Friday, March 18, 2011

Miracle at Zoe

Old Downtown First Baptist and New First Baptist 
I have heard it said that when you talk to God it is called “Prayer.” But, when God talks to you and you tell someone, it is called “Schizophrenia.” That is not always so. God speaks to us all the time, but the question is: Are we listening?
A few years ago, in 2003, I started waking up at all hours of the night by the word “Zoe” being spoken to me in a decidedly male voice. Since I sleep alone, it was rather disconcerting, especially since I couldn’t imagine what “Zoe” meant. After a couple of weeks and much prayer about it, I asked someone at church had they heard of “Zoe"?
They explained to me that the old First Baptist Church of Newport News was downtown and that currently was being purchased by the people of Zoe Community Church. That night I had another instance of the Voice and He told me I knew what to do. I still wasn’t exactly sure, but I asked God’s guidance for me that day. It was Sunday morning and I went about my business getting ready for church. Ray wasn’t feeling well and he stayed home, which is unusual.

I was to serve as Deacon #4 that morning, which means that I was next to the lead deacon and would be coming back down to the front after the offering. During the sermon that morning, I kept hearing “Give the people Zoe” in my right ear. I would turn to look, but no one was in the row behind me and behind that there were people that I didn’t know. Dr. Randal Everett, who had recently come to be our pastor, was teaching on our need to give and to share our blessings with our community. He mentioned that he and his wife, Sheila, had recently toured the old downtown church and were really impressed by what the people there were doing.

Then it came to me so clear, God wanted our congregation to forgive the debt and give the old church building to Zoe Community Church. We had been so blessed.

While we were building our new sanctuary, there were numerous instances where people have given to the point that when we moved into the new sanctuary, we only owed around $60K of over a $4M debt. Dr. James White, our previous pastor had to take a whole sermon time one Sunday just to let us know how God had been working in the church.

When the altar call came, I heard “Give the people Zoe” in my right ear. Still no one behind me.  I walked over to Dr. Everett and told him what was going on. He immediately told me to tell the congregation; which, being the big-mouthed creature that I am, I did. So many people came up afterward and told me that they had thought the same thing.

Over the next few of months, I took a lot of flack. I was secretary of the deacons and spoke my peace in a deacon meeting. It was not too well received by a few people. The next year was my year off as deacon and when it came time for the nomination committee to call and ask if I choose to serve again; no one called. Mr. Dick Strickler, a long-time member and Life-Deacon, asked me one day if I was coming back on the deacon board. I really had not thought about it, but when he asked, I told him it was strange that no one had called. That was on Sunday and the next morning, he called the church office and raised a ruckus about it. Needless to say, they called me and asked me if I chose to serve, which of course, I did.

The first Sunday, I was to serve, I was told by another deacon that they did not want any trouble in the church and that I needed to watch my step. How odd? Why would someone think they had the right to talk to me in that manner? I cannot tell you how much it hurt me for them to speak to me that way. Anyway, I have forgiven them and have even told them recently that I love them. I have always tried to be a positive voice in the church and encourage everyone.   I guess God picked me to share His news because He knows that I have no problem in saying what needed to be said..

Skip to August 2007, a motion was brought before the deacon board to approve the forgiveness of the debt of $86,000 to Zoe Community Church and to deed them the old downtown church building. At the September Quarterly Meeting, the church approved to forgive the debt. On October 28, 2007, I was privileged to represent the deacons and go to Zoe with Mr. Walter Satchell, FBCNN Manager, and Mr. Sam Moore, FBCNN Financial Management, to give the people of Zoe the church building during their Sunday Service. Walter had taken a copy of the purchase agreement and written in big black letters “PAID IN FULL.”

 Reverend Ray Johnson, the son, knew what was going on, but his father and mother did not. They had been co-pastors up until 2006, but the elder Pastor Johnson had a heart problem and had to retire. His son Pastor Ray Johnson had taken over the position. Zoe Community Church had been renamed Calvary Revival Community Church. They came up on the stage and it was one of the most awesome experiences of my life when they realized that we were actually giving them the building. They had been singing praise songs and immediately broke into praise again. It was awesome. God was truly in that sanctuary.

 I recently saw Pastor Ray Johnson at a meeting of the Peninsula Baptist Association. Calvary Revival became affiliated with the PBA. He told me that because of the gift of the building, babies had been born that might not have been born, families have been restored, children have been helped, and people have received job training. They have a place in the church called "Nehemiah's Closet" where people can come and get clothing and household items. There is a training center for business education and people in the neighborhood are fed whether homeless or just in need a meal. How wonderful!

At some time God will speak to you, are you listening?

God is Good, All the Time! Barbara

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