Posts Tagged ‘ministry’

Story by Brett Holmes, Pastoral Resident, 2016-2018. Photos by Susan Brown and Janet Chase.

One of my favorite movies from last year was Lady Bird, a coming-of-age comedy starring Saoirse Ronan as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (although one would be forgiven for assuming it is a biopic about the former First Lady). The film follows Lady Bird through her senior year at a Catholic high school in Sacramento, California and is a hilarious, heart-breaking and beautiful picture of teenage life in the early 2000s.

The story invites us into her world. Part of that world is her experiences as a senior in high school, particularly the anxiety of applying to colleges. Lady Bird desires to attend a college on the East Coast because it will allow her to get out of the staunch, soul-sucking Sacramento that she’s called home her entire life.

In one scene late in the movie, Lady Bird is meeting with the Vice Principal, Sister Sarah, to discuss an earlier incident, but the scene turns when Sister Sarah tells Lady Bird that she read her college essay.

Sister Sarah looks at Lady Bird and tells her she can see in her writing that she clearly loves Sacramento. Confused, Lady Bird asks, “I do?” Sister Sarah says, “Well, you write about Sacramento so affectionately and with such care,” to which Lady Bird deflects by saying, “I was just describing it.” Sister Sarah responds, “It comes across as love.” Lady Bird comments, “Sure, I guess I pay attention.” And, it’s here that Sister Sarah begins to home in on her message: “Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?”

Love and attention. Perhaps these are two sides of the same coin. When I first saw this scene, I wanted to rewind it—I wanted to listen carefully to those words from Sister Sarah all over again: “Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?” Those words played in my head like a broken record for weeks after seeing the movie.

As my time at Richmond’s First Baptist Church draws to a close, I am reminded of these words. I am reminded that love and attention are so closely related that they might just be the same thing. During my time in Richmond I have been shown a lot of love and a lot of attention, but more than that I have been taught what it means to pay close attention to the lives of God’s people.

Throughout my (almost) two years as the Pastoral Resident, I have been invited into homes, hospital rooms, Sunday school rooms, but most importantly into relationships with countless loving people who call First Baptist their church home. I have had the opportunity to teach, preach, pray, cry, celebrate, and eat meals with so many wonderful people.

Love and Attention

During these last two years I have grown into a pastor because the people of First Baptist granted me the space to learn. I remember the first time I stood in the pulpit to preach and looked out at a congregation eager to give this young pastor a good ear. I remember being asked to lead retreats and getting the opportunity to invite people into the strange and beautiful mystery that is prayer. I remember going with the Lambs class to the annual Virginia Baptist Special Needs Retreat at Eagle Eyrie and how, for the one weekend in October, I was given a glimpse into their genuine love for God. I remember the overwhelming impossibility of remembering everyone’s name and having to accept that my most repeated phrase of my first year was, “I’m sorry, please remind me your name.” Yet, in spite of that you each welcomed me, loved me, and generously helped me along.

Ministry can be a daunting task. I recall early on during my time here talking with a member of the Young Professionals Sunday school class and thinking, “Why do these people trust me to answer life’s most difficult questions? What can I say that can be worth anything?” Slowly, though, that anxiety left because I began to realize (and see) that my job is not to have the answers, but to sit with the questions—to wrestle, to be present, to pay attention.

This is perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned about ministry. I want to have all the answers and I want to fix problems. Yet, as Henri Nouwen said, “Ministry means the ongoing attempt to put one’s own search for God, with all the moments of pain and joy, despair and hope, at the disposal of those who want to join this search but do not know how.” What I’ve learned about ministry at First Baptist is to pay attention to the lives of everyone around me and to pay attention to what God is doing because “Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?”

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Story by Allen Brown. Photos by Allen Cumbia, Win Grant and Allison Maxwell.

Easy to Follow His CallOn February 12, 2015 Becky Payne completed 25 years of extraordinary ministry as a member of the staff at Richmond’s First Baptist Church. During that time she has served as organist, soloist, children’s choir coordinator, accompanist for choirs, ensembles and soloists, advisor for senior adults, handbell choir director and ringer, and organizer and director of the JoySingers and the Youth Girls’ Ensemble. Becky has taken additional responsibility for many mission trips and choir tours and for a long-running Bible class for FBC members who live at Lakewood Manor.

