Written By Maggie D.
It’s Wednesday, May 15. I just finished up my shift at the café. I’m sitting on my porch trying to figure out what to write about and I’m stumped. I started to think back about the last espresso that I wrote. And wow! So much has changed since then! The past few weeks have been crazy! And beautiful! I recently got to witness the breakthrough of robin’s eggs becoming little baby chicks in a nest that I found in the courtyard at the café. Then I experienced the heartache two days later after finding the nest rattled, empty, and abandoned. That’s life... isn’t it? The breakthrough and heartbreak. Finally having the love of a mother for myself, but feeling the constant sting of missing my own daughter. Being reunited with people that I love, but only through the death of someone we all loved dearly. The good comes with the bad. The happy and the sad. Life always shows up, but His mercies are new every morning. What is important is staying in a position to be encouraged to keep going. Encouraged not only by the ones around you, but by the Lord as well. And most importantly receiving it.
Written By Andrenna Williams
The gifts that God has given us are never just for our use and satisfaction. All things ultimately work together for the good of those who serve the Lord and when we submit to His will and call he will make space for our gifts to be used for the kingdom.Sometimes, we are not fully aware of or have confidence in our abilities to operate in our gifts. Here at Uncommon Grounds Cafe, we have been blessed with this space to be able to walk with people from "isolation to community" and discover their God given gifts in the process. One of the ways we do this is by offering people opportunities to walk along side of us as we do our work. Volunteers literally help keep the cafe running and are an integral piece of our puzzle.
From cooking in the kitchen and running the register to doing street clean ups to working in our garden to being available to just "listen" to patrons, our volunteers "get to" partner with us in ministry and explore their gifts and talents in a safe and loving environment that is rooted in grace. God not only gives us the grace to succeed but also the grace to fail. Uncommon Grounds Cafe is the perfect place to practice "getting it right". We are currently looking for people to partner with us and volunteer!!! With the summer months ahead, we are getting busier and busier and we need help. We are looking for people who have a desire to serve in a fresh, friendly environment. Is this you? If so, please contact me (Andrenna) at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to meeting and serving with you!!!
Over the last year there have been several big changes in my life that I’ve had to accept concerning my health, job, and relationships. Over the last month God has shown me how much I still had to let go of things in my life that are no longer the same and how much I still need to accept the things that have changed and things that are still changing. I have been going to Celebrate Recovery at Uncommon Grounds for over 2 years, a program that by it’s nature brings about change and transformation in the lives of those who work the program, and I am still learning to truly accept real change and trust that God will take care of me when things are difficult and I cannot see what is in store for my future.
None of us really know what the future has in store, but many like myself try to make plans and figure out ways to feel we have some control over the things that happen to us in life. It has been and continues to be a struggle for me to accept that I cannot know how my life will work out or control my future or make anything certain or secure other than entrusting my life and my future to God. I know and believe that God does indeed work all things for my good, that even when I cannot see or understand what He is doing or how He will use even the difficulties and pain for my good, I can trust that God is faithful and perfect in His goodness and love for me.
Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” I am learning that because God’s ways are not my ways, when my plans fail and things don’t go as I wanted, it may be hard but I am learning to truly trust and believe that this does not mean God’s good plans for me have gone wrong and that I can still trust that He is at work in my life and His goodness, faithfulness, and love will never fail. I am learning to find peace in trusting the God I know when I cannot rely on anything else for security or peace and learning that God is the only thing in life that can ever truly be relied upon.
Part of the challenge and also part of the fun of ministering at our Church In The Margins grace meal on Saturday nights is to be ready for whoever comes in the door. We have the space, the food and the fairly loose format of sharing the scriptures with a short teaching, discussion at dinner based on a question about where God is this week, and group prayer.
In recent months the Women's residential program with women coming out of incarceration that housed in a nearby apartment building has closed, and so a consistent source of our guests since the beginning of CITM is gone. Instead, we started getting a group of local teenaged boys coming.
Both Turk and I enjoyed the boys, but they were always high energy and impulsive. Sometimes their behavior caused problems, and some of the other guests lost patience with them. Sometimes we had to tell the boys to leave, and they did so disruptively. There were disrespectful; interactions with some of the adults there, with the unintended comedy of some adults who had been extremely disruptive in the past complaining about the kids' behavior. It got to the point where it wasn't a safe place for our guests, and so we decided that the boys couldn't continue as guests at CITM.
We haven't given up on them. They need the gospel, and despite their chaos, they kept coming back. They responded to the fatherly attention, freedom to be themselves and interest in them as people that they found at CITM. We realized that we can't be the ones who decide who gets to "be the church" or hear the gospel. We have kept praying for them, and we are going to provide a time and space for them at the cafe. Mid-afternoon on Saturdays, before CITM, we're going to have a youth hour or two, with opportunity to bang the drums, help cook some food and talk. Turk and I will be there, and we may talk to any men who are part of the cafe community who have interesting skills/hobbies, especially music, and who are interested in ministering to these young men. Pray for us and for them.
