WOW! I don’t even know what to say! Yesterday I received the attached email from Epoch Awards.
After spending a little time last night reviewing the website and other folks who have been nominated, I am SOOO encouraged! There are so many people doing so many great things in our country and around the world. It is so encouraging to see how God is moving in and through His people to bring his Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven. Go check out the list of nominees and the organizations’ websites here >> Epoch Award Nominees. At this writing, I’m not up there yet, but I guess it will be soon.
Louis and I try to focus on keeping the main thing the main thing. We do our best to love our community…our city…our neighbor as ourselves. We strive to love God with our heart, mind and strength. And it’s our mission to be about making disciples who make disciples. And we want to encourage others…we want to encourage YOU to do the same. For now, we do that as a way of life. It’s what we do. It’s the way we roll. I am grateful that someone out there sees that in us and has nominated me for the award. As far as what I think… I’m already a winner. I have won! Why? Because we are doing what God has called us to do..for now. However, God is now calling us into a new place. (No…we are not moving!!!) But, a new or might I say…an additional calling or a more formal calling. Stay tuned.
Thanks to Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous for the encouragement to keep doing what we do. I feel like Sally Fields in her Oscar acceptance speech for Best Actress in 1984’s Places in the Heart.
“You like me…right now, you LIKE me!”
But the greater news is.. God likes me. Actually…he really LOVES me, regardless of what I do…or don’t do. This work comes out of my love for Him, not because I have to win His love. Phew!
As many of you know, Louis has been out of town this week taking care of Mama (his mom). Mama had knee replacement on Monday and is recovering really well! Thanks so much for your thoughts and prayers! Thankfully Louis is coming home Friday night! We got married just a short 18 months ago…and this is the longest we have been apart! I miss him and will be thrilled when he comes home!!!
It’s been interesting here in SBH while he has been gone. Back before Louis was in the picture, I was “taken care of” by the community. “Miss Marti” was accepted and cared for and looked after. Then…Louis came into the picture. Things shifted. It took us a while to see that it happen. It didn’t feel the same. I was told by others that it was out of respect for Louis, as the “man of the house” that things changed. It wasn’t Louis per se, but it would have been the same if it was some other guy. But, it still felt really weird. I missed the ole days!
Well, this week…that was confirmed as the guys came back to the rescue! CW walked with me and Wesley on our evening walk. Ron texted me “and you never have to ask me to keep an eye on you,…Been doing that since you moved in.” after I asked him to keep an eye on me late one night when I walked Welsey on a short walk to the “pooping field”. Everett continued to come by to empty the trash, check on me and will be cutting the grass tomorrow! Another offered to take my recycling bin to the curb. Mike tracked me down to let me know that a headlight was out. Charles changed the headlight for me.
I AM SO GRATEFUL!!!!
I am soooo blessed to have friends in the community! Not just because they helped me out, but because they care. Some would look down on many of these guys as some hang out on the corner in their white t-shirts and jeans. Or maybe others would look at them as hopeless. Or label them as deadbeat dads. Or drug dealers. Or no-good thugs. Or addicts. Maybe they are. I don’t know. What I do know…is they are my friends and DO have a heart. They are made in God’s image. My friends have potential. They showed care…dare I say love…for me. It reminds me they are NOT beyond hope! It reminds me that NO ONE is beyond the reach of the Lord. My friends are not so far gone, so hardened, so hopeless, so angry, so disappointed, so rejected and dejected, so strung out, so whatever…
Romans 3:22-24 (New International Version)
22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Lord….Thank you for your grace! Thank you for the cross! Thank you for reminding me that I too fall short of Your glory and forgive me for judging and giving up hope. May my heart break for what breaks Yours. Show me how to love my friends and my community like You love it. In Jesus’ Name.
My friend, Cindy Mims recently discovered a booklet called Rediscover the Barton Heights Community provided by Richmond Neighborhood Housing Services…now known as NeighborWorks Resource Group. It was produced with funds from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development through the City of Richmond’s Community Development and Block Grant Program. It was designed and information compiled by NorthLight Publishing (2/95).
So, I learned something new….and I am REALLY excited about it!!!
First, the booklet claims on page 5 that “An array of promotional advertising described the community as ‘a children’s paradise, a model village and an oasis in the desert of hard times for the working man.’” That really brings me hope! And this work…our ministry…once again reminds me of Ezra and Nehemiah rebuilding Jerusalem.
