The Poor and the Homeless

As New Venture grows in her awareness of needs in our community and city my hope and prayer is that more and more of us will be willing to unselfishly and sacrificially respond to those needs. Let me introduce you to one such opportunity and program that specifically targets the poor and homeless of our city. It is called the Unity-Works Project. Is this something you have a heart for? Is it something you might explore or even become a point person for in the NV church family?

If you have any interest email Chris Harmon,, or me and we can discuss it further. An informational workshop is offered on August 27 for any who might be interested. click here for more details.

I know this is a big undertaking but it could be the most significant journey you ever signed up for.

The Unity-Works Project is being funded in part by Valparaiso University through the Practicing our Faith grants program ( The project has three goals:

1) Sharing the stories of hospitality that resulted in the birth of Embrace Richmond

2) Expanding the practice of hospitality toward the poor in our community by building collaboratives between the faith community and the non-profit sector

3) Equipping future leaders for urban ministry through education and experiential learning opportunities
These three objectives will be met through two activities;

1) The writing of a book by Embrace founder Wendy McCaig which Chronicles how the practice of hospitality has shaped Embrace Richmond and those we serve. For more information about this aspect of the project see the “Resources” page.

2) A five month urban missions training program that will allow participants to experience hospitality from both sides of the table, as both giver and recipient. The goal of these workshops is help congregations discern how they can expand the practice of hospitality toward the poor in their own congregational setting.
This website was created to promote the project and as a resource to congregations and leaders who are interested in participating in the 5 month Unity-Works training program. Below you will find an overview of the project.


Over the past three years, Embrace Richmond has partnered with dozens of congregations through our Welcome Home Project and Youth and Family Missions Day events. Congregations have repeatedly requested opportunities to go deeper by engaging in relational urban missions that are transformational to both the church and the community. In response to that request and to the growing community need for relational ministry, Embrace Richmond developed the Unity-Works project.


Unity-Works is an experiential learning project offering congregational teams opportunities to learn about the issues facing impoverished individuals in Richmond and helping congregations discern how they can minister to those in need through partnerships with other faith-based organizations. The Unity-Works project is being funded in part by Valparaiso Universities “Practicing our Faith” program.


Phase 1 – Unity Building Workshops: Through these six workshops congregations will learn about the challenges faced by Richmond’s homeless and at-risk individuals. Through these workshops participants will be taught by individuals who have personally experienced homelessness (adventure guides) and by faith-based urban leaders who are working to alleviate some of the challenges. Throughout the process congregations will examine how their own congregation is responding to the needs and will develop a greater appreciation for the assets of their local congregation.

Phase 2 – Homeless Immersion Weekend: Through this weekend experience participants will experience first hand the journey from the streets, to living in the shelter, to obtaining and sustaining independence.

Phase 3 – Strategic Planning Workshops: Through these three final workshops congregations will develop their own “Vision for Mission” that takes into consideration ministries already in operation in their congregation along with new opportunities to engage in urban ministry through partnership with other organizations.

Phase 4 – Sharing the Vision: Teams will present their plan using story and other media to their fellow participants and ultimately to their congregation. These “Visions for Mission” will be posted on the Unity-Works website to help guide future program participants.

Phase 5 – Living the Vision: The teams will be commissioned to bring their visions alive in their local congregations. Embrace Richmond will track the implementation of the projects along with the outcomes and will update the unity-works website on a quarterly basis.


World Changers

Let’s go down a different road. For the next few weeks I am going to be addressing “World Changers” in our Sunday gatherings. I don’t know about you but I believe we have more of a purpose on planet earth than to just take up space, eat, drink, breath, go through the same daily routine day in and day out and then die and be put under the ground as the crowd goes off and eats potato salad together. I believe we are here to make a difference in our world. I believe we are here to challenge the status quo. I believe we are here to push the envelope and explore uncharted horizons. And I believe we are here to leave an eternal mark on the lives of those whose lives intersect with ours.

