Posts Tagged ‘KOH2RVA’

Story by Mark Larson. Photos by Susan Brown, Ann Carter and Win Grant.

calloutRecently, I’ve been asking people what comes to their minds when hearing the word “movement.” The first response is almost always an object in motion or a change in locations. Some will even wiggle about to illustrate the point. When I ask again but put “movement” in the context of a group working towards a common vision, the response is usually something huge and historic—struggles of the suffragettes or the 1960s fight for civil rights.

We as a church discerned the 2020 Vision to be God’s will for us. As the Implementation Teams create plans and activities to fulfill that vision, they consider how their work can become a movement to change us and change our city. How are we trying to accomplish that? Here are a few examples.

2020 Vision becomes a movement.Some groups like the Marriage Enrichment Team dove right in, building on efforts started last year. They created a Facebook page, Us First, to share articles and inspiration. In the spring, the team presented a series of Sunday morning programs on family relationships and on Sunday, July 30, will sponsor another program during the Bible study hour. This group’s vision is for Richmond’s First Baptist Church to become as well known for marriage enrichment as we are for divorce recovery.

2020 Vision becomes a movement.In one of our 2016 town hall meetings, Bill Wilson reminded us that First Baptist is already doing many things quite well but we want to build on that success. Our outreach to local schools is one example. Working with Glen Lea Elementary School in recent years helped us realize that our church could make a lasting impact on children. With that goal in mind, the School Implementation Team reached out to Albert Hill Middle, the closest school to our church. The school’s principal was excited about the possibility of a partnership and also connected us with her counterpart at John B. Cary Elementary. This spring before school ended, the team provided lunch to teachers and staff during teacher appreciation week and returned to assist teachers in the pack-up and clean-up of their classrooms—a great, personal way to get the partnership started. Going forward, the effort will be finding mentors to connect with children—to commit to nurturing, ongoing relationships through the lunch buddy program and tutoring for those students needing help with homework or reading and math skills.

2020 Vision becomes a movement.Sometimes a team recognizes its mission is not exactly what they first thought. The team connecting to the neighborhoods around our church started envisioning many activities that could be created for our neighbors. Wanting to do something right away, they gave out 400 bottles of water and Koozies® to spectators at the spring 10K race. The Koozies, which referenced mission work done by our church, helped this team realize that their real task might be less about creation and more about communication. FBC already has many great programs—we just need to let our neighbors know and invite their participation. To start that process, each team member will establish a relationship with one of the neighborhood associations. In addition, the team recognized that more than 500 non-member families regularly come into our church through Vacation Bible School, Weekday Preschool, Scouting, and Upward Basketball. To expand FBC’s connection with these families, the Neighborhood Team’s next goal is to personally invite each of these families to events like concerts and the outdoor movie series.

2020 Vision becomes a movement.September 10, ONE Sunday, is an important day at our church. During the Bible study hour, the church family will gather in Flamming Hall to fellowship and hear more stories from the 2020 teams. How will these stories transform into a movement that brings the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, that changes us and our city? The transformation depends on each of us connecting with the mission of one of these teams and getting involved. What will your part be in the movement?

Mark LarsonMark Larson serves as co-chair of the 2020 Vision and Oversight Teams. He is a deacon and teller, but most known for his long service as a preschool teacher and Scout leader. A recently-retired architect, Mark now volunteers as Council Commissioner for Central Virginia Scouting. He and Carrie were married at First Baptist 35 years ago.

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Story by Beth Bayless. Photos by Susan Brown.

There is an old saying, “Your actions speak so loudly that I can’t hear what you are saying.”

calloutDouglas Johnson is a woman whose actions and words are in harmony, as she brings hope and joy to those she meets as a volunteer at CrossOver Healthcare Ministries. In October, 2014, CrossOver acknowledged that harmony when they presented Douglas with a Compassionate Care Award. This award recognized her more than ten years of volunteer service to people with medical needs.

