FBC Blog

“Helping our Neighbors in Need” by David Elks

September is usually one of my favorite months of the year but in all honesty, I am relieved to be turning the calendar.  I have come to equate September with the start of hurricane season and except for a few meteorological enthusiasts, I don’t know of anyone who enjoys seeing the storms.  We have a couple of months to go in the season, but 2017 has already seen more than enough damaging hurricanes.  Our neighbors in Texas, Florida, the Caribbean and especially Puerto Rico have lost so much, and we must continue to give our spiritual and financial support.  I want to thank you for the contributions of food, supplies and money you have made over the past few weeks to help hurricane victims.  As survivors of Hurricane Matthew, we know what they are going through, and we know that every prayer and gesture of kindness helps.

I encourage you to help hurricane victims as you are able, but I also want to call your attention to the needs of our local neighbors.  There is never a week that we do not have several people come by the church asking for assistance.  Some need help with housing, others need a place to stay and others need a few dollars to purchase a bus ticket to make their way home or to a job. The ministerial staff and I try to help as many people as we can.  We have guidelines in place that insure a prudent use of our available funds and we know how to say “no” when we do not trust the intent of the request.  Still, the need is great and the funds we have for community assistance are diminishing.  Our Community Assistance Fund is totally reliant on your gifts. We try to do as much good with this money as possible to meet the needs of people who ask for help.

It’s been said by many that “missions begins at home.”  I have not been a great fan of that statement over the years, but when you live in Robeson County, North Carolina it is true.  By many standards, ours is one of the poorest counties in the state and none of us have to travel far to find someone in need.  On most days, our church’s ministers only have to go to the 6th street door to meet a person in a desperate situation.  We will continue to go to the door and do what we can, but I ask that you give to our Community Assistance Fund so we will be able to help our neighbors.


“Helping our neighbors in Texas” by David Elks

I view stories of natural disasters differently now than I did a year ago. Once you have been through an experience you have a deeper understanding and greater compassion for those who are going through it now. Our community is by no means recovered from Hurricane Matthew, but the pictures and stories coming from southeast Texas this week have stirred us all. The flooding associated with Hurricane Harvey has exceeded what we experienced with Matthew, but we know something of what the folks in Houston and the surrounding area are going through. We also know some about what lies ahead. Shared experience grows deeper compassion, but what does deeper compassion do?

There is no question that we need to do something to help Texas. Once again, I realize that many of our Lumberton neighbors need help. I assure you that we continue to offer assistance as we are able. Still, we need to do something to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey. One of you (a FBCL church member) called me early this week and mentioned that Lumberton, Texas is a few miles east of Houston. He asked if we could connect with them somehow. I think this is a fabulous idea and I have made an initial attempt to contact First Baptist Church of Lumberton, Texas. At the time of this writing, I have not received a response, but I will continue to reach out to the church and inquire of their condition and how we might be able to help.

I believe that we have two valuable resources to offer those affected by the storm at this time. First, we must pray. We must pray for their safety and a hasty resolution to the flooding. We will pray for the leadership and recovery workers as they work tirelessly to restore order. We must also pray for the residents of the affected communities. You remember how “anxious” we all were last year in the days following the flood. Let’s pray for peaceful minds and patient hearts as folks live into a “new normal.”

Our second resource is our financial gifts. In my experience from last year, money was the best means in which we were helped and able to help. The loads of diapers, cleaning supplies, hygiene items, etc. were useful, but the money we received was the most valuable resource. The folks in Texas will know what they need better than we, so a monetary gift is the best way for us to help.

I will let you know once I make contact with FBCL, Texas or another church or agency through whom we can send our donations. Until then, pray for our friends in Texas. We know what they are going through right now and we know that need our prayers.

Peace, David


“Teaching Our Children” by David Elks

A few of our children have started the new school year and the rest will return in the next few days. At the church, we are preparing for a new and exciting year in our Early Childhood Ministry. With the beginning of a new school year, a good scripture passage to keep in mind is Proverbs 22:6 which reads Train children in the right way and when old, they will not stray (NRSV). I have traditionally interpreted this text to mean that we need to teach our children the truths of scripture. We must teach them to obey the Ten Commandments, to aspire to live by the Beatitudes and to follow the way of Jesus Christ.

