Posts Tagged ‘Mission’

Home Is Everywhere.

Story and photos by Skyler Cumbia.

Not often do we think about what home means. It means different things to different people, I suppose. To some, it is the house they grew up in. To others, it is the state they are from. And yet to others, it is wherever their shoes reside.

During the past year or so, I’ve struggled with defining “home” for myself. Whenever I returned to the States from being in another country, I would have so many mixed emotions. Only now have I begun to sort through those feelings. Even so, it is still hard.

Home Is EverywhereI almost feel I have done a disservice to people by telling them my at-the-time feelings. It’s hard to relate deep-down feelings associated with a trip; nor is it easy to simply share your soul with everyone you pass in the hall at church. Had I not truly learned valuable lessons, it would have been easy to relate every feeling and facet of my trips, but because of incredible and personal things God showed me, it was difficult to do them justice.

We are similar to trees. Their trunks, along with every branch and twig, are visible to the observer, but the most important part of the tree is underground, unseen. Like trees, as we grow spiritually, our roots grow. To share some of those spiritual lessons and personal experiences is like exposing your roots for all to see – vulnerable and uncomfortable, even painful.

Home Is EverywhereMany have asked me to recount the most memorable moments of my time abroad. I tell them some cool stories or list some pretty wacky foods that I ingested, but who am I to say that one thing I did was more important than another? No act of service is seen as greater than any other, in God’s eyes at least. But in man’s eyes there is no lack of praise for one like me – world traveler, teacher, missionary, etc. People are quick and ready to pat me on the back and wish me well, but what I’ve found to be true over the past year is that I am no better than the smallest GA giving her 25 cents to the missions offering. In the grand scheme of things, God doesn’t care about how many countries I’ve been to, what crazy foods I’ve eaten, or how many people I’ve prayed for. He cares about the motives behind my actions. As stated in 1 Corinthians 13, “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” God only cares about the love for Him and for others that I demonstrate every day. I can travel all over the world and do all of these things, but if I don’t truly love God and love others, I will never be effective.

Here are some important things I discovered while abroad.

Home Is Everywhere1. We can never pray enough. We have a tendency to become “regulars” at the drive-thru of prayer. We expect God to know our order and then we just leave. He wants to have a strong and hearty relationship with us, not one based on sides and sauces. One way to build this type of relationship is to ask God questions. Unlike humans, God does not get tired of our endless questions. He wants to have in-depth conversations with us. In my experience, life becomes clearer and more meaningful when I talk to God often. Sometimes I don’t even say “amen” because I feel like it allows the conversation to continue throughout the day. “Amen” seems so final.

2. Love appears in ways we do not expect. I learned that love isn’t always as it appears. In my blog, I described an experience I had with a child in Haiti. In that story I related the amazing ability of God to completely change my view of that little boy. I learned love can be found anywhere. And often it’s not the act that defines it, but the absence of action. When we are called to love those who are hard to love, it is nearly impossible to turn straight to love. First we have to stop being annoyed by them. We have to create the absence of that emotion before we can put anything else in its place. We’re often overwhelmed with God’s commands and don’t know where to start obeying. Well, that is one place to start.

3. Peace can exist anywhere, and in any situation. We can be surrounded by agitating events and still be at peace. In the same way, we can be in a relaxed environment and not feel at peace. Peace is a state in which we are aware of life’s difficulties, but are also keenly aware of God’s presence and we intentionally trust our past, present and future to Him.

So, one last thought.

We would do well to remember where our true home lies. Sometimes I think we put too much stock in our physical environment. Our setting often dictates our attitudes toward others and life in general. If we allow God to control our response to our surroundings, we can feel at home anywhere. In the process of discovering this, I struggled with knowing where my true home was. I knew where I was from, but these countries had also become such a part of me. I finally had to realize that none of these places is my true home. Heaven is my home. My true and final resting place.

But while I am still roaming this earth, home, to me, is anywhere my feet and my family – biological or spiritual – reside. Home is where God is. Which is, well … everywhere.

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Story by Skyler Cumbia and photos provided by Skyler Cumbia.

I was stuck. Rooted to the ground, with no hint of what to do with my life. So I went to Africa.

snapshots from Ghana

calloutAs a senior in high school, I had to decide what to do next. Should I go to college even though I didn’t know what I wanted to do? Or should I take a gap year? Spend some time away serving the Lord and hoping that He would reveal His plan for my life? Okay, that is pretty broad. Maybe, He would reveal at least the next step.

