Volunteers needed for Hurricane Harvey & Irma Disaster Relief teams


By Bob Williams

Volunteers are needed for Southern Baptist relief efforts following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma to prepare thousands of hot meals and perform flood recovery, tree and debris removal, and cleaning services to restore survivors’ homes. Southern Baptist volunteers bring hope to affected persons through presence, humanitarian relief, emotional solace, and spiritual care (affirming or sharing the Living Hope of Jesus).

Will you serve for a week on one of the disaster relief teams being formed? First Baptist Church of Norfolk undertakes disaster relief activities through the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV). Volunteers may be certified/credentialed Southern Baptist disaster relief (DR) workers or Southern Baptist Send Relief volunteers. All volunteers must either be credentialed as a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief responder or complete a 2.5 online training course to be a Send Relief worker. If you will volunteer, please take one of the following three actions to register for service:

1.    If you are a DR worker with current credentials, please register at this website:


2. If you’ve been previously trained in DR, but your credentials have expired, please register at this website:


3. If you have never been trained in DR, but desire to go as part of a team in partnership with Send Relief, please register at this website:


For DR workers who are trained and current, you will be on the first teams deployed and some of you will be asked to provide leadership to those who are untrained and part of Send Relief.

For DR workers who are trained but not current, you will need to complete the online training course at this website:


Be sure to use the discount coupon code SBCVDR so that there will be no cost.  You will be placed on teams with both DR and Send Relief volunteers.

For those who have never been trained in DR, you also need to complete the online training course at this website:


Be sure to use the discount coupon code SBCVDR.  You will be assigned to a team with SBCV DR.  You will be assigned a specific task that is related to the online training.  Since you are not fully trained and credentialed (which includes a background check), you will be assigned to a team after the first week or two of response (as part of our agreement with FEMA).  Also, you will not be able to operate certain equipment (like chainsaws), but will be assigned other vital tasks within the team.  You will be assigned to a team and be expected to follow the instructions and direction of the team leader.

There will be opportunities to respond for many weeks and even months.  If you desire to go, we will find a team for you to serve on.

Please be in prayer for:

  • families affected
  • first responders and National Guard
  • all agencies that prepare and plan
  • teams and volunteers as they go

We are pleased to announce that to date, First Norfolk has donated more than $11,800.00 toward Disaster Relief response for Southeast Texas/Louisiana relief from Hurricane Harvey. These funds will be used for providing meals for those in need and support for teams serving in our mud-out units helping clean out homes that were flooded during this storm in order to minimize further damage by allowing them to be dried out for future repair.

For further information, contact Bob Williams at RobertFarrisWilliams@Cox.net or call 757-641-4557.

Louisiana Flood Disaster Relief Efforts

The historic flooding that hit southern Louisiana in mid-August has taken 13 lives, damaged more than 60,000 homes, and led to the rescue of 30,000 people from homes and vehicles. But First Baptist Norfolk has been a part of helping those affected. One of our church members, Bob Williams, served as the team leader for two Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV) disaster relief teams in Baton Rouge from Sept. 3-18.

Two other First Norfolk members, Andy Hartell and Randy Morton, served on the first team, and other team members were from Richmond, Colonial Heights, Lynchburg, and Marion. During the second week, the disaster relief team members were from Chesapeake and Chase City. The First Norfolk flood recovery disaster relief trailer was used to support these two teams.

Williams and the two teams aided homeowners in preparing their homes for reconstruction. Some homes were still flooded at the time the teams were in Louisiana. As the water receded, there was much work to be done: water-damaged items were discarded; wall surfaces, insulation, and floor coverings were removed; bathrooms and kitchens were torn out; home interiors were power-washed to remove flood residue; and sanitizing solution was sprayed throughout homes to prevent mold growth.

More important than the humanitarian relief, Williams said, is the emotional and spiritual care they provided. Every disaster relief team member is also trained in spiritual care.

“Our most important role is sharing the living hope we have through faith in Jesus and the resulting inheritance that we have that does not perish, spoil, or fade (1 Peter 1:3-4), as has happened to their homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces,” Williams said.

