Posts Tagged ‘faith’

By Steve Blanchard and Justin Pierson

Justin and Tori

Richmond’s First Baptist Church has a new Pastoral Resident who is a familiar face. He has been a part of our fellowship for about four years. Justin Pierson, our new Pastoral Resident, began working at FBC in the Ministry of Christian Compassion several years ago, and he and his wife, Tori, have been involved in so many ways in the life of our church.

What you may not know is the journey that brought Justin to his decision to go into the ministry.

Justin grew up in Roanoke, Virginia and began considering a vocation in the ministry as early as high school. He continued to explore his calling to the ministry while at Virginia Tech where he was involved in the Baptist Collegiate Ministry, leading music for worship services and participating in Bible studies. He volunteered with youth ministry events for churches throughout Virginia and in the summers worked for various churches and Christian camps.

As Justin explains, “After graduation, I was almost certain that I would pursue ministry, but I wasn’t sure of the next steps. Although my psychology degree was useful for ministry, I knew that I needed more education if I wanted to properly serve, but I wasn’t sure if seminary was the next step. I wanted a break from school and wanted to understand how ministry is done in other parts of the world. So, I traveled to Vienna, Austria to live and serve for six months. I interned with a Baptist congregation there ministering to young people and Farsi-speaking refugees. It was amazing how different that experience was from my former church experiences in the U.S.”

on mission in Bosnia“This experience solidified my calling to ministry, but also sparked my interest in faith, culture and justice. I saw how this congregation sacrificed to serve refugees whom society had forgotten and tried to exclude. I saw how their congregation was growing, attracting young people, discussing complex theology and its modern-day application, and living into its calling regardless of its cultural unpopularity or financial risk.”

Justin playing guitarIt was after this experience that Justin knew he was called to the ministry and, after leaving Europe, he enrolled at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond (BTSR) and started working part-time as an assistant in the Ministry of Christian Compassion at FBC. It was through his work in the Ministry of Christian Compassion that Justin discovered that the heart of FBC was similar to what he had seen in the congregation in Vienna. He saw people willing to serve those in need, and a congregation willing to adapt to the needs of those who are served. And he saw a staff eager to help young people and form the next generation of leaders. As Justin explains it, “I found people willing to do the unpopular thing in order to live into the calling they believed in.”

After graduating from BTSR, Justin entered Union Presbyterian Seminary where he recently completed his Master of Theology. Throughout seminary, Justin continued to work part-time with the Christian Compassion Ministry.

Justin in worship

Throughout his years of serving in the Compassion Ministry, Justin found that FBC was a place in which he was interested in furthering his ministry experience and a place that would welcome his ideas and interests. Justin added, “I value the staff at FBC and wanted to continue to be a part of the ministries here.”

After working with Justin in the Compassion Ministry, Steve Blanchard, FBC’s Associate Pastor for Compassion, has found that, “Justin is a willing and dedicated worker, open-minded, passionate and talented in a variety of ministry areas. His faith has really taken shape as his own and his desire to continue to explore, ask questions, seek justice, learn and grow are just a few reasons why I believe he is an excellent choice for our residency program.”

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Soul Food

By Jeannie Dortch.

At least once a year, one or more members from Richmond’s First Baptist Church family gives his or her testimony of tithing, a habit of giving 10% of one’s annual income, usually patterned after an example set in their homes as children. My desire to tithe, however, grew out of a rich association with members of FBC and an appreciation for the Bible’s teachings that I had never learned at home. This is my story:

My mother grew up on the only road that led to the town cemetery. It was common for her to watch the hearse drive past her door taking a corpse to the graveyard. As a result, she developed a fear of death that grew to extend to a distrust of the Bible because of its many references to death.

My father’s religion was golf. So, attending Sunday school and church was a winter activity for our family because our car was driven to the links on fair weather weekends. We never read or discussed the Bible at home, and prayers were only offered at our annual Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.

Suffice it to say that in our home, the idea of tithing was never taught and certainly not caught by example. I am thankful that my formative years were spent in the 1950s and 60s, a time when children were exposed to church because it was expected. Very few things vied for families’ attention on Sundays with businesses closed. I can remember enjoying the services, and even walking to church by myself as a teenager. I have always had a curiosity and yearning to learn more about the Bible.

My husband’s religious training started on FBC’s cradle roll, but he hadn’t attended in years when we married in 1968. FBC never lost track of him, however, so when our daughter was four years old, we received a home visit from Katie’s Sunday school teacher inviting her to visit Sunday school. She was thrilled. The Sunday morning I took her, I decided to visit an adult class while waiting for Katie’s class to finish, and, that was where I met Buddy Hamilton and his small class of Christians. They embraced me as one of their own, becoming Jesus with skin on for the next many years! Each week, I would tell Jeff what I had learned to his skepticism and retorts, but his questions propelled me back to Buddy’s class to gather more answers to take home to share. Eight years passed before Jeff decided to attend church, and two more before he visited Sunday school.

While slowly learning to give our hearts to Jesus, we gained mentors in the faith whose example we wanted to follow. There have been so many FBC saints who helped us learn to pray, to volunteer, to lead, to teach, to give back with our bodies, minds, and souls and also with our money. We are grateful for each and every one of them and have been richly blessed by their presence in our lives.

soul food
Recently, Jim Somerville commented that we all need a faith that we can live with and die with. For me, that directive indicates a need to tithe. Some people emphasize the tangible rewards gained from tithing, but I believe the beauty of tithing is found in the giving itself. Tithing is like one-stop-shopping with the comfort of knowing that so many worthy causes that the church supports are covered by my gift with no need for me to research or worry about the legitimacy of the cause. Each week after the offering plates are passed, one of the ministers reminds us of yet another wonderful event, ministry, mission trip, organization, or association to which my dollars have been applied. More satisfying than the finest meal, I like to think of tithing as soul food!