I believe this is a fitting interpretation of the text, but this past week has opened my eyes to the reality that we need to go deeper in our teaching our children the “right way.” The hateful speech from white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend and the ensuing violence is a call to all of us that we must teach our children that every person on the face of the earth bears the image of God. We need to impress upon our children the absolute truthfulness that “Jesus loves the little children; all the children of the world; red, brown, yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.” We must teach our children that they should love themselves for who God made them to be, but loving ourselves does not mean that God loves our neighbors who have a different color skin or who live differently from us any less or more.

Furthermore, we must teach our children whom to trust for moral authority. We are fortunate to have many virtuous men and women in positions of authority. We pray for their wisdom and courage, but we must also look beyond the halls of power in Raleigh and Washington D.C. for clarity between right and wrong. Be assured, I am a proud American. I love our country and I am grateful beyond words for the men and women who sacrificed for my freedom. Nevertheless, I join Paul in saying our citizenship is in heaven and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20). I will participate in our democracy and I will give due respect to the government, but I am counting on and answering to a higher authority than our elected officials. So must we
train our children.

Lastly, training our children the right way is to teach them to pray. These are uncertain days in the life of our nation and followers of Jesus are duty bound now more than ever to plead with God on the behalf of our President, Congress and Judiciary. Please pray for our nation. Pray for wisdom. Pray for a commitment to do justice and the courage to do what is best for every person and the earth on which we all depend. Above all, pray for peace… peace with one another, peace with our fellow nations and most importantly, peace with God.

Peace, David


“Introducing the SAFE Seminar” by Erin Collier

Children ask lots of questions. It’s part of how they learn and grow – as they observe new things, their brains are trying to make sense of what they see, and they reach out to others to help them figure it out. Some of those questions are simple, some are complicated…and some are just plain awkward. While I don’t speak from personal experience, I’m fairly confident that it’s the awkward questions (about body development, puberty, etc.) that cause some of the greatest anxiety for parents. As terrifying as it might be, the reality is that parents are the number one source of information for their children about sex, body development, safety, consent, and boundaries.

We want to help equip parents for these conversations – to help them be able to have accurate and honest yet age-appropriate discussions with their children about some sensitive subjects. This fall, we will be hosting a SAFE Seminar led by LeAnn Gardner, an ordained minister and social worker. This seminar was developed out of LeAnn’s years of experience as a social worker and her desire to help parents be prepared to be the primary educator for their children about these topics. I’ve had several conversations with LeAnn and am impressed by her approach to this subject matter and am excited to have her here. Thanks to the endowment, we will be offering this event at a low cost to participants and will open it up to families in our community.

The SAFE seminar is October 28-29 (12:00-4:30 pm each day). The cost is $15 for an individual or $25 for a couple – which includes the seminar and materials provided, lunch on both days, and childcare. Pre-registration will be required and will open on August 14. If you are a parent of a child (birth-6th grade), I hope you will come! If you are a regular caretaker of children (either related or not), I hope you will come as well. If you know of someone who fits into either of those categories, please invite them!

And, if you want to support this event but don’t feel like you fit into the target audience, we will need help! Running registration tables, helping set out/clean up food, providing childcare – there are many ways you can help make this event a success.

I’m looking forward to the weekend of October 28-29, and I hope you are, too! Please join me in praying toward this event: for LeAnn as she prepares to lead, for the individuals that will participate, and for the positive impact we hope it will have on the parents and families in our community.

Erin


“I’m In Update” by David Elks

There is no doubt that when you say I’m In!, you’re in! Two months ago I asked you to consider your commitment to the ministries of First Baptist Church and you responded with enthusiasm and commitment. We received over one hundred commitments with 95 expressing a willingness to pray more, 61 pledging to increase their service and 105 committing to giving more financially. These were encouraging numbers and it is thrilling to see you keeping your word!

This has been a busy summer at (and from) First Baptist. Our children have enjoyed four terrific “camps” at the Church. They engaged the scripture at Vacation Bible School, Lego Camp, Art Camp and Music Day Camp. They took their learning and growing on the road to PassportKids in Spartanburg, SC.

Our young adults and youth were also on the go this summer. They have been to the beach, the mountains and Charleston, SC. Our beloved Friends of Jesus have also enjoyed Vacation Bible School and a terrific time at Happiness Retreat.

I am thankful for Erin and Doug’s commitment and leadership, but there is no way these programs would happen if it were not for your prayers and you giving your time, energy and money. Thank you!

