“There is nothing worth living for, unless it is worth dying for.”
Elisabeth Elliot, wife of Jim Elliot, missionary to Waodani people of Ecuador
I moved to SBH almost 7 years ago. I had no idea what God was going to do, or why I was called to live here. In the first few years, a few things went awry…small items stolen from the yard, neighborhood kids presented minor challenges, etc. However some more challenging things occurred as well, like my car being stolen – what the police suspected was gang initiation because a bunch of Altimas got stolen that night and car windows being shot out on another occasion when kids were having a bit too much fun with a bee-bee gun. During these times, friends and family challenged me about my decision to move here. Others asked if I was moving out. Of course, there wasn’t a chance I was leaving. The good outweighs the bad.
Nothing was more challenging than the night a man got shot 9 times outside my back door…on my 4th date with Louis. I didn’t know him, but after the scene was clear, Louis and I responded with first aid, encouragement, prayers and the gift of presence. I am happy to say that Frank didn’t die in the street that night, but lived. That was 4 years ago to the day….January 27, 2008 at 8:30pm. I am sorry that Frank was shot that day. But, grateful that we were there and sooo appreciate the friendship we have developed since. I can now say we are family.
While still in the hospital, Frank asked me if I was going to move. He reminded me that not only was he shot 9 times, but that a bullet also went into my home. The hole is still in the wall actually. I’m not sure why we don’t fix it. It’s like this constant reminder at the bottom of our steps. If we had moved, who would have been there the night that Frank got shot? Who would have given him First Aid when everyone else ran? It reminds me that we do make a difference, even when things seem hard. God loves Frank so much that we found ourselves cooking on the grill that night instead of going out. He loves this community so much that the neighborhood kids were safely in the house that night, instead of being dropped off after Youth Group at 8:30, their normal time. God is in the midst. Even when I may doubt, there is no doubt.
If it’s not worth dying for, it’s not worth living for. There are a lot of other things we could be doing, a lot of other places we could live. But, this is where God has called us, and this is where we shall stay until God calls us some place else.
Especially after the last week, I am reminded again of how we are being used by God. I am thankful for the many opportunities we have had to love and be loved. I wouldn’t trade ANYthing for the last 7 years! In the meantime, my prayer is that we will follow the advice of Jim Elliot…
Wherever you are – be all there.
I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks.
Wow. I’m rather speechless, which doesn’t happen too often. I am overwhelmed by and grateful for the positive response to a blog post I wrote on Monday called Heart Breaking. Soul Weeping. Mind Reeling. Knees Bending. Only a handful of people actually follow my blogs Miss Marti’s House and …into the neighborhood on a regular basis. So, I was quite surprised when this post started receiving 100s of hits! Miss Marti’s House started 2 years ago by telling the story of how I ended up living in Southern Barton Heights, how I met and married the ‘other half of my pair’, Louis Williams, and our life here. …into the neighborhood is a more recent development, somewhat of an experiment, a direct response from questions we get a lot. It’s meant to be a resource to individuals, families and churches who want to live more neighborly, incarnationally or missionally. We get regular requests to speak or consult with people and churches, so we thought we would create an online tool to talk about it. It will also showcase people, ministries , etc living it out and how God is being glorified throughout our city, country and in the nations. I have 2 great stories in the works. One from a friend living in a remote village in the country of Columbia. The other being my aunts in Oregon. Coming SOON! Stay posted! Go ahead and subscribe if you want to stay up-to-date.
Mark Holmberg from WTVR CBS 6 contacted me quite unexpectedly yesterday afternoon, because he had seen that post. (Thank goodness I had just gotten my roots touched up!!! LOL) He wanted to interview us about what and why we do what we do. Of course, it also involved one of the young men accused of First Degree Murder. He was a welcomed friend, almost a son, in our home on a regular basis. You know what? He and his family are still welcome! Kids make bad, sometimes even horrific, choices or decisions. It doesn’t mean we give-up on them. Don’t get me wrong. I still believe that people should pay the consequences of their personal decision, choice or reaction. As much as the public wants to make this a race issue or a urban/suburban issue, it is not that simple. I wish it were. All our youth need us. I’m still hopeful. Emily said it perfectly in one of the responses to the post…
…they do need us and we all need to stick together (near or far), continue to impact, never give up hope, and pass the message that all children are reachable teachable lovable and savable….
