02/15/2013 12:39 pm ET Updated Apr 17, 2013

The Weight of Mercy

A few years ago my wife and I were invited to a dinner party hosted by a professor of a local university. The guests were likewise on staff of this university and after dinner the conversation turned to the trauma of participating in a charitable endeavor. One of the guests had decided it was time to do something charitable so she became involved with Habitat for Humanity. Her plan was to invite her class to participate; however the prospect of one of her black students actually working in a disadvantaged neighborhood where black people may live had stifled her into inaction. She couldn't bear the thought of bringing one of her young students, the son of a successful family who happened to be black, into an impoverished neighborhood. "I just don't think I could live with myself." She pondered. Her professor friends commiserated with her and agreed that she was in a tough position.

Imagine a world where we pontificated for days or weeks over committing a simple act of kindness, would anything decent ever get done? And so it is that some of us are committed to random acts of kindness that can be as simple as holding a door for a friend on crutches while others, such as Deb Richardson-Moore, leap into an ice-cold swimming pool wearing a suit of faith and clenching to a desire to truly change the world.

Mrs. Richardson-Moore spent many years as a reporter for her local newspaper. She had a loving, successful husband, raised three good kids and vacationed at the beach. Yet her desire to "do something" soon turned into a calling from no less than Christ himself. She left the newspaper, entered seminary and when offered the chance became pastor of a beat-up inner-city church that was a haven for the least of our brothers: prostitutes, crack dealers, the homeless and indigent, the detritus that a thriving city discards on its way to awards of livability by the national media. In one of her first of many late night emergencies, a police officer helps her nail boards across the front of her church's entrance. As she's driving home, Mrs. Richardson-Moore wonders to herself "what sort of church nails its front door shut?" She quietly tells herself that this is only for a year.

The Weight of Mercy chronicles Mrs. Richardson-Moore's first three years as pastor of Triune Mercy Center in Greenville, SC. She offers testimony to all of us and asks the reader to offer a hand when asked. With a hearty constitution and a mile-wide streak of compassion, Mrs. Richardson-Moore opens the doors of Triune and offers us a seat next to a stammering crack addict as he promises he's going to come clean tomorrow, invites us into a tiny corner of an abandoned warehouse that a homeless couple has lovingly decorated, then throws open the door of the church's bathroom after it's been excruciatingly violated and offers the reader a mop bucket as the foul stench seethes from the pages. Changing the world is tough, dirty, thankless work.

At first she spends her days flitting between arguments and fights before solving a petty theft or two while struggling to find the time to write a sermon that her addicts and pimps won't sleep through; more of a referee instead of a pastor. The chaos of the job and the reputation of the church as nothing more than a place for a free meal and handouts has her questioning her calling. Yet "Pastor Deb" as some of her parishioners refer to her, soon sets Triune on a course of sea-change that will create a place of love and forgiveness where addicts can come clean, ex-convicts can find employment and the homeless can find housing.

With her journalism background in full use, Mrs. Richardson-Moore has crafted a tightly-scripted narrative of compassion, humility and courage in the face of inner-city human suffering. By setting a stunning example of Christian compassion, she invites the reader to participate and seek out opportunity to commit a simple act of kindness and perhaps make a real change in our society. Don't pontificate or over-reason the ramifications, there are people that need your help and if you can help, then please do so. Today Mrs. Richardson-Moore is still the pastor of Triune Mercy and if she can do this then surely you can do -- what?

The Weight of Mercy was published by Monarch Books in 2012.