“We come in the name of Jesus to offer hope to hurting people. We bring hope through our physical presence; someone from afar has come to be with them. We bring hope through humanitarian relief; the cleaning and sanitizing of their homes. We bring hope through emotional solace; we offer a shoulder to cry upon, an ear to listen. Their families and neighbors have had the same experience; emotional relief occurs when sharing their story with someone who has not experienced the same disaster. We bring hope through spiritual care; we affirm believers in their faith, and share the living hope of Jesus with non-believers.”

Donate online to help the Louisiana flood response effort.

Will You Join Him? A Missions Update

During the Big Serve celebration service on Sept. 4, First Baptist Norfolk’s minister of missions mobilization told three stories of how God is working through our church’s missions projects and partnerships overseas.

  1. Nepal
In the area of Nepal where our church is serving, Baptist Global Response is building 500 of the “blue homes” through the giving of Southern Baptist churches like First Baptist Norfolk.

In the area of Nepal where our church is serving, Baptist Global Response (BGR) is building 500 homes through the giving of Southern Baptist churches, like First Baptist Norfolk, to the Cooperative Program. One of our church members has spent a total of three months in Nepal working in partnership with BGR. This area has been devastated by natural disasters, from earthquakes to landslides to floods. Please be in prayer for the Nepali people who are suffering.

On a recent trip, our church’s mission team was able to “live the New Testament out” by meeting a man with a “Saul to Paul” testimony. Five years ago, this man was part of a Maoist group. He was actively persecuting the church in his area — he was involved in burning down the church building and even beheading the pastor.

One day, he and other persecutors went to the home where a Bible study was taking place. They ordered the family meeting inside: “Come out and live, or stay inside and die.” The family came outside, but knelt down and prayed in front of the angry group. This gripped the man’s heart and changed him, much like Saul.

He repented of his sins and became a believer in Christ, and today he is the pastor of that very church he persecuted. The villagers could have rejected this man because of his past behavior, but they have seen the change that has taken place in his life and are supporting him.

  1. Malawi
Patients are seen at the new health clinic built through funds raised by our 2015 VBS and private donations. Each person treated also heard the gospel. Over two days, more than 125 people made decisions to follow Christ.

In Malawi, our mission team provided medical checkups at a new health clinic that was built through funds raised by our 2015 Vacation Bible School and private donations. On the first day, the clinic had to close by 1 pm because they saw so many people that they ran out of medication and had to buy more at local pharmacies. On the second day our team saw almost 200 patients. Every person treated also heard the gospel. They were told that we cared not only about their physical health but also their spiritual health, and approximately 70 people made professions of faith on the second day alone.

In addition, the mission team visited a village were the chief had accepted Christ two years ago, but they hadn’t him seen since. They had concerns that he may not have stayed strong in his faith, but the chief greeted our missions minister with, “Welcome, my brother in Christ!” This man is chief over 23 villages and has a big influence in many communities.

The team showed the JESUS film to about 700 people. When asked if they wanted to receive Christ, so many people raised their hands that they could not count them all. Our missions minister also led a Bible study with 25 men, and about 15 made decisions for Christ. These men committed to be a part of a new church plant in the village.

While the mission team was visiting, there was a death in the village. Typically, no activities would take place in the village following a death, but the chief was adamant that people in his village needed to hear the gospel. Most people who listened wanted to accept Christ.

The mission team was asked to visit the grieving family and offer condolences, unaware that the chief had invited the other chiefs from the 23 villages. When everyone was seated, the chief requested we share the gospel with these men and their families. Most who attended also made professions of faith. The chief stated he could not tell the chiefs where to go to church, but that there was going to be a new Baptist church starting services in his village the following Sunday and invited them to attend.

Only one word could sum up the experience in Malawi: “phenomenal.”

  1. Peru
Although the medical, dental, and eye clinic wasn’t able to move forward as planned, villagers still stayed and heard the gospel presentation. About 80 people made professions of faith.

In Peru, our mission team had planned to host a medical, dental, and eye clinic for the squatter village of Brisis. However, none of the local doctors or dentists showed up, so there was no way to continue with the clinic as planned. The team was worried that the people would not stay, but they did! The team shared the hope of Jesus, and about 80 people made professions of faith. How greatly God worked through a situation that at first seemed frustrating.