Second, on pages 9-10 it talks about the churches back in the day. It describes how a group of 16 residents were meeting in a one resident’s living room to study the Word. Then it goes on to say,
“After several meetings in private homes the Sunday school met at the Wigwam, a community building located at the northeast corner of Barton Avenue and Roberts Street. The Wigwam, noted as an odd-shaped wooden structure, was the scene of many community activities including dances….While meeting at the Wigwam, the church slowly grew from the original sixteen to twenty-seven members: nine women and eighteen men. Soon the church decided to take a venture in faith and build a permanent church home.”
My friends and readers…it is awesome to report…that Miss Marti’s House stands at that very corner….the NE corner of Barton and Roberts.
Lastly, this led me to do a little more research. A quick internet search brought me to more historic information on Barton Heights on a website: www.livingplaces.com. More on the Wigwam from that site:
“The first building to serve the neighborhood’s religious congregations was the Wigwam (1891) at the corner of Barton and Roberts (No. 2017). Originally a community center, its early date reflected the tight community being established…It was the Methodists who first used the Wigwam before they built their new sanctuary in 1893 on North Avenue.…The Barton Heights Baptist Church was also first organized in the Wigwam.”
I have always thought of my home, my space, my property…Miss Marti’s House…as holy ground…a house of peace…God’s house. It is so cool to pick up on the past….the history of the NE corner of Barton and Roberts…and continue God’s work over a century later….as a community center AND as a place where people meet to study the Word…the beginning of not just 1 church, but 2….maybe there will be 3?!?!? But, I am not thinking about building A church…but about building THE church!
The current history of many corners throughout SBH includes prostitution, drug deals, loitering, etc. But I have hope that from this corner…the NE corner of Barton and Roberts…stands a Light…a Light in the darkness.
What else might the Lord want to use this corner for? Could it be to bring hope, healing and health to a community that strives to again be known for ‘a children’s paradise, a model village and an oasis in the desert…”?
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
Louis and I continued to get to know one another. Our relationship with Frank, Geraldine, Vicky, the kids and the rest of the family continued to grow as well. Frank graduated from the Trauma ICU to a progressive care unit and eventually to the rehab unit where he would spend most of the day in physical therapy to gain his strength and use of his legs.
One of my favorite memories was celebrating Vicky’s birthday just a little over a month after the shooting! This was a great time of fellowship….and danger! Admittedly, we didn’t think about the potential hazards of having a birthday cake with a bunch (I won’t say how many, Vicky!!!) of lit candles on the cake, when Frank’s roommate had oxygen going. Note to self….NOT A GOOD IDEA! Let’s just say that the smell of smoke got the nurses a jumpin’. <:) But, the Lord spared us of all danger that evening and the staff was full of grace! Thanks for not kicking us out, MCV!!!
REMINDER….this is tonight! Hope to see you there!
Urban Ministry Forum
“Theology on the Ground”
Wednesday, April 7th from 7-9pm
Union Theological Seminary
You will hear from urban ministers, whose work in Baltimore, DC, and Richmond are truly rooted in building community, empowering the marginalized, and helping people at their point of need.
- Rev. Dr. Anthony Hunt will be discussing how he’s been creating ’shalom’ zones in some very poor parts of Baltimore;
- Rev. Dr. Roger Gench will be discussing what it’s like to be an urban parish minister and how collective action among churches can accomplish change; and
- Richmond Hill’s Rev. Ben Campbell will describe how spirituality and prayer create ecumenical bonds which then forms concrete social action to help transform this great city.
Union understands that effective ministry means opening one’s doors, offering radical hospitality, and creating relationships to develop the ‘beloved community.’
As you know, Louis and I had only known each other about 5 weeks at this point. I went from “not sure if I like him” to “when are you all getting married?” in a little over a month! We went from seeing each other weekly to every day. I had prayed for the other ½ of my pair as told in Luke 10:1-7, and it looked like that God had just maybe provided that answer. But, we know that when you are walking in the will of God and He is using you mightily, Satan is not going to take kindly to that at all.
Word about what had happened and what we were doing was making its way through the Christian community in and around Metro Richmond. Again, we are so thankful for the many, many prayers that those communications and emails brought our way. It didn’t take long for Satan to raise his ugly head in the form of a character attack. For a short period of time, this attack distracted us from serving and loving on Frank and his family like we had been called to do and discouraged us a bit. But, Louis and I worked through that…through the grace of God, a lot of prayer and the love of some trusted friends. We are better for having gone through that challenge.