Skyler CumbiaI didn’t receive a blinking sign in the sky saying, “Skyler! Do this and that by means of such and such at that place for this amount of time.” As helpful as that would have been, God chooses to speak to me by small nudges, hints here and there, giving me not the full picture, but glimpses of what might be if I follow His lead.

God used my time in Africa not only to lead me, but to teach me. He used the stares of the children to remind me not to shy away from attention as I would like to, but use it as an opportunity to show them Christ through my actions. He used the hard and hot days and nights to test my reliance on Him. He used the singing and dancing in church to show me that we don’t praise Him enough for the glorious things He has done. He used the people’s joyous and ready acceptance of Jesus as Savior to show me that Christ’s mission to all of us, to go and tell, isn’t as complicated as we make it and that having the faith of a child is the strongest faith there is.

While God taught me, He spoke to me, through the sermons of the pastor, the testimonies of former Muslims, and yes, even in the moments when all I needed was the breeze of a fan and suddenly the electricity in our house came back on. In those moments He said, “I am here, I am with you, helping you. Listen to Me.”

When I had malaria and was lying helplessly in bed determined I would never take good health for granted ever again, it struck me – maybe God is nudging me to study medicine. Through my experience, I can certainly empathize with those who have contracted malaria! Why not help to heal them? This is what I live for, a glimpse of what might be if I follow His lead.

So when it comes to decisions, my philosophy is: Don’t rush them, sit and meditate on where God may be leading me and what He may teach me as I listen to every little thing He has to say.

Editor’s note: Read about Skyler’s leaving for Africa and check out her blog.

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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 Gwen Smith. Photos by Mary Massie.

SKEINS-hatsThe winter of 2011 was colder than usual in South Africa. Sara and Mark Williams, who serve in South Africa with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, sent out a plea to friends in Virginia, Illinois and North Carolina for warm, knitted hats for children. At First Baptist, SKEINS (Sewers, Knitters & Embroiderers Involved in Needlework & Service) responded enthusiastically, as did some of FBC’s youths.

SAFkids-in-hatsSara’s parents (FBC members and former missionaries Gwen and Truman Smith) got calls to pick up bags of hats at the church library and at the Mulberry Avenue reception desk. They found more bags of hats hanging on their front door. There were beautiful hats of purple, white, green, yellow, blue, brown, and pink. They eventually sent more than 100 to the children that Mark and Sara work with at the preschool in Emmaus and the Door of Hope in Johannesburg [See related story, “Working with them”].

SAFChildren-TeachersSKEINS and other groups continue to knit hats for the children of Emmaus and The Door of Hope. Gwen and other members of the FBC South African mission team delivered another 100 hats in the summer of 2012.

“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40, NIV).

For information on SKEINS contact Linn Kreckman, 804-355-4551.

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By Meredith Booth. Photos by Allen Cumbia.

calloutAs one of the most densely populated cities in the world, Manila, the Philippines, is far from serene. At all hours of the day, streets teem with buses, cars and tricycles (see first photo) pumping thick, black exhaust into the sultry sky. An endless stream of people wade through murky flood waters, their clothes saturated from the monsoon rains. Piles of discarded trash litter the ground, spilling into the scrap-metal shanty homes that line the road. The poverty is all-consuming.


In early August, our 10-member team of volunteers served families and children living in evacuation centers in Metro Manila. Many of these centers exist to support the thousands of families displaced by the recent flooding, while others serve as temporary government housing for impoverished families.

PhilippinesArmed with a spirit of adventure (and a few essential craft supplies), we left Richmond with anxious excitement for how God would change us and use us during this trip. We were prepared to sing and tell stories, ring chimes and play games, and do just about anything God placed in our path. And that He did.

He placed us in gymnasiums swarming with crying babies and smiling children. He took us to open-air awnings packed with hungry children. He drove us through neighborhoods built upon landfills and inside the walls of a women’s prison. We sang songs with their children, painted butterflies on their faces, and rejoiced with them until our shirts were drenched in sweat.

In the midst of such deep physical poverty, gratitude abounded. Children splashed in the waters that washed away their homes, smiled for our cameras, held umbrellas to keep us dry, and joyfully honored us with their finest hospitality.

And still our team was left reeling, consumed with the devastating need all around us. In one of our conversations with Elmer, the missionary we partnered with in the Philippines, we asked, “How do you deal with the overwhelming need here?” And his reply was quite simple, “Because it is my joy. You see, you are the answer to these people’s prayers. You are what they’ve been praying for.”

And so, in a place that seems somewhat forgotten, God has not forgotten His people. He answered with face paint and with puppets. He answered with enough. Enough rice for a thousand hungry bellies. Enough hope for a city under water. Enough crayons for a sea of tiny eager hands. Enough faith to believe God is still present. He has answered with enough in a place that has not nearly enough. He has answered with us.