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By Stephanie Kim.

I remember the feelings well when my husband of 10 years decided to leave our family – shock, devastation, overwhelming grief, fear, anger, rejection, brokenness, hopelessness. My two daughters, then seven and three years old, were confused, sad, but hopeful of his imminent return.

calloutIt was my faith, the little bit that I had back then, that brought me through that terrible time. Throughout most of my life, I had what I once heard someone call an “accessory” faith, a really nice religion to go with my really nice life. But when my perfect life and the things I held most dear – my husband, my family as I knew it, my friends, my hopes, my dreams of growing old together – shattered suddenly, I realized that my faith and relationship with God were very shallow. It was during this dark time that I truly experienced God’s comfort and love, learned to trust Him like never before, and grew immensely in faith. My “accessory” faith has become a “necessity” faith: I can’t live or even breathe without God.

Even this works together for good.While it was heartbreaking to see my kids go through this, it gave them the opportunity to learn so many lessons that will serve them well later in life. This adversity gave us the chance to talk about things that we might not ever have had the time or reason to otherwise. We had so many “pillow talks” about love, forgiveness, obedience, repentance, healing, grace, and trusting God. We talked about how important honesty is and how the choices we make often have consequences on others.

As I walked through what seemed like the valley of the shadow of death, I experienced Isaiah 43:2, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” While I never seemed to have enough time to read God’s word before, now I thirst for more. I have learned to be quiet, listening for His still, soft voice. I have learned how important it is to share my burdens with friends and to accept their loving help in times of need; it provides healing to me and an opportunity to minister for them. I have discovered my purpose in life and understand the awesome responsibility God has given me to rear my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I have learned that I must let go of all I hold dear and only hold on to Christ. As painful as this whole experience was, I am grateful that I have renewed life and have once again found strength and joy, healing and forgiveness. I had forgotten what was most important and was just rushing through life. My younger daughter Julia, who is intellectually disabled, is a daily reminder to celebrate every little success and not to worry about what the future holds because God has a good plan for us. I have learned to seek God’s wisdom for every decision I make.

I was touched by God’s miraculous healing power when I was broken. I met the Great Comforter while in such deep sorrow. I found strength in Christ when I was completely helpless. I understood God’s unfailing love when I had failed and been disappointed. I learned patient endurance for His time when I lost complete control of making things happen in my time. I discovered His peace that surpasses all understanding in the midst of a terrible storm. I learned to place my faith and trust in God after others fell short. As I help others caught in the devastation of divorce using the experiences and skills God has given me, I realize now that He has caused even this to work together for good.

Stephanie KimStephanie Kim is Director of Finance for the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission. She is an active member of Richmond’s First Baptist Church and often participates in worship services as flutist. She resides in Mechanicsville. She can be reached at flute2tr@comcast.net.

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Philip Delano and Erin Cumbia.

By Jeannie Dortch.

In many ways, the summer of 2010 in Ružomberok, Slovakia reads like a fairy tale for college students Philip Delano, a senior at William and Mary, and Erin Cumbia, a sophomore at Liberty University. 

Like Hansel and Gretel, Philip and Erin tentatively left home, uncertain of what to expect from their eight weeks abroad or of their competence to meet the challenges that would lie ahead. They clung to their trust in the Lord and His promises to guide them, tucking flexibility into a side pocket for extra measure.

Erin lived with Pastor Egor Conka and his wife in a flat above the Ružomberok Baptist Church, while Philip roomed with and shadowed 29-year-old Graham Leeder, a British missionary from New Castle. As they traveled to different areas of Slovakia to conduct English camps for seven to 15 year olds, Erin taught crafts and vocabulary lessons. Philip played American football and Frisbee with the students, but he also developed action packed English lessons for the daily Bible themes studied at camp: Accepted, Protected, Saved, Forgiven, and Living.

Both agreed that learning English was the vehicle used to pique the interest of the youths, but the Christian impact was made through building strong relationships and friendships with their colleagues and with the children whom they mentored.

The breadcrumbs that Hansel and Gretel dropped to mark their trail back home were quickly devoured by the woodland birds, but the breadcrumbs of Jesus’ love that Erin and Philip dropped nourished the many children they encountered. Even now, many of Erin and Philip’s protégés have followed their trail through the heart of Eastern Europe all the way back to Richmond via Facebook and email.

Erin and Philip noticed that Slovakians have less disposable income than Americans do, fewer distractions, and less need to rush from here to there. This lifestyle assured them of more time for conversation and real bonding – “slow down” being the take home message for both of these dedicated interns. “The whole experience gave me a clear perspective on what really matters,” commented Philip. Erin added, “Rather than just going to church, these people lived church in their everyday lives.”

When asked what advice they would give to would-be missionaries, Philip continued, “It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you are willing to allow God to use you. Showing Christ’s love through actions is the key.”

Erin followed up by saying, “Taking an interest in the people by learning about their culture and traditions and immersing yourself in their everyday lives shows that you care for them.”

Philip and Erin (fourth and fifth from left) with Slovakian friends.

Hansel and Gretel returned home with pearls and precious stones in their pockets, saving their family from poverty. Erin and Philip became rich with pockets full of experiences that led to new friendships in Christ, others to nurture, memories to last a lifetime, and a willingness to be used again and again for the glory of God. A storybook ending with happily ever afters all around!

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