClass. Recently retired from 16 years of teaching at Rudlin Torah Academy, Jeannie enjoys exercising, cooking, reading, tutoring New American students at Maybeury Elementary, and writing articles for FTF.

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Story and photos by Cathy Gaunt.

Mission team in Xi'an China.

Mission team in Xi'an China.

Sweat was pouring from my brow as I struggled to lug the 25+ pound suitcase up 14 flights of stairs along with my 15+ pound backpack. Out of nowhere a petite woman with a pleasant smile appeared on the stairs and helped me carry the suitcase. It did not seem to be a struggle for her. I smiled, bowed slightly and in broken Chinese said “thank you.” This was my introduction to the people of Xi’an, China, a city of more than eight million, known for its Terra Cotta Warriors.

China mission team

Members of FBC team with two of their translators, Anson (far left) and Nan (far right).

The First Baptist Church team, 13 adults and students from China, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, was in Xi’an to help the local YMCA with a basketball camp. We all felt led to go to China and almost all of us felt led to teach basketball. I can dribble, shoot and pass, but not teach basketball. However, I knew I needed to be flexible when on assignment with God. I served as the team photographer and mom. If someone needed something – Band-Aids, granola bars, powdered drink mix, toilet paper, usually I had it in my backpack.

basketball camp drillsIn 2006 Ashley, our older daughter, and I went to Troyeville, South Africa on a mission trip. Rachel, our younger daughter, had been looking for a similar opportunity for the two of us. She finally found it when Buddy Burgess, Pastor to the Deaf Mission and Minister of Recreation, told her about this trip.

Rachel comments, “I love community missions and helping people. Making people’s day is number one on my list; it just makes me really happy. When I heard about China, I was ecstatic. I played basketball for six years, and I have always wanted to make an impact elsewhere than in my own backyard. Traveling to China was the most incredible experience of my life – the people I met along the way, the relationships with our translators and other group members, the culture, showing God’s love.”

Being flexible became important just before we left when we found out the venue had changed, as well as the numbers. Instead of meeting in a school with 60 campers, we were relocated, with 80 boys. Did I mention that all our student coaches were girls, 14 to 18 years old? The first day of camp there were about 120 campers, and each day the numbers increased. When it rained, we were confined to one and a half inside basketball courts. Being flexible continued to be important.

Two significant moments of my week put us into the Chinese culture – attending worship and eating a meal with one our campers and his family. Another occurred when we were able to share our culture. One day campers asked via translators about American traditions and heard first hand why we were there teaching basketball – because we love God and love His people.

For Rachel, the highlight of the week was the bracelets she and the other student coaches shared: “Our arms were covered in bracelets, not your average bracelets, but the Spirit/Witness/Salvation bracelets. On these bracelets were a heart for God’s love, a black bead for our sin, a red bead for the blood that Jesus shed for us, a white bead for our cleanliness from sin because Jesus died for us, a blue bead for eternal life, a green bead for our growing relationship with God, a yellow bead for the gold in heaven, and a clear bead for our purity.

basketball camp drills“Many people might say ‘Oh it’s just a bracelet,’ but it was more than that. Two team members had made 90 bracelets for us to give out. Since we had more campers, we had to be flexible and make bracelets for about 125 campers to receive the last day of camp. Wherever we traveled, teens commented on these bracelets, and we were able to explain the significance and give each a bracelet and a card in English and Chinese describing what each color meant. One team member spent an hour with a Chinese teen and his three friends explaining the bracelet – all four not only received bracelets but the Gospel, too.

basketball camp participants“We had grown close to our translators and had long discussions about God, the bracelet, the Bible, and His love. At the end of the trip we were able to give all of them Bibles and could tell that some of them were having a change of heart.”

Of course, you don’t need to go to China to share God’s love. Who needs to hear you say, “God loves you”? Who needs to receive a witnessing bracelet from you? Who needs to receive a Bible from you? Remember to be flexible the next time the Holy Spirit prompts you to share the Gospel with someone.


Cathy GauntCathy is married to Gary and they have two daughters: Ashley, a freshman at Longwood University, and Rachel, a junior at Hanover High School. Cathy works at the Federal Reserve Bank as an Accounting Analyst. Cathy joined FBC in 1988, has served as a deacon and is active in missions work within the church. She is a member of Foundations Sunday School Class. In her free time she enjoys running, cycling and hiking.

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