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Story and photos by Ann Carter.

Until the Tears Roll

Youths volunteer at a Habitat for Humanity worksite outside of Charlotte, NC.

When you ask people to define what heaven on earth would be like for them, I doubt that many would include spending a week with middle schoolers. But I beg to differ. I just spent a week with 27 middle schoolers, and it was indeed heavenly. Don’t believe me? Well, read on.

This was Youth 1’s 7th year participating in Passport Camp at Wingate University outside of Charlotte, NC. During the week I watched kids and adult leaders experience heaven in many ways.

They honed their talents and then used them to lead 300 students in worship.

They prayed for each other.

They worked side by side at three Habitat for Humanity worksites, never once having to be asked to focus, get back to work, or stop slacking in the shade.

They learned to trust and communicate with each other through games and then helped the rest of the camp to trust each other by teaching and leading those games.

They were motivated to be careful in how they use the earth’s resources and were excited about doing that.

Until the Tears Roll

This was Youth 1’s 7th year participating in Passport Camp at Wingate University outside of Charlotte, NC.

Girls and guys, 6th graders and 7th graders, new kids and kids who were friends since birth, working, playing, learning, and travelling together in unity – not perfect unity, but in loving acceptance of each other.

They took their talents to a weekday program in a housing project, performing skits, teaching games and engaging kids who have little hope in their lives.

They explored how they are uniquely created and gifted by God and were challenged to use those gifts to serve God.

They dealt with another youth group with love and grace even while being treated unfairly and unkindly – and ended up being friends with them by the end of the week.

They worshiped side by side every night.

The adult leaders (who gave up a week of their vacation to participate) encouraged and directed the kids like loving parents.

Until the Tears Roll

Youth 1 teens having a good time!

A youth intern who attended Passport Camp as a 7th grader chaperoned and led like a seasoned youth minister.

They competed against each other in recreation, danced together at a party, enjoyed being together in the beauty of God’s creation, played volleyball together against high school teams, and supported each other in the talent show.

And they laughed. They laughed a lot. Perhaps nothing is closer to heaven than laughing until tears roll down your cheeks!


Ann CarterAnn Whitfield Carter is sometimes known as the crazy person who loves middle schoolers. In 2002, she became the temporary Youth Associate for Middle School. Nine years later, she hopes it is permanent! Ann joined First Baptist in 1992 and met her husband, David, in the church choir. They have been singing together ever since. Their three children, Ellie (15), Claire (12) and Mary Wise (6), are active in First Baptist’s children and youth ministries. When Ann is not working, she is managing her kid’s busy lives, singing with the Richmond Symphony Chorus, or drinking coffee to fuel her for whatever is next on her calendar.

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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 Jim Markham. Photos by Jeannie Dortch.

At Maybeury Elementary School in western Henrico, there is a happening on Monday afternoons that resembles a mini United Nations. Ten to fifteen children, from kindergarten through the fifth grade, meet after school for about an hour to be mentored and receive help with their school work. Before the work begins, there is time for snacks and a chance to chat.

So, where does the U.N. connection come in? These children and their families are new Americans from nine different countries – Brazil, Egypt, Honduras, Iraq, Liberia, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan and Ukraine. In many cases, the children have the best English-speaking skills in their families.

Children's Minister Candi Brown and a group of volunteers from FBCwork with children from international backgrounds at Maybeury Elementary School.

Last fall, Candi Brown, FBC’s Minister to Children, brought together a group of volunteers, mostly from our church, to work at Maybeury. Over the first two months, through trial and error, a system was developed and in December, the school administration took time to review how it was working. In January they decided that the children and their parents were responding well and that the program should be continued.

During a typical Monday afternoon, the enthusiasm of the children is easy to see. When one student was first asked where she was from, she responded that she didn’t know her country’s name in English, but in Spanish it is pronounced “hahn-DUR-us.” The volunteers all understood.

The volunteers spend most of their time tutoring reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also show God's love for the children.

As you might expect, most of the time is spent tutoring reading, writing (alphabet and numbers), and arithmetic. But it’s not all work. Looking around the room, one can see lots of smiles, laughter and an occasional hug – evidence of growth in a Christian environment.

For a first-hand report of what’s going on at Maybeury School on Monday afternoons, ask the volunteers for their impressions: Jeannie Dortch, Becky Goodrich, Lindsey McClintock, Candi Brown, Rachel Boykin, Bonnie Ferguson, Karin Dickerson, Inge Heidecker, and me.

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