Deb decided to become a pastor after a career in journalism. She graduated from seminary in May of 2005 but found that women were not easily accepted in the pulpits of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (of South Carolina).
She had come to know of Triune through her job of newspaper reporting. Once a thriving UMC congregation, it had been dissolved and then taken on as a satellite by a church close by. Triune's pastor was leaving and Deb found out the board would consider a nonMethodist. She was hired the end of June.
Triune was a church and ministry that welcomed the outcast, the broken, the hurting, and the marginalized of Greenville, South Carolina. Deb came to realize that the street population of the city was mostly drug addicts, alcoholics, and the mentally ill. “I was in over my head, and I knew it,” she writes. “I prayed earnestly for my footing.” (42)
She thought she would leave after a year or so. She saw many people using the system, selling groceries they received for alcohol or crack. The church was broken into. There were outbursts at the free meal. There was even a fight during a church service.
She struggled with showing the love of Christ – was she enabling bad behavior? How could she minister to the forty percent of the people they saw who had mental illnesses? Even the other sixty percent had grave mental health issues.
She would get discouraged. Should they be trying to reach a segment of the population more amenable to transformation?
She thought she would leave...but she stayed. In August of 2012, she celebrated her seventh anniversary at Triune Mercy Center. There are now 57 churches who partner in the ministry.
Deb writes, “More than two years into the ministry, I finally grasped that Triune ministered not only to the homeless and economically underprivileged. Fully half of its ministry was to more affluent Christians, helping them to live out Jesus' commands to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, welcome the stranger. … Triune was a place where they could come face to face with people they might not otherwise meet, people they might deem too frightening, too different, too 'unclean.' … Day after day after day, as we put one foot in front of the other and invited others to do the same, we provided a route for cross-bearing.” (219-220)
Triune's mission statement: “to share Christ's love while meeting physical needs and providing life-changing opportunities to the disadvantaged.” (125)
Today Triune's ministry is strong. “I never thought I'd day this,” she writes, “but Triune has become a place of fun and creativity, healing and laughter. It has become a place of joy. … Not always, of course. By definition, a whole lot of hurt still walks through our doors. But along with accessing drug rehab or employment assistance, hurting folks may sit down to write a song or paint a canvas and talk to someone who was in the same predicament six months earlier. 'Hang in there,' they're likely to hear. 'You're welcome in this place.'” (282)
You can find out more about this ministry and watch a video at www.triunemercy.org.
What an encouraging book. If you have any interest at all in ministry to the needy, and every Christian should, you must read this book. Deb's is a story of hope as she and the others at Triune show the love of Jesus to the needy.
Deb Richardson-Moore was a journalist for 27 years, is an ordained Baptist minister, and current pastor of the Triune Mercy Center, a non-denominational mission church to the homeless in Greenville, South Carolina. She and her husband, Vince, have three children.
Kregel Publications (Monarch imprint), 288 pages. Publisher's product page.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.