I believe there are numerous ways to measure the vitality of a church’s ministry. I don’t like to dwell on the financial, but it is important that you know what has happened over the past couple of months. In May of this year, our receipts were $47,488.62. This is an average monthly amount. In June, as we started the I’m In! emphasis, our receipts were $55,320.56. In July our receipts rose again, climbing to $75,498.92! I have not studied our giving trends in depth, but it is highly unusual to see giving increase in the summer months. As I said, when you say I’m In!, you’re in! and I am grateful for your generosity.

We’ve had a good summer, but fall is coming and with it, a new Sunday School year, Family Night activities, Community Cafés, Operation Inasmuch (September 16), and the SAFE Seminar (October 28-29). You gave a resounding response to I’m In! and I pray that you will “stay in” with your prayers, service and giving as we follow Christ together.

Peace, David


“Asking the Right Questions” by David Elks

I have read, taught and preached John 21:15-19 several times over the course of my ministry. It is the story of Jesus asking Peter, “Do you love me?” three times in the wake of Peter’s three denials. As I said, I know the story fairly well, but I had an interesting weekend with this story while I was at the Shalem Residency in June.

The night before I left for the residency I could not help but think that we have been asking the wrong questions lately. We have been asking questions like “How can we get more people in church?” and “How can we get these people to give?” These are important questions, but they are not the right questions for us to be asking at this time.

I went to the residency and enjoyed a week of classes and group interactions in spiritual direction. As the weekend approached I thought I would pray, read and listen for the Spirit’s guidance as to the questions we should be asking.

In the last class before our “Silent Sabbath” we were told a story about a woman who experienced a terrible tragedy. In the wake of the experience she felt the Lord saying “I want you to love me more than anything else.” The story did not set well with me, but I did not dwell on it. I set it aside and got ready for the weekend.

As I woke on Saturday morning the story came to mind along with the interaction between Jesus and Peter in John 21. I read the passage as my morning devotion and started the day.

As I went through the day the Spirit kept bringing up Jesus’ question… do you love me more than these? By the afternoon I realized that this is the question we need to consider. “Do we, as individuals and as a church, love Jesus more than these?” The answer may seem obvious, but it isn’t, especially when “these” are packed pews and full offering plates. “These” can be good things, but “these” become idols when they are our highest priority. Every good question prompts a few more and the questions behind “Do you love me more than these?” include “What are my ‘these?’” and “Why do I love ‘these?’” These are the questions we need to be asking right now and I will be writing more in the weeks ahead to help us pray and respond.

Peace, David

 


“Passportkids2017 Report” by Erin Collier

Earlier this week, seven children and two adults headed to Spartanburg, SC, for a session of Passportkids camp. It was a great week of talking about how to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God (the theme of the week) and learning about Watering Malawi, the mission emphasis of the week. I could share a lot more about my personal camp experience, but it’s more fun to hear the experiences of the kids who went! Below are the thoughts of the kids who attended this year. If you see any of them at church, be sure to ask them more about their experience! (And, if you haven’t seen them yet, check out the pictures on our church Facebook page!)

“I love Passportkids. I liked all of the fun stuff that we did like go to the pool. I also liked all of the staff members. It was fun.” – Lauren

“Passportkids is fun. Worship was my favorite part of camp. I liked singing songs. All of the leaders were very energetic and exciting. I would go back if it were only two days long!” – Ava

“Passport is fun because all of it is very unexpected, especially on the first time. My favorite part was free time.” – Kaitlyn

“Passport was fun. I liked the people I met the most. The teachers were nice and energetic.” – Emily

“I liked free time when me and Dixon were playing ultimate ping pong.” – Ethan

“Passportkids is great. They have some of the best sermons, nice teachers who are very excited to see students, really awesome food, and a large pool.” – Addie

“The thing I liked was playing Capture the Flag and winning.” – Dixon

Thank you to those who prayed us through the week – your prayers were felt!

-Erin


“Discernment” by David Elks

Discern. Discern. Discern. If there is a theme to my work in spiritual guidance, it is to discern.  Discernment is our hearing and knowing God’s call in our lives.  It is far more than knowing what we should do or what path to take.  To discern is to listen through the distractions in our lives and to receive the healing, blessing and invitation that is the abundant life.  