Be encouraged, because God is in control. He is doing marvelous things around the world — will you join Him? To find out how you can be involved in missions at First Baptist Norfolk, contact the missions office at 757-466-5181.


Fly-Fisherman’s Guide to Evangelism (Part 1)

For those who know me, they know my deep love for fishing. It began as a little boy on my grandfather’s farm digging for worms, catching grasshoppers, cutting cane poles, and fishing for bream in Stock Creek. I remember the first time my dad took my older brother and me to Abrams Creek to fish for trout. I was more hooked than the fish I was trying to catch. Over time, I have fished in many different waters for many types of fish in many different ways. I’ve learned a lot about fishing and the fish I try to catch.

And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17, ESV)

Jesus has called His followers to be fishers of men (Mark 1:16-20). His call upon us makes us people for His mission: fishers of men. We need to cry out for God’s power to infuse our obedience as we share the gospel intentionally and consistently with those who are far from God. Perhaps, the lessons I’ve learned fly-fishing can help us faithfully fulfill our calling.

1. To catch fish, you have to understand the fish and the water.

In fly-fishing, we study the water’s flow, temperature, and clarity because they influence how the fish feed. We study the insect life of a stream during a particular season to understand when and how the fish will be feeding. In order to catch the fish, we need to understand them and their environment.

We should do no less when sharing the gospel with people in our world. We need to understand how their environment affects their receptivity of the gospel. The more we understand about the way people behave and live in their culture, the more we are prepared to share with them the life-giving truth of God’s gospel.

Distraction 1: Complaining about culture.

When you go fishing, complaining about the weather, water, or fickleness of the fish never helps. In the same way, complaining about the culture in which people live serves no positive purpose in sharing the gospel.

The darkness of culture serves to enhance the light of the gospel. If indeed there are fewer cultural Christians, and if indeed fewer people claim to be Christian simply because it is not as fashionable today as it was a few decades ago, then we are living in times that are more similar to the New Testament church. And we would agree, I’m sure, that the church in the book of Acts was pre-eminently effective in sharing the gospel and leading others to faith in Jesus Christ, regardless how dark the culture may be.

2. To catch fish, you have to get to the water.

It’s not enough to understand the fish and the environment. We’ll never catch fish if all we do is remain cocooned in a cabin, studying the ways of fish in our aquarium but never venturing to the water. Fishing isn’t about aquarium fishing, catching fish that have already been caught. Fishing is about going to the water to catch the fish that have never been caught.

When Jesus called His disciples to be “fishers of men,” He was calling them to make disciples of those who weren’t yet disciples. He sent them on mission to the nations (Matthew 28:18-21). Think about His journey. He didn’t remain in the community of heaven, but determined to “dwell among us.” He came to the water in which humanity lived to build a bridge to God for sinners far from Him. His mission is our calling, but we have to get to the water.

Distraction 2: Comfort in the cabin.

So often, we compartmentalize our journey as followers of Jesus to our time spent inside the walls of our gathering with other believers. We love the community of God’s people gathered together for His glory, as we should. But we forget that our journey as followers of Jesus is also outside the comfort of the church. With God’s mission pulsing through our hearts, we must leave the comfort of the gathering of God’s people to share the gospel with people in the world in which they live.

3. You can’t catch fish unless the line’s in the water.

When I was first learning to fish, there was a simple principle that I learned. Unless the bait was in the water, I wouldn’t catch a fish. I’ve learned a lot of different ways to get the bait in the water, but the principle remains the same.

In the same way, if we’re going to help those far from God find life in Jesus, then we need to share the gospel. It’s not enough to get to where they are, but we must also talk with them about spiritual things, purposefully pointing them to Jesus and His gospel.

Distraction 3: Never wetting the line.

Spiritual conversations aren’t always easy to initiate, but I believe people truly want to talk about spiritual things. Jesus has called us and he is making us to be “fishers of men.” Without talking about Jesus with them, we are not fulfilling His calling on our lives as His followers. We have to “wet the line” if we’re going to catch fish. We have to talk about the gospel with those who are far from God if we are going to help them discover life in Jesus.