Know that Satan and his army will go ALL OUT to tear us down and to keep us from walking in Truth. Today, I was reading John 10:1-21 and was reminded that Jesus is the Gate and the Good Shepherd. Satan may seek to steal, kill and destroy, but, my Jesus says…
9 “Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 …My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.” He also says…18 “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”
As I reflect, this Holy Week…on this Maundy Thursday (the day of Judas’ betrayal, the Last Supper and Jesus washing the feet of his disciples)…the day before Jesus was hung on that cross, that I am so thankful for His voluntary sacrifice. But, as we approach resurrection, I have JOY!!! JOY!!! JOY!!! that He has the authority to lay down His life, but He also took it back up again!!! He died for me…O’ wretched sinner that I am. So, that in his resurrection I can live a “rich and satisfying life” where I am alive, free, and forgiven.
After spending the afternoon talking to the neighbors and kids, Louis and I went up to the hospital to visit with Frank’s family. Because this was being treated as a trauma and a needless to say a crime, Frank’s personal information was being withheld. The operator would tell you nothing about Frank…not even a room number. But, we were persistent and made our own way to the trauma ICU to see what and who we could find.
That was it! We found Frank’s friends and family overflowing out of the small 8’x12′ waiting room. I admit I was a bit hesitant and felt a bit intrusive, but the Lord had directed us to go. There appeared to be some hesitancy on their part too. Not sure about us and our agenda. But, we were there to….again..just be present….to pray…to read scripture…to be the feet of Jesus. No agenda.
We learned that Frank was not conscious. He had been shot 9 times. Upper right chest, left shoulder, left thigh, right hand and 5 times in the gut. Frank had survived surgery that repaired the extensive damage to his gut and other injuries. Geraldine (Frank’s mom) and Vicky (Frank’s girlfriend) were there. Although only 2 people could be there at any time and only a handful were allowed on the list to visit at all, Louis and I were permitted to see him. Admittedly, I was nervous. I wasn’t sure what I would experience.
Because of Frank’s serious condition, we obviously didn’t stay long…just long enough to pray. We also prayed with Geraldine and Vicky. This became a daily occurrence for Louis and me. We would head to MCV – sometimes together, but sometimes separate. After a couple of days, I think they finally realized that we weren’t going away….we were there for the long haul.
We are soo thankful for the many people that prayed with and for us. The folks at Tuesday Night Prayer Service at Commonwealth Chapel regularly lifted all of us up, and we are so grateful for that.
Louis and my relationship went from basically 0-60 in just about 24 hours. I went from barely liking the guy to seeing him every day! We all still laugh about this now. But, Vicky and Geraldine knew we were getting married before we did! During that first week, they regularly asked me (when I was there without Louis), Where’s your husband? I would repeatedly tell them, we aren’t married. I barely know the guy. We are still getting to know one another. I just met him 4 weeks ago, etc. But…they kept asking me where my husband was and Louis where his wife was.
Then finally, we were there together. I was at one end of the room getting to know one of Frank’s friends, Anthony. And Louis was at the other end of the room talking to Vicky and Geraldine. When Geraldine asked – so….when you goin’ to marry her? It’s written all over your face! You’re in loOoOoOve. I (obviously) was ½ listening to the conversation and glanced at Louis out of the corner of my eye, when I saw that Louis had turned a deep shade of RED!
This was a lovely time of bonding, sharing, and communing with Frank’s family. It didn’t take long before we were hugging each other as we greeted and as we said farewell. We were 2 vastly different groups of people in every way possible with very little in common brought together by a tragic event. Now, over 2 years later, we are sharing life together…birthdays, holidays, etc.
Although I am SOOO sorry that all of us had to experience this event, I am thankful for the friends and dare I say family that is now the result!
But challenging times weren’t far off….
Continued from last nights post….The Next Day Part 1
These are complicated questions to answer. There is so MUCH history that goes into it. There are way more questions than answers. Or…answers that you want to hear, anyway. I encourage you to dig deep…ask the questions…seek the answers.
A question like, HOW did it end up like this? Deep-rooted systemic decisions and policies that were made intentionally by people in power dating decades….centuries ago…that have led to the problems we have in the City of Richmond today. If you want to learn more, Ben Campbell, at Richmond Hill, has a wonderful class – Richmond’s Unhealed History – 9 Lectures on the History of Richmond 1607-2009. It offers a whole new perspective….that is NOT what you read in the history books in school growing up. We need more people to get involved in the social justice issues that impact not just the City of Richmond, but the metro area as a whole.
