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.


Games, Creation, Rain, Hope, and Pizza!

Our 2nd Annual Camp Splash – backyard VBS –  kicked off today with 19 community kids and 7 moms who hung out with us, too… along with the youth and college folks from Hope Church, the community and my niece!!  Quite a team that God has put together!

We started our time playing parachute games.  The numbers steadily grew as the evening progressed. The sounds of laughter echoed through the community.



Then, we took a break to hear the story based on God’s Letter to us – the Bible, specifically Genesis 1 and 2.  God made everything including you and me! He spoke it into being. We also learned that God is eternal, powerful, loving, perfect and very kind.



Then, it was time for the water games….





Although the rain hit about 45 minutes or so into the evening, the timing worked out perfectly. We quickly got everyone inside before the torrential downpours! Which gives a whole new meaning to Camp Splash!



Just in time to play some inside games….IMG_0210


before we had pizza dinner and craft time, where the kids could create something out of Model Magic! And I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to our neighbor and friend, Claudia, for making some killer cookies! They were a HUGE hit!

IMG_0223 IMG_0247




Tomorrow…We play more wet games! We learn about SIN (boo!!!!) and craft time is scratch art! Dinner…wow.  Dinners this week are going to be amazing because I have some WONDERFUL, LOVING, GIVING friends who are providing meals… Subway sandwiches are on deck for tomorrow.

I have to admit, one of the biggest surprises and best blessings is the fact that 7 of the moms chose to hang out with us. I love getting to know my neighbors!!!!

Enjoy the rest of the pictures…


Makin’ Waves…at Camp Splash 2013

It’s that time again! Sign up for our annual backyard Vacation Bible School called…

Camp Splash!

For more information and pictures from last year…check out this link…

Splish Splash, I was taking a bath…. 

Be sure to RSVP, so that we will have enough supplies for all the youth.

In addition, note that weather permitting…we are having a community cookout on

Friday evening at 7pm!!!

Bring something to share! Thanks!

Camp Splash Flyer - Front

Camp Splash Flyer - Back

Front Porch Challenge – Need Some Help!

Louis and I undoubtedly have THE. BEST. wrap-around front porch ever.  Best view of the best neighborhood.  EVER.  Now that the weather has warmed up, we will find ourselves out there every chance we can get. We refer to it as our front porch ministry.  Since we live at an intersection with quite a bit of foot traffic, we get to meet a ton of our neighbors just by sitting outside chillin’ with a drink in hand greeting our friends and neighbors.  Sometimes we have music…and Louis and I have been known to dance as well.  🙂  We have created a ton of a unforgettable memories of on that porch as well.

We also have the happiest, best dogs ever.  Bella and Wesley love the porch just as much as we do, and we LOVE to have them with us.  Wesley, the nearly 15 year old black lab, is not our worry.  Bella, the 8-9 year old almost chocolate lab, might as well be 2. With all the feral cats around, she will bound off the porch before you know it, which doesn’t make for a very peaceful night when we are constantly saying…No, Bella.  And we find ourselves a bit more stressed than we need to be.

So, here’s the challenge.  Note in the pictures below the set up of our porch.  We need a creative, tasteful, inexpensive, simple, portable, easy-to-store, way to contain the dogs on the porch while we are out there. You might say…simple!  Get a leash.  Well…not so simple.  Bella will chew through it in about 10 seconds flat – which won’t end up being very inexpensive after we replace it over and over again.

So, any ideas???


happiest dogs ever

happiest best dogs ever


the entrance - steps

the entrance – steps


across the street

across the street


from the front to the left

from the front to the left


from the front to the right

from the front to the right


from the side

from the side


A Different Kind of Easter

Short Update:  

Well, for the 2nd year in a row, Louis isn’t behind the pulpit of a church on Easter Sunday.  And for the 2nd year in a row, we won’t be doing church like most Christians. Last year, we held a pancake brunch at the house for folks who aren’t usually in a church.  You can read about our 2012 Easter (with pictures!!!) here > Easter – Acts 2 Style.