So who is Douglas Johnson? She is a wife, mother, grandmother, active volunteer, potter, retired nurse practitioner, and a Christian who loves to serve. A native Richmonder, she married her high school friend and sweetheart Carl Johnson shortly after graduating from MCV/VCU School of Nursing. She took a break from nursing after the birth of her children but returned to her profession when they reached school age. Later, Douglas went back to school to become a nurse practitioner in the area of cardiology.
Crossover honors Douglas JohnsonWhen her son became ill, she retired from nursing to help his family. After his death, Douglas felt at loose ends and that was when she embarked on the path that led to her interests today. Learning to create pottery was one way she dealt with grief. Seeing clay become items of usefulness and beauty reminded her of the lines of the hymn:

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Thou art the potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Douglas discovered another outlet when she was invited to join a Saturday mission trip to CrossOver Healthcare Ministries. CrossOver, which provides free health care to nearly 7000 patients every year, needed help to clear a backlog of patients who were entering their system. Douglas found her niche. For over ten years she has gone to CrossOver once a week to provide office nurse services to clients. She interviews patients, prepares them to see the physician, and if needed, provides education about their disease and its treatment.

Crossover honors Douglas JohnsonThis year Douglas’s interests in CrossOver and pottery merged as she donated the proceeds from the sale of some of her pottery to CrossOver.
As Douglas reminisced about her time at CrossOver, a smile crossed her face and she noted, “About two years ago, I realized why I do this. I am helping bring the *Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia.”

Watch video of Douglas serving at CrossOver.
Get more information about CrossOver.
*Read more KOH2RVA stories.

Beth BaylessBeth Bayless, a native of North Carolina, came to Richmond in 1984 after stops in Ohio and Georgia. A registered dietitian for almost 50 years, she received her BS from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and her MS from Emory University. Beth sings in the Church Choir and JoySingers, and is a member of the Builder’s Class. Now retired, Beth enjoys taking Osher Lifelong Learning classes at the University of Richmond, going to ACAC (an exercise center) and chasing the goal of finishing a family history.

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How to keep on living the good and beautiful lifeBy Jim Somerville.

During the Season of Lent, the members and friends of Richmond’s First Baptist Church studied a book called The Good and Beautiful Life, by James Bryan Smith. Some of them met in homes, some in Sunday school classes, some came to the Journey to the Cross services, and some did all of the above.  It was a powerful community-building exercise, and I think we all learned a great deal.

So, now what?

The original plan was this: that we would spend the Season of Lent learning about the Good and Beautiful Life, that we would spend the Season of Easter living the Good and Beautiful Life, and then spend the Season of Pentecost sharing the Good and Beautiful Life.

Learning, living, sharing.  Got it?

According to that plan we are now in the Great Fifty Days of the Easter season (April 5 through May 23), the season of living the life.  But how do we do that?  Or, rather, how do we keep on doing it?

Here’s one suggestion:

The Good and Beautiful Life is essentially a study of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7.  James Bryan Smith’s premise is that in these chapters Jesus explains what life in God’s kingdom looks like and what it would take to live it.  The life of the kingdom is the good and beautiful life, Smith argues, and if we could learn to do what Jesus says we would know that.

So, try this.

In the remainder of this season, all the way up to May 24, the Day of Pentecost, try reading the Sermon on the Mount as a kind of daily devotion.  If you’re reading this on your computer, you can simply click HERE and go to a page that has the whole sermon waiting for you in the New Revised Standard Version.  Click that same link tomorrow and try reading it in a different version, the Message, or the NIV.  Maybe you could read a different version every day, just to keep it fresh.

My hope is this: that if you saturate yourself in that sermon, if you sink down into its message day after day, you will begin to live the life it describes.  You will trust God more.  You will hate others less.  You will pluck up the seed of sin before it can take root.  You will know that you are blessed.  You will be like the one who built his house on a rock.

Try it!  Live it!  And then get ready to share it.

A life like this will be too good and beautiful to keep to yourself.

 This post originally appeared in JimsBlog, the Pastor’s blog, on April 13, 2015.

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Story by Jim Somerville. Photo by Sean Lumsden-Cook.

