Posts Tagged ‘Missions’

By Jim and Wendy Norvelle

For Lewis and Toni Myers, the road that winds from their childhood homes in the flat Mississippi delta to missionary and family life in Vietnam to retirement days in Richmond includes a very important bench outside a girls’ dormitory at Mississippi College in Clinton.

Day after day, Lewis patiently sat on the bench and waited for Toni to exit Jennings Hall so he could catch her eye. He wanted to make sure that she saw how serious he was about her—about marrying her.

“Every time I came out of my dormitory he was sitting on that bench, waiting for me,” Toni said, her eyes twinkling. Lewis smiled an impish grin, remembering that he would sit on the back of the bench and put his feet in the seat. He didn’t want her to miss him.

Lewis and Toni have been married for 65 years. For 42 of those years, they partnered with the International Mission Board, including 17 years in Vietnam. They arrived in Saigon in 1960, a couple in their mid-20s with their three children. One more child would be born there.

Lewis is from Skene, Mississippi, a delta crossroads community among cotton fields with a general store. Toni is from Boyle, Mississippi, about four miles away on Highway 61.

“It was helpful to be from a small rural area when we went to Vietnam,” Lewis said. “We went with the mindset to build close relationships as we were accustomed to in Mississippi. Vietnam was just opening up as a new mission field for Southern Baptists, and we thought the new work there would fit us well.”

The same could be said for their marriage—it fits them well. Many times during the interview they either began each other’s sentences or they ended them.

What’s their secret?

“We both are of one accord,” said Lewis. Toni nodded in agreement. “Sometimes I have a good idea, and sometimes she does. Our faith has deepened over the years. We have a togetherness. We are not running off and doing many different things.”

The ending of their time in Vietnam did present a challenge. They were back in the United States on furlough in 1975 when South Vietnam fell, ending the long civil war. Eventually Lewis joined the staff of the then Foreign Mission Board in Richmond.

“It was tough when I came to the board and, for the first time, we were not in ministry together on the field,” Lewis said. Toni found her mission field at Richmond’s First Baptist Church, getting involved in the college ministry and Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) as well as serving as a volunteer interpreter for Vietnamese refugees, especially at the City of Richmond Health Department.

For Toni and Lewis, their marriage and their faith have always been intertwined.

“I made a good choice,” Toni said. You could say that it was like two parts of the same bolt of cloth or two sides of the same coin.

“I don’t know how to pull our faith and our marriage apart,” Lewis echoed. “We’ve made a faith commitment to each other and to the Lord.”

Their routine is a key, they said. They rise early, share a daily devotional time, enjoy a cup of coffee and read the newspaper. A morning walk is usually next. Faithful church attendance is a given. They return to Vietnam each year for Lewis to teach in the Vietnam Baptist Bible Institute. Toni counsels students dealing with long classes and final exams.

The road continues for this loving couple who started in Mississippi, heard the call to serve God while in seminary, preached and witnessed in Vietnam, and today teach a Bible study class, work with the WMU and sing with the choir on Sunday mornings at FBC. Together. Intertwined.


Jim and Wendy Norvelle met at First Baptist Church and were married in 1983. Jim sings in the choir and serves as president of the Endowment Fund. Wendy serves as a deacon. The Norvelles have two daughters, Laura and Kate, and two grandchildren to spoil.

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Story and photos by Candi Brown

Poverty in ParadisePoverty in ParadiseMission trips happen in many destinations for a variety of purposes. “How do you go about choosing a mission trip like St. Lucia?” is a question that Steve Blanchard was asked in a recent meeting. Although he went into greater detail, the answer is simple. We were asked by a Caribbean missionary, Pastor John Gilbert, from St. Croix to partner with Gospel Baptist Church, a church that cares deeply about its community and might benefit from the help of a ministry partner. Pastor Gilbert knew Richmond’s First Baptist Church and its congregation and felt that our church could assist them with resources and volunteers in many different types of ministry opportunities.