Others may ask…why don’t YOU move? Why do you stay? As a matter of fact, Frank himself has asked me that same question more than once. He thought I would be packing it up after that night. But, I will tell you what I told him. A year before Frank got shot, my car was vandalized when the windows were shot out. It later was stolen and dumped off in Petersburg. People then asked, why don’t you move? If I had moved in early 2007 after that happened, who would have been there the night Frank got shot? God doesn’t NEED us to do a thing. He can do it on His own, without our help. But, what a priviledge it is to be used by my Almighty God. So, He called me (and now Louis) here to SBH. We won’t leave until He calls us some place else. I have committed my life to Him..so I will go where He sends me. Will you?
Just yesterday, Mom sent me a devotional newsletter email called Inspired Faith. I will end this post with that word…
For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.II Chronicles 16:9 NIV
God has called each of us to obey Him in the place He has us. In His eyes we all have a ministry. Many serve Him in a local church through a variety of ministries, such as music, teaching, youth work, or by being a part of the church staff. Others serve on the mission field, on the job, at school, or at home.
God knows you and He knows your heart desires to serve Him. You are someone that He will use to make a difference, to share His love, and to touch the hearts of others. What has qualified you for this high privilege of being used by Him? Is it your talents, your personality, your education, your influence, or your résumé? It is none of these; rather, it is the response of your heart toward Him. God is always searching for those whose hearts are yielded to Him so that He can work mightily through them.
Sometimes we can be led to think that God’s work is dependent upon us, upon what we do, and upon what we know. The truth is that God wants us to be totally dependent upon Him. He is the Treasure, we are the vessels; He is Vine, we are the branches; He is the Living Water, we are the channels through which He flows.
The apostle Peter was someone who needed to learn this important truth. Jesus taught him the futility of trying to get results through his own efforts by allowing him, an expert fisherman, to labor all night and come up empty. Afterward, when He followed Jesus’ word to cast out into the deep, Peter pulled in a catch that was beyond his dreams.
As His servant, remember that your ministry is His idea and not yours. He is the One who knows you, who has called you, and who has equipped you to serve Him. Remain true, remain faithful, remain restful, and remain totally dependent upon Him.
God is not looking for those who are clever, but for those in whom He can be wise; He is not looking for those who are talented, but for those to whom He can be all sufficient; He is not looking for those who are powerful, but for those through whom He can be almighty.
by Roy Lessin, DaySpring Cofounder
Picking up from the 3/20 post The Word Became Flesh… (click if you want to read it before continuing)
I have been really struggling on what to say and how to continue telling this story about how we met Frank and his family. The last thing I want to do is to hurt anyone by my words or release any confidential information. So, I will not give many details, but will tell what I feel comfortable with until I can talk with Frank and his family.
That night, Louis and I went up to the hospital, just a couple of miles from where I live. Thankfully, it was close since Frank had been shot 9 times!
After praying for wisdom, Louis and I walked into the Gateway Building (like a lobby) of MCV, now VCU Health Systems. I’m not sure about Louis and how he was feeling, but I was feeling a bit out of place and nervous. The lobby was FULL for 11:30pm on a Sunday night. I didn’t quite understand. Louis and I were the only white people in a lobby full of black people where it was eerily quiet and heavy when we walked in. Still in a bit of shock, I’m not sure why I didn’t place them with Frank.
But, Louis, having spent many hours and visits in the hospitals with church members, knew what to do. He introduced himself to the receptionist/guard and we asked for a status update on Frank. When a short woman beside me, firmly and loudly stated…that’s my son! What do YOU people want with my SON?!?!? I quietly and quickly introduced us to her and let her know why we were there. She quickly responded, Not YOU people! YOU didn’t help my son! I assured her that we did and quickly explained again why we decided to come up there. I gently guided her over to where the others were located, as they looked at us with a bit of distrust.
After praying for some help and wisdom, I calmly introduced myself and Louis. It was probably helpful that I introduced him as a Reverend! After learning that they had no knowledge of what happened or if Frank was even alive, we shared with them what we knew….where I lived, the events of the evening, we didn’t see it happen, how we responded, what Frank had said to me, and how he was alive when he was taken to the hospital. The distrust from the crowd waned a bit.