For years I’ve been looking for a way to harmonize the good news of the coming Kingdom, so prevalent in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, with the good news of eternal life, so prevalent in John. I think I’ve found it, and if I could sum it up in a few words, I think I would say this:

Jesus came to give us the gift of LIFE – abundant, overflowing, and everlasting – and His vision of the Kingdom was about the place, the reality, where that kind of life could be lived.

book studyIn 2015 I’m hoping that we can learn how to live that sort of life here, at First Baptist, by thinking of our church as a kind of “laboratory” where we practice obeying the clear commands of Christ to see what can happen when we truly love one another, forgive one another, and bear one another’s burdens (just to name a few). Jesus seemed to believe that God’s Kingdom could come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Why not start here?

And then I want us to learn how to share that kind of life out there, in the city of Richmond and in all its surrounding suburbs. I think this may be the most natural way of bringing the KOH2RVA – simply by living the life of the Kingdom and sharing that life with others. And yet I don’t think it comes naturally; I think it takes study and practice.

GBL-shadowTo that end we’re going to spend the Season of Lent studying a book called The Good and Beautiful Life, by James Bryan Smith (based on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7). During the “Great Fifty Days” of the Easter Season, we’re going to practice living that life here at First Baptist. And from the Day of Pentecost forward, we’re going to focus on sharing that life with our city, our state, our nation, and our world.

So, get ready, First Baptist Church: the Good and Beautiful Life is coming, and I want every one of us to be part of it!

For more information, visit FBCRichmond.org/worship/jtc.
Watch a brief video about the lenten book study.

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Story by Susan Beach. Photos by Susan Brown and Mary Palmer.

When you say “Christmas,” members of Richmond’s First Baptist Church think of many things – hoping no one will drop a wreath during Hanging of the Green, humming along at the choir concerts, making gingerbread houses and eating the remnants, wondering who will be Baby Jesus in the Youth Christmas Pageant. We have much to enjoy and many opportunities to celebrate.

But wait; there is more – a lot more that we enjoy and celebrate outside FBC.

  • Women on Mission serve a holiday breakfast to the homeless at Oregon Hill Baptist Center and provide toys and clothes for the Christmas Store at South Richmond Baptist Center.
  • One Accord presents a concert at Bruton Parish in Williamsburg.
  • Staff wrap and deliver gifts to the teachers and students of Glen Lea Elementary and Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal schools.
  • A gift from former member Ralph Anderson provides a special Christmas breakfast to the homeless.
  • The church family gives holiday parties for international students, for residents of Essex Village, and for members of Grace Fellowship.
  • Members of women’s mission groups prepare Christmas food bags for the homeless in South Richmond.

And there’s still more. There’s all you do! Use the Comment box below to share what you do or what you’ve seen others do to take Christmas outside the doors of FBC and bring the celebration to Richmond.


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  Story by Julie Pierce.

FBC has brought heaven to earth in many ways. One at the top of the list is its recent work with New Americans, led from 2009 to 2013 by Warren and Julie Pierce. This is the story of their involvement with New Americans. Their challenge to you is: How will you bring the KOH2RVA?

Imagine being expelled from your home. You were expelled because of the language you spoke, the way you dressed or your religious beliefs. The simple truth behind this ethnic cleansing was that the ruling party feared the increasing size and influence of your people group.

Your one hope was to be repatriated. Instead, under pressure from the United Nations, the United States invited you and your family to immigrate.

The immigration process required health screenings, completed forms, orientation classes, and an immediate response whenever the opportunity to move came, even without all your possessions or family and friends. You might have arrived in the middle of the night, knowing no one in your new host country.

New Americans

Photo by Steve Blanchard

This is how the New Americans – they no longer see themselves as refugees! – came to Richmond. While they came from many countries around the world, we worked with those from Bhutan.

These early arrivers were the bold, the adventure seekers, the most adaptable, and the most determined to succeed. They charted the course for those yet to arrive.

As these New Americans began to acculturate, we taught them to drive; instructed them on baking a chicken – not directly on the wire rack, but in a baking dish; introduced them to the potato peeler, the can opener and the blender. They learned that a washing machine will drain on its own – the water does not need to be bailed. All this they embraced with delight and appreciation.

An outing to a dairy farm convinced the elderly that the milk they bought at Walmart was in fact the real thing. In Bhutan, the cows were seen walking down the street, but in America they never saw a real cow until they went to the farm.