As I discern today, I want to thank you for the tremendous opportunity you have given me to participate in the Shalem Institute’s Spiritual Direction Program.  I participated in the second (and final) residency two weeks ago and was overwhelmed by the wisdom shared in the classes, the richness of the fellowship of the faculty and associates and, most especially, the attentiveness of the Holy Spirit.  I have a lot of work to do to complete the Spiritual Guidance program (reading, writing and giving and receiving “direction”) but I have already been blessed beyond my highest hopes for the program.  Thank you for encouraging me in this work and for the time to attend the residencies and complete the assignments.

I am a better Christian and minister because of the Shalem program and I look forward to sharing the fruit with you.  The best way I know to do so is to dedicate myself to helping us discern God’s presence in our fellowship.  Our lives are full.  Whether we work, are in school or are retired, we typically have something to do, somewhere to go or someone to see every day.  Much of what we busy ourselves with is good, but it can be better if we go with an abiding awareness of God’s presence.  We don’t just check in with God when we read a morning or evening devotion or when we attend church on Sunday.  God is always with us and God is inviting us to periodically be still and know (Ps.46:10) so that we may be fully alive as we go about our days. If you would like to know more about Spiritual Guidance or would just like to talk sometime about your life with God, I’d love to have a conversation.

Peace, David


“A Mid-Summer Ministry Update” by Erin Collier

“Summertime and the livin’ is easy…” Those famous lyrics from the 1935 musical Porgy and Bess may have some truth to them. Summer means no school, more beach trips, and time for rest and relaxation. But while the summertime livin’ may be easy, the summertime children’s ministry schedulin’ is a little more hectic! We have a lot that goes on here during the summer, as evidenced by the pictures you’ve hopefully seen on Facebook. Here’s a brief recap of what our children have been up to so far…

Vacation Bible School: 43 children attended this 3 night program of Bible stories, crafts, games, and missions. They learned stories about the many ways Jesus surprises us with his love, his compassion, and his grace, and had a wonderful experience thanks to the dedication of so many volunteers who helped teach, guide, and feed them each night. (If you know a VBS volunteer – thank them!) They also raised $225 for Marc and Kim Wyatt, CBF Field Personnel in Raleigh, NC, who minister to refugees and internationals in the Triangle Region.

Baptism: Gabrielle Hardee was baptized on June 18. It was a wonderful day of celebration as this child took an important step in her faith journey.

Lego Mini-Camp: 16 children played with Legos and learned Bible stories about David at the same time! I loved watching the creativity of the children as they took some of the building challenges I gave them (create a Lego Goliath, build a Lego crown) and brought them to life in so many unique ways. We had a blast together!

Still to come this summer? A trip to Passportkids camp in Spartanburg, SC (we leave this Sunday); Art Mini-Camp (with a focus on missionaries around the world); and Music Day Camp (we still have a few camper spots open – register today!).

All of these activities and ministries are not possible without this congregation. Your support (with finances, service, and prayer) allows us to offer meaningful activities for children throughout the summer. Thank you for being a congregation that values children and invests in their faith development!

Erin

 


“Emotions” by Doug Reedy

If you have never taken a Myers Briggs personality indicator test, it is worth your while.  There are free ones online that only take a few minutes to complete.  It is sometimes especially helpful in terms of your spiritual development and relationships to know how you differ from others in the way you preserve God, life, and family.

I’m an INTJ.  Without getting too deeply into it, INTJs tend to prefer rationality over emotion.  It doesn’t mean we don’t feel emotional at times, but it does mean we don’t make decisions based on them.  That’s a good thing, because emotions are buzzing around me like gnats right now.

After an intense week of camp with some truly amazing teenagers, I am always a little emotional.  They each are dealing with their own private issues, some that most adults would buckle under.  Seeing them bond together and support each other is a truly beautiful thing.  Although we see glimpses of that here, taking them to another setting always results in spiritual and relational breakthroughs.

Immediately coming off those emotions and coming home to see my much missed wife, daughter, and (to a lesser extent) dog stirs the soul even more so.  Then, seeing a youth hospitalized, seeing some of our collegians in town that don’t come often, and packing for what is sure to be a challenging hike totally off the grid, the last day or two has provided no emotional peace.

I am grateful that the next week will provide a lot of time to pray, walk, and soak in God’s creation.  It will provide time for reflection, and more prayer.  As I switch from the challenge of a 500+ student camp in the city to the challenge of no technology (seriously, we can’t even bring a watch) in the wilderness, my emotions could overwhelm me.  Yet, God is God and worrying is a waste.  Much love to the folks back home.  Prayers appreciated.

Peace, Doug