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Posts Tagged ‘mission trip’

By Debbie B.

For the love of The Messiah compels us to reason this: The One died in the place of every person; so then every person died with him. 2 Corinthians 5:14 (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)

For the Love of Christ Compels Us

In May, 2017, a medical team from Richmond’s First Baptist Church traveled to the Middle East to serve the refugees from Syria. During the six days they were there, the team saw patients in dire conditions, suffering from significant physical and emotional pain. All of the refugees had been forced to leave their homes because of the brutal ISIS regime that had moved into what had been their towns. All had been traumatized, many were tortured, and some were forced to watch the murders of their family and friends. Panic and fear filled their days before they were able to leave.

For the Love of ChristBut as the team cared for the refugees and listened to their stories, they found many who were Christians with amazing stories of how they had survived the turmoil through their faith in Christ. Here are a few of the stories of the people they met and the holy moments they experienced that the team wanted to share with their FBC family.

For the Love of Christ Compels UsOne of the older women the team met, Hadhirah, fought off ISIS militants who came into her home to force the family to leave. They beat her with a board, and even today she still experiences tremors and is in constant pain. She was also forced to watch as the militants killed her son because he was a Christian. Hadhirah explained that when ISIS came into the village, they marked her home, as well as others who were Christians, with a sign indicating their belief in Christ. The sign also signaled that anyone could do anything to those in the house without recourse from ISIS. Above is the sign for “Christian” like the one placed on Hadhirah’s home. Interestingly, this is translated as “The Nazarene” in Arabic.

Nasir was another believer the team met. He had been tortured and beaten by ISIS militants as they forced their way into his home. During his ordeal, he focused on the words from Ephesians 6. Later, he decided to write the militants a letter, or poem, based on this scripture. Through the translator working with the team, a Christian, Nasir told them what he had written, which follows:

A Letter to ISIS – by Nasir

My place is with Jesus Christ.
If a fox thinks to approach me
he will find me protected in the Lion’s arm.
I will stand up and raise my head higher.
In Jesus Christ only is my salvation.
I will have no fear or slackness.
The Lord of my salvation is our stone (rock).
The Lord has filled me with righteousness.
He robed me with the breastplate of righteousness.
My feet are fitted with the readiness
that comes from the gospel of peace.

Faith is our shield of protection from the arrows of evil.
The helmet of salvation is a crown on my head.
God’s Word is a double-edged sword
that we defeat our enemy with.
Our brothers; we are always ready and awake
with prayers and fasting,

waiting for the day when the Lord will come on clouds.
We are ready.

For the Love of Christ Compels UsAlthough some on the team had medical training and went on the trip to care for the refugees’ medical needs, all felt compelled to go and share God’s love. As Mary Michael Lipford writes, “At first, I felt completely inadequate for the job. I was the youngest on the team with no medical background, no seminary training, and no knowledge of the Arabic language. This is where God came in; reaching out and calling the unequipped for His purpose. There I was, sharing the gospel while checking blood pressures and finger pricks. In 2 Samuel 7, God told David, ‘I took you from the pasture…to be ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone.’ He took an inadequate shepherd boy and turned him into a king, and He calls each of us to do what may seem impossible by equipping us with tools for the job.”

For the Love of Christ Compels UsYour tithes and offerings helped cover the costs of Hadhirah’s and Nasir’s pain medicines, as well as medicine and care for many other Syrian refugees. Your gifts have taken good care of those you will most likely never meet. And, your gifts have provided for the love of God to be shared in the midst of suffering and pain. The medical team learned of many refugees of other faiths coming to know Christ. They have called out to God in the midst of the persecution they have endured due to the brutal ISIS regime. The team found that God had revealed himself in mighty ways in the midst of the dire conditions.

Dear Father,
The numbers seem overwhelming at times, but you know each individual refugee by name. Each person bears your image. Each child is loved by you. Open our eyes to their need and their potential. Soften our hearts to their suffering. Move us to action in ways that honor the love and compassion you have for each refugee. In the name of Christ, Amen.
(From Baptist Global Response; ©2017, Pray for Refugees)

Team: Debbie B., Elizabeth and Mary Michael Lipford, Ashley Larson

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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.

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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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Story by Ken Storey. Photos by Elizabeth Lipford and Ken Storey.

Love and Presence with Roma ChildrenHow do you work with Roma (also known as Gypsy) children? Vacation Bible School and Facebook are two ways, but love and presence are the foundations of this work. Golgotha Baptist Church in Bistrita, Romania, with its love and presence, developed an outreach program to the Roma people in and around their city. First Baptist Church’s love and presence traveled to Bistrita in the form of a team of adults and youth.