“I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess … I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am” (Philippians 4:11-13, The Message).

Team members: Meredith Booth, Allen Cumbia, Hope Cumbia, Jensine Cumbia, Gladys Johnson, Ralph Starling, Matthew Szucs, Ruth Szucs, Cathy Tankersley, Lynn Turner

See Related Story: How are mission trips funded?

Meredith BoothMeredith Booth is a fourth grade teacher for Chesterfield County. At FBC Richmond, she enjoys serving as a small group leader for youth on Sunday nights and taking part in local and international mission projects. She loves traveling, being outdoors and spending time with her family, especially her nephews, Jackson and Wesley. God has given her more than enough.

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By Rachel Lewis Allee.

Shirley Robertson’s teaching career began at an unusually early age. “My mother would tell me that when I was a little girl I would gather the neighborhood children on the steps in front of the house and teach. That’s when I started,” Shirley says with a smile.

For Shirley Robertson 18 years teaching third grade brings the reward of seeing "some growth among the students and ... learning together" with them. Photo by Win Grant.

Her natural proclivity for teaching continued to develop as the years passed: as a teenager she worked in the Sunday school at Parkview Baptist Church (now Patterson Avenue Baptist Church), where her father served as pastor. After college, Shirley worked for several Richmond-area churches in educational roles, and then spent 35 years training teachers around the state through the Virginia Baptist Board (now the Virginia Baptist Mission Board). The year after she retired from this work, she joined First Baptist and immediately put her years of experience to use by teaching a second grade Sunday school class. After working with that class for a year, she moved to third grade where she still teaches, eighteen years later.

Teaching for so long has been quite gratifying, she says. “It’s rewarding to see some growth among the students and to be with them and learning together. And when you run into them 18 years later it’s rewarding. So many that I’ve taught here, I see they’ve moved on to the next grades and so many will come up for a hug, even the teenage boys I taught in the 3rd grade!” Her regular teaching partners are Catherine Dunn and John Hughes, who have each taught Sunday school at First Baptist for years.

“Catherine does the group time; you might call what I do the activity time, but it’s all part of the lesson. She calls me on Tuesday nights and I’ve already planned the schedule and we talk it over. I tell her what we need and she tells John, who makes copies for us and gets supplies. When we get there he has everything laid out for us that we need.” It’s an ideal situation, she says, and John, who has worked with several different age groups at FBC over the past 15 years, agrees.

John Hughes teaches Third Grade Sunday school. Photo by Win Grant.

“It’s a good team. I write everything down and get it set up and ready to go. But my joke with them is that I’m still ‘in training.’ That’s why I tell them they can’t retire,” he says with a chuckle. Like Shirley, John enjoys the relational benefits of teaching long-term. “When I walk down the hall I know all the kids. There are kids now in eleventh and twelfth grades that I taught as kindergartners.” In addition, he says, the influence of long-term teachers extends beyond the students. “In the process you meet the parents; you just get to know more people.”

Clyde Davis says that the teaching experience is "Christianity at its basics." Photo by Win Grant.

Clyde and Susan Davis, who have taught the three-year-old Sunday school class at FBC for around 28 years, also feel strongly about their longtime roles as influencers. “This is the only time some children have contact with the church. I keep that in mind all the time,” says Susan. “It’s a neat place to do mission work,” adds Clyde, noting that he enjoys watching his former students change as they grow older. “You see them get dedicated, they come through our class, they accept Christ, and then we see them going away from high school to college, then getting married, and they invite you to their weddings. That’s pretty awesome.”

Susan Davis has taught the three-year-old Sunday school class for 28 years. Photo by Win Grant.

Susan explains that some changes become very apparent even during the one year she and Clyde teach them. “They come in seeming so young, but by the time they leave us the next fall, it’s amazing how much they’ve matured, how their spiritual life has grown.”

Observing those small but fundamental changes in the hearts and minds of the children has never gotten old, Clyde says. “You watch them change and blossom, see them start coming together, loving each other, respecting each other. It’s Christianity at its basics.”

Rachel Lewis Allee

Rachel Lewis Allee. Photo by Jonathan Allee.

Rachel and her husband, Jonathan, are new members of First Baptist and attend the Young Couples class. Rachel teaches eleventh and twelfth grade English and coaches softball at Richmond Christian School. Every now and then she has time to work in the garden, read and write fiction, and play the piano. She and Jonathan enjoy playing with their happy-go-lucky hound dog, Oliver, and hanging out at their cottage in Mechanicsville.

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