2015 – A Year in Review

What a year! WOW! And what a year we have to look forward to. (More to come from that in an upcoming post!) Here’s a quick snap shot of the Year in the Life of Marti and Louis Williams and their work in Richmond and beyond!  I’m sharing these things to give you insight to how we spend some of our time, but also in hopes that you will glean some ideas on how you, too, can join in God’s mission of loving your neighbor! I pray that you will share your ideas with us as well! Always looking for something new!! Enjoy!

January 2015  –   The Usual New Years Day Open House

We start every year with a New Years Day Open House from 10a-2p where we flip pancakes and hang out with about 100 of our closest friends and neighbors. For some reason, I have not ONE picture! Dope!  Anyway – it’s a great way to connect people from different parts of your life – work, home, and play.

February 2015  –   Mardi Bras RVA

You filled the pod with bras, underwear, pads and tampons for women who are homeless or on a low/restricted income! and we got to meet Karla Redditt!!! Amazing effort by everyone involved! Y’ALL ROCK!!! Get ready for Mardi Bras RVA 2016! For more info >> click here!

 

March 2015  –   Community Trustbuilding Fellowship

Throughout late 2014 and early 2015, I (Marti) joined about 30 other folks from across the Richmond area (as well as Texas, Washington DC, Ohio, Tidewater, Cameroon and the Netherlands) once a month for 5 months to participate in Initiatives of Change’s program called Community Trustbuilding Fellowship.  As a diverse group of individuals, we came together as a community – learning about how to build trust building through facilitating dialogue through experiential learning. Great experience! Highly recommend it!

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April 2015  –   Easter!

We continued with our Annual Easter Egg Hunt and Joy Bombing – as we drove around Richmond bringing joy, a blessing or prayer and some candy! What a treat! For more pictures, click here >> EASTER 2015.

May 2015  –   Church Facing Outward

Church, to me, is the body of Christ-followers…. not a place that people go on Sunday morning. We ARE the church. We go to gatherings or worship services. This is our how our church gathers on Tuesday evenings.

This is how we sometimes gather. This particular day we served a neighbor, together with his family and some other neighbors, to clean up an overgrown yard. You see, this neighbor happened to have a short stay in the county jail and was about to rack up major fines. So, we worked with the city on his behalf and got to work! Resulting in NO Fines and an opportunity to show our love in a practical way!

May 2015  –   Memorial Day Community Cookout

This is an annual tradition for us! Bringing people together over food is one of our favorite things to do to build community! Go ahead and mark your calendar for this year’s gathering! Check pintrest for your favorite recipe! 🙂  More 2015 Pictures

June 2015  –   Lemonade Stand

Weekly, we gather together to study God’s Word, build nurturing relationships and serve the community. Part of that is FOOD! We have dinner together. The kids of our church family wanted to cook dinner, but didn’t have money to do that. So, they held a lemonade stand and then worked to plan, budget, prepare, cook and clean up afterwards! One of the best meals EVER!!!

June 2015 – Hope Church Neighbor Lovin’ Day

Hope Church also brought a team to serve our community by picking up trash, pulling weeds, trimming brush and more! They were able to meet neighbors along the way and involve them in the work – building friendships and community across geographic barriers.  See More Pictures

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July 2015  –   Annual Camp Splash – Backyard VBS

Again, in partnership with Hope Church, we held our 4th annual backyard VBS – Camp Splash! The kids FAVORITE gathering of the year! Grateful for all who serve and also provide meals each day!  We couldn’t do this without your help!  This year we capped at over 50 kids this year!  See More Pictures – Day 1    Day 2    Day 3    Day 4    Day 5

August 2015  –  Friends of John Marshall High School

A group of us went to John Marshall to help prepare the school for the first day – picking up trash, planting flowers, painting and more!

September 2015  –   Back to School

THIS. DAY. What a blast! Tons of people made signs and brought chalk and granola bars. 3 of us went out before day light and decorated the kids’ yards, bus stops, and sidewalks. Then, we went from bus stop to bus stop handing out granola bars and hugs galore! What FUN!  More Pictures!

September 2015  –   UCI Cycle Race

We took the opportunity to do something fun – going to the bike race and turned it into a way to serve. Just hanging out on the street…cheering… and chatting it up with people from all over Richmond and the World!  More Pictures!

September 2015 – West End Send Off

2 of our church family got hitched and moved to the West End. It is their intention to get to know and love their neighbors. So, some of us went to their home and served up ice cream, which allowed them the time to socialize and get to know their neighbors. We always appreciate it when people come along side of us to do that.