In a recent interview Becky shared about her ministry at FBC.

Leaving First Baptist Church, Jackson, Mississippi, a place where you served happily and successfully for 11 years, was a major step for you, personally and professionally.

Yes, but for me the call of God was to “go.” I saw it not as a “leaving” but a “going.” Believing fully in God’s faithfulness, I found it easy to follow His call.

What are some memories of those early years at First Baptist?

becky-friends_350pxThe surprise of renovation. I had left a church which had just finished a major renovation, then learned that we were to do the same here. The renovation process causes big adjustments for an organist and accompanist. Also, I remember that it took time to balance staff responsibilities, each finding our niche and then finding ways to support each other.

Then there was the surprise of process, finding that the pace of most everything was much slower, especially in church life. In my previous church, things happened quickly and, other than scheduling, without needing the approval of deacons or committees.

Other vivid memories include the illness and subsequent death of our senior pastor’s son. The love and support shown to their family by FBC people told me so much about my new church home. (Dr. James Flamming was pastor from 1983 to 2006. His son Dave died in 1991, a year after Becky’s arrival.)

In your many roles since you arrived, what have been the most meaningful personal and spiritual parts of your ministry?
Worship and relationships. When I am using music to help people feel the presence of God, it is fulfilling. When the people sing “Worthy of Worship” or “Amazing Grace,” for instance, these become holy moments for the church family. But it is not about me—God is using my hands and feet and talents to glorify Him—to point people toward Him.

Personal relationships have been so important, especially walking through difficult times with someone. One of my spiritual gifts is discernment. I can feel the pain and share in the difficult but special process of walking with them.

Tell us some warm memories or “aha” moments.
becky-directing_350pxThere are at least three music moments that are special. One is our congregational singing of “The Lord’s Prayer” after communion. Another is when we sing “Silent Night” on Christmas Eve. Those two moments make me fully aware of what it means to be a part of the body of Christ and the power we share in that relationship.

The third is when the Youth Girls’ Ensemble sang “Blessings.” The phrase “what if the trials of this life are blessings in disguise…” When I selected music for the Ensemble, I looked for text more than melody. As they practiced, they sang the words over and over. For this piece they internalized a great truth: If we let Him, God uses what happens in our lives for good. I was glad to be part of their learning this lesson.

One memorable personal event occurred after I had been here about 10 years. I was driving home from a conference and realized for the first time that I felt I was coming home. This was my place and still is.

How do you feel about your work with seniors?
When I was new to Richmond, I met the Wendy Bunch (a small group of couples who met on Sunday nights after church, first at Wendy’s, then in homes) – the Seldens, the Dixons, the Shearons, the Harringtons, the Lucys, the Elmores, and others. They embraced me with such love and care that I knew I was in the right place.

As my work with seniors grew and became a significant part of my ministry, I found my life enriched on every level. We have studied together, laughed and played together, prayed together, grieved and celebrated together. Our senior adults are the heart of this church. I love them.

You’ve gone on several mission trips. How have they changed you?
beckywithchild_350pxI was a Sunbeam and a GA (Baptist missions organizations for children), and I had a missions-minded mother, so of course I’ve always had a desire to see God’s world and His people. But nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced in Germany and Indonesia.

In Essen, Germany, I learned what it felt like to be considered part of a cult (how many Germans view Baptists). That sense of separation was overcome as I watched a young girl weeping when she sang “Fairest Lord Jesus” in German while some of us sang in English. I realized anew that God is everywhere and that we serve the same God. And I have lasting friendships with members of our host church there.

The two trips to Indonesia were medical missions. It was a life-changing experience to be among people who had lived through a tsunami, who had never seen a doctor or white people. Many of them walked for hours to wait all day, hoping to be treated. Yet there were always more than we could possibly see each day.

