The members of First Baptist Church of Glenarden worship in four shifts on Sundays. As soon as one service is over, there is a steady stream of people filing into the cavernous sanctuary for the next.
At a recent 8 a.m. service, a hush fell over the more than 2,000 parishioners as Nick Vujicic was lifted atop a table to preach.
The 30-year-old evangelist was born without limbs because of a rare affliction called Tetra-Amelia syndrome. His message was a mix of humor and perseverance in the face of severe obstacles.
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“It was difficult as a child getting teased and bullied, feeling like I was the only one in pain,” Vujicic said. “By the grace of God, I have a lot of people praying for me, loving me and caring for me until one day I read John 9, about a man who was born blind. I said God, if you plan for a blind man, you got to have a plan for me.”
During midweek service, Serita Jakes, wife of Bishop T.D. Jakes, was part of a forum with the church’s first lady, Trina Jenkins, that dealt with “Post Traumatic Stress,” and her new book “The Crossing,” which attempts to deal with a unspoken problem in many churches today.
“In the church arena, we have been concentrating so much on the soul until we have not dealt enough with the inner man,” Jakes said. “After sitting across the table from moms with their children, young women who have been raped and people who have gone through traumatic experiences, I realized that the subject matter has been creeping into our churches and into our choir stands.”
Pastor John K. Jenkins doesn’t mind relinquishing his pulpit to allow guests to speak to his 10,000 member flock.
“The kingdom of God is so diverse, so many, so broad, that we want to give exposure to as many people as possible and to a variety of things that God is doing,” Jenkins said. “We want people to know that everybody has a place in God’s Kingdom.”
In addition to inviting various people to preach at the church this summer, First Baptist joined forces with Zion Church of to launch a joint youth ministry called Merge 2011. On the first and third Friday of the each month, more than 2,000 teenagers and young adults hold services including spiritual hip hop bands and dramatic productions.
“The smaller groups is where the kids get the chance to really interact with adults who love them and where they can talk about what they are going through.” Jenkins said. “When it all boils down to it, we are disciplining our young people and teaching them how to live their lives.”
First Baptist has more than 100 ministries and weekly activities that are organized under seven major departments including family and children, music and arts and education. The church’s “Helps” department writes to prisoners, sends flowers and provides transportation. There are courses on Bible study, financial freedom and foreign languages.
And, of course, speakers such as Vujicic from around the world.
Born in Melbourne, Australia, he said that he wanted to die by the age of 10 because so many children in his school picked on him. Now, he is the author several books, including “Life Without Limbs.” He has spoken to millions in 42 countries across five continents.
“I used to focus on arms and legs but I realized that I need forgiveness. I need peace. I need purpose even more than arms and legs,” Vujicic said.“I always heard about the love of God but I doubted if that was true.”
Vujicic said he has learned that it doesn’t matter how far you fall in life. “All you need to know,” he said, “is that God will catch you.”
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