Travis is the Senior Pastor of Bon Air Baptist Church, a church I’ve been hearing about since my arrival in Richmond some four-and-a-half years ago. Even then people were talking about Bon Air’s innovation, about its new multi-site strategy that was extending the reach of the church well beyond its main campus. Travis Collins was getting a lot of the credit, and as I’ve gotten to know him I’ve learned that his reputation as an innovator is well-deserved. Yesterday he was telling me about a possible collaboration with another congregation in town that needs the boost in energy Bon Air could provide.
And speaking of collaboration….
I told Travis about KOH2RVA, the year-long, every-member mission trip First Baptist Church is on. I told him I was recruiting partners who could help us bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia. I asked if Bon Air would be interested in that kind of partnership. “Absolutely,” he said, and then told me about a ministry called “Streetwalking” that Valerie Carter, Associate Pastor for Glocal Missions, is heading up. I wrote to Valerie yesterday afternoon, asking if she could tell me more. Here’s what she said:
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. These resources include safe houses, domestic violence hotlines, NorthStar and more.
This is an emerging ministry, flexible and open to change as we don’t have all of the answers but we do know that our aim is to be salt and light along the way. We do not tote Bibles, preach hellfire and brimstone, or give out gospel tracts. This population has been beat up, abused, and oppressed in most cases and we have been told over and over again by prostitutes that our way of being church to them is “not the church that we know,” but they are coming to know us and beginning to trust us. I have had to un-invite some who go with us due to their judgmental approaches.
Our schedule is every third Friday night from 10 p.m. – 1:00 a.m. We leave the Buford Road Campus (of Bon Air Baptist Church) at 10:30 p.m. and the time between 10:00 and 10:30 is reserved for prayer and orientation. For those who have come before it is not necessary to be there exactly at 10 but before 10:30.
This ministry is not for everyone, obviously, but I’m glad we have a partner like Bon Air Baptist Church, and friends like Travis and Valerie who are willing to go where the love of Christ is needed most.
If you think this ministry might be for you all you have to do is show up at the Buford Road campus of Bon Air Baptist Church on the third Friday night of each month at 10:00. This month the third Friday night is tomorrow night, October 19. Just 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.