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Posts Tagged ‘Steve Blanchard’

Richmond SunriseWe celebrated KOH2RVA yesterday at Richmond’s First Baptist Church—the end of our year-long, every-member mission trip—and we did it in style. The RVA United band started things off in our gym as people gathered, I offered a welcome, and then they played a few songs in a gentle, acoustic style that was perfect for that time of day. We showed videos of how the church had worked to bring the kingdom of heaven to Richmond, Virginia, this year, and heard testimonies of gratitude from Mike Maruca (head of the Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School) and Kimberly Lee (Principal of Glen Lea Elementary, a Richmond public school). Steve Blanchard talked about the work that’s been done at Essex Village, one of the largest housing projects in our city, and we wrapped things up with a slide show of images accompanied by a song about how heaven is coming down to this world.

In the worship service I shared my vision of how this mission can go forward through partnerships with other people, churches, agencies, and institutions. I suggested the name KOHX2 (that is, “Kingdom of Heaven Times Two”), and had some of our youth spell it out with giant cardboard letters so everybody could see it and remember it. And then I said this:

KOH times 2. Think about that with me for a minute.

In the past year I’ve been trying to post something on my blog almost every day as a way of sharing the stories of our members who have been busy bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, and inspiring the ones who hadn’t yet found their way. But can I tell you something? Blogging every day is harder than it looks! You have to think of something to write, you have to write it, you have to edit it, you have to find a picture to go with it, you have to publish it, and then you have to promote it on Facebook (at least I do). It often takes an hour to an hour-and-a-half just to get something up there, even something that’s not very good. And so I’ve decided to start a new blog called KOH2RVA and invite other people to contribute to it. I’m hoping that anyone who is bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, would be inspired to write up a few paragraphs, attach a picture, and send it to me so I can post it on the new blog. And then, sometime in the spring and perhaps again in the fall I’m going to invite all those people to a city-wide conference called KOH2RVA right here at First Baptist, and we’re going to see what we can do to start a missions collaborative that will make a visible impact on our city.

And then I said, “That’s what I’m going to do to go forward with this mission. What about you?” Before the day was over I’d heard from Melissa Ansley Brooks, who shared with me her own vision of how to go forward. Grateful for her partnership in this mission, I posted her email on the new blog. You can find it by clicking HERE.

Every ending is a beginning, friends. Our year-long, every-member mission trip has come to an end, but our year-long, find-a-partner mission trip is just beginning. I hope you will find a partner and join us on KOHX2.

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Hero2I’m on my way to Washington, DC, today, to participate in the retirement ceremony of Lorna Lagarde, Chief Pharmacist for the Pentagon, who became a true hero on 9/11 by dispensing needed supplies and medication for 36 hours straight after a jet airplane crashed into the building.  As her pastor, I called her home more than once during those hours trying to make sure she had survived the attack but all I got was her answering machine.

I didn’t know she was busy saving lives.

So, I’m going to DC to honor Lorna. I won’t be around to help bring the KOH2RVA today. But I am increasingly thankful for the heroes who carry on that work even when I’m away.

For example: as I was working through the hundreds of emails that collected in my inbox while I was away at Preacher Camp last week I found this one from Minister of Christian Compassion Steve Blanchard, who was writing to report on some of the projects he’s been working with. It was written on Tuesday, August 13 (which must have been a scorcher). Here’s what Steve said:

Even in the midst of a hot summer day, the people of First Baptist Church are bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond. Let me share a couple of endeavors I can speak to, though I am sure there are more I am unaware of.

The Seeds of Promise tutoring program being held at Essex Village, ended its summer session August 1. We had about 10 volunteers who gave their time at least one day a week to participate in this ministry. On July 23 after a successful field trip to the VA Museum of Fine Arts the week before, we decided to take the kids on another educational endeavor. At 9:00 am, Lee Byerly and I, along with Seeds of Promise founders, Walter and Ernestine Roy, saddled up 10 excited children and went on a historical tour of Richmond. We began on Monument Ave. learning about all the monuments, saw the Maggie Walker House, John Marshall House, St. John’s church, the Capitol building and grounds, Richmond battlefield, old City Hall, and even went atop the observation deck where most kids experienced their first time on an elevator. We concluded the day by treating the kids to lunch at McDonalds. Along the way, they took pages of notes so they could remember what they saw.