Love and Presence with Roma Children Love and Presence with Roma Children

The team had spent months planning their trip to Bistrita, an “old world” town where a typical worker makes the equivalent of $75 U.S. per week. As one translator told us, “We are the China of Europe; low wages, hard working.” This economy makes the area perfect for the Roma people, who are shunned in much of the rest of Europe.

Love and Presence with Roma Children Love and Presence with Roma Children

Love and Presence with Roma ChildrenBecause modern Romanian children are required to learn English by high school, Golgotha Baptist’s high school and college students translated for us. Perhaps more importantly, they served as Romanian Christian models to the children we worked with.

With five days, three locations, and 60-120 children in each location, we needed all the supplies we took with us and all our afternoons and evenings to prepare the crafts, stories, songs and games for the next day. Each day had a different focus: Jesus calming the storm, Jonah and the whale, David and Goliath, Naomi and Ruth, and Jesus’ resurrection.

Love and Presence with Roma Children Love and Presence with Roma Children We also used the afternoons to help Golgotha Baptist with maintenance of Camp Hope, where we stayed. Our jobs were cleaning and painting its building and grounds. Each evening Bart, Craig and the adult leaders led devotionals and analysis of the day: what worked, what didn’t, and what we could do better the next day.

During our 10 days in Romania, relationships formed through Vacation Bible School and now these relationships continue via Facebook. But those are just tools we use to make tangible what God’s message really is—love and presence.

Author’s note: Team leaders: Bart Dalton, FBC Minister to Students, and Craig Waddell, with Baptist General Association of Virginia Partnerships. Adult leaders: Tia Cochran, Elizabeth Lipford, Ken Storey; Youth Ministry Intern, Allie Osborne; youths: Ann Allred, Adam Brown, Madison Brown, Emily Hubbard, Sarah Jaramillo, Claire Johnson, Tara McKee, Christina Ramsey, Lydia and Will Storey.

Love and Presence with Roma Children

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Story by Betty Zacharias. Photos by Emily Hubbard and Aylett Lipford.

Callout-BLOGhaitiI had always envisioned myself going on a mission trip and this summer the timing was finally right. I was drawn to the Haiti mission opportunity through Richmond’s First Baptist Church and the Virginia Baptist Mission Board.

Haiti missionWhen I shared my week in Haiti would be spent at an orphanage, several friends asked, “What good does a week do? What do you think you can accomplish?” I had to think about this – I wasn’t sure. But now, having been on the trip, I have the answer: we did make a difference and I know why I went. Our mission was to continue Christ’s work on earth. One week may seem like a short amount of time but when I realize that many groups are doing the same thing, it starts to make sense. We are a small piece of a big chain of caring people who provide ongoing love, hope, encouragement, and Christian values to those who otherwise may not receive them.

Haiti missionOur liaison to the orphanage was Skyler Cumbia, FBC member, who served as a Venturer with the Virginia Baptist Mission Board in 2013 and 2014. (see related stories: I Was Stuck, Something New Is Coming, The Bible and Yogurt Every Morning) She knew the children’s histories and was instrumental in helping us mesh with them. Many of the children came to the orphanage after the 2010 earthquake. They appeared independent and were used to fending for themselves, while also looking out for the younger children.

Our first day was overwhelming. Twenty-eight orphans, ages four through 16, met us at the gate, ready to play. We decided to go with the flow and let the children’s needs and wants determine our schedule of activities. We provided arts and crafts, Bible-themed puppet shows, flute and handbell lessons, and sports activities.

The children loved to express themselves by drawing and coloring. Some wrote “I love you” notes to us. Others wrote “Jesus loves me” – this affirmed to me that the mission teams were making an impact when the children shared with us about Jesus.

Haiti missionMany of us were able to make a connection with one or two specific children. For me it was with a strong-willed 12-year-old. Early in the week our relationship was challenging as she expressed displeasure if I didn’t do as she wished. I was grateful that by the end of the week we had created a bond. Mutual respect and smiles had overcome the barriers, even our language barrier.

Haiti missionGod was definitely among us all and guiding us. We went to Haiti with love and hope in our hearts. The rest fell into place. Having no expectations, I came back with more than I could have hoped for.

Editor’s note: Team members – Allen Cumbia (team leader), Ann Carter, Claire Carter, Ellie Carter, Holly Dunham, Olivia Dunham, Diana Hubbard, Emily Hubbard, Stephanie Kim, Shawnae Lacy, Darius Lacy, Aylett Lipford, Kinsey Pridgen, and Betty Zacharias.

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By Jeannie Dortch. Photos by  Meredith Booth and Ann Carter.