We just shared that we wanted to be there for anything that they needed. When one of Frank’s friends said, but you already have done so much. I explained that we hadn’t done all that much, but that Jesus had done it all. We also stated that we were there to be with them and pray with them. Whatever they needed. When another friend said, so what are we waiting on…let’s pray…as he stuck both hands out to grab the hands of those around him. Louis led us in prayer for the family, the doctors and medical staff, for Frank, etc.
Although it often felt awkward for them…and for us, Louis and I continued to hang out with Friends and Family for another hour or so before going back to my house. Some might call it the gift of being present.
Louis and I were up rather late that night…processing, chillin’, decompressing. I am sooo very thankful for the many many prayers that were offered up for us and for Frank and his family during this time. I don’t know for sure WHAT Frank was doing that night or WHY someone wanted to shoot him. I can assume that it was a robbery…but it wasn’t. He still had everything on him that a robber would want. And…based on my extensive (HA!) experience, I don’t think a robber would shoot him 9 times! I can’t help but think it was personal. We could all probably guess and probably won’t be far off from the truth. Whatever it was. I still don’t need to know.
What I DO know is that my God is in control and He loves us more than we can EVER imagine! I do know that…
…my mom and her friends were regularly praying for me (since January 2007)
….the Lord had introduced Louis and me a month before (not in July 2007) for a reason.
…my heart had changed that Saturday night for a reason.
…Louis and I were home and cooked out on the grill that night (instead of going out)
…Louis wasn’t outside when the shoot occurred
…the kids were dropped off early from youth group and they weren’t outside
….Louis remembered to cut the grill off
…we were NOT going up the inside steps
for a reason. There were soooo many things that the Lord did to protect us and to prepare us for “such a time as this”. All this was done, so that we could be there when Frank got shot. Remember…no one else responded. He would have been left to die that night on the street beside my house. That’s what I used to tell Frank ALL THE TIME…God loves him SOOO much that He did all of this AND MORE. We had been there…as the feet of Jesus. Nothing more…nothing less.
I had prayed a year before for the other ½ of my pair…in ministry to Southern Barton Heights. And God had heard and had answered…in HIS time…His perfect time.
Louis and I have been in the ministry business together ever since!
TO GOD BE THE GLORY!!!
If you missed the last 2 posts…Change of Heart….Just in Time (3.18) and MGV – Barton and Roberts (3.19), you may want to read those first!
After reeling off my medical information, Louis was released from his job as first aid provider before I was. He went to check on the kids. I reminded him of the meat on the grill…which he had already thought of while on his way out of the house earlier. (See how the Holy Spirit guided us through it all?!?!?) It was funny when the paramedics asked if I was a nurse and I told them No…I got my medical training watching Marcus Welby and Medical Center as a child and ER as an adult. My extensive medical expertise must have given it away. 🙂 I was finally released from my position and the paramedics took him away (it took 3 men to lift him on the gurney…as Frank was not a little guy!).
Although the detectives wanted to speak to me right away, I was allowed to go inside and change my clothes. When I entered into the house to head up the steps, I had a surprise waiting on me….a bullet hole under the window at the bottom of the steps. Yes, a stray bullet came inside the house. I am soo thankful that no one was climbing the steps at that time!!! So now…we have experienced a little Law and Order, some ER and now we have CSI goin’ on.
While sitting at the dining room table talking to the detectives, I heard some wailing, screaming and crying outside. I wanted to desperately go and console whoever it was, but needed to give my account of what had happened. Later, I learned that it was Frank’s mom.
Nichelle, my neighbor and true sister, came over and sat with us on the front porch. I am grateful for Nichelle, as she brought a peace along with her. I called a few prayer warriors to cover us during this time. Although I left out a few of the details, I, surprisingly, called my mom as well and told her what was going on so that she could pray. I was worried that it would make the news and didn’t want her to see it there. But, I also didn’t want her to worry.
After everyone was gone and it’s about 11:30pm, Louis and I finally get to eat our dinner…while standing up at the kitchen counter…eating our pork tenderloin with onions with our fingers. You could tell the adrenaline was pumpin’! This is when we both agreed that we HAD to go to the hospital. So, Louis and I venture up to MCV. If that was my brother, son, friend, husband, boyfriend…I would want to know what we knew.
It is in the Gateway Building of MCV that our relationship truly started to develop. This is a story of racial reconciliation, a story of grace and mercy, a story of faith….
This true account is what gives me my life…and mission….scripture….
The Word became flesh…and moved into the neighborhood.
John 1:14 MSG Holy Bible