“My friends are my estate.” Emily Dickenson

“My friends are my estate.”
– Emily Dickinson

I feel like the most blessed person in the world!  If my friends are my estate….that also makes me the RICHEST person in the world.  Yesterday, we had our annual Community Memorial Day Cookout….and Birthday Bash.  I call it a Memorial Day Cookout and Louis always includes my birthday as well, which is today.  We opened our yard and our hearts to our community of neighbors and friends to celebrate.  Over 60 people were in attendance.  It was awesome for neighbors to meet neighbors…young and old alike…to make new friends.

Our Missional Community was there to help by lending a hand…setting up and tearing down the tables, meeting new people, building deeper relationships, and just chillin’ in the heat!  Many times, community gatherings around here lead to verbal fights, physical altercations, guns and shooting, and other negativity that just disturbs the community.  We had none of that!  We had….

  • great food.  Thanks to Rush and Louis manning grill…chicken and hot dogs!!! and everyone bringing a covered dish.
  • wonderful respectful, positive conversations.
  • laughter, games and fun.
  • connections and friendships being made.  Some of the youth were meeting for the first time…since they go to different high schools.
  • a few people who heard about our Thursday night gatherings who are going to come and check us out.

Again…I am blessed to have called these folks my friends.  God intends for us to be in relationship with Him and with one another. We practiced that yesterday. The Bible has over 100 verses on friends, friendship, etc.  Here is one of my favorites…

John 15:12-15 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

Enjoy some pics of our time together…meet my friends…

Weekly Thursday Gathering

I just love our weekly gathering.  Some would call it a small group….others….a bible study….more might call it a missional community or a life group.  Whatever you want to call it…I LOVE it!  It started as a group of people from Commonwealth Chapel who met together for what we call Missional Community…where we did fellowship, read the Bible and prayed together.  In addition…we would do things to meet the needs of our community.  In this case, Southern Barton Heights.

So here we are…a couple of years later…and our group now consists of mainly our friends from the community…and just a couple of people from church.  We experience real life together.  We have gone through really hard things together…unemployment, drug and alcohol addictions, family “stuff”…and we have gone through the good things as well…employment!  New cars!  Sobriety!  New people and friends!  New homes!  I can’t imagine life without my Thursday night gathering of friends…my Spiritual Family, who encourage me from one day to the next, who call me out when I’m not being real, who love me even when I mess up!  I could go on and on!

We meet every Thursday night from 6-8pm.  Or…something like 8pm.  We are guilty of going til 8:30 or later…becasue we enjoy each other so much.  But, people are free to scoot if they need to.  If you want to come…and join us in real talk…real life….and learn about Jesus…we welcome you!  We eat together (covered dish style) at 6-7p…while we also talk about what is happening in our lives.  Then, we spend time talking about what God has to say to us through the Word…also known as the Bible.  We close with some prayer…for our concerns, our community, and our city.

Starting the first week of January, we will be talking through the Seven Signs in John. Come and  join us and bring a friend!

Meet Bishop…the 2nd Guest Blogger

Bishop was one of the first kids I met when I moved to Southern Barton Heights nearly 5 years ago!  At 11 years old, he is the youngest of his 4 brothers who are living at home. Bishop is a rising 6th grader, who will attend Henderson Middle School in the Fall 2010.

Silliness!!! Bishop, Deshawn and Larry - The 3 Amigos

This is what he has to say….

Where I live

Where I live is not a bad place. I  myself think it is a wonderful place for all people. You see that there are kids smiling and showing the most respect to everyone. Lots of people think that where I live is a bad place. Maybe should tell the truth that are a little bad things that happen but is not very harmful.

People I know

There are many people I  know. I am only going to keep topic on my best friends . Their names are Deshawn and Larry.  I know that you already know Larry but I will tell Deshawn is a boy of many talents. He is a great racer, very smart, and is very active about things.

About me

I myself is a a boy of many talents. I am good at racing, very smart and love playing outside.I like going to the pool and my uncle house. I think that it is good to keep where you live clean, but I am not going to be the one doing it( laugh). Last I have a great thing of humor.

Deshawn, Larry and Bishop

Building a Boat Dock

After the last couple of posts  “it’s a dangerous thing to let Jesus use your boat.” Bob Lupton and 3 Boats Sited in Southern Barton Heights, there really seems to be quite a theme recently…boats are showing up left and right!!!  We’re going to need to build a boat dock!!!

Check this out….

