At Bethel we often talk about what it means to BE the church; to BE the Body of Christ in our homes, schools and places of work. The church is not a building. The church does not have an address. The church is the people of God who have been called by God to bless the world by pointing people toward a loving, saving relationship with the King of the World, Jesus Christ.
This month I’m going to introduce you to Mike and Diane Roper. They do a great job of BEING the church, outside the walls of the church. Who are Mike and Diane? Mike owns Mike’s Custom Interiors, which is an upholstery business and he loves restoring antique cars and helping people restore their cars. Diane is retired from the Virginia Capital Police. Incidentally, Diane knew and worked with AP Tucker (former Bethel member; now deceased), who was Chief of the Virginia Capital Police for many years. Aside from their careers, you need to know that Mike and Diane know and love horses.
Diane’s been around horses nearly all of her life. Her parents got involved with Quarter Horses when Diane was 4 years old. Diane and Mike have 5 horses. Their son Adam is a professional horse trainer in Appomattox and their granddaughter, Raylee, has won the youth world championships in Barrel Racing.
Diane spent the weekends of her youth showing horses and eventually competing in barrel races. From March to November Diane’s family spent most weekends at horse shows or competitions. That schedule continues to this day. Diane jokes that, “I can’t remember going on vacation without a horse.” Most of the shows are in Virginia, but several times a year they’ll travel to Oklahoma, Ohio, Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina or Arkansas. As you might imagine, they spend a lot of time being with the same group of people week in and week out. There is a community within this horse culture.
As with any community there are needs and when there is a need this community comes together to meet that need. Usually the person meeting the need was Diane’s mom, Julia Melton. If she found out that someone in the community had a medical problem or needed help financially, she was there to organize a fundraiser.
I knew Julia and had the honor of performing her funeral in 2014. One thing I remember about her is she had a way of raising money in a way that made you want to donate to whatever cause she was championing. Julia’s sense of community and desire to help others rubbed off on Diane.
Diane and her husband Mike are usually at a horse show two to three weekends a month. One might think that they miss a lot of church, but here’s where Mike and Diane take the opportunity to BE the church. Instead of missing church, Diane helps to organize church services at the horse shows. She has several speakers that she’ll call upon and she even helps to organize music. It’s a full-blown worship service.
Here’s the impressive part: Since the horse competitions usually start at 8 a.m. the worship services usually begin at 7 a.m.! One might think a 7 a.m. worship service would be poorly attended. Not so. Diane says that there are usually 80 to 100 people at each service. It was at one of these services a few years ago that Diane’s granddaughter gave her life to the Lord.
I asked Diane how she’s seen the Lord work through this group and she’s quick to point out that they truly care for each other. This past Easter a family from this community lost their home in a fire. Diane, and others, came together to raise money for the family. Diane also told me about a young lady who is 15 years old and regularly attends the church and this young lady offers to meet with other youth to talk about the Lord, share scripture and pray together. Diane says there is a feeling of love and unity at these worship services.
I really appreciate what Mike and Diane are doing in the Horse Show Community. They are taking the message of Christ to people, right where they are. Christ did the same thing. Yes, he taught in the Temple, but most often Christ went from town to town seeking the lost, healing people, and blessing people with the gift of God’s love. The question for us to consider is how can we each do something similar to what Mike and Diane are doing? How can you take the message of God’s love into your home, workplace or school? How can we BE the church in our community? Would you prayerfully ask the Lord that question and then let us follow where the Holy Spirit leads. May God bless Mike and Diane Roper and may God bless Bethel Baptist Church.
With love and in Christ,