KOH2RVA: Day 251

heart stringsWhen I say that First Baptist Church is on a year-long, every-member mission trip, it doesn’t mean that I know what every member is up to, or how they are working to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia. So it does my heart good when I find out that somebody has been bringing it all along, and I didn’t even know it. Jackie Morsink, for example, who sings with “The Heart Strings,” a group of some 73 ladies whose mission is to bring joy, through music and song, to the many senior citizens in retirement and nursing homes across the Richmond metropolitan area. Jackie writes:

Jim: This has been my “mission trip” (off the bus!!!) this year to help bring heaven to earth in the Richmond area (and also Effie Farmer). We have visited 30 homes on Monday mornings since October 8 of last year. Our last performance is next Monday, May 20, at Lakewood Manor (Health Care), from 10:30 to about 11:15. Come check us out, if you can fit it into your schedule! Would love to see you in the audience! Jackie

Do you see what I mean? On 30 different occasions since our mission trip began on September 9, 2012, Jackie has gotten up, gotten dressed, and gone off to some retirement or nursing home in the area to share some joy (and believe me, Jackie’s got plenty to share). How many others are out there on secret missions and would somebody please tell me?

Secrets like these are too good to keep.


p.s. I hear the Heart Strings are going to be singing at the Memorial Day celebration on the Goochland Courthouse Green at 10 a.m. on May 27.  Included in the announcement were these words about Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is the special day on which we remember the men and women who have given their lives while serving in the armed forces of the United States. Like most traditions, it evolved from similar celebrations. Memorial day most likely started after the Civil War as a way to commemorate the death of both Union and Confederate soldiers, however, there is documentation that the women of Savannah Georgia decorated the graves of soldiers as early as 1862.

The day became an occasion to not just lay flowers on the graves, but to come together and remember fallen family members. It is still a common practice in Richmond to assemble at Hollywood cemetery and hold memorial picnics at the military grave sites.

On this Memorial Day, even though it is the unofficial start of summer, take time to find one of the many neglected military graves or memorials. Pull up the weeds, place some flowers, and leave a small U.S. flag in remembrance of those who gave all for this country.

KOH2RVA: Day 163

TV MinistryOne of the things that I’m learning on this year-long, every-member mission trip is that bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, is not a new thing for First Baptist Church.

Last night, for example, I went to Covenant Woods, a gorgeous retirement community in Mechanicsville, to have dinner with some of our members and to speak afterward. Dinner was delightful, and I truly enjoyed the company of the nine other people at my table, but when it was time to speak I walked into a large room that was packed with people.

Do you want to know why it was packed?

Because the worship services at First Baptist Church are broadcast on Channel 8 at 11:00 each Sunday morning, and for thousands of people in Central Virginia who are not physically able to get to their own churches on Sunday morning, the televised services from First Baptist have become the next best thing. Some of those people have come to think of First Baptist as “their” church, and a few of those have come to think of me as “their” pastor. So, when I walk into the room at Covenant Woods they begin to whisper—“There he is!”—even though we have never met in person.

When I came to First Baptist nearly five years ago I wasn’t sure about the television ministry. I mean, I’ve spent most of my life trying not to look like a television evangelist. But since then I’ve learned what a true ministry it is, and how people who are lying in hospital beds have been able to sing along with the hymns on Sunday mornings, bow their heads for the prayers, and hear the sermons. A lot of them tell me how much they loved hearing Jim Flamming, my predecessor, preach, but they are usually kind enough to say they enjoy my preaching, too.

What they’re trying to say, really, is that they’ve found a place to worship God when they can’t get to worship, that somehow—through the miracle of technology—they are able to enter into worship almost as if they were there in the sanctuary.

When that happens, heaven comes to earth.

First Baptist has been broadcasting its weekly worship services since 1987. It costs a lot of money to do it. A third of the cost comes out of the church budget; two-thirds is underwritten by the church’s endowment. And although it is an iron-clad rule that we never ask for money, we still receive a number of generous contributions every year from people who are grateful for a church they can get to when they can’t get to church.

So, here’s to the TV ministry of First Baptist Church, and the way it’s been bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, for more than 25 years.