We have a young lady with a young baby who needs furniture for her new home in Gilpen Court and for the baby.  Charles called to tell me about her to see if we could help her out!  We agreed that he’s going to go check her out and make sure that everything is legit.

Within a matter of hours, my friend Tammy McClure calls me.  She has a whole car load of baby things…stroller, car seats, etc.  Check!  Within a matter of days, Judy Harris from church told me about bedroom furniture that needs a home.  Check!  In addition, we have a lead on some other home items that will assist her.  As we still need kitchen items/furniture, living room, baby crib, etc.  Before too long…we can check that one off the list too!  Keep that in prayer!!! Last…we have a near-by church family I feel will connect her with.

OK…then…here’s the big cruise boat coming into SBH.  Commonwealth Chapel is partnering with U-Turn.  On Saturday 6/26 we are having a cookout at Miss Marti’s House to introduce a new Saturday morning program to the kids.  Where the ComChap van will come through picking up kids ages 7-12 to hang at U-Turn….playing sports, eating/drinking a snack and receiving encouragement from the Bible.  There are 2 ComChap Missional Communities – West End and Sports MC’s that are heading this up with U-Turn.

My friend Jelani, the Director of Outreach at U-Turn, and I have been waiting patiently to get the interest and manpower behind this.  I couldn’t be more thrilled to see how people are allowing Jesus to use their boats…..

Boats called resources, time, creativity, energy, love, talents/gifts, driving, cooking, food, love, and so much more!!!

I’m excited to see whose boat Jesus uses next!!!


Last night we had a blast playing Bananagrams!!!  It was my last night alone!!!! Thankfully, Louis will be home tonight!!!  YAY!!!  We love to “play” Bananagrams…although it doesn’t hold our attention for very long.  Terence, Bishop, Deshawn and Larry kept me company on my last night alone!  Ya’ gotta love those guys!!!

Next Saturday 6.26 from 4-6 we are partnering with U-Turn and 2 (maybe 3) Commonwealth Chapel Missional Communities to throw a neighborhood cook-out for the kids 7-12 and their parents.  We are introducing a new Saturday morning program that will allow kids to go to U-Turn to play, have a snack and take a little time for the Word.  Praying that Larry, Deshawn and Bishop will go.  Terence is a little too old, but maybe he can be a Jr Leader.  We will have to see.  Please join us in prayer for this outreach!

Happy Birthday to You, Vicky!

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!!!

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De’ Andre

I am helping one of my kids…Miss Marti’s Kids…De’ Andre Mitchell, AKA Dude for those of you who know him.  He’s 16 years old and is active on the John Marshall Football team.  He really wants to go to a football camp scheduled for mid-April (yeah…he waited a bit late to start working for his money!) in Charlotte, NC.  He has a partial scholarship, but needs to raise the about another $500 to cover the rest of the camp and travel expenses (one of the biggest expenses).

Dude, his mom and I decided that it would be best for him to earn his money versus taking donations.  So, if you have any jobs that need to be done….please give him a call.  He’s a really good and trustworthy kid and a hard worker.  But…he is a teenager and will need some guidance.  In addition, he will also need a ride if it’s not on the bus route.

If you don’t have odd jobs to do, but would like to sponsor him in another way…there is another opportunity.  Dude has committed to completing an online financial course on www.handsonbanking.com.  I will monitor his progress and test his learning.  This is a great chance for him to learn the life skills needed to manage and budget his money. If you are interested in helping in this way, shoot me an email at missmartishouse[at]me[dot]com.  I will tell you how you can assist!

Thanks for reading and considering!

Keep reading for a letter that he has written to you….

De'Andre aka Dude 4.1.2010

April 1, 2010

My name is De’ Andre Mitchell, I’m a 16 years old student athlete at John Marshall High. I play football for John Marshall since 2008. I’m a hard worker and team player on and off the field, and class’s group projects. Also, I’m a good person to hang out with in school and out school. I’ll make you laugh when you around me I’ll make you feel good around me.

I would like to attend this camp called Football University, to help me at the running back position to help my football teammates and coaches that they can trust me in the backfield. Because I use to play QB for John Marshall last year but I wasn’t that good at the QB position not in games but also in practice. I would like to do it because I’m a football player that would like to gain my yards by running the ball in the backfield.

I will do anything to raise the money for me to attend Football University Camp. I’ll cut the grass, help moving things from a place to another, help you build something, anything that you would like me to do, because I’ll really like to attend this camp to help my teammate and myself.

I’m willing to work next week 5-8 and plus the weekend. I need to have the money by April the 16th. You can reach me on my cell 804-909-2608.