Poverty in ParadiseOur first experience nearly four years ago in St. Lucia was a simple one. We went there to build. We went to build relationships and help tear down an old fence and build a new one. Most people identify mission trips with humanitarian aid or traveling to countries where spreading the gospel message is a challenge. Our initial request was neither of these. It is a partnership mission. We went to begin a relationship of support which we hoped would help to better equip and empower Gospel Baptist to carry out the mission that God has called them to do in their community, which includes serving and loving their neighbors and sharing the love of Christ and the gospel message.

Poverty in ParadisePoverty in ParadiseAlthough none of us knew exactly what to expect, by laboring together for a week and worshiping together on Sunday, friendships grew. We fell in love with this beautiful island and its warm, hospitable people. Our conversations turned from fences and construction to other opportunities to partner together in the future. The following summer we returned to help with Vacation Bible School, the church’s largest outreach activity. We traveled with suitcases full of craft supplies, puppets, small prizes for children, and teaching materials. Our team performed puppet shows every day and assisted with preschool and elementary age classes. With an invitation from their leaders, we decided to return again for a second year of VBS. We increased our level of leadership and responsibilities. On our most recent trip in February 2017, a team of five volunteers assisted with construction of a new roof for the church. We also began a new outreach ministry at the local orphanage, where we spent an afternoon visiting staff and children and delivering three suitcases of supplies. We hope to continue to assist the orphanage on future trips.

Poverty in ParadiseThrough our partnership work, many FBC volunteers have developed deep friendships within the Gospel Baptist family. One of the unexpected blessings of this mission is the relationships built with the community in Rodney Bay where our team stays. Sustainable mission partnerships provide opportunities to do extended community outreach. Many faith conversations have taken place with people who work at the hotel, local restaurants, beach and shops due to our mission work and recurring stays within the community. Friendships that developed throughout the community have opened many doors for us to share our faith.

As a church family, you can partner with us as we continue to explore ways to reach St. Lucia and work with Gospel Baptist in Babonneau. We hope to continue our support for their VBS and outreach to children in their community and the orphanage. Their church leaders have asked us to consider providing a much-needed health clinic and eye exam clinic, in addition to leadership training for their church teachers and leaders. We look forward to seeing what God has planned for us over the next few years. You can provide support through prayer, becoming a team member, donating money or supplies and providing referrals for possible health professionals to assist in a future trip.

Yes, St. Lucia is a beautiful island in a paradise setting for mission work. But beyond the tourist areas are communities of people living in poverty. It is a blessing to work alongside Christian friends as they fulfill God’s calling to reach out in love to their community, sharing their faith and love of Christ.

Poverty in Paradise2017 Team members: Candi Brown, Team Leader; Tom and Teri Osborne; Franklin Hamilton and his wife, Linda Ringwood.






Candi BrownCandi Brown has served as Children’s Minister since 2007, directing the Preschool and Children’s Ministry and shaping spiritual formation of our children. She has led and participated in mission trips to Arkansas, Slovakia, China, Costa Rica, South Africa and St. Lucia. Candi and her husband, Matthew, have five children, Madison, Adam, Jonathan, Hassan and Husein.

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Story by Toni Myers. Photos by Susan Brown.

Let the sisters pray on.Women on Mission at Richmond’s First Baptist Church had its beginning in 1813. In the spring of that year the Female Missionary Society was organized to support in prayer the Baptist missionaries newly sent to India and Burma. At that time many members of FBC (then known as Richmond Baptist Church) opposed organizations of any nature so they appealed to Elder Courtney, pastor from 1788 to 1824, to forbid this innovation of a women’s prayer meeting. He settled the matter very simply by saying, “I never heard of praying doing anybody any harm. For my part, the sisters may pray on.”

Since then the women added Mission Involvement and Missions Education as part of their agenda, and the name evolved to Women on Mission (W/M).

Let the sisters pray on.When women are aware of needs, they respond. And when they faithfully pray for missionaries, souls are saved here in America and around the world. Martha Grace Washington commented, “I’m a member of the Book Club (one of seven small groups that meet monthly), and through our reading we learn so much about the men and women who faithfully serve as missionaries at home and around the world.”