This year, we were prayerfully searching for a place to “Do the Bible” and “Be the Church” this Easter Weekend.  Today, we had our annual Easter Egg Hunt for our community. (See here > Candy, Bunny and Eggs…Oh My!)  Tomorrow morning…Easter Morning, Louis and I will NOT be sporting our Sunday Best.  But, we will be giving our best while on God’s mission with some of RVA’s ‘Urban Campers’ (our friend Nelson’s new name for the Homeless)!

Thanks for the connection to Alpha and Omega, Nelson!  Can’t wait to meet and serve Pastor Carolyn and some of your friends!

My Prayer for This Easter

Lord, while we remember and rejoice and while we renew our faith and hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ – the ultimate reconciler, I pray that Louis and I will be reconciled to our new friends….these Urban Campers. I confess and repent that I have not always known how to love them.  Teach me how to love.  Show me.  Change the way I  see those who camp in our cities.  May I love as You love.  May I see as You see. Lord, I long to see Your miraculous healing and changes in our beloved city.  Begin in me.  Renew my Spirit, so that I may serve others in grace and mercy.  In Jesus Name.  Amen.

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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Weather Permitting…Halloween Happiness in SBH!


Actually….the party is tomorrow, Wednesday ~ 10/31, but I won’t get the flyers to the kids until tomorrow.  All are welcome!  Come on by!  We love to meet our neighbors and see our friends.





Boo! SBH Style


What do you do for Halloween? Louis and I usually throw a party in the front yard from about 5-8pm, and we are hoping to do the same thing this Wednesday.  After being cooped up with Sandy blowing through (literally), it will be good to be outside, hanging with the neighbors, kids and friends.  If you aren’t busy, come on by!  We will be here!  Only have a few more things to do now that I think the weather is going to work with us!  It’s gonna be a blast!


_x_  cornhole game

__   apple cider

_x_ cups

__   halloween cupcakes – Sam’s club

_x_ candy

_x_  napkins

_x_ prizes

__  make and handout invites

__  make and post front yard sign

__  Sam’s Club trip

For pictures of last year’s party check out this link:  Halloween 2011.

“Hope for Kids” in Southern Barton Heights

This past summer, the Youth of Hope Church joined me in holding a backyard Vacation Bible School called Camp Splash.  You can read more about that here > Backyard Camp, and here > Rain, Rain, and here > 60,000 Words and lastly, here > Clouds, Rain, Sunshine!

The youth are now returning each month to maintain relationships with the neighborhood kids.  We are calling it “Hope for Kids”, which will be the 4th Sunday of each month here at Miss Marti’s House.  (Although, look for different news for Halloween!!!)

I am thankful to the Youth of Hope Church for continuing to dedicate time to our community! What an awesome ministry!  There are so many other things these youth could be doing, but they are choosing to sacrifice their time to come here.  Love it!


“Running to the Scene of the Crime”

I am honored that Austin Stone Community Church, located in Austin, Texas chose to tell my God-story.  Louis and I were at the Verge Conference this past Spring, and they had an opportunity to tell your story.  I had no intentions of telling mine, until April Salvant – friend and missionary to Haiti – made me do it by signing me up!  I was actually the very last person they interviewed!  And….then to hear that my story was one of the first to be released was a huge surprise!  Praise God for the work He has done, is doing and will continue to do in my heart and mind, and in the community and city that I love!  I am honored to be His servant and remain vigilant and steadfast in my attempts to be obedient.  To check it out…click the picture below.  It should take you there!  In addition….you can hear April’s story as well….about how God took them on quite an adventure…leading them to now live in Haiti, working with New Hope Haiti Mission.  Check it out here > April’s God Story

Thanks to all our friends and our churches who continue to pray for and love us!  I know we have been absent from the blogosphere for a while, but will write soon on our adventures!  Peace.  To God be the glory!