By: Nancy O'Leary
Over the past couple months I have been coming alongside a young woman who has needed help with transportation, as well as with some other matters in her life. She is a single mother with a young child who is trying to maneuver through some impossible situations, and she cannot possibly resolve them on her own. During our time together, not only have I had the opportunity to be a friend and to share my life and faith with her, but I also have had the privilege of just being present in her life as a person of faith.
This scenario reminds me of a time when I working in Washington, D.C. and I had an officemate with whom I shared my comings and goings. I was active in my local church and doing evangelism ministry at the time. Another time, I recall a different woman who was my officemate and she and I became close friends. Again, I briefly had conversations about my church life and faith with her.
The reason these stories are important is that both of my officemates, unbeknownst to me, started attending church. The first woman, to my complete surprise, came to work one day and asked me if I wanted to attend her baptism and confirmation. The second woman, who I am still friends with, is also now attending a local church in Florida. My point is this: we don’t need to be theologians. Our life may be the only Bible people may ever experience. Already, I am seeing that things are changing for this young woman and her child. We just need to be present by living and expressing Christ’s love in the world around us.
By: Maggie Dannenmueller
Hello friends! In the past three weeks I have found 9 four leaf clovers, and one five leaf clover. After realizing that maybe God was speaking to me, I decided to look into the ideas and origins of the four leaf clover beyond the “Kiss Me I’m Irish” and drinking green beer on St. Patrick’s Day. Early references that date back to Patricius, also known as Patrick, who is remembered as the saint that drove the snakes out of Ireland, used the shamrock (three leaf clover) to teach and explain the Trinity. There are petals each for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is said that when there is a fourth leaf found, it represents God's grace. The scientific odds of finding just one four leaf clover are 1 in 10,000. I found four on Monday alone.
It's no secret between myself and the Lord that I struggle with grace...not accepting it for myself, or sometimes not having grace for others, especially when I feel wronged. Knowing when enough grace is enough grace is really hard for me, and I’m afraid of too much grace to the point of it losing its meaning. But then I ask myself, "When is enough grace just enough grace coming from Him? When does He draw the line and say that’s enough?" And that’s the simple part...He doesn’t. Our sin is actually what qualifies us for grace. He doesn’t withhold that from us, and it’s not my job to withhold it from myself or from anyone else either. These little clovers are big reminders from Him. I’m comforted to know that he hears me, and that He's moving.
P.S. I am sitting at the picnic table in the garden at the café writing this, and I just found another one!
By: Marla Duncan
In 2013-2014, I was diagnosed with PTSD, depression and anxiety. I went through the worst mental health breakdown I've ever had, and God sent Dr. Ken Murray into my life. He kept it completely 100% at all times when I was living the way I was. At my worst, he was there to help correct things. When my medical insurance was done covering my visits, he started treating me free of charge. He even gave me his personal number in case of a crisis. There were times when he would pick up his phone at 3:30 in the morning just to pray with me.
Dr. Murray became a big brother to me. When he saw me at my worst, he suggested that I move back to PA with my boys...and that I did. He even paid for our trip in full! After moving back, I continued to call him and keep him updated on my improvement. In January 2014, he said that he had to let me go and asked me to send him a thank you card in the future, because he sees nothing but success and happiness to come. In a panic, I hung up the phone. But in March 2018 I found his business card when I was cleaning out some things, and I sent a thank you card to his office address. It returned to sender twice. So, I Googled his name and up came an article that he was in a car accident and died on impact July 26, 2014. Until this day, I still Google that story.
I THANK GOD for sending Doctor Murray to me and my family. Rest peacefully Dr. Ken Murray. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think of you. The moral of this post is that God will use an individual to help you in life, no matter if it's temporary or long-term. But it's up to you to accept it and embrace it, to thank him for doing that, and for loving you unconditionally. God will never leave you or forsake you, and that is why I thank him every day for the things that he's done for me, and for what he's brought me through.
By: Lilikae Shepherd
This past month, Uncommon Grounds has been a big help in teaching me about what community is. I've been learning that it is all about the people. It's about getting to know who they are, what their needs are, and to then help them in any way that I can.
I am going to be open to whatever those in my community bring to me, and I know that it will help me grow as a person, and in Christ as well. As a woman, I've found that life is often not easy, but in Christ you can take it one step at a time. I know that Uncommon Grounds is one of those safe places to grow and to take life step by step.