Let the sisters pray on.Jeanne Hechler is involved in missions in our city: “I am happy to participate in Women on Mission and glad that we have an opportunity to serve our Richmond missionaries.” Included in that service is preparing and serving meals to the homeless at the Oregon Hill Baptist Center, purchasing children’s jeans to donate to the Christmas Store for needy families at the South Richmond Center, and preparing and hosting lunch for students at the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Other mission projects focus on building relationships. Beverley Beer says, “One of the things I like most about being part of W/M is the opportunity of visiting our homebound people. Let the sisters pray on.It is enriching for me to hear their stories and experiences, as well as letting them know how much we appreciate them. A lot of times we will pray together at the end of our visit. It really grows into a nice friendship.”

While there are multiple ministry opportunities each month, there are also personal blessings. Martha Grace mentions caring for one another: “Every year we plan two socials for fun and fellowship together and at every meeting we dedicate a time for supporting each other in prayer.”

Ginny Samuel shares some of the personal benefits she has experienced: “Growing up at First Baptist Church I was a GA (formerly Girls Auxiliary, now Girls in Action), YWA (Young Women’s Auxiliary), and a YWA leader. I hope as part of W/M I can serve, pray, and share God’s love as He leads me to do. And I love getting to be with Christian ladies of all ages and having the opportunity to learn from them, and to form lasting friendships with them. I am inspired to be a better person because of the examples they set for me.”

Editor’s note: FBC W/M has seven groups that meet monthly – three on Tuesday and others on Wednesday night, Friday noon, and Saturday afternoon. For more information contact Mary Palmer (804-794-2620) or Toni Myers (804-358-9090).

Let the sisters pray on.Toni Alexander Myers grew up in Mississippi and is a graduate of Mississippi College where she met her  husband, Lewis. The Myers felt God’s call to serve as missionaries to Vietnamese people and have served Vietnamese in Vietnam, Cambodia, and the U. S.  A First Baptist member since 1977, her main ministries have been in Women on Mission, the Church Choir, and Mustard Seed Bible Class.

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By Ruth Bass, Kim Long, Mary Massie, and Gwen Smith. Photos by Ruth Bass, Kim Long and Mary Massie.

Callout-crayolasEditor’s Note: In August 2012, Ruth Bass from Edenton Baptist Church in Edenton, NC, and Kim Long, Mary Massie and Gwen Smith from Richmond’s First Baptist Church volunteered in Johannesburg and in Emmaus, a small town in the Kwa-Zulu Natal province of South Africa.

Working with them

Group arrives at Johannesburg airport.
(L-R) Ruth Bass, Kim Long, Mary Massie, airport employee, Gwen Smith

SAF-Crafts-kids“Then I heard the Lord asking, ‘Whom shall I send as a messenger to my people? Who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Lord, I’ll go! Send me.’” (Isaiah 6:8, New Living Translation)

Reaching the village of Emmaus, South Africa, is an adventure. The road, either dusty or muddy, but always long, includes the Prayer Bridge – a prayer being needed to cross it safely.

SAFteaching-kidsThe adventure continues in Emmaus Church, one small room used for literally everything – worship, weekday preschool, Women’s Bible Study, and all other activities. Here, for ten days, our mission team taught Bible school, prayed, sang, danced to the Lord, studied scriptures, gave testimony, enjoyed fellowship, ate wonderful Zulu food, laughed, and felt God’s presence.

Mary Massie remembers: “The thing that touched my heart was the feeling I had upon seeing the children. My apprehension faded when I saw their sweet faces. For me, I was home.” The children were apprehensive too, and at first were frightened by the new white faces. But they soon responded, as all children do, to the universal language of smiles, love, good will, CrayolasTM, and soccer balls.

SAFEnjoying-Tootsie-PopsOur team’s focus was not on what we could do for the children and adult members of Emmaus Church, but on what we could do with them. We helped with Vacation Bible School, supplied resources to teachers, participated in Women’s Bible Study, visited in homes, and provided 10 fruit trees to be planted in the village. Gwen Smith found “spending time with the women in the church and building relationships with them was a gift.”