They have learned to be careful consumers but have been tested. While visiting a family we noticed magazines about cooking, weight lifting, muscle cars, and celebrities. They had received “free” copies that committed them to a year of overpriced subscriptions. They asked for help and the subscriptions were eventually cancelled. Now they help other New Americans avoid this problem.

While the U.S. government requires a great deal of preparation from immigrants, the assistance it provides is for medical, food and housing needs for only one month. Its expectation is that the sponsoring agency will secure adequate employment to cover all needs after that – a difficult task in the current economy.

First Baptist volunteers partnered with two of Richmond’s sponsoring agencies, Church World Services and Commonwealth Catholic Charities, to collect and distribute all items necessary to furnish a modest apartment. Finding employment was another part of our partnership.

Most started in the hospitality industry until their educational credentials were verified. Several are now teaching and doing research at local universities. Many received their GED, Certified Nurse’s Assistant training, or attended community colleges with scholarships from FBC.

Several years ago FBC member Bob Quisenberry suggested one of the New Americans apply for an opening at the Westwood Racquet Club. While it was clear there was only one position to be filled, it was beneficial for two New Americans looking for work at that time to experience the hiring and interview process. To their surprise both were offered jobs and since then several more have been hired.

Dhan Rimal, a salesman and driver for a large company before arriving in the U.S., has used his employment at Westwood to help his brother acquire his Commercial Driver’s License and a full-time position.

Om Prakash Adhikari

Om Prakash Adhikari and family. Photo by Lindy Keast Rodman, Richmond Times-Dispatch

Om Prakash Adhikari has a business degree from a university in Katmandu, Nepal where he was a banker. He is now responsible for maintaining Westwood’s grounds. Om travelled back to Nepal to dispel the negative rumors that America is a dangerous and difficult place to live. He took a DVD with firsthand accounts from those who have established positive, successful lives here in Richmond.

New Americans are smart and motivated and so happy to be here, even with the challenges. They allowed us to see our world, here in Richmond through the lens of their experience. What a gift their friendship has been to us.

Read related stories: A little more like the kingdom of heaven by Steve Blanchard; Radical hospitality meets everyday opportunities by Carrie Larson;
A day at the beach by Franklin Hamilton.


Julie PierceJulie Pierce has been an FBC member for 23 years. She has taught preschool Sunday school and RAs/Mission Force, chaired the Pre-school and Youth teams, worked with the Divorce Recovery Workshop, and led two pastor search committees. Julie and her husband, Warren, work together at the International Mission Board and serve together at FBC showing Christ’s love to our New American friends.

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By Jeannie Dortch. Photos by Dean Hawthorne.

Every morning, lean thine arms awhile
Upon the windowsill of heaven,
And gaze upon thy Lord.
Then, with the vision in thy heart,
Turn strong to meet thy day.

                                                               Author unknown

In the early days of his ministry, Dr. Theodore F. Adams vacationed in Wisconsin where he attended an outdoor vesper service led by an Episcopal rector who recited the verse above. Dr. Adams never forgot those words. He committed them to memory.

calloutFrom 1936-1968 Dr. Adams served as senior pastor of Richmond’s First Baptist Church. During that time he referred to this verse countless times as one of his favorites. He even had desktop placards made and sent to every member of the church.

Many readers are aware that the beautiful stained glass windows surrounding the FBC Sanctuary were part of a renovation project initiated by Dr. Adams in the late 1940s, but they may be unaware of the message he left in one of the windows by which we remember him today.

In the commission of the windows’ refurbishment, Dr. Adams’ goal was twofold. The larger windows that surround the balcony were to portray the significant events in the life of Jesus, while those below were to demonstrate how followers could live out Jesus’ lessons in modern times. Each upper window correlates to the one below it and is interpreted there for modern understanding. Each window is also accompanied by a scripture passage – except one.

There are two windows in the church picturing Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, one in the Chapel and one in the Sanctuary. The Chapel window’s focus is on prayer, but the story in the Sanctuary’s window shows Jesus, having been strengthened by prayer, telling Peter, James, and John, “Behold, the hour is at hand—Rise, let us be going.” The light shining on Jesus comes from heaven and affirms Jesus’ declaration that, “Thy will, not mine, be done.”

