Amy Lively and The Neighborhood Café were featured on FamilyLife Today on Thursday, October 31 and Friday, November 1. Hosted by Bob Lepine and Dennis Rainey, this popular radio program can be heard on top Christian stations across the country.

Here’s how it started…

“You know how I love to connect the right people around great ideas,” said the email.

With that simple introduction, a professional acquaintance networked three different ministries that shared one heart.

Lisa Troyer is a singer/songwriter, and program show host for Moody Radio. She inspires me with her passion for women’s ministry, as well as the story behind a dynamic group of “women helping women” at Circle of Friends. She inspires women to share the much-needed message of hope that all women have a place to belong in the heart of Christ. Lisa manages her family’s international food business and travels the world from her home not far from mine in Ohio’s Amish Country.

Sue Cramer is the Founder and President of Praise and Coffee ministry and online magazine. I want to attend one of her Praise and Coffee Nights that meet across the nation and world, girlfriends meeting together outside the four walls of the church and sharing life over a cup of coffee! Sue is wife, mom, speaker, writer, radio cohost and coffee drinker from Michigan who loves the Lord!

I was astounded and so grateful for the introduction to these inspiring women! God has given us a singular mission to share His love with others in three unique ways—small accountability groups at Circle of Friends, community groups at Praise and Coffee, and  neighborhood gatherings at the Neighborhood Café.

Sue and I exchanged a few emails and I spoke to Lisa once on the phone, yet I was surprised to be tagged in a Facebook post from Lisa to Sue a few weeks after our introduction—


“How’s it going? I know we need to set up our meeting time – perhaps you and Amy Lively want to fly to Little Rock and be on FLT with me? : ) that would be fun”

Lisa asked us to accompany her to the headquarters of FamilyLife as she was interviewed for their daily radio program, FamilyLife Today. Surely she wasn’t serious, inviting us to fly halfway across the country with less than 48-hours’ notice?

Oh, but she was—and so we did!

I met Lisa and Sue for the first time in person at an Atlanta terminal. Sue and I were seatmates on the flight to Little Rock, and by the time we landed we were dear friends—we quickly bonded as our poor little plane dodged tornadoes on approach to the eerily empty Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport, which had been evacuated. (OK, we unashamedly held hands, prayed rather loudly and maybe cried a little as we ignored all cell phone restrictions to text our families our last words. It was the roughest flight I’ve ever experienced.)

We were treated so kindly by the folks at FamilyLife even as they dealt with storm damage in their own neighborhoods and homes. They treated us to lunch with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine and we toured their offices. We even got to peek inside Barbara Rainey’s lovely “Ever Thine Home” studio where she creates beautiful holiday and home collections.


FamilyLife headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas



History of FamilyLife



Staff at FamilyLife



Lisa admiring the “Ever Thine Home” collection

Lisa’s tough and touching interview about her book A Place to Belong and her journey through sexual abuse, depression and ministry affected many lives when it aired a few months later. Listen to Lisa Troyer on FamilyLife Today here.

What secrets in your past are you keeping in the closet? Author Lisa Troyer spent many years trying to run away from her past, which included sexual abuse delivered at the hands of a former high school teacher. But no matter how she tried, she couldn’t outrun it, or the shame, guilt and depression that came with the memories. Lisa recalls the watershed moment when she finally found the freedom to admit her abuse to herself and others.


Lisa in the studio with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine



There’s probably a technical name for this… but it’s where the sound people sit outside the studio.

We also met Tricia Goyer, who  took time from her busy writing schedule (and the two foster children she and her husband had taken in that week, whom they later adopted) to take us to dinner. Tricia has written more than thirty-five books, including Amish and historical fiction as well as non- fiction titles and countless magazine and blog articles. I’m now writing with Tricia at www.NotQuiteAmishLiving.com, sharing ideas about simplifying life. Tricia hosts a weekly internet radio show, Living Inspired, where she interviews Christian authors and artists (like me!). Even we were confused with Lisa Troyer from Amish Country and Tricia Goyer who writes Amish fiction!

Sue Cramer, Lisa Troyer, Amy Lively (that's me!) and Tricia Goyer. Our waiter affected a new foreign accent every time he approached our table. I think he was a struggling actor.

Sue Cramer, Lisa Troyer, Amy Lively (that’s me!) and Tricia Goyer. Our waiter affected a new foreign accent every time he approached our table. I think he was a struggling actor.

It was hard to say YES

To be honest, it was hard to say YES to this impromptu getaway—it was a disruption to my carefully planned schedule, the last-minute airfare was expensive, and these women were practically strangers! God didn’t tell me Lisa would become my mentor and trusted friend. He gave me no clues about Sue’s gift of encouragement. He didn’t share that Tricia would offer advice and opportunity. And He didn’t even give me a peek at this email I would receive from FamilyLife a few months later…

Hello Amy –
I’m so excited to ask you this… On behalf of Dennis Rainey, President of FamilyLife and host of the syndicated broadcast, “FamilyLife Today,” I would like to request an interview with you for our program. This taped interview would be two hours long, and would be recorded at our offices in Little Rock, AR.   During that time we would like to discuss “The Neighborhood Café.” We love your materials and the idea of reaching out to neighbors! Dennis and Bob would also like for you to join them for lunch before the interview. (Just like déjà vue for you!)  Just let me know if this is doable…. We would welcome this opportunity and look forward to having you back – this time as a guest!

What if we said NO?

Robin networked. Lisa invited. My husband affirmed. Sue accepted. Tricia hosted. And me? I mumbled a hesitant, fearful, doubtful YES. Only then did God reveal His plan to reach more women than I ever imagined through the ministry of FamilyLife. Only He knew His plans to connect our hearts, bless our ministries and open doors to share His message.

I’m gradually learning to trust God, even when His invitations come as inconveniences. His ideas seem harebrained. His price tag can be costly. But His joy is immeasurable and the privilege of working on His team is incomparable!

We each carried out our servant assignment. I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow. It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes things grow. Planting and watering are menial servant jobs at minimum wages. What makes them worth doing is the God we are serving. You happen to be God’s field in which we are working.

1 Corinthians 3:5-9 The Message

Please join me in praying for the women who will learn about the Neighborhood Café during the FamilyLife Today broadcast. Please pray that this little ministry will have a big impact in many homes and neighborhoods. Pray that the editors will smooth out my stumbling words to create a powerful program that will inspire their listeners. But please pray they’ll also be a little bit irritated, unable to get this crazy idea out of their minds—that they will be so bothered and broken hearted for their neighbors they can’t resist knocking on their doors and introducing themselves.

And please pray that the next time God asks us to do something ridiculous, we will say YES!

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