We were also gifted with coworkers Mark and Sara Williams, field personnel with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. (Sara is Gwen’s daughter.) Their assignment in South Africa includes working with community leaders in Emmaus to start kitchen gardens, build storage houses, and dig a well for safe drinking water.

SAFbabiesSara uses her social work training in the care of abandoned babies and children. This work touched Kim Long deeply: “My highlight was visiting the Door of Hope Baby Houses in Johannesburg where I was able to hold, feed and love the abandoned babies.” These babies also felt the love of hand-knitted hats and scarves from the SKEINS group of Richmond’s First Baptist Church [See related story, “SKEINS knits for South African children”], the Prayer Shawl Ministry of Edenton (North Carolina) United Methodist Church, and Rosemary Baptist Church (Roanoke Rapids, NC).

Loving children, becoming friends with other Christian women, sharing work to make a town better – these are the essentials of mission trips. These and the joy Ruth Bass describes – “joyful praise in song and dance and learning a praise song in Zulu!”

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By Becky Kyle.

Vacation Bible School has changed since I attended in my childhood.

I remember going to VBS every summer and learning about God and the people in the Bible. I remember the daily processional with the salute to the American flag, the Christian flag and the Bible. I remember being in one classroom all morning with one set of teachers, having in-depth Bible study enhanced by activities, crafts and week-long projects. Music, snack, and recreation were breaks from the classroom.

VBS still happens every summer, but much has changed since my memories were formed.

Vacation Bible School morning assembly in the Sanctuary of First Baptist. Photo by Susan Brown.

The most exciting change is the addition of missions as a component of VBS. FBC offers children participation in mission projects that reach people in our own community, throughout the U.S., and around the world. The children have packed gift bags for the leaders of the Boys & Girls Club of Richmond, for FBC’s Community Missions clients and Grace Fellowship participants, for families at the Ronald McDonald House, for local fire fighters, and for FBC’s neighbors and homebound members. VBS children have sent their pennies to relief work for children in Israel and the Caribbean. Last year they prepared blankets and coloring books to fill backpacks for children in Africa.

FBC and Mount Moriah Baptist Church partner to help transport children to Vacation Bible School. Photo by Anthony M. Nesossis.

VBS has become an outreach ministry in Richmond. We partner with Mount Moriah Baptist Church to offer VBS to children in their congregation. We provide transportation; they provide volunteers. We also provide transportation for children from several community centers and from the New American community. As a result, a growing percentage of participants are from families who are not members of FBC.

First Baptist’s Children’s Ministry leaders carefully study and review about ten VBS curricula each year. Through prayer and discussion, they select the one best fitted to our children. Most of these curricula have a secular, fun-oriented theme with children rotating to different classrooms for each activity (i.e. Bible study, music, crafts, games, recreation, snack, missions).

“Finding Hope: A Field Trip of Faith” is this year’s curriculum. The theme is based on Together For Hope, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s 20 year commitment to the 20 poorest counties in the United States. Each day VBS begins with worship followed by a Bible study that is the foundation for the day’s activities. Children then take a “field trip” to one of the 20 areas to learn through activities how God’s love is shared with the people who live there. One trip is to Helena, Arkansas, where former FBC members Ben and Leonora Newell serve. FBC partners with them through family mission trips each summer.

Children participate in arts and crafts during VBS 2010. Photo by Susan Brown.

VBS is one of FBC’s best opportunities to share God’s love with children and to help them discover God’s hope in the Bible. It teaches them of God’s love for all people and how to reach out in that love to others. That’s a VBS basic that is exactly as I remember it.



Editor’s note: Some volunteers are still needed- childcare givers with babies and toddlers, a preschool and an elementary teacher, and van drivers. Contact: Candi Brown, Brown@FBCRichmond.org, 358-5458 x150.