Steve and Meredith Booth, father and daughter, both traveled to Manila, Philippines, to work with indigent families and with inmates of a women’s correctional facility. But not together, nor at the same time!

Callout-heartRecently they compared their trips’ impacts on those they served and the difference it has made in their own lives as Christians. When the purpose of a mission trip is to share with others that everyone is worthy of God’s attention, always loved, never forgotten, time and place become immaterial. And Steve and Meredith’s stories become amazingly similar.

Meredith with Filipino children

Meredith with Filipino children

In August, 2012, Meredith traveled to Manila to serve with a mission team that ministered to displaced families in the aftermath of a devastating monsoon season. They spread God’s love through song, crafts and puppets in over crowded government evacuation centers, as well as through simple worship services inside a maximum security women’s prison.

Steve visited the same correctional facility when he arrived in Manila in July, 2013, but his group spent the majority of its time in Quezon City’s Payatas. Sixty-thousand people live around this large, open dumpsite, sorting and selling whatever they can find. The sheer number of people in need was overwhelming in both settings, something that might foster discouragement, but for one fact. In Manila, Americans are revered. As Steve said, “They knew we were Christians, loved God, and cared enough to spend time with them. They listened attentively to our presentations (of songs, crafts, and pantomimed Bible stories), but getting to know us was more pertinent to them.”

Steve with Filipino children

Steve with Filipino children

Filipinos view visits from American Christians as a sign of hope. They were awestruck that Christians would travel so far to just be with them, listen to their stories and share Bible stories with them. One person told Meredith, “Your being here helps us believe that God knows we still exist! And we know He exists because you came!”

Meredith explained, “I was at home praying that I wouldn’t forget to pack what was needed for the lessons that our group had planned to teach, but the people with whom we worked told us that just our being there was an answer to their prayers. Our presence was that important to them! The props we brought paled in comparison to that.”

Meredith and Steve were struck by the happiness exuding from the people they met in Manila. Steve commented, “They’re so free. We place value on the accumulation of things, but they are not bogged down in trying to protect stuff. They know from experience that what they have today can be gone tomorrow.”

no tables-improvise-MBooth“Yes,” Meredith continued, “even while their shanties were being wiped away by flood waters, people would stand on bridges watching their homes wash away and laugh. Because they have nothing, nothing holds them back in their faith. They understand the transitory value of things and the eternal value of God. Having nothing frees them to put their faith in Him 1,000% and they do.”

Both concurred that the only qualification needed to join a mission team going to this part of the world is just a willingness to go. “The setting equips you,” said Meredith, “and the people pull out of you just what they need.”

Steve added, “Giving yourself is a job anyone can do. Though we had an agenda, leaders and interpreters, the only thing necessary was a listening and loving heart. God provided that for both of us.”

2012 team members: Meredith Booth, Allen Cumbia (Team Leader), Hope Cumbia, Jensine Cumbia, Gladys Johnson, Ralph Starling, Matthew Szucs, Ruth Szucs, Cathy Tankersley, Lynn Turner.

2013 team members: Steve Booth, Ann Carter (Team Leader), Allen Cumbia, Elise Cumbia, Diana Hubbard, Emily Hubbard, Madison Brown, Andrea Culotta, Madeline Surles, Melissa Johnson, Claire Johnson, and Jonathan Kim.

Editor’s note: Since August 2013 we have published three stories of father-daughter mission journeys – a trend reflecting another way our church is blessed and is a blessing. See related stories: Letting Go and Ministering to the Zulu People in South Africa

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Story by Ellen and Michael Lipford. Photos by Charlotte McLaughlin and Debbie Boykin.

calloutMountains graced the horizon as we passed through villages of small huts with thatched roofs. Zulu women carried water and firewood on their heads. Sheep, goats and chickens roamed the streets. We were on our way to our first health clinic in South Africa.

crowd at medical clinicEight mission team members in a van and eight suitcases of medicine in a pickup truck approached two empty buildings devoid of electricity and running water (like most of this part of the country). With nearly 200 people lined up for medical help, Debbie Boykin, team leader, quickly set up the clinic. Anne Carey Roane and Jory SAF-pharmacy_DBoykinChristenson performed triage and organized patients. Dr. Van Williams, Dr. Rod Haithcock and Debbie set up three patient stations. We arranged and stocked a makeshift pharmacy. Charlotte McLaughlin documented our work with her cameras. And we saw patients, that day and every other, until we ran out of light.