Jesus has called us to be His followers. He is working in us by His Spirit and through His Word to grow up as His followers so that we will join Him on His mission to help those who are far from God find life through Him.

So let’s understand the people to whom He is sending us every day. Let’s go to where they are. Let’s share the gospel!

The Bridge

A bridge is the creation of an intersection between two separate points. There is a distance between holy God and sinful humanity. Jesus creates the intersection between God and humanity, and we are called to help people to that bridge to life.

We cannot reach God, so God reached out to us.

Here is the scenario of our human dilemma. God is holy and sinless and perfect. He is God, above all and creator of all. And we are encased in the death of our sin. We are corrupt and contaminated beyond our own repair. The distance between God, who demands righteousness, and you and me, who are unrighteous, cannot be spanned through our efforts.

Paul was a person who sought to reach God through his own efforts. His life was a model of living in religious devotion and dedication. If anyone could reach God through morality or religious duty, Paul could have done it.

“If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.” (Philippians 3:4-7, NKJV)

Paul’s dilemma and mine are the same. We strive to escape the emptiness of our soul and the chains that grip our heart. We work to build a bridge to God. The tools in our hand are the good works and religious duty that we embrace. Yet, try as we might, we fall short.

We could not reach God, so God in love determined to reach us. He sent Jesus to create the intersection, to build the bridge, between holy God and sinful humanity.

Jesus let go the glory of God’s throne to intersect with sinners.

Jesus Christ left the throne room of heaven to intersect personally with humanity so that He might fulfill God’s mission (Philippians 2:6-7). The statement of Jesus “being in the form of God” shows us that He is and always has been God. Jesus possessed the unchanging and essential nature of God. But Jesus willingly let go the glory of God’s throne. Jesus did not hold onto the glory of God’s throne for His own benefit, but He let go in order to bridge the distance between God and humanity. He emptied Himself to become a servant, even though He remained the King of creation.

Jesus, who is and always has been God, chose to become a real, physical man. He did not give up His deity, but He chose to take on humanity. Like the mathematical genius limits himself to teach math students, so Jesus Christ limited Himself to take on the garment of humanity.

The Son, in whom all the fullness of the Godhead resided, took the tools of redemption and built a bridge for sinners’ salvation. Jesus became a man, born in the womb of a virgin through the miraculous work of the Spirit.

Jesus became the Bridge.

God is holy and righteous. We are people perishing in our sin. We can’t reach God, so Jesus came to build the bridge to God. The tools in His hand were the holiness of His heart and actions and the blood that He would spill (Philippians 2:8).

As a man, Jesus determined to take the lowest place in order to build the bridge between God and man. In obedience to God’s purpose, Jesus paid the supreme price for you and me. That’s the powerful scope of God’s love. When we understand His suffering, we begin to understand the Son. Jesus by the grace of God tasted death for the sin of others that sinners might taste life through faith in Him.

Jesus became a man. He was attacked by Satan. He was abandoned, betrayed, and denied by His closest friends. He was rejected, despised, beaten, humiliated, and killed by His own. This is the great price that Jesus paid through personal suffering. Jesus took the place of sinners on the chopping block of sin. He is our substitute. The foundation of salvation is Christ’s sacrifice. He came and died and rose again so that humanity might have the chance for a relationship with God.

God’s response to Christ’s work is the declaration that the mission was accomplished. Jesus built the bridge and God has exalted Him (Philippians 2:9-11)! Jesus, the Lord and King of Creation to whom we are accountable, chose to take our place of judgment for sin so that we might have salvation and relationship with the Father. The Son’s appearing reveals the infinite mobility and passion of His love for sinners like you and me.

The bridge-building work is ours to fulfill.

There remains a distance between sinners and God. Jesus has built the bridge, but we are commissioned to bridge the distance. His work has become ours. He has given His heart for bridging the distance to His followers (Philippians 2:5). The term that is translated “let this mind” points to more than intellect or wisdom. It is a term in this context that points to purpose and intention. It is the way we live informed by the purpose of Christ Himself.

Just as Jesus “let go,” we must “let go.” Stop living solely for our own benefit and pursue God’s mission of love to perishing people. We live as the servant of God in service of His mission to perishing people.