Becky KyleBecky Kyle has been attending FBC since she was a college student and joined FBC in 1984. Since then, she has served in many FBC ministries, taught children in Sunday school for the last 13 years, and volunteered with VBS most of the last 14 years. She works part-time for Fleet Auto Tag & Title Service. James and Becky have two children, Sarah and Aaron, who are active in the youth ministry.

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By Susan Beach & David Powers.

The congregation will discuss and vote April 27 on a proposal from the Deacons to change the church’s missions giving plans. A brief synopsis of the proposal and a side-by-side comparison of the plans are available on the church website. Copies are also available on the kiosks in the church hallways.

Carl Johnson: “The goal . . . was that no members would feel they needed to leave First Baptist because they might disagree on where their mission dollars were being sent.”

Missions and giving to missions are basic to the identity of Richmond’s First Baptist Church. According to former Deacon Chair Carl Johnson, when the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) originated, “FBC was an immediate and full participant.”

That participation remained consistent until the early 90s, when some members of the congregation sought an alternative giving plan that would better reflect their views on how to divide the 10% mission portion of the annual budget. A committee gathered input from the congregation, studied the issue, and recommended three giving plans: the Cooperative Program (SBC) plan, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) plan, and an FBC plan. Carl remembers: “The goal of the committee, embraced by the church membership, was that no members would feel they needed to leave First Baptist because they might disagree on where their mission dollars were being sent.”

The Deacon Advisory Council (DAC), consisting of the five previous Deacon Chairs and Vice Chairs, was initially organized by then-pastor James Flamming in the early 90s to review and recommend changes to FBC’s giving plans on a periodic basis. The DAC and the Deacons have recommended, and the congregation has approved, changes in the giving plans twice in the last 20 years.

Lee Stephenson: “The proposal was intended to align our giving options with FBC’s statement of denominational relationships.”

In 2009, at the request of some church members, the DAC again reviewed FBC’s giving. Lee Stephenson, chair of the Board of Deacons then, says: “The specific issue raised was the policies of the NAMB (SBC’s North American Mission Board) with regard to ordained women not being hired for leadership positions and whether it was appropriate to include NAMB in the FBC-tailored plan.”

The DAC presented a proposal to the Deacons, which they approved in February 2011. Lee says the proposal was intended to align our giving options with FBC’s statement of denominational relationships: “First Baptist Church relates to the Richmond Baptist Association, the Baptist General Association of Virginia and the Baptist World Alliance, and supports missionaries through the Southern Baptist Convention and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.”

Each person who gives to the church may choose a plan to allocate his or her denominational partnership giving. If a giver does not indicate a choice, the allocation is currently made according to the FBC Plan (the Shared Plan under the new proposal). In 2010, 233 giving units chose the First Baptist Plan; 56, the CBF Plan; 17, the SBC Plan; 1,063 units did not choose a plan and their gifts were allocated according to the FBC Plan.

While there are significant differences in the three proposed giving plans, what is identical in all three are the first two items, 65% directed to the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) and 2.8% to FBC Community Missions. While the BGAV was included in all the previous plans, the percentages vary slightly from the previous amounts. In the previous plans, FBC Community Missions was part of only the FBC Plan.

Other changes reflect the uniqueness of each plan. NAMB is no longer included in the Shared Plan, but is still in the SBC Plan. Convention operations of SBC and CBF are no longer part of the Shared Plan, but continue to be included in their two giving plans. Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond (BTSR) was originally only included in the FBC Plan; it is now also in the CBF Plan because it is affiliated with the CBF.

Continuing as part of the Shared Plan and the CBF Plan are the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, important to Virginia Baptists for its support of separation of church and state; the Associated Baptist Press, a significant source for information on mission work outside the state; and the Baptist World Alliance, as listed in our denominational relationship statement. None of these is part of the SBC Plan because they are not SBC entities.

Lee Hilbert: “The change in the Shared Partnership Plan is balanced . . . not showing favoritism to one philosophy versus the other.”

The Shared Plan expresses the view that each mission organization is valued equally for what it does, not for the numbers of its personnel. According to Lee Hilbert, Chairman of the Deacons from 2004 through 2006, “the DAC saw the First Baptist Plan as disproportionately weighted toward SBC. So the change in the Shared Partnership Plan is balanced . . . not showing favoritism to one philosophy versus the other. The principle of supporting the groups we say we are aligned with makes sense to me.”