Written by Ferdinando Turkovich
The Lord required Abraham to give up his only Son. In this act, Abraham showed his utter faith in the Lord to provide.
Around June of last year, I began the long and drawn out battle for the legal right to have access to my own flesh and blood, my only son. This battle ended in December with the courts deciding that it was best for the child that my parental rights be terminated.
How could I ever come to grips with such a terrible and gapping heart wound? The thing is Abraham had faith that either way God would provide. This of course doesn’t take the pain of loss away completely. I still from time to time feel the longing to see and hold my own son.
I have learned in the last few years that when the Lord is requiring something from me he will replace it with something greater. It was through this process that I was introduced to a group of neighborhood boys that began to come to our Saturday night Church and Grace meal at the café. Church in the Margins is a low requirement Service surrounded around a meal with a question asked around the Central theme of “what is God doing in my life this week”? When our boys showed up (about 5 in total), my heart began to leap for joy inside my chest.
Now these boys have come with their own challenges. They have unfortunately been asked to leave on several occasions, but they ended up coming back week after week. They seemed to respond well to music and cooking. So we tried.
Unfortunately, we have recently had to ask them to leave and not come back to church. This decision honestly broke my heart. The sitting for 1 hour 45 mins to 2 hours was just too much for them and they became disruptive and downright vulgar at times buying for attention. It was heart breaking to watch and even more challenging to keep my composure. It felt like we failed them, that we too let them down like so many other adults. In fact, some of the very same disruptive people that attend our church made suggestions of us turning them away.
So Scott and I turned to the only place we knew that could provide for a safe way to engage these wayward souls: Jesus. And did he provide. With the boys being so responsive to performance arts we have decide to invite them to join us for about an hour every Saturday afternoon to just chill out.
It was in the letting go that God the Father shared his love for these boys and planted deep within my own soul a place for these boys.
Written by Greg Miller
A couple of weeks ago I was teaching some seniors who suffer with dementia about God's promise never again to flood the earth. We talked about the rainbow as the sign that that he will remember and be faithful to that promise. We concluded by saying that our hope and salvation is ultimately dependent, not on ourselves, but on God's promises and goodness. He is the one who guarantees our salvation in Jesus, not us.
After the teaching we talked a little about rainbows and when we had seen them. Several of the people could remember particular rainbows that struck them as extraordinary. Sadly, we concluded that since it was March we wouldn't likely see a rainbow for several months - probably June or July.
As I left the facility where we were meeting I began to drive away and what do you think I saw? A rainbow in March! It was captured by the sun refracting its light through a cloud formation way up in the sky. The words of Genesis 9:13, which we had just read, struck me, "I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth." God was revealing his grace to us by reminding us that he can produce rainbows whenever he wants to and that he is always watching over us. What a great day! What a wonderful God!
Written by Herbert Bailey
It has been a solid four years. Four years that we have been here in Aliquippa as missionaries. Four years of seeing God move and getting the opportunity to take advantage God’s grace, first recognized by me, then poured out on the staff, the community, and my family. Four years of speaking to various churches, colleges and schools. Four years of walking beside the least of these.
In my wildest imaginations, I could not have guessed that I would be surrounded by people so on fire to see others experience the love that they have received. It is transformational and we are seeing lives changed, people that would not give others the time of day, because of their own addictions, walking with others out of the isolation that comes from being so self-focused to a place of offering “room to get it right” to fellow travelers.
We are inviting people to the table, figuratively, and literally. We saw the women’s rehab facility (a part of Gateway) move from just around the corner to another city on the other side of Pittsburgh, but we got notice enough to begin to pray about where God was leading us next. After we prayed it was obvious, love the people in the community that are in isolation. As if almost on cue, one young lady who had been homeless, on house arrest, with two young boys, pregnant, struggling with addiction, and who had spent the summer and fall months with us at the café came back into our lives.
She came back in, not in the broken state that we last saw her, but in a revived, healthy state, giving God the glory for how we were able to provide a place for her, when she had no other alternative. She is now working with us in the café, and weekly gives out soup outside of the city building to people passing by.
Another young lady that was a part of an interview by the local public television station still struggled with her addiction, but recently has found a place of acceptance staying with others that are recovering from heroin addiction. I asked her if I could share her story, and she was so overwhelmed that she began to cry. I told her I was honored to serve her.
One of the men from our community has gone through a different issue. He and I work closely together, and in doing so, we find that the advantage of our close proximity gives us the ability to hold the other accountable. He has invited me into his life to speak truth, whenever I see it, and not to hold back from “calling him out”. This is humbling as most of us don’t want to engage in anything that would cause conflict or cause us to be ostracized. I gingerly engage, and he knows that I too need that level of relationship. This has been an eye opening relationship and a healing one for both of us.
We are in the final stages of BREAKING GROUND on the park in downtown Aliquippa and about to experience a ribbon cutting on the 21st of April. This is a long time coming and it reflects an intentional collaboration between the city, the county and CAUSA. We are looking forward to tangible opportunities to experience the kingdom of God, on Earth as it is in Heaven. We are excited about the sounds of children playing, outdoor music festivals, and parents and others enjoying an outside space during the spring, summer and fall months. This will be a great opportunity for people to gather as part of the community.
