KOH2RVA: Day 352

So, I was talking with Rob Courain yesterday about this crazy idea he has to raise money for missions. Rob is a member of First Baptist who was baptized in the James River on August 18. He is also a co-founder of RVA United, the ministry with and for 20-30somethings in Richmond that rocks First Baptist Church with a powerful praise service on Tuesday nights (Rob plays guitar in the band). And, as it turns out, he is something of an entrepreneur.

Here’s what he’s thinking:

Using the business model made popular by Groupon, Rob has made arrangements with Arianna’s Grill at 700 N. Sheppard Street to offer up to 500 vouchers to our congregation valued at $20 each. When you buy a $20 voucher and take it to Arianna’s you get $20 worth of delicious Italian food. But here’s the interesting part: in exchange for the in-church publicity and promotion, Arianna’s will give half that money to the mission cause of our choice, in this case to Mark and Sarah Williams, CBF missionaries working to save the lives of AIDS orphans in South Africa.

Before reading any further, stop to appreciate that last point: Arianna’s—a friendly neighborhood restaurant less than two blocks from the church—is going to give half of the money it earns on these vouchers to missionaries in South Africa, evidence that the Kingdom of Heaven is coming to Richmond, Virginia.

Now, here’s the catch: in order to offer this kind of deal Arianna’s has to sell at least 200 vouchers. If they don’t sell 200, the deal is off. They believe that the publicity and promotion they receive through the church will be well worth the minimum of $2,000 they send on to Mark and Sarah. And they are hopeful, of course, that people who discover Arianna’s through this promotion will like it and want to come back at other times.

I have.

In fact, I’ve had lunch there the past two days. I love their lunchtime specials, their big, conversation-friendly booths, and the charming and attentive wait staff. But I looked at Arianna’s differently when I was there yesterday. It wasn’t just a friendly neighborhood restaurant, serving up good food at good prices: thanks to Rob I looked at Arianna’s as a partner in mission.

Vouchers go on sale at First Baptist on One Sunday, September 8. I want to be the first person in line, holding my $20 in the air, knowing that half of it will go to Mark and Sarah Williams and the good work they are doing in South Africa.

I hope you will be right behind me.

My Father’s Eyes

This was the conclusion of Sunday’s sermon, which ended up being a kind of Trinity Sunday/Father’s Day message.  You can find the whole sermon on the First Baptist website at www.fbcrichmond.org, but I thought I would share this much of it with you here.  Enjoy.

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On this Father’s Day I hope you will forgive me for mentioning my own father, who turned 80 on Friday.  He hasn’t been well for some time, as many of you know, but he has always been a wonderful father, one whose steadfast love and faithfulness made it easy for me to believe in a heavenly Father.  In fact I once had a dream in which I was walking along a path through a park, and up ahead was a man sitting on a bench, looking away from me.  Because it was a dream I knew that the man sitting on the bench was God, and as I got closer I began to get apprehensive.  What would God look like?  What would he say to me?  But as I got closer he turned and made eye contact, and I felt all that apprehension leave my body in a rush.

Because his eyes were my father’s eyes,

And they were full of love and forgiveness,

Just like always.