I look forward to working with you.


De’ Andre Mitchell


My friend and author of The Meeting of the Waters, Fritz Kling recently posted on his FB page…

“Over the past 25 years, there has been a 45% drop in how often people invite friends to their homes. Wow! I know Val and I have done our part to keep that figure from being worse! But I’m troubled by what this means for a culture…and what we Christians are doing to stem the tide. In the Bible, good things happen over meals and in homes, and I feel a need now to try harder than ever to practice hospitality.”

I could NOT agree more!  Good things DO happen over meals and in our homes…not to mention on our porches and back yards!!!  Fritz’s comment really got me thinking…

Louis and I truly enjoy entertaining!  Thankfully, I have a wonderful husband who *LOVES* to cook, especially on the grill.  Some of you know…you’ve tasted his delectable goodies.  As many of you know, his homemade teriyaki sauce is good on just about EVERYTHING!  He receives regular requests for his teriyaki steak or chicken, crab stuffed salmon, and pancakes!  We have often thought of bottling it.  But, can’t think of a good name.  Any ideas?  RevUp Teriyaki is a good possibility.

But, it is NOT just about the food goodness.  It’s more about the communing….the chillin’ and relaxin’ with old friends or making new ones.  It’s about building community, laughing, playing, relaxing and enjoying one another.  The Bible is FULL of stories that take place around the table.  I particularly like the ones that where Jesus ate with the “sinners” and the “outsiders”.  Then, this got me reading…a blog…John Mark Hicks Ministries, specifically his Missional Table post, although there were more posts on the topic.

“Luke is a narrator. He tells stories rather than writing didactic prose. Through the stories he inculcates the values which he wants his community to embrace. Each meal story reveals something about Jesus and his mission. In Luke 5:27-32 Jesus sits at table with sinners as a physican among the sick. In Luke 7:36-50 Jesus receives a sinful woman at the table of a Pharisee and declares her sins forgiven. In Luke 9:10-17 Jesus shows hospitality to 5000 people as he first calls his disciples to mission (“give them something to eat”) and then models before them his messianic mission. The disciples are called to service. The table has a missional dimension; it reflects the mission of God to commune with his people at table. In Luke 10:38-42 Jesus accepts women as his disciples. In Luke 11:37-54 Jesus condemns the Pharisees because they sit at table only in form, not in spirit. In Luke 14:1-24 Jesus notes that their table does not look like the kingdom of God, but it looks like themselves. In Luke 19:1-10 Jesus invites himself to table with the tax collector Zacchaeus and declares that salvation had come to his house. Luke 24 welcomes a stranger to the table in Emmaus (Luke 24:30-35) and commissions the disciples to bear witness to gospel among all nations (Luke 24:45-49). Just as the disciples offered hospitality to a stranger on the way, so the table is a place where the church welcomes strangers (aliens or “others”). The table has a missionary quality, especially in light of the fact that the disciples receive their call to missions at a table.”

If this is what Jesus is modeling for us on a frequent basis, then who are we communing with and how often are we doing it?  Based on the statistic that Fritz brought us, we must not be doing it often.  I wonder why we don’t do it more.  What keeps us from “breaking bread” with others on a more regular basis? Taking quality time with our families and friends?

and possibly even strangers?

Hebrews 13:2 “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

Here are a few pics of times we have welcomed friends and strangers, sinners and saints, young and old, black and white, rich and poor to our table, our porch, our back yard and our kitchen for a cooking lesson or 2!  I hope to have many more full tables in the weeks, months and years to come!  You are welcome at our table anytime…come on over!

Urban:Suburban Challenge

Last night, Louis had a committee meeting at his church, which left me home alone.  I decided that I would take time to get ahead on postings…do a little planning on what stories I would tell and when.  I thought I had it all under control when I went to bed last night.  But, I woke up this morning at about 5am which is VERY unlike me!  There’s nothing better than sleeping in!  Knowing that, I believe the Lord takes great JOY in waking me up early to have a little discussion with me. This is hard to put into words as I grapple with it through my tears and fears.  I’m still processing.  But, I am going to give it a shot…

Where Louis and I Live and Minister

I have been challenged this week, when I received an email from the director of a local urban ministry.  He contacted me to tell me that there was a local suburban church who was looking for a 1-day mission project in a couple of months.  Thinking of me and SBH, he gave me a call to see if I could come up with a project for them to do.