Despite that disappointment, blessings abounded. Indonesia is a place where I should have been afraid, but I wasn’t. I witnessed a miracle as our group prayed for a girl who was obviously demon-possessed, and we saw her healed. Also, relationships among team members were deepened. We became more accessible and more important to each other as we recognized a new meaning in being brothers and sisters in Christ.

You are truly ministering to us through your exceptional instrumental and vocal skills. Tell us your feelings about this.
My calling is to teach others about the love of God through Christ Jesus. Music is the means, not the end. My abilities are God’s gift to me and He has been generous. I believe the greatest ability is availability—to be willing to use what God has given me to point others toward Him.

Editor’s note:
Becky’s last day as FBC’s organist will be June 28. She will retire on June 30, 2015.
View a video about Becky produced by Sean Cook and Allen Cumbia.

Allen BrownAllen Brown was Minister of Music in Baptist churches in North Carolina and Virginia, before becoming Director, Department of Church Music, at the Virginia Baptist General Board, from 1962 until his retirement in 1993. He has served the Music Ministry of Richmond’s First Baptist in many ways, including as a member of the search team that brought Becky Payne to FBC. He has been on Partnership Mission trips to Brazil, Germany, Slovakia and India. Allen and his wife, Charlotte, have two sons, four grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.

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By Billy Davis. Photos by Sharon McCauley.


Puppet team at RIR

We have all heard the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed – try and try and try again!” This certainly was true for those of us on the Richmond Baptist Association (RBA) team who started a ministry among the thousands of raceway fans coming to Richmond International Raceway (RIR) for the two big spring and fall NASCAR weekends.

We first focused on a Sunday morning worship service. Seeking approval to begin such an outreach effort, we received a “Yes,” but when the NASCAR Daytona executives changed the RIR venue from Sunday to Saturday night, our ministry was no longer needed.

Opportunities did not close to us, however. Motor Racing Outreach of Charlotte, NC, which provided worship, counseling and a children’s ministry for NASCAR drivers and crew member families on Saturdays, invited the RBA team to join them in their work at the Richmond track.

racetrack team SMcCauley

Ministry volunteers at RIR

Early in 2000, Dover and Middle District Associations joined RBA’s team in a broad-based ministry effort at RIR. Then the RIR was purchased by the International Speedway Corporation (ISC). The new ISC president and many of his staff are Christians who knew the value of a raceway ministry. These two changes began a significant time in the development of the ministry now known as Central Virginia Raceway Ministries (CVRM).

CVRM provides chaplains for each race weekend at RIR. These chaplains minister to families in many situations, including when injuries and deaths occur. Our volunteers, both lay persons and clergy, work in four-hour shifts. In addition to counseling, they distribute between two and four thousand pieces of Christian literature, Bibles, driver picture cards, and hospitality packets each weekend. The Virginia Baptist Disaster Relief Unit joins us in handing out cookies, lemonade and cups of water to fans. The Puppet Ministry from FBC has entertained children with their message of God’s love.

Raceway weekends bring to Richmond enough fans to make up a city as large as the fifth or sixth largest in our state. They come with all the needs of any city this size. One fan, a recent Christian, asked if he could hang out with us each day. He said, “I’m a former alcoholic. If I go back to be with the guys and gals I’ve come with, I could fall off the wagon.”

We believe there is a need for the ministry among the 100,000 plus fans coming to RIR for each race weekend. As Dean Kurtz, Executive Officer for Guest Services, ISC Daytona, said, “Everything under the sun is found at a race track and the steeple ought to be also!!”

ICON-billy-davisBilly Davis served as the RBA Consultant for church programs, strategic planning, partnership missions, and deacon, youth and senior adult ministries. Since retiring, he has followed his great passion for Raceway Ministries at RIR where he has served as a chaplain and volunteer coordinator since 2000. Billy and his wife, Linda, have two children, Barry and Susan, and three grandchildren.

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By Lynn Turner.

An 18-year-old girl, diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, gathered with family, friends, teachers, and coaches after school in early 2013 in Atlee High School auditorium. Together they celebrated her receiving her high school diploma. Kalena Porter graciously received this honor knowing she would likely not make it to June graduation ceremonies. Through shouts of jubilation and tears of reality, pastoral care happened with FBC youth, parents, teachers, and ministers in the crowd cheering her on. (Kalena died February 15, 2013.)

