In many ways, the first two metro areas featured in the This Is Our City series couldn't be farther apart—and not just on a United States map. While Portland, Oregon's Christians compose a narrow, vibrant slice of their post-Christian home, Richmond, Virginia's Christianity is so deeply embedded as to be taken for granted. The place where Thomas Jefferson in 1786 forged his budding country's commitment to religious freedom, Richmond is home to over 800 churches and 4 seminaries in a relatively small city of 1.2 million. Its current mayor, Dwight Jones, is an ordained Baptist minister, and at the time of this writing, it stood at the center of a pro-life personhood bill, one of only two in the country, sponsored by a Baptist delegate.
Thankfully, the following five Richmond Christians transcend cultural Christianity by serving the City on the James through sacrificial, creative vocations.
Lawson Wijesooriya | Solving the Nature Deficit
Educators lament the "nature deficit" among today's children, who are more likely to watch the Discovery Channel than discover their own backyard. In Richmond, which flanks the James River, the deficit is deep in the red. But Lawson Wijesooriya (pictured here with husband Romesh) is working to change that through Blue Sky Fund (BSF): a year-long educational program that gets youth out in the woods and into experiential learning. Wijesooriya, who fondly remembers backpacking in Wyoming as a girl, says the trips reconnect the 900 at-risk children participating with their own place: "We have many 3rd graders who will ask if the James River is the ocean … they have lived two miles from the James their entire lives."
It may also offer an unlikely escape route out of poverty. Through taking ...1
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