The previous FBC Plan allocated 18% to the International Mission Board of the SBC and 6% to CBF; the proposed change will give 12.5% to each of them. NAMB, which previously received 3% in this plan, is not included in the proposed Shared Plan.

Lewis Myers has a different view of how the allocation should be divided.

Lewis has been a member of FBC since 1977 and a life-long supporter of SBC missions. His education at Baptist schools, his service as a missionary in Vietnam and then on staff at the International Mission Board exemplify his commitment to what God is doing through the SBC.

He looks at the 10,109 missionaries supported through the SBC compared to the 160 supported through CBF and sees the even division of dollars to SBC and CBF illogical. “In any reasonable business plan, money would be allocated on the size and budget needs of the whole. I can’t conceive of any business being run where each component part, large or small, receives equal resource allocation.”

Through the SBC, NAMB supports 5,096 missionaries at work in North America, 1,616 of which are self-funded Mission Service Corps missionaries. The IMB supports 5,013 missionaries overseas. All CBF missionaries, whether serving in the U.S. or internationally, are counted together as Global Missions personnel.

Although Lewis would have chosen different percentages, he supports the new SBC plan because all SBC structures are included. He is glad to have FBC Community Missions brought into all the giving plans; however, he notes that its inclusion has caused an effective reduction of the 10% the church has committed to missions outside of the church. Lewis also supports FBC’s denominational relationship statement, saying it “fits my perception of my relationship with the SBC.”

Lewis Myers: “All (plans) reflect concern for global needs . . . The passion of my heart is that ‘to the ends of the earth’ be taken seriously, which is one of the marks of a missional church.”

But Lewis regrets that support for NAMB has been removed from the Shared Plan. While he disagrees with NAMB’s decision to not appoint ordained women, he “cannot turn (his) back on those 5,000 missionaries who are laboring their hearts out all over this country.”

Lee Stephenson states that removing NAMB does not mean that we are abandoning missionaries serving in North America. Of the 5,096 NAMB missionaries 3,480 are operating under various levels of cooperative funding with state conventions and local associations. She points out that we continue to support missionaries serving in Richmond through our contributions to the Richmond Baptist Association.

Lee Hilbert says that “our church is not trying to decide for everyone how to spend their missions dollars. If NAMB is important to people, they can show that by choosing the SBC plan” which includes it at 7.34%.

He believes the Shared Plan best expresses who the majority of FBC’s members are: “We’re diverse but tend to lean to the middle. One of the unique things about First Baptist is that we are able to bring together a wide array of Baptist philosophies. We have a culture (that is) able to support lots of different views as long as our core values are the same.”

Martin Law has given through the CBF plan since he joined FBC in 1992 because, he says, “it has provided additional choices for people who want to support quality missions and higher education institutions with moderate evangelical perspectives.” He feels this option reflects changes in our congregation’s understanding of the range of Baptist mission efforts.

“Ben and Leonora Newell are excellent examples of the holistic witness provided to some of the most poverty stricken and deprived people in our nation,” Martin states. The Newells have served as CBF missionaries in Helena, Arkansas since 2002. Martin believes this kind of witness to the people Jesus had the most compassion for is where CBF excels. Because FBC has sent numerous volunteer groups to work with Ben and Leonora, “our church has learned more about the full meaning of Jesus’ command to witness,” says Martin.

Martin Law: The Shared Plan’s increase in giving to BWA is reflective of FBC’s part in a “more complex Baptist community.”

Martin supports the proposed changes to the Shared Plan because they “will provide crucial additional financial support to CBF missions activities at a time when virtually all missions organizations are struggling to maintain adequate funding.” He also appreciates the increase in BWA giving because “it is one of our primary relationships. Even though the increase is not huge, it still is a six-fold increase from 0.4 to 2.4%.” He sees this change as reflective of FBC’s part in a “more complex Baptist community. FBC’s very close relationship with the BGAV has also been an important part of this change” as it has partnered with diverse missions organizations.