By: Greg Miller
People don't like to attribute "bad" things to God, so it is often said that God doesn't necessarily orchestrate those events in our lives that cause us pain or suffering. I'm not sure that an inmate at the Beaver County jail would agree. Two Sundays ago during our bible study he stated, "God put me in jail to save me and make a new man out of me." That isn't something you might expect to hear. But he was sincere. He observed that his lifestyle was keeping him away from God, the church, and the Bible. He wasn't opposed to God and the church, he was just too wrapped up in a destructive lifestyle to care.
Being incarcerated, though, left him with not much to do during the day. So he decided he would start reading the Bible and attending Bible studies. That process opened his eyes to the Lord in a new way. He is walking a new path of faith and wants to continue to do so when he gets released. He realizes that had he not been arrested and jailed, he would not be on this path. Thus, he sees God's gracious, saving hand in his incarceration. I suspect that Paul, Silas, and the Philippian jailer would agree (Acts 16:24-33).
How do you deal with the pain in your life? Our first response is usually to try to make it go away. However, the pain is not there by accident. God uses it for good and to discipline us. "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). "'My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.' ...For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:5-6, 11).
Discipline is good for us and shows us God's love for us. We know that, but it is really hard to live it out. Amazingly, a man in the Beaver County jail may have something to teach us. He can see God's hand in "bad" things. May God give us the ability to do the same.
By: Angel Bailey
Friends, it has been an amazing year so far! God has been opening doors for the women’s ministry and Earth Angel Apothecary to grow. There are a few women that I've had the pleasure to get to know last year that have women’s ministries of their own, and have contracted Earth Angel to make specific products for them to sell at their events. I have also started going to churches, recreation centers, and women’s homes to do crafting Make n Take parties. It's a wonderful time of fellowship and fun, and a chance for women to invite friends, coworkers and neighbors to be loved on, let go of the stress of life, and be creative. I have a woman from our community that I have been mentoring in the arts and apothecary that I take with me to these events. It has been an amazing opportunity for her to step out of her comfort zone, get to know other women outside of her community, learn how to work a merchandise table, love on strangers, and have them love on her as well. I am so honored to be able to share my gifts and talents in this way, and I’m so thankful for the prayers and support of all those that have caught the vision of the ministry.
By: Andrenna Williams
Here at Uncommon Grounds Café, we often find ourselves having to deal with “Godly interruptions.” These are situations in which your current activity is interrupted, often times abruptly, by someone who has a seemingly emergency situation and demands your full attention. It doesn’t matter if you are in the middle of a meeting, trying to get 10+ orders prepped, cooked, and out to the dining room floor, or working on a very important document; Godly interruptions will take priority, causing you to “abort your mission” and turn your attention to whomever is needing it at that current time. This past weekend, as usual, was filled with them.
We held our quarterly Philosophy of Outreach training this weekend. As we were moving into our last session, I checked my phone and saw that 20 minutes prior I had received a message from one of the kitchen staff saying that they needed change in the register. I went downstairs to “fulfill my duty” and noticed a young woman sitting at a table, looking troubled. My heart instantly sank. I was faced with the ever too familiar dilemma of deciding between ministry and “sticking to the script." I called out to the girl, asking her if she was OK, and her response made my decision for me. I went to sit down with her and immediately realized that I had made the right decision. We chatted for a few minutes and it was evident that she was in trouble. Her boyfriend came into the café shortly after and I, along with the other two kitchen staff, instantly sprung into ministry mode. We merely LISTENED. After about 20 minutes, the girl and her boyfriend went outside to smoke a cigarette. As I sat with the two kitchen staff, we did some reflections on the conversation. We unanimously agreed that this “Godly interruption” was an HONOR; being chosen by God to be present in the café at that moment to LISTEN and show Christ’s love. With tears in our eyes we smiled at one another, repeating one of our café mottos: I GET TO.
The next day, the café hosted an event that I needed to open and help set up for. Knowing that I had to be at Sunday school by 10:30, my plan was to be out of the café by 10:20. Again, God had other plans. The same young man from the day before showed up once again, and was in need of a neutral meeting spot for a visit with his daughter. He CHOSE the café. I never made it to Sunday school, but I am positive that God was pleased with my decision to show love and dignity to the young man's family.