The following week, the same group, along with Nicole Zingaro, returned to take the kids on a nature adventure at Three Lakes Park where they physically experienced many of the things they had been learning about in the classroom. We concluded that day with an ice cream trip to Chick-Fil-A as a reward for completing their reading program. We look forward to participating in the Seeds of Promise fall program which begins in October.

Finally, we celebrated National Night Out with the Essex community on August 6. First Baptist Church provided a moonwalk for the kids, games, and several volunteers. Thanks to Candi Brown, Phil Mitchell, Erin Thomas, Millie Barnes, and Debbie Boykin for helping minister to the residents of Essex. We partnered not only with Essex Village but with the Henrico Co. Police and Fire Departments to provide a fun-filled night to around 150 children and adults. We saw a lot of laughter, helped settle some disputes, received a lot of hugs, and brought the Kingdom of Heaven a little closer to Essex Village.

And finally, today, several of the staff gathered to fill approximately 125 backpacks with supplies for children connected to Fresh Start for Single Women, Essex Village, Glen Lea Elementary, and our refugees.

All this to say, praise God for the opportunity to serve and thank all of you for your ongoing support.

Steve

Steve’s email was sent to more than a hundred people who have been either interested or involved in the initiatives described above.  These people may not be heroes of the 9/11 attack on America, but they are some of the true heroes of KOH2RVA.  And today…

I salute them.

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dress up shoesI got this email from Steve Blanchard a few days ago and wanted to share it with (all seven of) my readers.  It’s a short one, but a good one:

I heard a story today from a volunteer that really impressed upon me the Kingdom. This past week, in our clothes closet, a lady came in need of a pair of size 10 shoes. Our volunteers began trying to find a pair to no avail. The volunteer who had escorted her to the clothes closet overheard and said, “You need a size 10?  I wear a size 10,” and proceeded to remove her shoes and offer them to the lady in need. Fortunately, a few moments later, the clothes closet volunteers found a pair of size 10 shoes that fit perfectly so our volunteer was able to keep her shoes, but what an act of selfless love to offer the shoes off her feet to one in need. On top of that, she did not want her name mentioned so that no credit would go to her. The Kingdom at work behind the scenes!

Steve Blanchard
Minister of Christian Compassion
Richmond’s First Baptist Church

 

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Streetwalking PrayerWay back on Day 40 of this year-long, every-member mission trip I wrote about having lunch with Travis Collins, pastor of Bon Air Baptist Church, and something that church refers to as its “Streetwalking” ministry, headed up by Valerie Carter, Associate Pastor for Glocal Missions. Valerie explained it like this:

In this ministry we walk, pray and engage those whom we meet in what is known as the “prostitution zones” of our city (Jefferson Davis Highway and Chamberlayne Avenue). Our intention is to meet and engage women in prostitution but we share with all those that we meet on any given night. Many of the prostitutes are men in drag. We ask of their well-being, and remind each of them of God’s love for them. We offer a listening ear, share a prayer, and give a list of resources to call for help or to “get out” if ever needed.

At the end of the post I invited anyone who wanted to participate in that ministry to “show up at the Buford Road campus of Bon Air Baptist Church on the third Friday night of each month at 10:00 and tell Travis and Valerie that you’re there to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia. They’ll know what you’re talking about.” I’m not sure if Debbie Boykin did it that way or some other way, but somehow she got involved in that ministry, and in response to a recent email from Steve Blanchard describing our own efforts to abolish slavery and human trafficking she wrote this:

————————————–

Hey Steve and all,

Just wanted to give you a quick update and overview of our StreetWalking Ministry from July 19.

One lady approached my team member and me. We had waved to her from the sidewalk. She jumped out of the chair she was sitting in with a huge smile on her face as if we were old friends. Neither one of us had ever met her before. We introduced ourselves and told her why we were walking. She hugged our necks and told us that she was a believer but had alcohol issues but God laid it on her heart to jump up and go to us (when I say she jumped I mean she REALLY did jump). She was not intoxicated, but she’d had a few drinks that night. She needs the company of believers around her. She and I will be attending a Bible Study together that is held on Jeff Davis Highway. She is a sister in Christ. Please pray for Tina.