Lewis sees the giving plans as a good thing: “All (plans) reflect concern for global needs . . . The passion of my heart is that ‘to the ends of the earth’ be taken seriously, which is one of the marks of a missional church. I think by and large these plans reflect that intent.”

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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 Nancy Mairs.

Laura Hedrick. Photo by Susan Brown.

Just as the Israelites of the Old Testament often put stones down on a specific spot as a remembrance of God’s provision for them, Laura Hedrick has very specific markers of encounters she has had with God as she has traveled along her journey of faith.

One of the first markers occurred during her high school years, on the platform of a small Baptist church. A friend invited Laura to a youth program and as she listened to the pastor’s invitation to have a personal relationship with Christ, Laura distinctly remembers calling on God. “It was right on the stairs of the platform of that church that I told God that if He wanted to have a relationship with me, then I wanted one with Him.”

Later, Laura attended a mission conference and, as a young person who took her relationship with God seriously, she assumed that to serve Him she would become a missionary – a commitment that she fully intended to carry out. In college she majored in math and pursued a degree in teaching. “I remember thinking that women missionaries were either nurses or teachers, and I knew I couldn’t work in the medical field, so I chose teaching.”

It was during the summer between her junior and senior years of college that the next marker in her journey of faith occurred. “I decided that I would work at Camp Alkulana in order to prepare for being a missionary. It was here that God showed me that I was not a people-person and that I just wasn’t cut out for the mission work that I had so faithfully been preparing for.”

After graduation, Laura found a job teaching math, knowing that she had to resolve her desire to serve God now that it was clear that the mission field was not His calling for her. “One day I was sitting in the train station waiting to pick up my father, and while waiting, I began praying and asking God about the direction for my life. I had recently heard about a new program called system analysis and programming. I prayed about that new program and I heard God speak to me in the most direct way. He was almost laughing as He responded to my prayer, ‘Child, I gave you an analytical mind… so use it.’” There she had the third marker in her faith journey.

Laura moved to Richmond and began working for the Department of Taxation – a career that continued for 35 years. “It was absolutely the best fit for my gifts, and it’s where I found my energy serving God.” In fact, she found that she could serve God without becoming the traditional missionary she had planned on earlier in her life. “I began to see that God was using me as an encourager with my co-workers at the Department of Taxation and found that I was recommending Jesus as a resource for those that I met through my job.”

Laura met her husband, Norman, at First Baptist. They were married and several years later, adopted their daughter, Jennifer. On the afternoon after the Hendricks had dedicated Jennifer, Laura realized once again that God was stirring in her heart. “I remember realizing that I had to yield Jennifer to Him and entrust her to God.” Laura did so and another distinct marker in faith journey was established.

Today Laura’s love of fabric and her gift of sewing have grown into a ministry for homeless individuals that find their way to First Baptist. She has found that making sleeping bags to keep these folks warm during the cold winter months is a practical way of reaching out with the love of Jesus. Through the help of the GAs, Acteens, Senior Adults, and the fourth grade Sunday school class, about 100 homeless individuals receive a sleeping bag each year. Laura is always on the lookout for anyone who has material they are not using and is willing to donate to the ministry, or someone to help make the bags. On Wednesday nights the room where the bags are made is a whirl of activity – material being measured, needles being threaded, and more importantly, friendships developing among Laura and the other First Baptist volunteers.

Throughout her walk of faith, Laura’s journey has had twists and turns, and unexpected shifts in the direction she was pursuing. But God has provided her with the guidance and affirmation she needed. And through it all, she has learned that, “God doesn’t waste anything … all of the ways that He has worked in my life have been used to fulfill His purpose. I feel strongly that God gives each of us gifts and He expects us to them. He designs each of us differently because He has different things for us to do.”

And there are different markers for each journey.

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By Paul Bishop, with Jeannie Dortch.

