I’m finally writing a bit of my story here. I’ve hesitated until now, because I often wonder, does it really matter? Does anyone ever read this stuff? But I’ve come to understand that knowing someone’s whole story… including their past – which is a legacy they’ll always carry, and not just their present – which is really a mere sound-bite of someone’s life…. is crucial when walking into the future together. And crucial when entering into each others stories and becoming a part of their fabric.
I grew up in a rural neighborhood in a small suburb of Los Angeles, CA. Southern California, for as long as I’ve known it, has been a melting pot of ethnic and cultural diversity. Although our cul de sac track-housing, manicured lawns and swing-setted backyards looked much like the set of the suburbia hit, The Wonder Years… our people looked much different. We were Hispanic, Black, Chinese, White, Native American, Redneck, Hippie, Conservative and Liberal. We played softball in the local Bobby Sox League yet picketed Union Lines. Our parents volunteered for the McCarthy Campaign (Joe not Eugene) and suffered the back-lash of accused communism and Hollywood Blacklists… they fought for separatism and unification, participated in one of the largest Jesus movements in history while simultaneously jump-starting the sexual revolution. To say I grew up in a diverse community is an understatement.
My mom is an only child. When she was in her 30’s, her mom, my Grandma Jessie, passed away and it was then that she found out she was adopted. She doesn’t know her heritage or anything about her ancestry. So who knows what kind of history we have? I like to periodically make things up. I’m still convinced I have African blood in me somewhere. My father is the middle son of 3 boys born to Lester and Marie Bumpass. Yes, you read right… I was actually born with the last name Bumpass… it’s on my birth certificate. It’s French in origin and prior to my ancestors traveling to the New World it was spelled “Bumpassó” (meaning “good passage”). It was common back then to “Americanize” last names, dropping accent marks and such. When I was a mere 6 months old, my parents, along with my Dad’s 2 brothers and their families, went to court and legally changed our last name to Barnett. My grandparents were mortified. Though I’m deeply grateful for the name change – I wish I’d been old enough to chime in on the decision. It would have been great to go back to the original “Bumpassó” and maintain our heritage.
I have a rich legacy on my Grandmother Marie’s side (The Potters). She is the only girl of 9 brothers – all of who became pastors, preachers and ministers of the Gospel. Grandma Marie was a tough cookie as a result… but the most tender-hearted soft-spoken lover of Jesus I’ve ever met. I’m so glad she’s with Him now… it’s all she ever really wanted.
Flash forward to my life as an adult: I spent many years during and after college working in retail management and marketing. A divine “accidental” meeting in a parking lot with my old youth pastor resulted in my leaving that career to enter into full time ministry, co-founding an organization called The Compassion Network. In its 3 years of operation, The Compassion Network trained and equipped roughly 7,000 local church members to care for street homeless, low-income families, young women in crisis pregnancy, and those infected with HIV/AIDS.
From there I worked with The Salvation Army on Hollywood Blvd. Not as glamorous as it sounds. I ran a drop-in center for runaway and homeless teens, focusing on family reconciliation and reunification. The hardest part of this work was when I realized that for many of my kids, the streets were a safer place than home. I can easily say that it was the toughest job I’ve ever done, but equally rewarding. I lasted 4 years… which I’m told is 3 years longer than the average. I can understand why. I cried myself to sleep nearly every single night.
I’d been introduced to the Christian Music world through a friend named David Robertson (formerly with the Imperials and a solo project on Star Song Records). He’d been a volunteer at the Drop In Center and he helped me transition into a not-so-emotionally-draining area of ministry. I found a job as an Executive Assistant with a Christian Music management firm. One of my accounts was World Vision and I fell in love with the work they were doing. I went out on the road with Twila Paris in the Fall of 1996 to see firsthand what artists were doing to raise awareness and generate new sponsors. I was hooked. By February 1997 I’d packed my life into my little Toyota hatchback (along with a homeless girl named Courtney – but that’s a whole blog in and of itself) and headed out I-40 to Nashville, TN. I’ve toured for World Vision ever since.
During the last 13 years of living in the Nashville area I have worked with various organizations while continuing my work with World Vision, as well as volunteering as a youth group leader. I also worked as an itinerant speaker to youth, college and young adults, and led multiple overseas mission trips for junior high, high school and college age students. Throughout that time, I also worked as the Asst. A&R Director at Pamplin Music, Program Director at Rocketown (the youth program), Director of The Eagles Program (after-school tutoring for inner-city kids in the Franklin’s Projects) and Project Director at African Leadership (developing fundraisning materials and writing child protection curriculum). I’m currently touring full time with World Vision, splitting my time between various tours like Women of Faith and Chonda Pierce.
I started shooting pictures on a mission trip in the summer of 2000, and realized I had a knack for it. By 2003, after my first trip to Africa, I’d established Blue House Photography focusing on journalistic and fine art work. I’ve had several art shows in the Nashville area and continue to shoot overseas whenever possible. I dabble in portrait, portfolio and commercial work… but my first love is journalism.
And just to keep it interesting, I recently started honing my cooking skills and have seen some modest success in this area. The Perfect Bite is a recipe site I developed to help people add a little gourmet touch to their meals. I’m working on developing a cookbook by the same name.
In 2005, I moved to East Nashville (from Franklin – which I really love) to be a part of a church plant out of Christ Community Church. City Church of East Nashville and N. 16th Street have been my home for 5 years now… and I couldn’t love it more. And I love our mission statement: City Church of East Nashville exists to reconcile the diversity of East Nashville by enjoying and displaying Jesus Christ through worship, teaching, and city-focused communities to, for, and from Nashville to the nations of the world. What an honor to be a part of what God is doing in this broken community, through our broken lives.
Well there you go. So be sure to tell me some of your story, too. I purposely allowed comments on this section so we can dialogue about our lives. I’ve already gone first – so now it’s your turn!