The Kingdom of God on Earth

by Carlos Mir

This testimony was shared with the beloved community of First Baptist on Fifth on October 29, 2023 as part of our “Attending Church” focus on what it means to tend – or “attend” – the life of our church. 

I am not used to speaking like this without the shield of a prayer, or scripture, or the safety of a character from a sketch or a play. My nature wants me to remain in the shadows. I am also not a joiner, or much for team affiliation. Unless that team is humanity.

My story began in Cuba. My parents, my sister, and I were fortunate to be a part of the freedom flights instituted by the Johnson administration and immigrated to Chicago in late 1967. Those places have colored my character and my dialect of English.

In the Summer of 2000 while in an apartment awaiting the close of our house, my wife Sally and I visited First Baptist with two toddlers in tow. We were greeted so warmly and kindly directed through the labyrinth of halls and passageways to the nursery. We didn’t have to visit any other churches because we found our home.

Attending church here was really where I learned to “attend” church. Attending meant more than singing a hymn, bowing my head in prayer, and listening to a sermon. I really discovered that attending church was many things.

Although I have spent over 30 years writing computer code, my college years were spent in film and theater. Somehow this secret got out and I was encouraged to join the Fifth Street Players and perform in chancel sketches. Soon I was writing my own sketches filled with my quirky characters who wore sandwich boards, or cantines, or those who were just thirsty for the Living Water.

At the urging of John Baxley, my Sunday school teacher of many years, I accepted the responsibility of becoming a Deacon. This has allowed me the privilege to serve communion to the congregation, shut-ins, and once a month to our friends at the Brookridge retirement community. Pastoral care is not something that comes easy to all, but the broken body on the cross on the hill is a reminder of our own brokenness. Life can be hard, and the act of being present for someone and offering consolation or just an ear can be a great balm to both. Sometimes this role is played by a minister or priest. 

Sometimes it is a deacon or pewmate. Sometimes a friend or a stranger. I have personally benefited from this care through layoffs, a heart attack, the death of my parents, and even

through a divorce. The truth is that we must be stewards of each other if we claim to be followers of Christ.

I have three children, all veterans of the historic First Baptist Children’s Center. Many years ago I was asked to create a slideshow for a special Children’s worship. This has led me to produce countless videos documenting mission events and trips, capital campaign videos, as well as video journals of everyday church life starring the faces of FBC. This from a guy who can’t keep the camera in focus or steady. As a father I was compelled to help in Sunday school and eventually teach the pre-K class. Even as a father, I often joked that my relationship with children was not unlike W.C. Fields, “Get away from me kid, you bother me”, and I was probably not the best choice to teach children the bible. But that magical age before they begin school was a wonder to me. Watching those kids listen and respond to lessons, and then engage in true free play without artifice or care for the judgments of the world became a true revelation. Some of those kids are in college today shaped in some part by the stewards of First Baptists who came before to make this church.

When you think of your commitment, your dollars sure matter. We have seen the lean years of economic downturns, the tearing down of buildings with much sorrow, the effects of a global pandemic, and the overwhelming benevolence needs of the community that we serve. We have had to learn to do church in different ways. Our ministers and staff have been asked to stretch into multiple roles, don hard hats and become masters of streaming media. Your presence on a team or committee, volunteering with the children, supporting our mission events has a value beyond dollars.

I have attended enough sales meetings to know to ask for the sale. Well, I ask you today, for your pledge to become a full member of this community of believers who practice bold love of God and neighbor, and boundless compassion for all people. Give with your time. Give with your dollars. Together we build the kingdom of God on earth.