A care giver enters a nursing home room for her monthly visit. She reads, shares stories, and most important of all, offers a hug. Pastoral care happened that Saturday afternoon with one of our homebound members.

buckets300pxA Sunday school class generates a sign-up meal list for one of their own who has recently had surgery. Hot meals are taken by various class members so the family doesn’t have to prepare them, but instead can give their energy to healing. Pastoral care happened for two weeks with a bowl of soup and homemade bread.

Someone brings beautiful flowers to a hospital room saying, “You were missed today at church; I bring well wishes from our congregation. We want you to enjoy these flowers from the service today.” Pastoral care happened on a Sunday afternoon with the delivery of cheering flowers.

The phone rings: someone is dying and a minister is needed to pray and stand with the family during this difficult time of saying goodbye to a loved one. Pastoral care happened in one of the most tender and sacred moments of a person’s life.

Pastoral care happens every day at First Baptist Church.

In a recent article on pastoral care, the phrase “buckets of care” described the need for care-giving within the local church. In a church the size of FBC, there are care buckets that need to be filled all the time. Pastoral care has no boundaries, no time tables, no schedule, and no age limits. When a crisis happens, there are many ways to respond.

The Staff Pastoral Care Team, Jim Somerville, Lynn Turner, Bob Higgins, Becky Payne, and Martha Smith, meets every week to go over pastoral care needs. These needs include hospital visits, death and grief visits with coordination of funerals, and ongoing care visits. For direct requests for care contact Martha Smith (804-358-5458 Ext. 126) or after hours Lynn Turner (804-304-1000).

The Congregational Care Team and Women on Mission make regular visits and deliver Christmas poinsettias and Easter lilies to 100-150 homebound members. To add a name to this list, contact Gwen Smith (804-266-9345) with the Congregational Care Team or Ethel Eure (804-270-9352) with Women on Mission.

Sunday school classes, Church Choir, and other small groups keep up with their members through phone calls, visits, meals, prayer chains, and many other ways to assure that specific needs are met when crises occur.

The Deacon Fellowship is responsible for the pastoral care of members who are currently not associated with a small group. Phone calls and visits are two of the ways deacons make sure everyone has a contact when needs arise. Contact Mary Ann Delano (804-360-0936).

The Flower Delivery Team delivers flowers from FBC’s services each week to those in the hospital. Mary Palmer (804-794-2620) coordinates this group.

Dr. Roberta Damon is available for counseling on a limited basis and offers a monthly grief support group for those who have suffered loss. Contact Lynn Turner (804-358-5458).

U First is an on-call team that gives emergency assistance to folks who are not involved in a small group. Theresa Norton (804-364-5856) leads this team.

Caring for one another, filling the buckets of care in each other’s lives, is more than an opportunity or spiritual gift; it is a command to all Christians: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, NIV).

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By Ken Storey.

Richmond Friends of the Homeless feeds more than 3,000 meals each week to the hungry poor. Photo by Shawnee Hansen.

If you think you know the Lord’s Prayer, having memorized it from years of repetition in church, think again. Dr. Jim Somerville is leading a five-week study of the Lord’s Prayer that frames it as a mission statement. The sessions are in the Dining Hall following the weekly Wednesday night dinner and continue through May 25.

To help put the prayer into a new perspective Jim is using the original Greek wording of the prayer and explaining how the Greek words bring new understanding to the meaning Jesus intended. For example, the first Greek word actually means “paternity”; typically we use “Our Father” (Matthew 6:9f, KJV). The next words in Greek actually mean “who is not here”; for us, “which art in heaven.” As Jim explained, “Jesus did not teach His disciples this prayer with formal words like Yahweh; He wanted it to be informal. He used words that meant ‘Our Father’ and not ‘My Father,’ so that the prayer would have a meaning that brings us all into a community with God.”

