Last week, during our Hope4Forest emphasis, we spent time praying for, evangelizing, and serving our community. We gave out free donuts and coffee to commuters, delivered delicious cookies to local businesses, and knocked on doors to invite people to our church.
Why did we do all of this? It’s simple: WE LOVE FOREST, VA!
As someone who is not a native of the area, I jokingly tell people that central Virginia is a black hole. Every year thousands of young people move to Lynchburg and the surrounding areas, particularly to go to Liberty University. After graduation, they wind up with the big M&M’s: marriage and a mortgage. Like the alluring song of the Sirens, Central Virginia woos and seduces men and women to its land; though instead of a violent destruction on craggy rock cliffs, it offers great schools, low crime, and a family friendly atmosphere. (A much better trade off if you ask me.)
Having lived in Virginia, now, for over a decade (and in Forest for 7 years), I’m glad to call this wonderful little black hole my home. When I think about the reasons that I love Forest, a few noteworthy ones come to mind. (So that I don’t start some kind of turf war, let me assure everyone that much of this applies to Lynchburg and Bedford too.)
1. I love the view in Forest.
You simply can’t beat the beautiful rolling hills that gently hug our community and provide a scenic backdrop to life. Have you ever been at the front of traffic on Thomas Jefferson Road (811) and had to stop at the red light at Forest Road (221)?
Usually, stopping at a red light is an inconvenience. But sitting at the intersection of 221 and 811 is a privilege. I dare you to find something more beautiful than the widescreen view of the Blue Ridge Mountains that this intersection affords. (See picture above.) It is breathtaking! The intersection of 811 and 221 “declare the glory of God” and the landscape of Forest “showeth His handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1)
2. I love the businesses in Forest.
Though Forest is a small community it has it all: a Post Office, grocery stores, doctor’s offices, dry cleaners, golf courses, fast food and the greatest Southern Baptist church in America! (My apologies to Pleasant View and Living Word.) We have grade schools and high schools, all of which are highly graded schools.
We have quaint little coffee shops and antique stores that would make the guys on American Pickers jealous. For goodness sakes, we even have a Sheetz in Forest! (Sorry Apple Market…install an MTO kitchen with $4 foot long subs and I might consider coming back to you. Until then, I’m a Sheetz Man!)
By the way, let me just say that the bank-to-people ratio in Forest is out of control. Has anyone else noticed that there are about 9 banks along a five mile stretch of 221? Who has all of this money? (And why aren’t they tithing to Forest Baptist Church?! j.k. J) I suppose that I should be thankful for this. Smart men with lots of money don’t build banks in declining communities. That’s a good sign for the future of Forest.
3. I love the weather in Forest.
Granted, this is true for most of Virginia. We enjoy a fairly balanced serving of all four seasons. I point this out because where I am from, in Alabama, we only have two seasons: summer and Hades.
We also had tornadoes in Alabama…like every other weekend. If I didn’t know better I would think, given how many twisters we had in Huntsville, that tornadoes are a form of entertainment in the Deep South; like a competition in the Annual Redneck Games: the mobile home toss. Since I’ve lived here, though, I’ve experienced just one or two twisters. That’s tornado amateur hour if you ask me.
But, in Forest we (normally) have evenly distributed three-month helpings of winter, spring, summer, and fall. Since moving here my wardrobe has evened out to reflect the weather as well. (No joke, my first semester at Liberty I had to go out and buy a turtleneck sweater and goose down coat because I didn’t own real winter clothes. Then I quickly realized how goofy I look in a turtle neck sweater and got rid of it.) All in all, though, the weather in Forest is great!
4. I love the people of Forest.
Of all the appealing elements of this area, the people are number one in my book. Even this last week, I shook a few hands and exchanged a few smiles at local businesses and was amazed at the warmth, hospitality, and friendliness each time.
For two days in a row this last week, I stood on the side of the road holding a poster board that read, “Free Donuts and Coffee at Forest Baptist Church.” I could not believe the number of honks, waves, thumbs-up, and smiles that were sent my way. It was a great boost to my ego and a good-showing from the community.
For all the civility and Rockwellian charm about Forest, I suppose that’s precisely why I have a deep desire to see our community hear and embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ. While charm and civility add appeal to the community, they are not good enough qualities to satisfy God.
In fact, I fear that some living here would see the view, businesses, weather and people of this area and conclude that Forest, Virginia is a middle class slice of heaven on earth. For all that is good and right about our community, rest assured, the kingdom of Forest will not last; only the kingdom of God will.
What the men and women of Forest need to hear are the words of God from 1 Timothy 6. Paul said,
“Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.”
Forest, Virginia is truly a gift. However, if we love the gift more than the Giver of gifts, we will find our eternal residence to be very unpleasant indeed.