Hallo-BOO-ween 2013

Our annual front yard Halloween gathering! I think the pictures speak for themselves! We had a blast and had a record number of neighbors and friends – old and new, young and old – who came by! It got so busy we couldn’t keep up with picture-taking and candy-giving.

What a great evening for chillin’ on the front porch with the ones you love! I wouldn’t trade this night for anything.

Candy, Bunny and Eggs…Oh My!

easter egg hunt 2013

photo cred: Rachel Loughlin

What a FUN morning in Southern Barton Heights! After we postponed the Easter Party due to the early spring snowstorm last Sunday, today was a beautiful day for a community Easter Egg Hunt!!!  I am so grateful to our friends and families who donated candy and prizes!  And to our friends who helped stuff a gazillion eggs with candy and other goodies, who ensured that the Easter Bunny arrived safe and sound :), who took pictures and “laid” eggs!

After playing a game and the Easter Egg Hunt, Louis told the story of the last few days of Jesus’s life (from Palm Sunday through the Empty Tomb) through the use of Resurrection Eggs.  The kids were super attentive and helped Louis tell the story.

All of this was followed by yummy cupcakes and lemonade!   Louis and I so enjoyed meeting our neighbors and seeing old friends!  What a blast!!

It’s not just fun and games at this time of year, because it’s not about the bunny!  Yesterday we remembered the Cross.  Tomorrow, we remember the Empty Tomb. Today and for days to come, we live knowing that because of the Cross and the Empty Tomb, we are reconciled to our Maker after sin separated us. That’s the story! That’s worth remembering!

PS – Hope kids…we missed you and can’t wait for you to come hang out again!

(remaining photo creds: Miranda Pheifer)

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Brookland Theatre – Back in the Spotlight, again!

I have lived in the Northside, specifically Southern Barton Heights, for going on 8 years.  Many people over the decades and recent months and years have prayed and believed that the Brookland Park Boulevard corridor can be revitalized.  There have been several attempts to do so.  We (and by we…I mean the community!) are back at it again…fully believing the time is now.  Now, it’s time to gather the larger Northside community and then, listen to the answers to questions like…What do we want from this theatre and corridor? What will they support and build?  What else would they like to see along Brookland Park Boulevard.

Hope you can come to the first of 3 community forums facilitated by the Storefront for Community Design.  We want to hear all the voices – old and young, long-time residents and new residents, etc.  All are welcome!

We look forward to seeing you…and bring a neighbor!

Tuesday, November 27th


Northminster Church
Contemporary Worship Center
3121 Moss Side Ave, RVA 23222

Remember to RSVP to info@storefrontrichmond.org or 804.649.4935.

God’s Kingdom Come…in SBH

God continues to amaze me! He works in such awesome ways!  When I moved into Southern Barton Heights, just a ½ mile from Gilpin Court seven years ago, I had no idea what He had in store.  He continues to WOW me, and Hope Church is now a part of my ongoing story.

Seven years ago, I had no idea what I was doing….just trying to learn how to love my neighbors, who were  different from me in many ways.  Seven years ago, I felt all alone in this work.  Since my move, there have been some difficult times, and some really exciting, wonderful times. The lonely days are more few and far between than they were back then.  And, today, Louis and I feel even less alone than we did 4 months ago.

Why?  It was over 4 months ago when I learned about Camp Splash, hosted by Hope Church.  Hope Church made the conscious decision to take VBS to the streets.  Instead of taking a ‘come and see’ approach, inviting the community to the church building, Hope took a ‘go and tell’ approach.  Camp Splash is a backyard weeklong Bible Camp with water games (the kids’ favorite part!!!), crafts, Bible lesson, and a snack (a light dinner in our case).

So…how did we get hooked up with Hope Church?  My mom received an online newsletter from Hope Church when Camp Splash was first announced…asking the congregation to consider hosting Camp Splash in their backyard.  We prayed about it, considering an email asking if Hope would be willing to partner with us – someone pretty unknown to them.  Well, we weren’t completely unknown….Louis had taken some classes with Hope’s Senior Pastor, David. Then, I thought to myself, “Why not?  What’s the worst that could happen?  That they would say ‘No.”?  I sent the email.  Less than a week later, I received an email from Anne stating that they had been praying for an opportunity to serve the inner-city.  This was an answer to our prayer…and Hope’s.

