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Our Faith has provided us with the courage to take bold steps to ensure we have the needed facilities to grow our church and effectively minister in our community and beyond. We are experiencing the results of our faithfulness! Now, we are going to use the power of Our Story (individual and collective) as we move forward in faith to retire $3 million of the remaining debt on these facilities.
We encourage you to reflect upon what the FBC family means to you and to earnestly consider what your part will be in Our Faith, Our Story. As a church family we will all present our pledges during the May 4th worship service.
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Psalm 37 says, ''Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.'' When life throws us unexpected curve balls, it can be hard to wait patiently for the Lord. We can forget that there is a loving God who will walk through the hard trials with us. But in the midst of them, we can gain glimpses of the incredible power of the love He has for us. To be patient is sometimes easier said than done, but when we have faith in God, the results are truly amazing. This is my story of how the Missions Ministry of First Baptist Church has helped me and countless lives around me.
The summer of 2006 was life changing for me, unfortunately not in a good way. That summer, my parents separated for good. I was confused but most of all heartbroken. I didn't understand why out of all the people in the world, my family was the ridicule and gossip of the neighborhood. I was angry with God. I refused to go to church because I believed that God was getting back at my family for all of our sins. For three years, I never once sang a hymn to praise God, or even prayed. That all changed when I was introduced to Promising Futures.
Promising Futures is a program that started about five years ago. The program works closely with the children whose parents are primarily Spanish speakers to introduce them to the power of God's love. It specifically prepares each child for a better and brighter academic future. More than 70 children have stepped through the doors of First Baptist eager to learn and be inspired to work toward a future that will make their loved ones proud. I am aware of all of this because I have grown up in the program myself. From the first day I met Ruth Demby, I saw how she and the many others who created this program work to fuel the spark in every child's mind to think out of the box when faced with a tough problem.
Today, Promising Futures is changing the lives of children who didn't have a promising future five years ago. The truth is: I would not have transformed into the person that I am today without Promising Futures. I am grateful for every member of this church who had faith in the vision for the Promising Futures Ministry. Without you, First Baptist Church, the lives of many children, myself included, would not look as bright as they do today.
ART AND KAY KUNZER
We want to tell our story of how First Baptist Church has blessed our family since moving to Gainesville 46 years ago.
To begin, FBC played a major role in the spiritual growth of our four daughters. Through many youth activities and choir retreats led by dedicated Sunday School teachers, volunteers, youth and music ministers we watched their faith form. In later years all of our daughters were married here.
To see how far we've come the past 46 years is quite remarkable. God has truly blessed us with outstanding ministers during this time and we continue to grow under the leadership of Bill Coates. Our campus has expanded with the Family Life Center, renovation of the Sanctuary with the balcony addition, the Banquet Hall, and much needed space for the Day School and youth programs. Our facilities provide a ministry for the entire Gainesville community.
We have been members of the Sanctuary Choir for these 46 years and cannot begin to tell you how special music and our choir family is to us. Singing under Mark Green's talented and outstanding leadership is a real privilege. He makes belonging to the choir a spiritual experience with devotional and prayer time each rehearsal as well as ''down to work time'' on the anthems he challenges us with. One of the greatest opportunities for us is singing in the Living Christmas Tree which is truly a community tradition. God has also blessed us with the addition of Steve Coldiron as Mark's assistant. Under Steve's leadership we've seen the Exaltation Orchestra and handbell choirs grow and add a new dimension to our Sunday worship.
Another ministry we‘re privileged to have served in for the past 10 years is the Stephen Ministry. We've experienced true blessing of walking through the valleys with our care receivers and seen how God can comfort and restore lives.
Our Music Ministry has grown so much that we are ''bursting at the seams'' as
we've outgrown our rehearsal space. All this is said to point out the need to support ''Our Faith, Our Story'' to retire the debt. Then, we can complete the final phase of the 3rd Century Campaign with the addition of the music suite.
God has truly blessed our family through the years and things have never been better at FBC Gainesville. We are grateful to God to be a part of such a wonderful Church family. We have witnessed a spiritual growth and love among our congregation that is a result of answered prayers and God's amazing and wonderful love and grace.
It's not about us. It's all about God.
Sure, things may happen to us, but an opportunity to use those 'events' wisely is given. We can either pay tribute to God or squander the opportunity on self-pity. Here is my story of how the ministries of First Baptist Church have helped my family spend our opportunities wisely.
My family joined this church in 2000 and shortly after, the Music Ministry became dear to our hearts. Let it be said that one day I could spontaneously combust right in the middle of one of our choir anthems. Indeed, worship is that good! The music ministry has encapsulated many of our life events. From the birth, dedication, and baptism of our children to the going home celebration of our dear ones, it has helped my family both mourn and celebrate. Music fills the space where words do not fit. From children to adult music opportunities, the music ministry continues to grow aggressively within us a steadfast love for our Lord and Savior.
Another important ministry for us is the Family Life Center. The FLC took me from a couch potato to one of 'those people' with a 13.1 sticker on the back of my car. It reminded me that our bodies are gifts that we should use to share the good news.
The programs at FBC for our children have meant the world to us. I love serving as music director of the Day School, and the church Nursery has rocked all three of my babies, allowing my family to fully participate in Sunday morning worship and other events. The Children's Ministry introduces my children to the Rock they should stand on and the importance of the stone the builders rejected. The Student Ministry is currently helping us to keep our sanity as Andrew and I watch our baby girl enter her teenage years. Now we can confidently let go and watch her grow into the young adult God is molding her into.
