Greenville native Deb Richardson-Moore spent more than two decades pursuing stories and recounting them as a journalist. When she began research to cover religion, she was drawn to become a minister – and began to write her own story as pastor of Triune Mercy Center in Greenville.
Describe connecting to Triune Mercy Center
I was in seminary with the pastor who had been assigned here and it had dissolved as a Methodist church in 2003 and reborn as Triune Mercy Center. I thought from the outside that this looked like what I wanted. I had always been interested in poverty issues. I had no idea what I was stepping into.
Describe a time when you were sure you were going to fail. Did it happen?
My first year here  was the unhappiest year of my life. I was so overwhelmed with the addictions, mental illnesses, the meanness, the fighting, the stealing, liquor bottles left in the church, needles left everywhere. … I said I would stay one year. I fully intended to leave at the end of that year. I thought if I couldn’t love these people, I didn’t deserve an easier church. There was very much a sense of failure. It was so intense that the one-year anniversary came and went without me noticing. Ultimately it didn’t turn out that way and it turned around. For a while, I thought, “If I could only get fired.” After about three years, I felt like, “I like this.” Now I truly love it.
Who is a mentor for you?
I look a lot to Reid Lehman of Miracle Hill Ministries and Elaine Nocks, who is a member of our congregation and a former Furman University professor and our volunteer pastoral associate. I look to her for wisdom.
In 10 years, definitely retired and writing. In five years, I would love to still be here. It has become now a very fun, joyous place.
What would be your next (third) career?
Novelist. I just turned in a murder mystery novel to my publisher.
What is a common assumption people make about your field?
I think they assume that you’re not a down-to-earth person. Somehow you’re more spiritual or something like that. I like to dispel that. I don’t think you can be more earthy than I am. We are called to love everyone – and I do mean everyone – who comes through these doors. And a lot of times, that’s not going to suit everybody.
What is the difference between the future you saw for yourself and the life you are living today?
I could have not pictured being in ministry. I thought ministers were boring. I used to say, “Why would you be a pastor? You can’t drink, you can’t dance, you can’t cuss.” Now I know that God knows our personalities when he calls us and he doesn’t necessarily call us to change who we are, just to do something different.
If you could change places with someone, who would it be?
Gillian Flynn, author of “Gone Girl.” I’ve read every word she’s written and she had a No. 1 movie out. That would be so fun to be on that ride.
What has been gratifying about watching this ministry grow?
Bringing people of privilege to walk side-by-side with Greenville’s homeless and marginalized. And watching some people literally turn their lives around and reclaim their lives. “I think this is what the kingdom of God looks like” is what I hear over and over [from the congregation].
What keeps you up at night?
In the middle of the winter when it’s so cold, I’m thinking about the people I know who are living outside and freezing.