Over the next four months, Anne and I got together to talk and pray about what that might look like, who in the church would be interested, when we would host it, etc.  I received a copy of the program, plus the host/family package.  I got to check out a camp held on a very hot day in the West End, just to get a feel for the rhythm.  And just 2 weeks before the camp, Maddie, a few of the Hope Church youth, and I got together to get to know one another and brainstorm how we would roll.  On another visit, the girls helped to flyer the community.  Then, we prayed.  I had NO idea how many local youth would come….whether it was 5 or 15.

Over the 5 days of Camp Splash, the love of Jesus – through Word and deed – was shared with over 30 Northside children.  The week was amazing!  Sometimes kids can be challenging, but they were terrific this week.  One leader, Gregory, had 2 occasions to help mediate in what could have been a physical fight instead of lots of hurtful words being exchanged.  Just this morning, Louis and I chatted with one girl who quoted great advice and thoughts that Gregory had shared during one of those times just last night.  Praise God for providing Louis, Gregory and Robert wisdom to handle the difficult situations with grace, love and firmness.

And what giving friends we have!  Since we hosted Camp Splash from 5:30-7:30pm, we also served the kids a simple, light dinner provided by some GENEROUS friends!  They were such a huge hit and greatly appreciated!  Thank you!!!!

Friday night at the closing community cookout, we welcomed many parents and neighbors, as well.   The parents of our youth and college age students were also excited to join in the work by attending the Friday night community cookout.  And…can I just say WOW!  Spencer Simmons totally rocked!  Spencer is an up-and-coming artist who happened to be in Richmond last night.  (check her out at www.spencersimmonsmusic.com) Despite the rain that challenged us, she eventually got to plug in when the clouds rolled away and the sun came out.  Not only did she honor us with her God-given talent, but she also shared the mic with our neighbors for an impromptu Open Mic Night.  We had at least 6 churches who worked together to help us set up and tear down!

This cookout felt a little like God’s kingdom..here on earth, as we joined together in our differences – race, church, worship style, socio-economic status, geography, denomination, education, cultures, etc. to worship our God by loving our neighbor and proclaiming His name and His name alone.

I pray that God takes the love shared through words and deeds and multiplies them 10-fold.  May this be a week that changed Southern Barton Heights and its children.  May the hearts of those from Hope Church and everyone involved continue to be moved to love and serve their neighbors in the inner-city of RVA.  God…bring your kingdom here in Richmond…in Southern Barton Heights as it is in heaven. Make it so, Lord.  Make it so.

Take a peek into the last day of Camp Splash and the Community Cookout….



Camp Splash is a week-long, backyard camp hosted by Marti, Louis and friends for kids in k-5th (give or take) grade that includes a daily craft, parachute, bible lesson, light dinner, and lots of fun water games! 

Monday, July 23 – Friday, July 27


Southern Barton Heights

2101 Barton Ave

So that we will have enough supplies and dinner (without wasting), please let Marti know if your kids will be attending as soon as possible.  804.690.3070

NOTE:  Parents – we also need emergency contact and allergy info…just in case.

On Friday night, July 27th at 7pm, the kids’ families and neighbors are also invited for a community cookout.  If you can, please bring something like chips, potato salad, mac and cheese, etc. to go with the meal.  We will provide the beef hotdogs, buns, and drinks.  Games and fun will continue into the evening!

Won’t You Let Me Be Your Neighbor?

On April 1, 2012, my friend, Sara Kennedy, asked if I would speak to a group at her church about being a good neighbor…telling stories of my life in Southern Barton Heights. It was my honor to tell how God uses me and changes me through this experience. Thanks for allowing me to be part of Shalom Richmond at Stony Point Pres.

LouDawg Does It Again!