Garden of Gethsemane

The Garden of Gethsemane

Bathed in sunlight in the corollary window below kneels a lone figure, praying the very poem that begins, “Every morning, lean thine arms upon the windowsill of heaven.” These verses are not found in the Bible, but send the message that made such a marked impression on Dr. Adams’ life that he was determined it be memorialized in this window.

Windowsill of Heaven

The Windowsill of Heaven

Could he have guessed that with each reading, those who remembered him would also see him reciting it before a congregation of First Baptist Church members, even today?

In writing about Dr. Adams, Dr. W. Randall Lolley, former pastor of FBC Greensboro, NC, says that Dr. Adams was a man, “who truly perceived the earth as the ‘windowsill of heaven.’ Every person he met, every event he enjoyed, every experience he knew worked ‘inside/out’ rather than ‘outside/in.’”

As we continue our mission to bring KOH2RVA, may we put into practice these words so dear to Dr. Adams.

Editor’s note: These windows are located on The Boulevard side of the Sanctuary, the fourth set from the front.

Copies of the fully illustrated Memorial Windows written by Theodore F. Adams and The Open Door, the church’s history from 1780-2005, are available for checkout or purchase in the church library.

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By Rebecca Ozmore. Photos by Susan Brown and Janet Chase.

When First Baptist hosted CARITAS in July 2013, we didn’t get on the KOH2RVA  bus – the bus brought Richmond to us.

Most of us are familiar with CARITAS from FBC’s tradition of hosting homeless men during Thanksgiving week. Congregations Around Richmond To Assure Shelter provides individuals overnight shelter at local churches. CARITAS was looking for additional summer hosts because it’s a difficult season for scheduling. FBC was looking for another way to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia (KOH2RVA). When we heard 40 homeless women needed shelter, we opened our doors.

FBC hosts its first women’s CARITAS.Overall, this week was not much different from the men’s week. The women arrived by bus each evening. We provided a meal, opportunity for a shower, and a place to sleep. We also provided toiletry bags with linens, shower items, and a request form for needed items including clothing.

FBC hosts its first women’s CARITAS.We scheduled activities each evening, blessing the women and giving them opportunities to bless others. There were presentations from the Fan Free Clinic and Richmond Police Department. On bingo night, one of the winners gave her prize of a cosmetic bag to another woman who had been hoping to win it. Mt. Gilead Full Gospel International Ministries led a praise and worship service on another night. Several of the women and volunteers commented that they were touched by FBC hosts its first women’s CARITAS.the service; twelve of the CARITAS women went forward at the end for prayers with the ministers.

FBC members volunteered to wash loads of laundry for the women and donate specific items, sometimes within just a few hours of an email request. One church member made 50 pillowcases, no two alike, to give each of our CARITAS guests. She attached Psalm 4:8 to the pillowcases, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe” (NLT).

FBC hosts its first women’s CARITAS.Many of the women expressed their gratitude for staying at the church and the delicious meals provided by FBC members. But perhaps their appreciation was best summed up by their reactions to receiving the items they had requested earlier in the week. Volunteer Vicky Nicholau commented, “Women cried when they opened their ‘Need Bags’ and received things they thought they would never get.”

Heaven was definitely at FBC during this week. And we didn’t have to take a bus ride to find it!

Rebecca OzmoreRebecca Ozmore is an elementary school counselor for Henrico County Public Schools. She and her husband, Gerry, helped start the Young Couples Adult Bible Fellowship of which they are still members. Rebecca and Gerry have two sons, Grant and Charley, who keep them very busy. In her spare time, Rebecca enjoys cooking, reading, writing, and being outdoors. She is a graduate of Virginia Tech and looks forward to Hokie football every fall.

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Story and photos by Vicky Nicholau.

When I saw “Bake and Take” on the KOH2RVA project list, I thought it sounded like a fun way to include folks who wanted to do something for the Kingdom, but hadn’t found their niche. I soon found I wasn’t the only one who loved to bake. Lori Bianco shared: “I love to cook and bake. I’m not sure that is a spiritual gift but people enjoy the fruits of my labor and I enjoy sharing it. It’s the best of two worlds. Plus homemade is from the heart.”