You can find Mark’s story here… Miss Marti Brings Message of Peace and Love. That peace and love is rooted in none-other-than, Jesus Christ. He is my Savior. I can’t save each and every youth or adult I encounter. But, Jesus can. I am but one tool that He uses. Thanks, Mark and CBS6 for allowing the hope of Jesus Christ to be in the middle of this story. I know it wasn’t want you intended. But, you know what? God did. To God only be the glory!
My heart still grieves for the devastating loss in our city, within the many impacted families and network of friends. Words can not explain, nor can they alone comfort the grief felt. My prayers continue to be with those who grieve and our city. May God’s Spirit comfort us and bring peace.
Psalm 23 NIV
A psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
My heart is breaking. My soul is weeping. My mind is reeling. I don’t understand. But, my knees are bending. And I have a pile of used up tissues beside my chair.
Almost 7 years ago, I moved into Southern Barton Heights in Richmond, VA. I knew life would never be the same. From the get-go, I fell in love with the neighborhood. Especially the kids. Literally, from the first weekend after I moved in, I met a bunch of the kids. After that, they were over all the time. I loved it. I never went anywhere alone….one of the kiddos was always with me. We watched sports together. Yeah…me. I watched sports and pretended to enjoy them. We went to the grocery store together. And cooked together. And played together. We did life together. They were often at church with me….and always at youth group and retreats. We talked about virtually everything! They were and still are…Miss Marti’s Kids.
But…over time…some of the kids moved to other parts of the city. And, now most are grown. Thanks to Facebook, we are able to reconnect. Some are…graduating from high school. Going to college. Or..in some cases, ending up in juvy. Today, one, now an 18-year-old young man, was arrested, along with 2 of his friends, for First Degree murder of 16 year-old Brett Wells in Mechanicsville, VA. People would always tell me….”Marti – You can’t save them all.” My response was “I can’t save any of them. But, my God can. If the kids will remember what it felt like to be loved. If they can remember God’s unconditional love, while they are laying on the cot. That’s all I can ask for.”
That response is really being put to the test this evening. Why CAN’T I save them? What else could I have done? What could I have said? Why does it have to be this way? Those are some of the many questions that roll through my mind as I weep over our city and for our youth. I know the standard responses….”You did all you could.” ”You loved those boys like your own.” I know. I know. I know. But, I ask myself those same questions just like any parent would.
One of the 8 Core Principles of Christian Community Development is relocation. Through my relocation – living in this community – the community’s assets are now my assets. But, the community’s challenges have also become my own challenges. Today….that is even more evident than ever. I can’t go into my home and go about life pretending like this hasn’t impacted me personally. I can’t ignore the fact that it has impacted my community, the Mechanicsville community, my church, and the rest of Miss Marti’s Kids.
No one said this would be easy. No one said it would be “happy, happy, joy, joy”. This world is broken. This world is fallen. And frankly, it sucks. Big time.
For those who have seen the news, it isn’t a black/white thing. It’s not a suburban/urban thing. It’s not the “boys from the ‘hood” murdering a 16-year-old in the white suburban community thing. It’s not that simple….at all.
But, it IS a tragic thing. Our youth need us. They need us in the counties and in the city! This is such a complex issue. It’s not a time to point fingers. It’s not a time to say “they” should take care of this. “They” meaning the government, the schools, the parents, the non-profits. It’s a time to say WE should take care of this. WE means each and every one of us.
I know people who know and love the victim and his family. I know and love one of the 3 guys…love him like he’s my own. How can I make sense of it all? How do we comfort the parents who lost their 16-year-old son? How do we comfort the mom who could lose her 18-year-old son to prison? How do we keep drugs and guns off the streets? How do we comfort the friends of both? How do we help the youth of our metro area?