Many had HIV, some had tuberculosis. One boy with distorted legs had rickets. And a man carried his dying friend on his back for miles to see us. Most thought American doctors could heal any disease, even blindness. We ministered to their physical needs as best we could, sometimes needing to refer them to hospitals in the country for further treatment.

kids1But what touched us most was the way we were able to minister to their spiritual and emotional needs. Through interpreters, we prayed with them, gave encouraging words, and smiled a lot. Big brown eyes of young children and old men and women smiled back, saying thank you without speaking a word.

While the crowds waited for us to set up each health clinic, we told them stories from the Bible. For some, it was the first gospel message they had ever heard. Both the landscape and the numbers of people were constant reminders of how the crowds followed Jesus to be healed, both physically and spiritually. We felt privileged to model our mission trip on His work.

medical clinicWe also felt privileged to work alongside missionaries we have supported through our offerings, Mark and Sara Williams. (See related stories: Working with them and SKEINS knits for South African children) We led worship through music, testimonies and storytelling at the Emmaus church they helped start, and extended their ministry through six health clinics.

Gogo NtombeThough we had the joy of bringing the good news of the gospel to the people of South Africa, God used them to teach us too. Gogo Ntombe, a member of the Emmaus church, was old and not able to walk the miles to the building. We visited her one afternoon in her small hut; we sang and read chapters from the Psalms. Gogo Ntombe had only been a Christian for three years, but when she pulled out her Bible, written in Zulu, the pages were worn and tattered and the binding was coming undone. She not only read this book, she lived by it. Clearly it was her dearest, most-used possession. From an American perspective, she had nothing. But she was satisfied – her soul was rich with the Lord.

kids2We were reminded that the God working in Gogo Ntombe is the same God that is working in us. He lives inside His people whether in Richmond, Virginia or in Emmaus, South Africa. He is our healer of mind, spirit and body. The people of South Africa inspired us to be better stewards of the Lord’s gifts here in our own community, and to share the good news of a God ready to heal, no matter how broken the surroundings.

Editor’s note: October 2013 mission team members: Debbie Boykin, leader; Jory Christenson, Dr. Rod Haithcock, Michael and Ellen Lipford, Charlotte McLaughlin, Anne Carey Roane, and Dr. Van Williams.

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By Ann Carter. Photos by Ann Carter and Len Morrow.

I’ve had a whirlwind mission-trip season.

Youth 1 gardeningAs part of a six-week gardening class this spring with Len Morrow (see below) Youth 1 planted potatoes in a roof top garden at the former Adams Camera Store. That building is being refurbished through ReEstablish Richmond to assist refugees who have been brought to Richmond by federal programs. The youths also worked with Len to prepare gardens around FBC for planting with summer annuals.

arkansas-cardgame250pxAt the end of June, I took 16 Youth One kids and five adults to Passport Camp, an annual week-long event that focuses on discipleship and hands-on mission time. In July I led a group of 10 children and youths and 15 adults to Helena, Arkansas. This has also been an annual mission trip, where we partner with, serve and love that community.

manila-youth250pxAnd 12 of us finished up the season in July with another bit of heaven in Singapore at the Baptist Youth World Conference, followed by a mission trip to Manila, Philippines—two more weeks of bringing heaven to earth—and experiencing heaven on earth!

These times were heaven on earth for me. I know saying that seems like a stretch. Really? Digging in dirt on a roof top? A week with middle schoolers at camp? Sleeping on the floor of a church with 24 of your closest friends and showering in a trailer? Yes!!!!!

Youth 1 on missionBut let me explain!

There is something really beautiful about traveling together, living together in close quarters, working together, learning together, worshiping together, playing together, laughing together, eating together, resting together, and growing together. Emphasis on together!

At the end of each experience our love for God and our love for each other has multiplied and deepened and strengthened so that we came home longing for more time together.

Youth 1 on missionActually, what we are longing for is heaven. Because I think that is what heaven will be like: people who love God and love each other, living, worshiping, eating, fellowshipping, playing and laughing, resting and working – together.

Look for more information on Len Morrow.
Find out about ReEstablish Richmond or email Patrick Bradford.
Editor’s note: Ann Carter serves on the FBC staff as Youth Associate.

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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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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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By Matthew Brown. Photos by Allen Cumbia.

You might not realize it, but your eyes have seen some amazing things.

You might not be aware yet that you have heard something wonderful.

Costa Rica 2011You might not know it but your hands have touched the people of Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

On November 5, 2011 a handful of First Baptist Church members, Jeanne and Ed Hechler, Allen and Elise Cumbia, and I set out to be your ears, your eyes and your hands on the mission field. Our contact in Costa Rica is Ruth Clowater, a missionary serving through SIGA (Servants in Grace Abounding) Ministry Partners. The six of us have each contributed a perspective of our mission, so that you realize the difference you made as you were out there with us.

