Faculty Profile - Professor Martis Lives a Life of Purpose

Getting to know Debbie Martis, you are struck by her diverse background and unique path. Early on, she studied accounting and business, earned an MBA, and worked at a Fortune 100 company. Fast forward, and she was in leadership at a mega-church. Now, she is founder and Executive Director of Rebirth Homes, a ministry focusing on human trafficking.

By this quick snapshot, you may jump to many conclusions, and most of them would probably be wrong. It takes a little digging to learn what drives Debbie and how she appears to weave her way in and out of for-profit, church, and now, non-profit roles. 

At Oak Valley, Professor Martis teaches leadership, where she loves learning how individual students are wired. By teaching this subject, she helps students align their gifts and talents to their passions...something she has practiced throughout her life..

Then, pivot, and you hear Professor Martis also teaches accounting and finance, where she seems at home teaching the practical application of these subjects. She says she loves seeing the lights come on when students apply complex lessons to the real world application of these topics.

So, at one moment, you think you have Professor Martis tapped as a soft-skills leader who probably chose accounting and finance early in her career in order to make a living. Then, the next moment, you have Professor Martis pegged as a numbers person who loves the clean path of quantitative reasoning.

Rarely, do you find someone who appears comfortable mixing these two worlds with relative ease.

So, we have to go a little deeper to help define somewhat who appears to defy common definition.

When Debbie started working for that Fortune 100 company, she thought she would continue in a corporate role for years...which she did. At the same time, however, she was always working toward the next thing, which happened to almost always be ministry-related.

After a little more than a decade, Debbie had the opportunity to move into ministry work. Using her operational experience and talents, she gravitated to leadership roles at Forest Home and Sandals Church. To Debbie, managing operations, people, and finance is not so different in ministry than it is in the corporate world...it is just more rewarding.

Over the next several years, Debbie became familiar with human trafficking and how it was growing across the globe. She prayed to find a way to apply her talents and expertise to serve. Her entrepreneurial spirit kicked-in.

As she became more aware of the problem and the lack of resources, she had the vision for Rebirth Homes, a nonprofit residential support program serving women who have been trafficked in the Inland Empire. Rebirth Homes is far more than a crisis residential living community, though. One of the primary goals of the program is to educate communities about the nature and expansion of human trafficking around the globe...and to seek to irradiate it. To date, Rebirth Homes has reached more than 60,000 people through its outreach efforts with the goal to eventually reach more than a million. While Debbie wants to support the women who have been trafficked, she wants to abate the causes of trafficking, which ultimately comes through education and shining a light on the problem.  

But, here again, do not pigeon-hole Debbie as just a ministry leader and professor. She is also a community leader, serving on the Board of the Barnabas Group in the Inland Empire and playing an active role in her church. She is married and the proud mom of two daughters, one who serves as activities director at an elder care facility and one who is heading off to college next year. 

When asked about her personal mission statement, Professor Martis says, "To work with a team to accomplish God-sized objectives," which seems spot-on.