God is providing laborers for the harvest; we are seeing new faces join the team. This fall, Helen Yi, will be joining us as we simultaneously lament the moving of Ali Kirby to support her husband’s call to ministry outside of Baltimore Maryland. Helen has intentionally moved to the area from Georgia and will work in the capacity of assisting me with keeping up with our calendars and advertising.
Lastly, we, as a team, are working through Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline. One of the statements that stood out to me was that if we are not seeking the Kingdom of God first, we are not seeking the Kingdom of God at all. I have been convicted that I have not intentionally invited some people to partner practically in seeing God’s Kingdom be first in our community.
With that, I am inviting you to be a part of God’s Kingdom being presented, by making a monthly commitment to financially support me as I go about our Father’s business; as I go about answering the call to love the least of these with grace that has been given to me. I thank you in advance for your commitment to seeing his Kingdom come, on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Written by Shianne Aaron
I have currently been a member of the Uncommon Grounds staff for about a year and a half now. In that time, I have learned about spirituality, honesty, faith, identity and many more notions. Most importantly though, I’ve learned to pray and have come to find God. Praying was not an easy concept for me at first and, honestly, still isn’t to an extent. I thought I would never be able to pray right or even learn how to pray the right way. The team at Uncommon Grounds has taught me that there is no right or wrong way to pray, just as long as I do it. I still find myself thinking that I’m not praying right since I can’t focus and that God doesn’t speak to me. The reality of it is that God just doesn't speak to me in the way I want him to, but in the way He wants to.
This concept occurred to me recently when I was in a situation in downtown Pittsburgh. I was eating dinner at a restaurant and had went outside to get some air to get away from everybody in the crowded restaurant. While I was standing outside, I noticed an older looking man approaching the groups of people that were also standing outside. I had overheard him asking them they had anything they could spare. Now, at this moment, I got really nervous because I knew he was going to come up tp me next and ask me the same thing. It wasn’t the fact that he was probably going to ask for something, it was more-so my anxiety kicking in and having this really weird feeling come over me. At the time, I couldn’t explain what was coming over me. But when he did come up to me and asked if I had anything to spare, I hesitated for a second. Then I said “No, I don’t have any cash on me but what I can do is pray for you if you want me to”.
I then proceeded to pray for the man, as he held out his hands and I grabbed them. I can’t remember what all I said but what I do know, was that it was words from God coming out of my mouth. Never before this moment have i prayed for a stranger out loud and for as nervous as I was, I knew right after that it was God speaking through me in that moment. Then a couple minutes later, after the gentleman had left, I also came to find out that it was God who was trying to speak to me before the man even came up to me, hence to why I had such a veil of a weird feelings come over me. That is when I it hit me. God speaks to me the way he wants to; in the ways that I need spoken too.
I’m still not all the way comfortable with praying for other people out loud yet but it will get there in time. I’m accepting of that and won’t let myself give up. I know that just for today, God uses me as a vessel to be able to speak to people and minister for them to the best of my ability. Uncommon Grounds has taught me that and to not sell myself short of any of the abilities God has given me.
Written By Andrenna Williams
By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
As children of God, we are called to love, unconditionally. This is not always the easiest thing to do, especially with those who "seemingly" push our buttons and make us feel uncomfortable. On a daily basis, here at the cafe, we are confronted with difficult situations that require us to take a deep breath, close our eyes and go to our Father in prayer to help us respond in love. This causes us to remember: a) we can do NOTHING without God, b) we walk with the same authority and love as Christ did, and c) that each and every one of us deserves the love and grace of God. Focusing on those truths and relying on the Holy Spirit to guide us is paramount to navigating thru our day. When we do this, we are more likely to allow love to lead our response and reduce the likelihood of us relying on our own strength. So, when that customer says their toast is too burnt or someone gets into a "scuffle" in front of the cafe, we can respond in such a way that the situation is not only diffused, but the person knows it's coming from a place of love AND they do not repeat the behavior. Our father WANTS us to be successful and has given us all the tools we need to succeed. Glory be!
Written By Nancy O'Leary
On the surface, the Spring Street Farm and Apiary seems like any another garden project but, at its inception and core, its mission has been always about transformation of people through a Christ-centered community. During a mission team visit last season, a young person shared how her father had recently disparaged her and the team surrounded her with words of acceptance and encouraged her identity in Christ. The garden is a place of grace where hurting and broken people are loved back to wholeness as we introduce them to what a Christ centered community looks like and His love for us.
This year, we will begin the building of the greenhouse which is the final project of the garden. The greenhouse is a metaphor for helping others find new life and growth both personally and spiritually. Last season, we hosted young teams and others in transition from various facilities and our conversations were filled with Christ’s working in our lives and His care and love for us. At its core, this is our identify and mission. It’s all about outreach and new life, community, transformation in Christ, and His love and care for us.