In December 2012 we began with a small group of members. We baked 20 dozen cookies for our neighbors on West Grace Street who welcomed our visit and our bag of goodies, including FBC calendars of Advent and Christmas activities and services – our way of inviting them to join us in celebrating the season.

Bake and Take recipientsAt the February 2013 Ministry Fair, 14 additional people signed up to participate in this ministry. New member Debbie Hott said: “I joined the Bake and Take Team because it was one way I could help bring heaven to earth. While I am baking I can almost see the smiles on the faces of those receiving the homemade treats.”

With these extra hands, we distributed dozens of cupcakes in February to agencies around our area – four dozen to the Ronald McDonald House, seven dozen to the HomeAgain Espigh Family Shelter, and five dozen to the HomeAgain Men’s Shelter. These men were so excited they helped us haul the cupcakes to their dining area – and immediately started to sample them.

Bake and Take teamThe Bake and Take Team currently meets the first Sunday of every other month, beginning with December. We decide as a team what to bake and whom to share with. For example, in April we took cookies and cupcakes to local businesses in our area.

What started as a fun way to be part of KOH2RVA has become a commitment for Claudia Morris. She remarked, “Even though (my husband) Jeff and I will be out of town for the next Bake and Take, we signed up because we felt this was one small way we could help share the joy of the Lord in the community.”

Bake and Take teamIt’s impossible not to be a cheerful giver when you’re sharing the good news and sweet treats with neighbors.
For more information contact Vicky Nicholau.

Team members: Charlie Ball, Susan Bethel, Lori Bianco, Karen and Krista Cole, Teresa Coryell, Jeanne Hechler, Debbie Hott, Kim Long, Jeff and Claudia Morris, Vicky Nicholau, Theresa, Trevor and Ryan Norton, Shearer Pettigrew and Skylar Pusser, Pattie Ross.

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By Jeannie Dortch. Photo by Janet Chase.

Most people think of the kingdom of heaven as something above us, but many are beginning to believe that the kingdom of heaven can be all around us as well. Jim Somerville is one of those who has been putting this theory to the test since he launched KOH2RVA (Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia), a year-long, every member mission trip to Richmond in September 2012. Since then, Jim has been driving a metaphorical bus full of passengers encouraging them not to get too comfortable in their seats.

“Look out the window for something that doesn’t look like heaven,” he says as he steers us in one direction or the other. “If everyone looks through his or her own eyes to see what is least like heaven, we will all see something different. The next step is to get off the bus, roll up your sleeves, and begin to work.” With that encouragement, the FBC family has been traveling to every corner of Richmond learning, volunteering, and making a difference.

As the head cheerleader for the mission, Jim has expanded his blog (http://jimsomerville.wordpress.com/) to include a KOH2RVA story nearly every day. He links the stories on Facebook and Twitter. He tells of people’s experiences, reports results, and presents new ideas. “It’s just a matter of sharing your gifts, no matter how small,” he says.

Jim Somerville

Senior Pastor, Dr. James G. Somerville

The success of KOH2RVA has been overwhelming, and being the bus driver is a demanding job. This is why Jim is inviting other bloggers to weigh in on his day off.

In a bus with seemingly unlimited seating, others have caught the spirit of KOH2RVA and want to travel along too. Jim will be asking non-profit organizations and interested church leaders all over the city to contribute to a new KOH2RVA blog next year.

As more congregations become engaged with this mission, Jim hopes to build a strong coalition of people working together for a common cause that is bigger than any one church. The message is as old as Jesus, who prayed that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, but as a license plate, it seems to be going viral! At a meeting of large Baptist churches around the country recently, Jim was asked if the concept of KOH2RVA was copyrighted or could any of those present borrow it to use with their congregations? Of course they could.

“Are you bringing the kingdom a little closer to Richmond, Virginia?” Jim asks again and again. With such a clear sense of purpose, it won’t be long before all citizens of Richmond, Virginia and beyond will be speaking with one voice – that of bringing the kingdom of heaven to every corner where there are God’s people. And that’s everywhere!

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