Posts Tagged ‘church family’

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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By Katie Smith. Photos provided by Anthony Nesossis, Janet Chase and Katie Smith.

Callout-BLOG-belongAs newlyweds in 2008, blindsided by the recession, my husband Van and I began what we call our “grand tour of Virginia,” as we kept chasing our careers around the state. During those years, we identified with a nondenominational church in Williamsburg, an Episcopal church in Charlottesville, a large Anglican church in Northern Virginia, and visited countless others of every denomination. Ironically, we even attended First Baptist Church for five months in 2008, before our careers moved us to Charlottesville.

Smith family

Smith family

Fancying ourselves to be independent thinkers, Van and I were not going to settle easily. Van is an attorney and I have taught college classes in years past—as such, we view most major life decisions through an analytical lens, carefully weighing all options. To commit, we knew, would be to decide on a place that would impact our spiritual growth, our way of serving the world, and our fellowship with other believers. In our decisions, we typically tread carefully. During that phase of our life, denominational differences mattered little—it was the spirit of each church that drew us close.

That spirit drew us back to FBC when we returned to Richmond. But its beauty also played a part. Architecture helps us feel a sense of awe in our humdrum suburban life, and the gorgeous columns and archways of First Baptist remind us of classic buildings. We love that First Baptist is not just located in the city, but it is also focused on being a church for the city, as it seeks to bring the kingdom of heaven to Richmond. And the intergenerational nature of the congregation brings a necessary sense of perspective. At a few churches we visited, we saw hardly a soul over the age of 40; in others, nary a person under 65. A church feels more whole, it seems, when all age groups are represented.

Never before (I cringe to admit) have we committed to a Bible study, but the Young Couples class has us sincerely hooked. And, I’m sure we must have broken some sort of church rule for requesting that our one-year-old be dedicated prior to us formally becoming members last year, but I’m still glad we did. A beautiful picture of Jim Somerville and our daughter Farah sits on our bookshelf and brings me joy. He asked us to join the church at the baby dedication. My husband looked at me and smiled wryly, “Ahh, a twofer!” I look forward to experiencing the new members’ class at some point, and I’m thankful for a church that is patient and accepting of members “right where they are.”

Maybe our journey was not random luck. My hunch is the Good Lord (as my parents refer to God) had a hand in it. Both of my great-grandfathers were Baptist ministers, after all. Perhaps I should have seen the writing on the wall. In any case, I feel a sense that Van and I, (plus an energetic toddler) are all on a faith journey together with First Baptist Church at the steering wheel. When I look around during Sunday services, I see people in plain and fancy clothes, the very young and the very old, and all manner of other folks. And I feel like we belong. Thank the Good Lord.

Katie SmithKatie Smith grew up in Winston-Salem, NC, and met her husband, Van, while studying at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. She served as an academic adviser at several community colleges in Virginia before recently beginning to work part-time for Van’s family law firm, Smith Strong, PLC. Van and Katie are the proud parents of Farah Lee Smith, who was born in September 2012 and dedicated at First Baptist Church. Van and Katie enjoy attending the Young Couples Class.

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