The staff of Richmond’s First Baptist Church has been on an in-town mission trip this week, doing our part to see that God’s kingdom comes and God’s will is done “in Richmond as it is in Heaven.” One of the ways we have approached that mission is by loving our neighbors as we love ourselves (Matt. 22:39), and that’s why on Thursday most of the staff spent most of the day scrubbing down the walls and floors of Fox Elementary School right here in the Fan. I had a previous commitment that day and wasn’t able to participate, but the staff let me know (over and over again) that I had missed the hardest work day of the week. It didn’t go without notice, however. The two custodians at Fox Elementary were extremely grateful, and acknowledged that there was no way they would have been ready for opening day without the help of First Baptist Church. I hope that story will get around, and secure our reputation as “a good neighbor in a great neighborhood.”
I was back on Friday. That’s when we went out to Colonial Apartments to visit with the refugees. Jenny Minor (financial secretary) and I went together to visit a refugee from Nepal named Som and his sister Tulasa. Som was an English teacher in Nepal and carried the conversation effortlessly, telling us about his adjustment to the American way of life. It hasn’t been easy. He spends nearly two hours each day riding the bus to his job at a fast food restaurant where he works five hours and then turns around to come home. His sister Tulasa has not been able to find a job (even though she’s really good with children), and so the few dollars he earns are all they have in a household that also includes his mother. She came in near the end of our visit and sat silently in a chair in the corner. Tulasa sat on the daybed in the living room throughout our visit, smiling shyly and getting up only once to offer us sliced apples and glasses of soda. Som is worried that if she doesn’t find a job soon they will lose their apartment. Still, he is hopeful. “I have big dreams,” he said, smiling as if he were letting us in on a secret. “I want to be a filmmaker some day.”
Before leaving I asked for permission to say a prayer. I explained that Jenny and I were Christians, that we believed in God and believed that God had power to do things we couldn’t do. “Do you mind,” I said, “if we ask God to help you and your family?” No, Som said. He didn’t mind at all. And so I said a prayer that included every member of the family, asking God to bless them with life and health and work, and when I finished they all seemed grateful.
Jesus told his followers to go into all the world and make disciples (Matt. 28:19). It’s one of the ways we are trying to bring heaven to earth at Richmond’s First Baptist Church. But how wonderful it is when the world comes to us, when we can sit in an apartment less than five miles from Monument and the Boulevard and make friends with people from Nepal, when we can offer prayers for them and ask God to bless them in every way.
I missed the work day on Thursday and I’m sorry about that. I would have loved to help out at Fox Elementary School. But on Friday at Colonial Apartments I was doing some Great Commission work, and that’s why, for me,
It was the best day of the trip.