Just as Jesus “humbled Himself,” we too must “humble ourselves.” We must live to serve God, not ourselves. Our obedience to God includes sharing His radical rescue with people who are far from Him.

Just as Jesus came to humanity to intersect with us as God’s servant, God calls us to intersect with people who are living in the dungeon of life apart from Him. We must cross the distance to sinners who are far from God and help them see the bridge to life, who is Jesus Christ. Our church exists to glorify God by intersecting with real people in real need for a real Savior.


God’s Radical Rescue

The ship was gone and 34 men were fighting for their lives in the icy waters of the Atlantic.  The frigid waters sapped the strength from their arms and hope from their hearts.  Severe hypothermia had set in as they struggled for survival.  They were perishing.  They needed a radical rescue.  An intersection of deliverance to their danger.

Our faith as followers of Christ is built upon this wonderful intersection of deliverance to our danger. God demonstrates His majestic mercy and life-giving love to a world of people perishing. We are the people who have been rescued by God through Christ. And our faith, the core of who we are, must meet real life with this vision of radical rescuers.

In order to understand how our faith intersects with real life, we need to be captured once again by God’s divine intersection with real people in the world. Perhaps the single most quoted passage to help us understand God’s intersection with real people in the world is our text, declaring God’s mission is to rescue perishing people from the icy grip of their sin.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16, NKJV)

1. Perishing people need a radical rescue.

Nicodemus was perishing. Nicodemus came to Jesus under the cloak of darkness to find answers to the questions of his heart. Nicodemus approached Jesus to find the answer to his question. Jesus knew the heart of Nicodemus. Jesus knew the questions that were swirling in his soul, and Jesus pierced the darkness of doubt and fear with God’s love.

Jesus told Nicodemus that he needed a radical rescue, a new kind of birth (John 3:1-6).  Unless there is supernatural birth in the soul of a person, there will be no participation in God’s eternal kingdom. Jesus told Nicodemus that one must be born from above to enter God’s kingdom. One must be born spiritually. We need a radical renewal of the soul.

We don’t need a new lease on life or a new view of our world. We need a new spirit. Only God can accomplish that! Just as the wind blows freely and cannot be controlled by human hands, the Spirit’s work is not subject to control or manipulation of human beings (John 3:7-8). Only God can accomplish a radical rescue in the heart of perishing people. This is the divine intersection of His love in the real world of Nicodemus and you and me and the people in the world in which we live.

2. God initiates a divine intersection.

The men are perishing in the icy waters of the Atlantic. As they slowly sink and the strength is sapped from their soul, their only hope is for someone to deliver them. For someone to pay the price and pluck them out of the icy grave. The call comes to the Search and Rescue team of the US Coast Guard. They hear the cry for help from those who are perishing, and they fly to the rescue.

God has initiated the mission to rescue those who are perishing. This mission of rescue has been initiated by God’s particular love for the perishing.

“No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:13-15, NKJV)

Jesus is the divine intersection. Only Jesus, the Son of Man, can speak authoritatively about the things of heaven. God gave Him to a world of sinners because of His great love. Jesus descended from heaven to be lifted up on a cross for the rescue of those who are perishing. When the children of Israel in the wilderness gazed upon the bronze serpent that Moses raised, their physical life was restored. Jesus declares that when perishing people set their faith on Him, they will receive eternal life.

God sent Jesus to deliver redemption to us. Redemption is the payment-price for sin. Because of His love for sinners, God sent Jesus to provide the righteousness we require so that we might have the relationship with God that we all desire.

God does not remain in icy isolation from those who are perishing. God sent Jesus to the rescue for sinners like you and me. Because of His love, God has sent Jesus on mission to give eternal life to those who are already dead in the icy waters of sin. God sent His one and only Son to be a missionary to people perishing.

At the national search and rescue school in Yorktown, there was a patch adorning the sleeves of the rescue swimmers that tells the story of their commitment:

“Always Ready…So that others may live.”

As we know the Father’s heart, we are compelled to live accordingly. That’s why we are a people on mission. The love of God constrains us to be. We live to glorify God by intersecting with real people in real need for a real Savior. We live so that our faith might intersect with people who are perishing and bring them the good news of Christ’s rescue. We are always ready so that others may live.