Every Ending is a Beginning

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.

KOH2RVA: Day 297

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.

KOH2RVA: Day 256

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.

KOH2RVA: Day 159

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!

KOH2RVA: Day 64

Sometimes bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, is just good, clean fun. It was fun yesterday, when I volunteered at the Glen Lea Elementary School Fall Festival. First Baptist is partnering with Glen Lea this year, and hoping to find ways to encourage the students, faculty, and staff. Several of us showed up for the festival, and the “cupcake walk” the church sponsored was one of the most popular events. Steve Blanchard made the walkers work for every cupcake they won, but in a way that kept it friendly and fun.

I shot this video of Principal Kimberly Lee showing some leadership (and some impressive moves) during the impromptu line dance that broke out on the parking lot. I hope you will get to know Principal Lee during this year-long, every-member mission trip, and if not, that you will at least keep her in your prayers. She serves one of the poorest schools in the city, and on most days there’s not a lot to dance about.  But yesterday, on a beautiful fall day in Richmond, heaven came to earth, and First Baptist Church got to help.

That’s a good day.