We have also been touched by the Ministry of Caring as it paid for our electric bill once. As the market began to crumble under the pressure of an overweight budget, so did the financial stability of many. The crippling ripples waved over the head of our small remodeling business, stifling our movement like drying concrete. We lost many things and I will never forget the calm and compassion in Bruce Fields' voice as I cried to him on the other end of the telephone. In every turn of that uncomfortable process we found comfort, peace, and answered prayers. Also, I officially became a Stephen Minister in May of 2009. Serving here, I have seen brokenness heated up and fused back together like the stained glass of a window. And when God was finished, it was more beautiful than ever.
I have literally had the good fortune of witnessing or participating in every ministry offered at our church. And do you know what I see? I see the body of Christ alive and well, thriving here at First Baptist Church of Gainesville, GA. Arms, legs, and hands all working together to extend Christ love through our different ministries.
Indeed church, WE ARE GETTING THINGS DONE!!!!
My small part of the much larger story is:
For the past seven years, because of FBC, I have had the good fortune to teach Hispanic parents English by way of learning to read children's literature. They also learn about local customs and how to be supportive of their children getting an education in Gainesville. Additionally, these parents are exposed to the opportunities that FBC offers for children and many become involved in the Promising Futures after-school program. Some even attend Vacation Bible School and the summer Promising Futures camp.
Summer is a busy time when this class grows because parents can bring their children with them to class. During this time, we meet in the Family Life Center where the children can safely play on the gym floor while the parents have class in a room nearby.
December is another special time for these parents because we focus on Advent and invite them to the Living Christmas Tree program. We visit the sanctuary and watch the tree as it is built and also watch videos from past years to learn vocabulary from the songs. Our families are always in awe of the productions and so thankful to be included in this wonderful celebration. In fact, I think 'included' is the word that best describes what is offered for these parents in the ESL program. It provides a way to be included, to have a safe place to learn and be embraced by a church community that offers many avenues for education in the fullest sense.
Many times these parents are looking for a church home and it is wonderful to have the Hispanic Ministry on campus and Alina Carbonell to call upon to help them feel at home and help them with challenges. There are instances when our participants or other adults in their extended family are looking for a way to become U.S. citizens. They typically have many questions and don't know where to turn. And so it is again to their advantage to be on our campus as we provide classes to assist them in filling out an application for citizenship along with guidance in the complicated process. We also have people to help them study the required course work to prepare them on the path to full citizenship.
This one program uses many areas on the First Baptist campus. These facilities truly make it possible to enhance the learning experience of these parents. I am grateful to be part of a church community with ministries that touch lives 24/7 because we have made the commitment to be good stewards of our facilities and to bring the kingdom here. 'For I was a stranger and you took me in.'
SANDRA VAN PELT HOGUE
I was born and raised in the coalfields of Appalachia. There were times when Pop worked the graveyard shift at the mine and couldn't drive me to Sunday School and church. Mom never got behind the wheel of any moving vehicle. 'There's just nowhere I want to go without Lloyd,' she claimed. 'Snooks, it's going to be up to you to get yourself to Sunday School,' she told me. So - Saturday nights were spent scrubbing every speck of West Virginia dirt from behind my ears and shampooing my hair with golden Breck. We watched Gunsmoke while she pin-curled my hair, two bobby pins in a scalp-tight X, three tidy rows, a scarf to hold it in place while I slept. How I longed for 'Miss Kitty's' naturally curly hair. Sunday morning Mom handed me a snow-white blouse and a stiff starched jumper. Then, she put Vaseline on my black patent leather shoes. My feet shined like coal. I tucked my worn white Bible under my arm and walked a mile and a half to First Methodist. When I came to the huge cemetery oak at the crest of the hill, my heart leapt when I saw the brass spire of the church steeple. Just a few more steps and I'd be with my teachers and friends. We'd turn the thin pages of our Bibles and read wondrous stories of arks and animals, angels and devils, giants and kings; but what I loved most were the lessons of Jesus. I longed for the story of how he held children on his lap and told them they were, 'blessed.'
Years passed. I left West Virginia, went off to college and graduate school, married and had children of my own. I stayed busy with my career, my travels, and my family. Sunday School became a vague childhood memory - - - until I joined First Baptist Church of Gainesville. After a Friday Flex ‘r size class at The Family Life Center, leader Betty Carter invited me to come with her to her Winsome Sunday School class. I had met Ella Brooks at Brenau University and knew she was a gifted teacher. I was willing to give it a try. Saturday night I curled my haired and pressed my clothes. Sunday morning I tucked my old Bible under my arm and drove myself to First Baptist. I walked down the long hall, past many smiling, friendly faces, stopped by the coffee urn to grab a cup and walked into the Winsome Room. Pictures of Christ Jesus lined the walls: Jesus at Gethsemane, Jesus at the door, Jesus with the children. Three bulletin boards were artfully decorated with Bible verses, cutouts of flowers and hearts, birthday messages and photographs of children and grandchildren - no doubt the work of an educator. Seventeen women aged fifty to ninety or so stood and held hands. A silver-haired grandmother in a powder blue suit reached for my shaking hand and gently squeezed while we sang, 'Everyday with Jesus is Sweeter than the day before. Every day with Jesus I love him more and more. Jesus saves and keeps me and he's the one I'm living for. Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.' That first Sunday at Winsome was nearly five years ago. Now, every Sunday at 9:40 sharp I am a part of the Winsome Sunday School, singing, praising, praying, and studying God's word. Ella prepares brilliant lessons and guides our journey through the Bible. We have shared illness and recovery, birthdays and holidays, weddings and funerals. We donate to four local charities and visit our sisters who are homebound and in nursing homes. I'm the co-treasurer of Winsome Sunday School and Winsome Sunday School is my found treasure. It is one hour a week that I give to God and he gives to me. Yes, everyday with Jesus is sweeter. And YES, Snooks will always 'get herself to Sunday School.'