How, we might ask? It’s obviously not a simple answer…or we would have done it by now. But, let’s see what the Lord has to say on the topic. The answer may be different for each of us. As for me….I’m gonna be on my knees. Please join me in praying for our youth and young adults. They need us on our knees. On my knees. God help us.
“…for I know you well, and you are special to me. I know you by name.” Exodus 33:17
Wow! I think about branding and marketing. How we all know the swoosh of Nike and the golden arches of McDonald’s, right? And if you hear the term Shaq, Tiger, Cher, Madonna – there’s no second guessing who they are. Now…I hesitate to write this…because I nowhere near compare to the people of this popularity or status. No way! But, it is humbling when people don’t know you or your story….say….”OH…so YOU’RE Miss Marti!?!?!” Who knew?? It’s happened a few times lately. Most recent was a teacher who is new to JM (John Marshall High School). I met her recently at a dinner party in the community. She shared how one of her students told her at the beginning of the school year that she used a phrase was like something “Miss Marti” would have used. Again…who knew?
I tell this not to brag or point toward myself. I share this because it is humbling and scary….to know that what I am doing really makes an impact. What I say…how I react….how I act IS in fact being noticed…..whether it is good or bad. OUCH! I need to step up my game….for real. I confess that I lack in areas of patience, tolerance, and sometime grace and mercy. Thankfully, Louis makes up where I lack…in spades!
So…I need to step up my game….for the sake of my witness…AND because God knows me better than anyone. He knows not only my name, but my heart. And that can be much worse than the outside!
God forgive me…and thanks for sending me Louis and using him to teach me patience, tolerance, grace and mercy. He models it better than most! Amen.
While some of you are in transition to my new blog -…into the neighborhood, I wanted to shoot you a link to a new post over there…
For those who may not know about the new blog, please check out Trying Something New.
Thanks for reading!
For those who follow Miss Marti’s House, I am making some changes. It’s a bit of an experiment.
But, I’m starting something new ~ a new resource called …into the neighborhood. It is about living missionally, incarnationally, on mission. Whatever you want to call it. It’s how we do it. How others do it. And how you can do it. I get the question a lot and have been asked to mentor/coach others and to speak at conferences, to missions groups and to churches. This will be a dialogue on the gift of hospitality and loving your neighbor. I am not an expert in the topic and am still learning. So, I am exploring what it means to love your neighbor as yourself….and in the process hope to help us think about practical and creative ways we can get to know our neighbors, our communities, those around us…and love them, because He first loved us.
So…check it out. Maybe even subscribe. Hope to see and hear from you over there, too.
I’ve seen a number of people share their top posts, so I thought I would take a look at what was most read…or at least viewed. Not sure if people actually read it or not. I’m still trying to decide what to do with this whole blog thing. Should I keep writing and sharing? Not sure. It’s a great way to share information, events, pictures, etc., but not sure if I really have much to share these days. Is it something I am still called to do? I guess we will see.
In the meantime…here are the top 15 posts from last year, based on the number of views. Maybe you missed one of them. Maybe you want take a closer look at and order one of Adrianne’s handmade Anglican Rosaries (Down2EarthDezign’s). Or maybe you read about Cassie and Hands Up Ministries and wanted to serve or donate (“Feeling Grateful For all He Has Given to me!” Cassie Matthew). Or maybe you want to read my failed attempt at trying to participate in a book discussion/review (MissionSHIFT – Part 1 ~ What WAS I thinkin’???). Or maybe you are interested in learning more about CCDA (Go to the people Live among them….Chinese Poem, a picture = 1000 words and 1276/27=47.259259). Or maybe you wanted to buy and read Wayne “Coach” Gordon’s book (who’s ur neighbor? - a series I started, but never finished…..ooops! Neighbor 7: Someone Who Is Naked, Neighbor 5: Someone Who Has Been Robbed and Neighbor 6: Someone Who Is Half Dead ) Based on the fact that 4 of the top 15 viewed posts were from this book, maybe I need to pick it back up again and keep sharing….Regardless…here’s the list (1-15) if you are interested.
If you have any thoughts, feel free to share.