He continued, “The Greek words that refer to ‘Hallowed be thy name,’ actually mean ‘you hallow the Lord’s name by your life, not with your lips; your actions create the hallow.’ What Jesus was trying to say was that your actions show the honor to God.”

When you say “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done,” you should be thinking that you are taking a vow to do God’s work on earth. As Jim noted, “Jesus was saying, ‘Let me show you what it will be like when God’s kingdom is here as it is in heaven.’” He challenges us to catch Jesus’ vision of what the world would be like if we truly worked to make it be like it is in heaven. As Jim said, “If we truly caught that vision we would be unstoppable, because we would want it so badly. This prayer is like what a missionary would say before going to the mission field.”

Hope in the Cities sponsors the Richmond Unity Walk. Photo by Rob Lancaster.

In addition to the study, each week will focus on one person whose work is bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond. Shawnee Hansen (click here to see a video) spoke on April 27; her program, Richmond Friends of the Homeless, serves more than 3,000 meals a week to homeless and the hungry poor. May 4 featured Rob Corcoran, national director of Initiatives of Change and founder of Hope in the Cities, which works toward reconciliation and partnerships among racial, ethnic and religious groups. On May 11 Rabbi Jesse Gallop will share how some of our Jewish neighbors are bringing heaven to earth. Brad Nott of Crossover Ministry will speak on May 18. Crossover is one of FBC’s missional partners and provides medical care to the uninsured.

Ken Storey is a realtor with Hometown Realty. A member of FBC since 1989, he belongs to Foundations Sunday school class, is a deacon, and serves on the Communication Team. Ken and his wife, Laura, have four children ages 7 to16 – Stephen, Lydia, William, and David.

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By Richie Hilbert. Photos by Anthony M. Nesossis.

Michael West assists in the Clothing Closet of Monday morning ministry.

Paul instructs Timothy, “The first thing I want you to do is to pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know” (1 Timothy 2:1, The Message). I assume Paul would not object to my adding “…and even for those you don’t know, when you hear of a need.” First Baptist Church’s Ministry of Compassion, under the leadership of Steve Blanchard, has plenty of such needs, both locally and globally. That is why we covet your prayer support.

Jesus’ heart was saturated with care and concern for the downtrodden and the disenfranchised. Following Jesus’ example and in His name, FBC’s local missions outreach serves the poor, the homeless, those imprisoned, and refugees seeking a better, safer life here in Richmond.

Global missions are just as varied. Called “Partnership Missions,” there are seven areas of focus outside Richmond – poverty, refugee camps, education, medical needs, spiritual formation, community development, and disaster relief. Commitment by FBC to any project is one to five years.

For our ministries to be all they can be, we need abundant prayer cover and willing servants. If our initiatives are going to be those God desires, prayer is where we must begin. If they are going to change lives with God’s love, prayerful hearts will empower you and me to be the arms and legs of Jesus on earth.

Hal Borland, in his Book of Days, suggests there are two impulses distinctive to human beings. The first is the urge to create, improve, perpetuate, “not for oneself alone or for now, but for others unborn, for tomorrow.” The second is the emotion of compassion. In a spiritual sense, prayer embodies both of these. It combines confidence in a hopeful future with concern for others; action is often the result.

We petition your prayers for our programs listed below, and for the clients themselves, even if you don’t know them. Then, if God leads you, come join us as a volunteer.


Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday morning ministry – provides food, clothing, showers, employment counsel, and prayer for those in need, primarily the homeless. Saturday is showers only. Contact Brenda Andrews (Andrews@FBCRichmond.org).

Mobile ministry – on Saturday mornings, takes supplies and provides fellowship and compassion to those in need in downtown Richmond. Contact Charlie Ball (cwbo1@aol.com).

Grace Fellowship – on Thursday evenings, provides a meal, Bible study, and fellowship for those in need, primarily the homeless. Contact Vicky Nicholau (enicholau@aol.com).

Prison ministry – supports those in prison with visitation and Bible study. Contact Steve Blanchard (Blanchard@FBCRichmond.org).

New American (refugee) ministry – lends spiritual and practical assistance and support to refugees as they adjust to a strange culture and language. Contact Lindsay McClintock (McClintock@FBCRichmond.org).