There were some guys in the Bible that were accused of turning the world upside down. They were world changers in the earliest days of the church. The Bible says of them, “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also.” (Acts 17:6)

What is your desire in life? Do you want to just quietly, stealthily and inconspicuously lumber through it until you make your final exit or do you want to leave with a legacy of effectiveness, significance, value and positive impact on the lives of people who connected with your life? I might be wrong on this one but, I think the latter is what we all desire or at least most of us.

It is entirely possible that you have a barrel full of ideas and plans on how to leave a lasting difference in people’s lives. But in case you don’t, I want to at least offer a little help. Beginning this Sunday, August 17, and for the next six weeks, I will be addressing six qualities that I believe are the most important ones for us to live out if we are going to change our world rather than just take up space in it. I certainly hope you will join us if you can. If you need some more info about our location and times of gathering check out

Meanwhile can I get some ideas from you? I invite your response to two questions. Here they are.

1. What do you believe needs to be changed most in the world in which we live?
2. What do you think needs to be done in order to bring about those changes?

Can’t wait to hear your thoughts and ideas.

I Stand at the Door

This past Sunday we explored the reason New Venture was launched in the first place. We are in the initial stages of planning for a relaunch as we move to Tomahawk Creek Middle School in January. There is no better time to revisit and recapture our vision for New Venture’s existence than at the very beginning of relocation planning. The following is a piece I shared on Sunday. No literary work has ever captured my purpose for existence, New Venture’s purpose for existence and I hope your purpose for existence than this one.

I Stand at the Door By Sam Shoemaker

I stand by the door.
I neither go to far in, nor stay to far out.
The door is the most important door in the world –
It is the door through which men walk when they find God.
There is no use my going way inside and staying there,
When so many are still outside and they, as much as I,
Crave to know where the door is.
And all that so many ever find
Is only the wall where the door ought to be.
They creep along the wall like blind men,
With outstretched, groping hands,
Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door,
Yet they never find it.
So I stand by the door.

The most tremendous thing in the world
Is for men to find that door – the door to God.
The most important thing that any man can do
Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands
And put it on the latch – the latch that only clicks
And opens to the man’s own touch.

Men die outside the door, as starving beggars die
On cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter.
Die for want of what is within their grasp.
They live on the other side of it – live because they have not found it.

Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it,
And open it, and walk in, and find Him.
So I stand by the door.

Go in great saints; go all the way in –
Go way down into the cavernous cellars,
And way up into the spacious attics.
It is a vast, roomy house, this house where God is.
Go into the deepest of hidden casements,
Of withdrawal, of silence, of sainthood.
Some must inhabit those inner rooms
And know the depths and heights of God,
And call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is.
Sometimes I take a deeper look in.
Sometimes venture in a little farther,
But my place seems closer to the opening.
So I stand by the door.

There is another reason why I stand there.
Some people get part way in and become afraid
Lest God and the zeal of His house devour them;
For God is so very great and asks all of us.
And these people feel a cosmic claustrophobia
And want to get out. ‘Let me out!’ they cry.
And the people way inside only terrify them more.
Somebody must be by the door to tell them that they are spoiled.
For the old life, they have seen too much:
One taste of God and nothing but God will do any more.
Somebody must be watching for the frightened
Who seek to sneak out just where they came in,
To tell them how much better it is inside.
The people too far in do not see how near these are
To leaving – preoccupied with the wonder of it all.
Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door
But would like to run away. So for them too,
I stand by the door.

I admire the people who go way in.
But I wish they would not forget how it was
Before they got in. Then they would be able to help
The people who have not yet even found the door.
Or the people who want to run away again from God.
You can go in too deeply and stay in too long
And forget the people outside the door.
As for me, I shall take my old accustomed place,
Near enough to God to hear Him and know He is there,
But not so far from men as not to hear them,
And remember they are there too.

Where? Outside the door –
Thousands of them. Millions of them.
But – more important for me –
One of them, two of them, ten of them.
Whose hands I am intended to put on the latch.
So I shall stand by the door and wait
For those who seek it.

‘I had rather be a door-keeper
So I stand by the door.