We started wrapping things up around 1:45 a.m. It had been a good night for conversation and prayer. As we crossed the street to end our night with prayer, my team member prayed: “God, if there is anyone else you want us to speak with tonight, now is the time.” We huddled together, debriefed the night with our fellow walkers, held hands in a circle and began our prayer. Someone shouted, “HEY, can I join your group?” We opened our eyes and turned around and there was a young, 20-something woman running toward us. We said, “SURE, come join us!” We told her who we were and why we were there. “Sandy” shared that she was addicted to alcohol, cocaine and heroin and she had become a prostitute to support her habit. She wanted out, but did not know how. We shared with her how to begin, how we could assist her, and that we were there tonight for that very purpose. She held us tight and we prayed and laid hands on her. When we said our Amen, she said, “I usually run away from folks like you. I don’t know why I didn’t tonight, but something told me to run TO this group, NOT away from this group!”

TO GOD BE THE GLORY, GREAT THINGS HE HATH DONE

Isn’t He good??

Debbie

Yes.  God is good.  And God uses good and faithful people to do much of his work on earth.  Thanks Debbie, Steve, Valerie, Travis, and all those others who are trying to rescue the victims of slavery and human trafficking.  In Luke 4 Jesus says, among other things, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to … proclaim release to the captives and … let the oppressed go free.”

It it was important to him, it should be important to us.

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blanchard-2010-headshotIf a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a noise?  If the pastor goes on vacation, and doesn’t blog about bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, for two weeks, does it still happen?

Apparently so.

I can’t tell you how good it was to come home from vacation and find this message (below) from Steve Blanchard.  Steve is our Minister of Christian Compassion at First Baptist Church.  He’s been one of the driving forces behind our year-long, every-member mission trip.  And when I read this message I was gratified to learn that even while I was on vacation someone was still driving: the mission was moving forward.

July 16, 2013

Been a busy week thus far with KOH2RVA and it’s only Tuesday. Just a brief report on two events if you are interested. Monday was our first movie afternoon this summer at Essex. We had 5 helpers who jumped in, Don and Margaret Price, Ellen Lipford, Millie Barnes, and Candi Brown. On a day where the AC did not work and then the DVD/TV did not work for the first 20 minutes, we still had a great day with approximately 27 kids attending. I say approximately because the crowd flowed in and out at times and it was hard to keep count. All the kids asked if we could come back…every day!

Tuesday morning was another day of TAGG (Talented And Greatly Gifted…I think that is right). It is a day camp at Essex from 9-1 where kids are tutored in a variety of areas. This morning, we took 11 kids to the VA Museum of Fine Arts where they experienced the wonders of the art world. They loved it! Several FBC members accompanied the group; Josie Carver, Pam Franklin, Lee Byerly, Hanna Zhu and Betty Ann Dillon. Afterwards, we took the kids to Sweet Frog in Carytown for their first ever trip to the frozen yogurt store where each kid piled their bowl to overflowing. I guarantee there are stomach aches along with the smiles tonight. Anne Brasfield, another volunteer, treated the whole group!

While all this is going on during the day, CARITAS for women continues in the evening. A fantastic group of volunteers has hosted the group of 36 since Saturday night. While I have not been there, I have heard wonderful things.  I expected no less.

And, of course, other great volunteers continue to serve the homeless community in our ongoing ministries of food pantry, clothes closet, and shower ministry on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday

Blessings to all who have worked hard this week to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, whether it has been noted above or not. Keep up the good work!

Steve Blanchard
Minister of Christian Compassion
Richmond’s First Baptist Church

A report like this one makes me so grateful, and makes me believe that this year-long, every-member mission trip has a momentum all its own.  We may find, when we get to the end of the year, that it can’t be stopped.

And that would be OK.

 

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Linda and Louis

Let me tell you about Linda and Louis Watts (at left in the photo above).