Paul disciples a Cambodian who may face strong anti-Christian sentiment from his family. Photo by Tim Kenney

Life on the mission field has turned out to be much different than we had planned. When we first went to the field in April 1997, we were going to be church planters in a restricted access country in Asia. Our first term, while not without its struggles, was a wonderful time of learning language and culture. However, God radically altered our plans when He allowed us to be kicked out of that country at the end of our first term.

God’s plan became evident when He led us to a neighboring country to work with the same unreached people group. Soon after our arrival, the team leader for that people group left, and Cathleen and I were asked to take over as team leaders. God quickly opened doors to the gospel. When two villages were burned down, our team used disaster relief funds to enter these communities and show the love of Christ. We were able to start a church in each village. It has been a blessing to see these churches start two more churches and outreach groups.

Cathleen works with Mon-Khmer women. Photo by Jade Phan

After our second term, God had more changes prepared for us. Cathleen and I were asked to take on the newly created Strategy Group Leader position for the country of Cambodia. We have been serving in this position since June 2004. Our primary responsibility now is to help each of the teams working among the Mon-Khmer-speaking peoples, the vast majority of whom are Buddhist. We provide direction, encouragement and administrative assistance to the personnel as they establish reproducing church movements. We are truly blessed to work with seven teams, each focused on a different people group. These teams include 32 adults and 38 children. We also work with national partners in most of our area’s people groups.

Both of our children were born on the field. Cambodia, more than any other place, has been their home. Early on, they traveled with us as we were involved in church planting. Now they travel with us as we visit with personnel in various parts of Cambodia and Thailand. Our children also help us to build relationships in our neighborhood. As a family, we work together in prayer to lift up both our co-workers and the unreached peoples of the Mon-Khmer Cluster. Our children have been home schooled for the past several years, but this year we put them in a small international school that uses a British-based curriculum. There they have friends from Cambodia, Australia, New Zealand, India, America, and England.

Cathleen and Paul, Isaac and Abby at home in Cambodia. Photo by Laurie Gardner

Our lives are busy, rich, and full of God’s grace and peace. We thankfully and lovingly send greetings to our always faithful First Baptist Church family,

Paul and Cathleen Bishop

Join the Bishops in their work with the Mon-Khmer people through prayer at http://monkhmercluster.wordpress.com.

For more missions prayer requests, visit: http://www.fbcrichmond.org/prayer.

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(L-R) Becky Payne and Doris Pittman were among 30 FBC staff members who helped prepare gifts in December.

A Mixteca family enjoying their gifts.

Thirty members of the FBC staff spent a morning in December stuffing Christmas stockings, wrapping gifts, writing cards, and assembling gift baskets for some 300 homeless, disadvantaged and disenfranchised members of the Richmond community.

The gifts went to a number of places:

  • Twenty-two Mixteca immigrant families, with 78 children in south Richmond
  • Seven families, with 10 children at Fresh Start for Single Women
  • 105 community missions clients who participated in the homeless breakfast December 20
  • 80 Grace Fellowship participants
  • Nine children at the Rosy Grier Youth Pavilion
  • and five other families.

The effort was coordinated by the Ministry of Christian Compassion. Gifts and items for the baskets were donated by church members and Weekday Preschool parents and children. Other items were purchased with money given to Community Missions.

Mary Willis, daughter of FBC member LaVora Sprinkle, is the church’s “connection” with the Mixteca community. She has been working for several years with a few dozen families in the Mixteca community who live in a trailer park in south Richmond. She teaches English and helps the families with the basic necessities of living.

The Mixteca are indigenous to the southern, Pacific coastal region of Mexico. Mary grew up speaking Spanish, the daughter of Southern Baptist missionaries. But even she often has a challenge communicating with some of the families. They have their own language. Many of them speak a tribal dialect within the Mixteca language.

In addition to the Christmas gifts, FBC has helped Mary with providing English classes, making repairs to some of the homes, and providing other assistance to the Mixteca families.

(l to r) Lindsey McClintock, Ralph Starling, Jim Somerville, Mary Willis, and Steve Blanchard delivered gifts to the Mixteca families a few days before Christmas.

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