As usual, LouDawg’s Grilled Chicken (about 80 lbs!!!) was a huge hit at our Annual Community Memorial Day Cookout for Southern Barton Heights. Although we’ve done this for years, we just started tracking numbers.  3 years ago, we had about 40 people.  Last year, we hosted about 60.  I was super surprised and thrilled when about 100 people showed up over the 4 hours!  I couldn’t have been happier!  It was a great time of getting to know our neighbors and friends.

We were thrilled when we connected with a small group from Movement Church who sacrificed their time to help us!  They were amazing!  Not only did they bring side dishes, but they also came early to help set up.  They organized games for the kids in our neighbor’s yard….because when we had a ton of people in the yard, it got a little tight, needless to say.  Our total yard is only .14 of an acre, so the back yard is 1/2 of that.  And then…the guys, TC and Matt, hung out to help us tear down, along with Chucky, David and Khalil.  Our neighbors were great…contributing to the meal, helping to clean up afterwards, etc.  Brian, Christy and Joy were AMAZING in the kitchen!

I have mixed feelings about the day.  On one hand I was sad, when I heard someone warmly say, “I’ve never experienced anything like this. This is great!” Another new friend said, “I’ve been longing for a sense of community in our neighborhood, and now…I think I finally feel that.” as she connected with neighbors she had never met.  Why sad? Because my neighbors have been hungry for community, and haven’t felt it.  On the other hand, I’m also thrilled because we are moving in the right direction.  Less of us will be disconnected, but now will feel a since of warmth, love and community.

I look forward to continue moving in that direction… As we attempt to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Enjoy the pictures of the day.  I guess I should note that we also celebrate my birthday (5.31) each year as well.  I was overwhelmed when my old and new friends joined in singing “Happy Birthday to you” in the traditional tune….and then, in the Stevie Wonder style! Thanks to everyone for making my early birthday so special.  And…go ahead….mark the day on your calendar for next year when I turn the big 5-0!  🙂

Northside Gathering

Rediscovering Richmond’s Barton Heights

Earlier today, NPR’s local radio station – WCVE aired a short commentary (less than 5 minutes) on Barton Heights ~ Rediscovering Richmond’s Barton Heights (click for link to archive).  Brooks Smith described the United States’ first “streetcar neighborhood” – my very own community ~ Barton Heights!  Take a listen!  I, too, encourage you to come on over and take a look at all the wonderful things that Barton Heights has to offer!

Update: Happy Birthday, Jesus!

This past Saturday, we threw our first annual Birthday Party for Jesus at All Souls Presbyterian in Barton Heights; Richmond, VA!  We had a GREAT time! Jesse the Juggler wowed us all with his juggling expertise, while telling us the story of Creation and the birth of Jesus.  Some of the kids got in on the juggling action as well!  I think at least one of them has a future in juggling…at least we know the Isaiah has quite an arm!

The story of the Birth of Jesus was read to the kids…taken from the Bible… Luke 2:1-20.

Then, Santa showed up to celebrate Jesus’s birthday; and he even brought gifts for kids of all ages!!!  After singing Happy Birthday to Jesus, we had cake, candy canes and cookies with our lemonade.

In addition, we had a chance to color…although I didn’t realize that we had been given “Multicultural” Crayons, which had no bright colors like…blue, red and green!  So…after a quick run to the Family Dollar (Thanks, Lauren and Rush!!!) we were in business.

Another big hit was the guessing game!  Clint was the closest (without going over!!!) with his guess of 87…when there were 89 mint patties in the jar.  I hope it’s all good at home…with all that chocolate in the house!  Congratulations, Clint!

We all had such a terrific time!  Thanks to all who helped!  You guys totally rock!  Special “shout out” to All Souls Pres, Commonwealth Chapel, and WEAG.  Thanks for the support! In addition…major thanks my loving and supportive hubby, Louis, and the rest of my elves…Terence, Abbie, Paul, Lauren, Rush, Bishop, Jesse, Vashti, Gloria and my sweet, sweet Mom!

Last note….

What great news to know that Jesus didn’t stay a little baby.  I have peace, hope and joy in knowing that He grew up, died on the cross, rose from the dead (Easter), and will come again!  THAT is the Good News of Jesus Christ!  Who do you know that needs to hear that part of the story this season?

Joy to the World…and Peace on Earth.