Initially, I was THRILLED!!! WOW!  Am I an official ministry now?!?!?!  That people want to come and help for a day?!?!? But, something just wasn’t sitting right with me.  For a couple of days now, I have been thinking…what could they do?  I even went on the internet and started looking at what other organizations have done.  Asking myself, what does SBH need? What could we do? I couldn’t think of anything that a 1-day trip could accomplish.  Then, I was mortified.  I started beating myself up!  Surely there was SOMETHING!!!!  Lord, what was it?!?!

Well, He woke me up with an answer.  There may be NOTHING.  (Stay with me!  I said MAY!!!)  There may not be a THING that a 1-day missions trip could do to help my community. Am I trying to force it?  This church, I am sure, is full of well-meaning people of God.  I know this will sound completely OUTLANDISH to many of you reading this, but could there possibly be more harm done in that 1 day than there will be good?

Let me explain why….

I first thought of odd jobs they could do around the community – yard work, painting, etc.  But, then it hit me….How would my friend Everett make his living? Everett does odd jobs at an affordable price for folks around the community.  Cutting grass, mulching, planting, washing cars, etc.  How would Everett then buy what he needs without that income?

Would we offend people by offering FREE services? The last thing I would want to do is offend the people I have grown to LOVE. No one has come to me with a need that needs to be met.  But, I am now asking the right local people for their help.

Then, I thought of “picking up trash”.  Well, that would take a few hours. But, wouldn’t it be better if we rallied the community to do that?  But, it takes a relationship to rally people.  Does this well-meaning church have a relationship with the people to rally them?  The simple answer is no, but we do.

I once heard a story about a well-meaning American church who went to a foreign country to build a well in a dry place where the locals had to walk for miles and miles to get clean water.  Certainly a worthy cause! The Americans built the well on their own, then went on home to the USA.  Then..the well broke down.  No one knew how to fix it and the parts were too expensive.  So, the people were STILL thirsty, but also frustrated!! They had a taste of what it meant to get water without walking for miles….now it was more difficult than before.

What I realized this morning is that we need those and other well-meaning Christians to INVEST in the urban community.  Not just a 1-shot deal.  We need folks who understand the impacts and the nature of being poor and are willing to walk along side someone or a family.  We need someone who is willing to practice the art of being “present”….of just being there.

Yes, SBH may have people who don’t have a lot of money, but are RICH in spirit. Most of the folks in SBH are hard-working dedicated people.  Many people look into SBH and all they see are the prostitutes, the dealers (and their clients), the trash in the street, the homes in disrepair, etc. But, that is what they see from the outside looking in.  You need to BE there, PRESENT to see the inside…the many assets of SBH, the pride, the history, the commitment of the pioneers that have been through so much for so many decades…but continue to stick it out.

So now…I need to explore with this church and others.  Knowing I can not discount short-term missions trips altogether, I realize that many long-term missionaries and volunteers are born out of 1-day and other short-term missions opportunities. But, I owe it to myself and to my community to do a little investigating first.  The last thing I would want to do is bring unintentional harm to SBH or the servants.  Is this the beginning of that relationship? How can I partner with this church (and others) without hurting them or SBH at the same time?

A few questions to ask now (albeit not an exhaustive list)…

  • Can we come up with a project that will help SBH or someone who lives here? There must be something! I’ve put the word out in the community this morning. Lord…show us the need that we can meet!
  • How can I provide the kind of experience for the servants/missionaries where they truly experience the community and learn/benefit from the day?  I know it is cliche, but how would Jesus do this?
  • Is the CHURCH (the church at large….the Body of Christ) willing to commit…to invest…their time and/or resources to walk it out on the long-term?


is it a box to check?

served a poor urban community in 2010.            Check!

I am reminded of a book that friend Don Coleman suggested to me When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor or Yourself. I’ve used it as a resource, but now it’s time to dust if off and give it a good read.  If anyone wants to explore this book WITH me, let me know.  There are great exercises and probing questions to ask yourself in a group or individual study.



Matthew 11

28.  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

29.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble, and you will find rest for your souls.

30.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The last 2 posts told the story of a family who was in distress for a variety of reasons…and things did NOT turn out the way that any of us felt like they would..or the way that we wanted them to.  I wanted Sondra to go back to the hospital….to choose life.  I have no doubt that is what her children wanted as well.  I thought things would be better when KK lived with me.  To have some stability…love, etc.  But…that too didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to.

But, I am thankful that God was with me all the time.  Check out this video…this kinda explains how I was feeling during the time…that is was raining…a lot!

NOOMA Rain | 001