KOH2RVA:Day 212

AJCES BashHow do you measure the success of a year-long, every-member mission trip? By the number of conversions, of course! And Joyce Clemmons is a convert.

I don’t mean that she has been converted to Christianity. She became a Christian years ago. I only mean that she has been converted by the joy and excitement of bringing heaven to earth. I wish you could have heard her make the announcement below on Sunday morning. Her enthusiasm was contagious. In fact, after worship, someone handed her a check for $1,000. Read it for yourself and see if you don’t catch whatever she’s got. The fact that she typed it in ALL CAPS is just another expression of her zeal.

TWO HUNDRED AND TEN DAYS AGO, OUR PASTOR CHALLENGED US TO HELP BRING THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN TO RICHMOND VIRGINIA BY REACHING OUT IN WHATEVER DIRECTION THE LORD LED US. MANY OF YOU HAVE DONE SOME INCREDIBLE THINGS.

ASK YOURSELF THIS QUESTION .. HAVE I FOUND MY PLACE ON THIS KOH2RVA MISSION TRIP? WHAT IF THERE WAS A CHURCH-WIDE MISSION PROJECT THAT I COULD BECOME A PART OF?

WHEN STAFF AND VOLUNTEERS WENT TO THE ANNA JULIA COOPER EPISCOPAL SCHOOL IN MARCH TO DO SERVICE PROJECTS, KOH2RVA SEEMED TO BECOME A NEON SIGN FLASHING IN THE MINDS OF MANY. IT BECAME EVIDENT THAT A LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIP WITH THE SCHOOL WOULD BE ONE EXCITING CHURCH-WIDE PROJECT! THE GENEROSITY TEAM CHOSE THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER TO ANNOUNCE THAT PLAN.

THE SCHOOL’S ACRONYM AJCES IS AN INDEPENDENT FAITH-BASED MIDDLE SCHOOL FOR STUDENTS OF LIMITED RESOURCES IN THE EAST END ON 29TH STREET. THE SCHOOL FOCUSES ON ACADEMIC, SOCIAL, AND SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT. MANY STUDENTS WOULD PROBABLY NOT GET ANY EDUCATION WITHOUT THIS OPPORTUNITY.

WE ARE ASKING YOU TO CONTRIBUTE TIME, TALENT, AND TREASURE FOR A SPRING CELEBRATION AT THE SCHOOL ON SATURDAY, MAY 4TH.
A CARNIVAL WILL ENTICE 52 STUDENTS, PARENTS, AND FRIENDS TO JOIN IN THE FUN AND GAMES. GIVEN THE CHALLENGES THESE STUDENTS FACE AT HOME, SOCIALS SUCH AS THIS ARE RARE AND SPECIAL.

HERE’S HOW YOU CAN HELP. WE NEED PRIZES FOR THE GAME WINNERS OF GRADES 6, 7, 8. BOARD GAMES, PUZZLES, BOOKS, DVDS, SNACKS, GIFT CARDS, MOVIE PASSES, OUTDOOR GAME AND RECREATION ITEMS FOR SUMMER.

MEMBERS OF THE GENEROSITY TEAM WILL BE AROUND THE NEXT TWO SUNDAYS, APRIL 14 AND 21, ACCEPTING YOUR PRIZE DONATIONS OR CHECKS/CASH, AS YOU CHOOSE. SIGN UP SHEETS WILL BE THERE, ALONG WITH MAPS AND TIMES, FOR MUCH NEEDED VOLUNTEERS ON MAY 4TH. I’M ALREADY LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING YOU NEXT SUNDAY.

Can we work with an Episcopal School to bring heaven to earth for some middle-schoolers who live in the housing projects of Richmond?

You bet we can.

Thank you, Joyce, for issuing the challenge. I’ll bring my prize donations next Sunday and see you at the Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School on May 4!

KOH2RVA: Day 62

This is probably not the best picture that’s ever been taken of him (I snapped it with my cell phone while we were having coffee), but this guy may have the best name in the evangelism business. This is Ricky Love: Church Planter.

Ricky’s from West Virginia, just like me. He went to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, just like me. He has a wife and two lovely daughters, just like me. He lives in Richmond, Virginia, just like me.

But here’s where we’re different:

Ricky and his family live on Church Hill in Richmond, right next to the Fairfield Court housing project. It’s one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, and also one of the most violent. I asked Ricky if he ever hears gunshots at night and he said yes. I asked him how his wife feels about that and he just smiled and shook his head. But Ricky is not just talking the talk, he is walking the walk, and here’s how he does it:

He spends his time in the neighborhood around his house, building relationships and making friends. Once or twice a week he invites everybody over to his house, where they eat some food, and study the Bible, and say prayers for each other. Attendance varies from week to week, but Ricky says they usually have twenty or thirty who come. He says someday they hope to be big enough to need a separate building, but for now they can squeeze into his house, and for now that’s a good thing.

Yesterday I was asking if the church has a future. I believe that it does, and I believe the future of the church may be what Ricky Love is doing: it may be the followers of Jesus going out into their neighborhoods, building relationships and making friends, and then inviting those people to come to their homes for food, fellowship, Bible study and prayer. That’s what the church looked like in the earliest days of its existence, and that may be what it looks like again.

I think that’s a reason to be hopeful. And I think it raises the possibility that almost any of us could do what Ricky is doing. We may not all have theological training. We may not all have the courage to move to Church Hill. But we could all invite some friends over to share food, and study the Bible, and pray for each other, couldn’t we?

Maybe this is how the Kingdom of Heaven will come to Richmond, Virginia–one neighborhood at a time.

KOH2RVA: Day 2

First Baptist Church’s year-long, every-member mission project got off to a great start yesterday, with one wonderful worship service at 11:00 followed by dinner on the grounds. The worship service included a version of the Lord’s Prayer that went, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, in Richmond as it is in heaven.” And at the end of the service every person present was commissioned as a missionary to this place we call home.

Later that afternoon, several of us got on a church bus and drove over to Church Hill to look at a house that’s going up for auction on Friday. One of our members, Melissa Brooks, has a vision that this house can become a haven for pregnant teenagers. We looked at the house through her eyes, and gathered in what will someday be the kitchen for prayer. “Lord, if you want this vision to become a reality, make it so,” we prayed, realizing that we had very little power on our own.

What will happen next? We don’t know. But what a perfect way to begin our year-long, every-member mission trip: by taking some of our members to a part of the city that desperately needs God’s love, and by saying prayers there for young women who need some hope for the future.

What will happen on Day 2?