After falling in love, getting married and finishing seminary (Matthew with a Masters of Divinity & Lisa with a Masters in Intercultural Studies), we settled into a Christian learning community in one of California’s poorest neighborhoods in downtown Fresno, Ca.
During our 5 years in Fresno, Lisa was on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship as a campus minister at Fresno State University and urban project coordinator with the Pink House, an intentional Christian community and urban ministry training center. Through these two unique roles, Lisa trained and discipled college students and emerging urban leaders.
Matthew was on staff as a project director with One by One Leadership, a faith-based nonprofit community development organization. Through his role at One by One, Matthew trained pastors, church leaders and volunteers in effective outreach strategies and volunteer management best practices. Matthew also served as a lay pastor at Fresno, First Baptist Church and adjunct professor at Fresno Pacific University.
After visiting the Faith Alive Foundation in 2005, in 2006, we were commissioned by our church, Fresno First Baptist Church and our Fresno community to serve in Jos at Faith Alive.
In Nigeria, we served alongside a community of medical professionals, ministers, volunteers and other people of peace locked in a fight against HIV/AIDS in central Nigeria. During our time there we saw people fully live, die with honor, marry the person of their dreams, open businesses that help the poor, love Jesus and hate the brokenness in the world.
However, our time in Nigeria was cut short. During a brief trip back to the US in 2007, we discovered our visa application was rejected and the door for us to return to Nigeria had unexpectedly closed.
In the midst of this disappointing news, our alma mater, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary hearing about our situation, tapped us on the shoulder and asked if we’d be the Missionaries in Residence for the Fall 2007 semester and teach classes in their school of Missions. So we spent a season living in the San Francisco Bay Area, training future pastors and missionaries and sharing our stories and lives with the next generation of congregational and community leaders.
Then along came a young, wild congregation from the land of Elvis, B.B. King and Barbeque that caught our attention. They expressed a desire to love God and genuinely love their neighbors; those close by and those far away. They asked if we would want to join them. We said yes. And now, after 10 years in California, we're pointing our circus east and nestling ourselves on the banks of the Mississippi in a little place called Memphis.