If I’m remembering correctly it was Linda who baked mountains of pumpkin bread at Thanksgiving and took it to the teachers at Glen Lea Elementary School. She and Louis were back for the faculty luncheon last month, serving up heaping plates of goodness for the teachers and letting them know just how much they are appreciated. Kimberly Lee, Principal, was so moved by that kind of generosity that she presented a plaque to Steve Blanchard thanking all the members and friends of First Baptist who have made a difference at Glen Lea during this year-long, every-member mission trip. But if I were giving out plaques, I would want to give one to Louis and Linda.

I found them in the waiting room at VCU Medical Center at 5:45 on Monday morning when I went by to pray for a young woman who was having surgery that day. They had brought her to the hospital because her parents were out of town and she didn’t know who else to ask. So she asked Louis and Linda, her “adopted” parents, and they were glad to help. They had brought books and snacks and were planning to stay until the surgery was over.

While I was sitting with them they told me about the big adventure they’d had the previous weekend, when Louis ended up driving the church bus to Short Pump so 25 international students from VCU could do some shopping. I’ve driven that bus before. It’s a little intimidating. But Louis got everybody to Short Pump and back while Linda took a “cute little Egyptian family” in her car because they had a baby and needed to use the car seat.

And then they told me about the surprise birthday party they threw for one of those international students, a young woman from Iran who has no family here in the States, one of their other “adopted” daughters. She thought she was having a quiet birthday dinner at their home, but when they opened the door—surprise!—a room full of people was waiting to wish her well and sing the birthday song. Louis and Linda were afraid that she might be overwhelmed by all the attention but she blushed with pleasure and called her mother later to tell her all about it. Think how pleased her mother was to know that her daughter had friends in the States.

So, that’s a little about Louis and Linda, who seem to be working every day to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, even if it means baking mountains of pumpkin bread, or getting up really early in the morning, or driving a big, intimidating, church bus. They remind me of those servants in Luke 17 who, when they have done everything they were told to do, say, “We are unworthy servants: we have only done our duty.”

Good for you, Louis and Linda. May your tribe increase.

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Glen Lea Artists

Steve Blanchard, our Minister of Christian Compassion, is recovering nicely from his recent hospitalization and surgery (to relieve swelling and pressure on the brain following a fall from an eight-foot ladder). I can tell because on Thursday I got about twelve emails from him, all work-related. One of them was an update on the partnership between Richmond’s First Baptist Church and Glen Lea Elementary School in this year-long, every-member mission trip we call KOH2RVA.

I’ve told you about Karen, who finally got off the bus and discovered what a joy it is to read to second-graders at Glen Lea. And I’ve told you about Brenda, the artist, who was inspired to invite Glen Lea students to participate in the church’s recent art show (I love the photo above). Yesterday I learned that Raylene is helping out once a week in a kindergarten class, so that an exhausted teacher can get a few minutes’ rest.  Karen and Brenda and Raylene are heroes, but if you take a look at the list below you will see that lots of people have been doing lots of things to bring heaven to earth at Glen Lea. You will also see that there are some opportunities coming up for those who are still looking for a way to get involved. If that’s you, let Steve know you’d like to help by sending email to: Blanchard@fbcrichmond.org. He’s feeling better. He’ll help you get off the bus. He may even hold your hand and tell you to watch your step.

Participation at Glen Lea through KOH2RVA

• October 15 Teacher Appreciation (done by Ruth Szucs and 11th grade girls)
• November 5 Provided dinner to teachers and staff during Parent/Teacher Conferences
• November 10 Sponsored cake walk and book giveaway table at fall festival
• November 19 Provided shuttle service to Community Workshop
• February 14 Sponsored Love To Read book collection
• April 15 Sponsored essay contest. Essays picked up May 6 with winner receiving Chuck E. Cheese package.
• May 7 Provide 70 gifts to teachers for Teacher Appreciation Day
• June 12 Provide Appreciation Dinner for staff
• Approximately twenty volunteers giving time and gifts to the school
• Provided school supplies for students and teachers
• Sponsored homework club prizes for various classes
• Art students presenting their art at FBC Art Show

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