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Posts Tagged ‘books’

Christy TutoringToday is my day off, and I’m going to the mountains to do some hiking. But not Christy, my wife. She’s going to Essex Village to work with some children who are struggling to read.

She is such a missionary.

She was working with Mubarak, Muhammad, and Than on Monday, reading a book about elephants, when Muhammad announced that he didn’t like elephants. That seemed a little random. I mean, who doesn’t like elephants? But Muhammad is from Africa. He’s had more experience with elephants than most people.

“An elephant killed my grandfather,” he explained.

There was a moment of shocked silence, but just a moment, and then Christy said, “Well, let’s read a book about butterflies then!”

Who would have guessed that in her efforts to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, Christy would end up working with children named Muhammad, Mubarak, and Than, or that one of them would not like elephants—with good reason? These days more than ever it seems you don’t have to go to faraway places to be a missionary.

You can be one right here at home.

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I hope you will take five minutes to turn up the volume on your computer, click on the image above, zoom to full screen, and sit back to watch this remarkable video about a partnership between First Baptist Church, the Children’s Museum of Richmond, and Glen Lea Elementary School.

If this were the only thing we accomplished on our year-long, every-member mission trip, it would be enough.  But this is only one of the things.  There are dozens more, hundreds more, because every member of the church has been looking for a way to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia.

David Powers and his team of volunteers in our communications ministry made it their goal to produce one KOH2RVA video each week.  That’s how they wanted to “bring it.”  David confessed to me recently that their goal was a little too ambitious.  Making a video is a lot of work.  But I hope that as you watch this one you will appreciate all that it took to record it, edit it, and present it in a way that tells the story and also gives you that good, warm feeling inside.

I’ve gotten that feeling each time I’ve watched this video–four times this morning.  Now I’m going to publish this post, make some oatmeal, sit down to breakfast, and probably, just probably,

Watch it one more time.

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Today’s guest blogger is Lynn Turner, Senior Associate at Richmond’s First Baptist Church, who was at Glen Lea Elementary School yesterday for an event that definitely brought the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia.  Thanks, Lynn, for writing, and thanks Janet Chase, for the pictures!

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LOVE TO READ

SONY DSCIt began with a need….450 plus students at Glen Lea Elementary School who did not have books of their own so they could practice their reading at home. This need soon caught the heart and passion of Raylene Harton and Theresa Norton from Richmond’s First Baptist Church, and Schuyler Davis at the Children’s Museum of Richmond. Before you knew it another KOH2RVA initiative was born.

SONY DSCWe settled on a theme—“Love to Read”—and picked a date—Valentines Day—as a way of encouraging kids to read. Kimberly Lee, the principal of Glen Lea, loved the idea! Contests were announced to all the students that the top three classes that met their reading goals within a six-week period would earn a pizza party with “Seymour the Dinosaur” (the Children’s Museum mascot), sponsored by the museum and First Baptist Church.

Glean Lea 4The word went out to our congregation, “We need books! Lots of books!” and the books poured in. By the end of the drive we had enough to put a book in the hands of every student at the school, extra books to give to the teachers in each grade, and several bins of used books to start a library at Essex Village Apartments.

Wow!

SONY DSCOn Valentines Day, we headed to Glen Lea for our party with the top three classes. You should have heard the screams of delight as the principal announced over the intercom who the winning classes were! They came pouring out of their classrooms to the cafeteria to enjoy games, eat pizza, hug Seymour, and show off their brand new books! Thank you First Baptist Church for putting smiles on every child’s face at Glen Lea Elementary School today with books they could call their own and take home!

Best Valentine’s Day Ever!

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ChildrensBooksCollageA couple of weeks ago I bumped into Emma El-Khouri in the hallway at church. Emma is how old: Five? Six? Anyway, she’s an adorable first grader, and I squatted down to talk to her about the Bible I would be giving her during the Sunday morning service. This is something we do at First Baptist: we give first graders a Bible, and Emma was looking forward to getting hers. She assured me that she could already read.

“Well, then,” I said, “this is what I want you to do: take your new Bible home, read it, and then next Sunday you can come back and tell me how you liked it.” She nodded and smiled as if she had already planned to do that (and, honestly, she probably could; that girl is whip-smart).

“I have a whole shelf full of books at home,” she said.

And that made me think of something else.

I had read something just the day before about children who don’t have any books at home—not even one. Can you imagine how deprived you would be if you never got to enter the magical world of story through the pages of a book?  It’s a big part of the reason First Baptist is sponsoring a book drive. On Valentine’s Day we hope to present every child at Glen Lea Elementary School with a book of their own.

And so I asked Emma if she would like to help.

“There are some children in our city who don’t have any books,” I said. “Do you think you could go home and find one on your shelf that you could give away?” She nodded again. “And,” I added, “do you think you could pick one of your favorite books, one that somebody would really like and not just one you want to get rid of?” She nodded again, a little more slowly this time.

This was going to cost her something.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if Emma went home and did exactly that. I think lots of people did that, because last Wednesday night at church I was almost run over by two shopping carts full of books being pushed down the hall by some of our youth.

“Wow!” I said. “Are all those for the book drive?”

“Yes,” they said. “And this is just the first load!”

It seems like a little thing: to put a book in the hands of a child who has never owned one. But the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed, Jesus said. It’s a small thing that grows and grows. Who knows how Emma’s small act of kindness may change a life, how the little girl who gets her beloved book may come to treasure words and language and the One in whose name the book was given, and grow up to be the poet laureate of Virginia, writing poems about mustard seeds that become trees where the birds of the air can build their nests?

Maybe this is exactly how the Kingdom comes.

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book buddies

Yesterday was a cold and windy day in Richmond, Virginia, but I had promised to drive a church bus to the East End and that’s what I did. There was a lot of play in the steering wheel, and when a gust of wind caught the side of the bus on an interstate bridge I had a hard time holding it in the road. But I did, and eventually made it to the Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School where Melissa Brooks and I picked up a load of sixth graders and brought them back to First Baptist Church. The idea was that these sixth graders from a poor neighborhood would come and read books with preschoolers from a rich neighborhood.

And that’s what happened.

I can’t tell you how much I love this picture, not only because of the way the sunlight is coming through the window and falling on the floor, but because of the way this sixth-grade boy is reading to this preschool girl, and the way the book is helping them forget—for the moment at least—that they come from different worlds. They are in the world of the story, together, and it is a world of perfect equality.

When I asked our staff six months ago how we would measure the success of this year-long, every-member mission trip, David Powers said we would measure it with “pictures and stories.” Well, here’s a picture that spells success. And the story behind it is remarkable, too.

So often when I look at pictures of mission trips I see affluent, educated people helping people who are poor and uneducated. And that’s not a bad thing; to whom much is given, much is required. But I love the way Melissa Brooks and Mary Hiteman partnered to turn that around. Melissa lives on Church Hill and has been volunteering at the Anna Julia Cooper School, a school for students of limited resources primarily from Richmond’s East End neighborhood. Mary is the director of our preschool at First Baptist, which draws most of its students from the historic (and affluent) Fan District. “Why not get the two schools together?” they thought, and this was the result: a day of learning, laughing, reading, praying, dancing, storytelling, and baking enough gingerbread for everybody to take some home (it smelled so good on the bus back to the East End!)

Is KOH2RVA a success?

Well, yesterday it was. And I’ve got pictures and stories to prove it.

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Photo by Melissa Brooks

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