Jeanne Hechler:

Costa Rica 2011Life in Arbolitos, a small town of 180 people, is a challenge:
• The town has had electricity for only about eight years. There are no paved roads yet.
• Women wash their clothes at the riverbank.
• There is no hot water to wash dishes or take a shower, nor air conditioning to escape from the heat.
• Dinner most likely will be cooked on an open fire or a small hot plate.
• Bats and lizards come into the house at night to catch the mosquitoes. Chickens wander throughout the town.
• There are no stores – only two small snack/convenience counters. The nearest town with a grocery store and a hospital is two hours down river.
• With only one or two exceptions, there are no TVs. The school has the only satellite-internet connection.

One of my jobs was to help the women make a craft. It was obvious they were enjoying the break from their daily chores and were so glad that Ruth had arranged something special for them. Meeting them gave me a good perspective to better pray for their future.

Ed Hechler:

Costa Rica 2011There was so much that I could share about our trip to Costa Rica, but I want to focus on what I consider to be a very important part of mission endeavors – our mission team. All mission projects have tasks that they wish to accomplish. However, without a cohesive, compatible, and well-prepared group, success in meeting these objectives would be difficult if not impossible. It was most interesting to see how our team grew together during our week. The team members lived together in a small four room guesthouse. We transitioned from being merely a team to almost a family. We shared meals, took care of housekeeping chores, laughed and prayed together – just like a family would. Actually there was one more in that guesthouse: God was surely among us.

Allen Cumbia:

Costa Rica 2011Many times those who go on mission trips feel they’ve received more blessing than they’ve given. Such was the experience that I had in Costa Rica, and such is the paradox of service to others. Our team in many ways had a physically demanding trip – few of the everyday conveniences that we take for granted; heat, humidity and insects to contend with; isolation from the rest of the world. We went with only a general idea of how we would serve, open to the reality that plans would likely change. That forced me to live into the moment and not get upset if things didn’t go according to plan. What I found in letting go of my personal agenda was a restfulness and peace. There was such a simple joy in living that way, really a peace that passes understanding. Our Costa Rican friends told us that we had an impact and made a difference to those we worked with. I pray that we did; however I do know that I came back changed, more at peace with my circumstances and myself and ready to more unconditionally love others.

Elise Cumbia:

Costa Rica 2011This was my second mission trip and I always learn something new about the language or culture of the people around me. This trip to Costa Rica helped me to see how people in other parts of the world live. We all really take things for granted so much; we don’t realize how other people are suffering. I know that if we all help, we can make a difference anywhere we go, whether at home or thousands of miles away from home, with God’s help. Take the time every day to pray for the people of Costa Rica and around the world and pray that they would know God and trust in Him.

Matthew Brown:

I took a deep breath and said yes. This was my first mission trip as the leader.

I had prayed about it, so I knew that is what I would say to Steve Blanchard. After I told him yes, I really had to start praying in earnest. Steve had a leader for his Costa Rica mission, but I had no mission team!

I knew that God would provide. I prayed for each member of our team, even though I had no idea who they would be. I kept praying for each member of our team, and all of those around us, each day. I still pray and praise God for each member of our team. I was truly blessed by each one and I believe we truly were a blessing.

Ruth Clowater:

Costa Rica 2011Ministry can be difficult at times. Not just on the mission field, of course. Just ask pastors and other ministry leaders. Sometimes, when in His divine wisdom God realizes we need a little extra encouragement, He sends some of His angels our way. I am not saying that Allen, Elise, Jeanne, Ed, and Matthew are angels, but they were a big encouragement. In the things we did, the places we went, and even in the plans that fell through, we could see God’s involvement in it all. A school group suddenly canceled, which left the door open for a very special time of fellowship with the women of Arbolitos. Armed soldiers questioned us at every turn on our trip to worship and fellowship with our friends, the Rama Indians. God’s hand was in all this. I believe that this simple, compassionate act of solidarity will someday yield spiritual fruits.

We are one body. Thank you for allowing us to be your eyes, ears and hands.


Matthew BrownMatthew met his wife Candi at First Baptist Church, where she is the Children’s Minister. They have three children, Madison (12), in Youth One, Adam (10), in 4th grade, and Jonathan (7), in 2nd grade. Matthew has taught 1st and 2nd grade Missions Force four years, served as a deacon, volunteered with the Television Ministry since 2002, and attends New Beginnings Sunday school class. He works as a paralegal. In his free time Matthew enjoys cooking for his friends and family, photography, and playing with his growing children.

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