Partnership missions – arranges mission trips and projects around the world with an emphasis on bringing God’s love wherever possible. Contact Steve Blanchard (Blanchard@FBCRichmond.org).

How do you pray for those you don’t know?

Here’s an example.

Kind and loving Lord,

Some in this world have food, shelter, clothing; some do not.

Some have a taste of freedom; some do not.

Some feel they belong; some do not.

Some have a homeland; some do not.

Some know You; some do not.

I pray for all those in need, and for all who serve them. You are the Great Provider. Thank You for hearing me.

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By Bruce Leary. Photos by Win Grant.

As part of the Member Equipping Ministry Team, Bruce Leary greeted participants in the 2011 Ministry Fair on Sunday, February 6.

As part of the Member Equipping Ministry (MEM) Team, I recently found myself immersed in the preparation of the annual FBC Ministry Fair. This involved helping with the planning, setup and staffing for the event which hosted more than 60 ministry opportunities available to our congregation. The purpose is to inform, motivate, encourage, and help direct our church members to a meaningful place of service. After all, we are all called to be ministers.

After months of planning, the day of the Fair had arrived. My mind raced as I crossed the James River that morning. Had we thought of everything that needed to be done so we would be ready to open the doors? Had everyone completed their assigned tasks? Were our directions clear? Were there too many displays? Too few? Would all our effort be worth it?

It was 7:15 when I reached the corner of Sheppard and Maplewood Ave. It was a beautiful winter morning, with blue skies, bright sun, and a crisp nip in the air. As I paused at the stop sign, a figure on the corner caught my eye. She was middle aged although her tattered clothing and unkempt appearance made her look much older. Her hair was graying and the wrinkles in her face told a story of hard times and a tough life with few comforts. The struggles of life on the street had taken their toll. For just a moment we both were motionless, gazing across the street at each other as if we were looking at a photograph, or an image on a screen, each in our own world, I in my car, and she on the street corner, each safe in the familiar wrappings that defined who we were. The street was silent and empty. Then suddenly she motioned me to roll the window down. Didn’t she know that cars have power windows now? Then again, perhaps she didn’t! The silence was broken as she politely asked if I could spare a couple of dollars so she could get some coffee and something to eat. I nodded and waved her over to my car. As I drew a few dollars from my wallet, I turned to find a friendly face framed in the window of my car. Her name was Regina. Yes, her teeth were bad, her hair was a mess, and her black face was weathered and aged. But her eyes told a different story of someone who could love a stranger who was very different from herself, because she was first loved by the one who created us all. Regina took the money and then she took my hand. She thanked me, and then she asked if we could have a prayer. At that moment, God lifted all the barriers! He stripped away all those things that seem so important, but really only separate us from one another. There we were, on a cold winter morning, two of his children on an empty street in Richmond, Virginia – a homeless, penniless, street woman in donated, mismatched clothing, and an established, respected dentist in a three piece suit. Through moist eyes I offered a prayer for comfort, safety, food to eat, and for unmet needs for my new friend, Regina. She smiled, squeezed my hand, and asked God to bless me.

Pulling away from the corner, I quietly uttered another prayer thanking God for Regina and for the opportunity for two believers to come together in prayer and praise to the God who made them both. I glanced in my rear view mirror to see an empty street behind me. Regina had walked out of my life as quickly as she had entered it. I thought of the words of Hebrews 13:2: “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (NIV).

As I slowly drove to church, I realized that ministry isn’t about fairs, displays, programs, and funding; it’s about people and relationships, and about sharing the love of God with everyone we meet. Thank you and God bless you, Regina.

Bruce and his wife, Debbie, have been members of FBC for 30 years. They have three children, Jeffrey, a former member of the Lamb’s class, and Allison and Brandon, both active as children and youths in Sunday school and Youth I and II. Bruce serves as a Deacon and as a teacher of the Next Step Sunday School class, and is active in the Walk to Emmaus ministry. He practices general and cosmetic dentistry in Midlothian and enjoys golf and fishing. He and Debbie are avid Florida Gator fans.

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