Why?Posted: Friday, July 26, 2013
Why do I do what I do? Why do I live the way that I live? These are 2 questions that I am asked on a regular basis. Then, I am often ‘warned’ against the many, many things that could go wrong and the risks that I am assuming. Then, I am usually told how unsafe it is and how they could never live like that. This conversation happened in-depth again this week. I am guessing that some of you and many others think the same way, and I want to respond the best that I can. I should say ‘we’ now that I am married, but often times – I tend to be more provocative than Louis… I’m the gas pedal. Louis tends to be the brake.
Why do I do what I do?
Why do I live the way that I live?
Nearly 8 years ago, I felt a calling to move into Southern Barton Heights. I struggled with it a bit. I was not at all used to a community that had such heavy street crime – drugs, prostitutes, shootings, etc. I also wasn’t used to being the minority – one of the few white folks for what felt like miles around. I had no idea what God had in store for me, but I knew that I had a choice to be obedient to what God called me to do, or be disobedient – running, like Jonah. I really didn’t want to end up in the belly of a big fish. And, I was also somewhat excited.
Since that time, I have learned so much about myself, about others, and about God. Louis and I attempt to live in reckless abandon to what God has called us to do. We have good days, and we have bad ones. Let me recap the last 8 years.
8/17/2005 – I bought a house and moved into my beloved Southern Barton Heights; and God made it a home.
8/19/2005 – (Yes, 2 days later.) I meet a bunch of the neighborhood children – when they ask me if I have any kids that can come out to play. We bake and eat a ton of chocolate chip cookies together. We live life together, and I don’t go anywhere alone. To the grocery store – I’ve got some with me. We’d talk about the price of groceries, good eating choices, explaining different types of fruits and vegetables. I’m sure it is not much different from when a parent takes their kids to the grocery store – even down to the ‘put that down’, ‘no, you can’t have that’, ‘come back over here’, ‘stop running’, etc. It wasn’t much later that Miss Marti, Miss Marti’s House, and Miss Marti’s Kids became everyday language.
I’m working full-time and traveling quite a bit for work. Even today, some of the kids, now grown, talk about how they would ring my doorbell, only to be disappointed because I was traveling….AGAIN. The group of mainly boys steadily grows. One comes to live with me after his mom passes and his dad ends up in the hospital. One of the most challenging situations to date.
We are having sleepovers, parties, brunches, and other fun field trips. But, I am no longer doing all the things that I used to do. Movies, dinners out with friends, and fun trips became less and less. In fact, some friends weren’t willing to come to my home because they didn’t feel safe. As time progressed, I am happy to report that my friends feel much more comfortable and will even spend the night!
December 2006 – This life continues until my new mentor, pastor and friend, Don Coleman gives me Luke 10:1-7, which changes my prayer from ‘Lord – will I ever have a husband?’ to ‘Lord – I’m praying for the other half of my pair. Someone who can go on this adventure….carry out God’s mission with me, just as Jesus sent out his folks 2 at a time in Luke 10.’ And, I continue to hang out with the kids, yet I learn that my job and my company is relocating to St Louis, and God tells me to stay in Richmond. I was left wondering how in the world I would pay my bills.
12/27/2007 – God answers my prayer….and I talk to Louis for the first time on the phone and set up our first date. Arranged by God, Don and another friend, Jennifer.
12/30/2007 – I meet Louis for the first time on a blind date….dinner at Edo’s Squid. YUM!
12/31/2007 – God answers another prayer! Louis joins me on our first joint mission – a New Year’s Eve party for some of Miss Marti’s Kids…giving them a safe place to hang out.
1/27/2008 – A guy gets shot 9 times outside the back door on our 4th date. Needless to say – that changed up our date that night…and our lives as we entered into a lovely relationship with the victim (yes, he lived) and his family. Earning some street cred with another population in the community. We continued dating, as Miss Marti’s Kids watched – sometimes way more closely than I would have liked…asking all kinds of questions, usually pertaining to kissing, sex (or our lack of!!), and more. I wasn’t prepped for that one at all! Our “family dynamics” were challenged and shifted as a male adult entered the picture. Many a family meeting were held as Louis’s position in our ‘family’ was challenged, and as Louis and I moved toward engagement and marriage.
12/27/2008 – Louis and I tied the knot and officially start our mission as a married couple. So much has happened since!
12/31/2010 – My position at work finally comes to an end, after being extended several times due to another merger. God was so gracious with me as my identity was challenged, my faith was tested, our finances were being stretched and our spending plan was being tightened. But, God has us on an assignment…in our community and our city. As we engage in organic community/church, Christian Community Development, and living out God’s mission in our everyday, walk around lives. All the while…encouraging and mentoring others to do the same. Walking alongside churches, small groups, individuals, etc. who are trying to figure this kind of life out.
1/1/2012 – Louis and I find ourselves both working without pay for 5 months. We are busy doing God’s work, just not getting paid for it here on earth.
5/20/2012 – Louis has a short stent (10 months) in an interim pastor’s position, which ends in a way that totally surprised us and a lot of other people. But, I know that it didn’t surprise God, and He’s in control. I am grateful for that time. Even though it is marred with difficult times that weren’t at all Christlike or God-glorifying, I am so thankful for the many lovely friends we have made, stories and lives and journeys that we share with so many people who now worship at a number of different locations.
Today – I could complain incessantly about the days that I am frustrated because change hasn’t happened soon enough, because empty chip bags, styrofoam boxes, and ‘urban tumbleweeds’ (black plastic shopping bags from the 2 local stores) litter our streets, because the corner dealer is still slinging heroin 8 years later, because negative influences move in and pollute the minds, souls and hearts of my neighbors and their children, because well-meaning people drop in and out doing more harm than good ‘in the name of Jesus’, because the education system, economic development, affordable housing, mass incarceration, crime and poverty still seem to be rampant.
But, then God gives me a glimpse of how HE is at work in my beloved community. Now, 8 years later, we still have kids (some now 8 years older!!!) hanging out the house and doing life…and joining us in God’s mission. It’s not by hit-and-run ministry, but through new suburban friends who are willing to sacrifice their time to come be in relationship with me and my friends and neighbors. It’s how God pulls 6 neighborhood moms together with me and a couple of suburban moms during Camp Splash to build community. One who stated she prays that we will become a group of moms who will transform the community. Today – the sacrifices and frustrations, the difficulties and challenges, the pain and tears, the loneliness and sometimes feelings of isolation… it’s all worth it.
It takes time.
So…back to the question.
Why do I do what I do? Why do I live the way that I live?
Because just as the Father sent Christ, Christ sent me. I’m about doing the Father’s business, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
I was recently nominated for Epoch Award. And they have recently asked, what this nomination means to me. It’s an honor to be nominated and be recognized as an unsung hero… one who could share in $50,000 cash awards that would allow Louis and I to continue to be about God’s mission in our community and to continue encouraging, challenging, and mentoring others to live a radically obedient life that honors God and make the name of Jesus famous. It would help to bridge our finances until another paying gig comes our way. You know, it’s an honor to be even nominated because this isn’t a formal non-profit. It’s a way-of-life. It’s the way we roll. It’s what God calls us to do.
That’s what we want to encourage others to do. Go, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and do what God has called you to do in your everyday, walk-around life.
Love God. Love others. Go make disciples who will make disciples.