October 2015  –   Front Yard Halloween Party

Each year, we move the corn hole, snacks and hot apple cider to the front yard and just hangout getting to know our neighbors. Also a simple way to gather together – sharing life with a neighbor and a friend. Another day I totally forgot to take a picture or 2.

November 2015  –   Jobs for Life in the RCJC

Along with countless volunteers from numerous churches, we spent 2 days a week for 8 weeks in the Richmond City Justice Center (RCJC – aka the city jail), facilitating Jobs for Life (JfL).  JfL is a biblically based job and life preparation training program that teaches how to obtain, maintain and thrive in a job. This was real gift to us. God showed us favor in so many ways!  The class of 9 had a 100% graduation rate!  We are starting 2 classes this month!  Join us, will you?

  • You can learn more about Jobs for Life in the RCJC here >>> JfL in RCJC.
  • More pictures of the graduation >> JfL Graduation.

December 2015  –   Christmastime

Nothing like gathering together to celebrate the birth of Christ and remember why He came. He came to serve, not to be served. He came to be light in the world. He can to die so that we may live. And he came to send us to do the same. That’s always a hard pill to swallow.  Am I willing to die so that another may live? I mean really. I’m the one who gets ticked when my Dr. Pepper is flat.  Sigh. God has much work to do in me.

This year Louis and I  were reminded there are angels all around us – mighty sword-weilding ninja warriors who are protecting and fighting on our behalf. We learned (AGAIN!) that we fight not against flesh and blood, we fight against the spirits and principalities that seek to destroy, distract, and depress. I am learning (AGAIN!) that we don’t fight like others fight. We are to pray like none-other. I am learning (AGAIN!) to rely and depend upon God to fight my battles….as I kneel. (Yes – I saw War Room.  Can you tell???)

This Christmas we went with a crew of people to Glorious Christmas Nights and the Christmas Parade and luncheon – thanks to the donations of some great friends and organizations!  We are grateful for our friends from Restoration Church who joined us in Christmas Caroling! What a terrific experience for us all!

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Everyday Walk Around Lives – 2015, Looking at 2016

OK – I hesitated to post all of this, because I feared that it would look braggadocios. “Look at everything we did!” But really…. this is more like it right here. Let me share with you some real pictures of our everyday lives. It’s not all that exciting… trust me. NOTE:  This year, we will be working on our own ‘soul care’. Taking time to nourish ourselves – mind, body and soul. Taking care of our marriage, our health, and our own relationships with Christ.  Don’t hesitate to remind us that this is not a sprint, but a marathon.

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Here we are on our anniversary – I think or was it Louis’s birthday? Not sure. But, it’s our normal, everyday life. Feel free to stop by if you can handle all the fun!

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This is us eating NOT SO HEALTHY food. Nothing like a ice cream, apple, whipped cream with drizzles of caramel and cinnamon on a funnel cake.  Sigh.

Lastly, we say thank you! Thanks to all of you who have supported us through our work through the non-profit – Into The Neighborhood, through our church – Life Transformation Church, and us directly as a ministry couple. We couldn’t do all this (and more) without your love, support, prayers and financial gifts. So, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We ask for your on-going support, and there are a few ways that you can do that.

  1. To support the ministry of Miss Marti’s House and Into The Neighborhood, click here>> Support Into The Neighborhood
  2. To support the church/gospel planting efforts- Life Transformation Church, click here>> Support Support Life Transformation Church
  3. To save on the fees associated with online giving, you can always send a check to us at 2101 Barton Avenue, Richmond, VA 23222.
  4. To support us as a ministry couple, please contact us directly, and we will share with you how to best support.

Thanks again, neighbor.

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Why?

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.

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A Walk Down Memory Lane

Nearly 7 years ago, I moved into Southern Barton Heights, and a little over 2 years ago, I started documenting life here on MissMartisHouse.com.  Over the years, I have been asked many times “How did you end up living in the inner city?” So, I thought I would list the posts that tell that story and some from the first couple of years.  Enjoy my Walk Down Memory Lane…..

in the beginning…
Daring God
our house…is a very very very fine house…
The Chair
Forgive Me…
This little light of mine…
Reflections from Tuesday’s earlier post…
Lookin’ to the Hills
Don, Luke, Jesus & Marti
Lambs Among Wolves
A Barber, a Yoke and a…. Part 1
A Barber, a Yoke and a Baptism Part 2

Thanks for reading over the last 2 years. I really appreciate it! I hope you find it encouraging….that you, too, can live an incarnational life.  It doesn’t have to be in the inner-city, but can be right where you are or hang out….at the gym, in your apartment building, in your suburban home, at the PTA, in your country village. It doesn’t matter. You know…Jesus gave us a great example during his life here on earth.  The best example ever! Hopefully you can see His impact through my life.