It’s not always comfortable. It’s not always “fair.” It’s not even always convenient. But when it’s ordered and ordained by God, it’s ALWAYS right. And “I GET TO” be a part of it. For that, I am eternally grateful and humbled.
By: Helen Yi
The Lord is constantly at work and He is constantly revealing pieces of the puzzle that we call our lives. For me, a big part of my life puzzle is my calling and assignments related to overseas missions. The Lord clearly called me into missions work the summer before my senior year at Toccoa Falls College. The Lord then clearly assigned me to spend time serving in Aliquippa the summer after graduation, and it was there that He revealed that He wanted me to stay longer. I had no idea what staying in Aliquippa was going to entail, but I knew that God was speaking and I had to listen.
I have lived in the area for almost 2 years now, and God has been using my time here in Aliquippa to equip me, prepare me, soften me, teach me, and guide me for the future. My time in Aliquippa as a whole has been a serious season of growth, maturity, healing, joy, and preparation. I have been strategically placed in ministries that have been able to give me access to communities and people who directly reflect the ministry I will be doing in the future. My heart burns for the city of Aliquippa, and my heart also burns for the people all over the world who have never heard of Christ, and who do not have the freedom and access like I do.
I took on the job of executive assistant here at Uncommon Grounds Café about a year ago, and during my time here I have learned so much. I want to spend time to reflect on what the Café has taught me and what I have learned during my time here. I would like to preface this by saying that the Café is not a perfect ministry. The people are not perfect, and the day-to-day is not perfect, but God is and has been faithfully using the people and this ministry to bring light and joy to Franklin Avenue. There are many things that the Café has taught me, but one thing I have truly learned is what family looks like.
Family is not perfect, but when you have a loving group of supportive people, you know you can freely be yourself. The Café has been a safe haven for many, and a place that many have called home at one point or another. This place is truly a family filled with crazy uncles, loving aunts, wild siblings, and most importantly, a loving Father, God. The family that I have gained from this last year has been a family I would never want to forget nor leave. The regulars we have, the estranged visitors, and the consistent staff make a place where laughter saturates the walls. This building is a source of tough love and guidance. This space is a safe place to trip and fall over and over. This Café is an oasis that brings life to all who enter. It is filled with wild, crazy people and it has its downs and faults, but families always have those. This place would not feel like family if everyone was polished and perfect. What I love most about Uncommon Grounds Café is that we all are unique people with different pasts, broken pieces, hidden secrets, and sinful hearts, but we are all covered by the blood of Jesus, and His blood is what unites us stronger than what divides us.
Written by: Lauren Zawatski
Lately I’ve been learning more about God’s faithfulness, even in spite of our human tendency of forgetfulness. Take the Israelites, for example. Not long after God delivered them out of the hands of their Egyptian oppressors, miraculously parted the Red Sea, and began to lead them into their Promised Land, they began to grumble and complain, even wishing that they were back in the land that they were desperately pleading to leave. How quickly they forgot the journey that God had taken them on! Yet He always saw them right where they were, and knew exactly what they needed.
Before celebrating Resurrection Sunday last week, I had the privilege of observing a traditional Passover Seder with students and leaders from the youth ministry where I serve. This was the first time I had ever experienced a Seder meal, and as we went through the process I was struck by just how much God does see. As we read through the original Passover story, I wondered to myself why, if God is all-seeing and all-knowing, would He ask the Israelites to slaughter a perfect lamb, take its blood, and then cover their doorposts with it to signify that their houses would be “passed over” from the coming death of all the firstborn in Egypt? He obviously knew how to distinguish between the Israelites and Egyptians...He created them, after all! Then, I had a realization. This practice was not for the Lord’s own sake. It was for theirs, and for ours now. Exodus 12:13 says that the blood “shall be a sign for you...” and one verse later, that the day of Passover itself will be “a memorial to you...throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as an ordinance forever.”
The Lord knew when He created us that we would be easily forgetful, so instead of getting frustrated about our weakness, He faithfully gave us ways to remember who He is and what He’s done. He knew even before He delivered the Israelites that they would quickly forget what He would do and how He would care for them, so He gave them a concrete way to remember - a means of bringing their attention back to Him. The best part is that this still applies to us today! We can celebrate the Passover as a means of remembering who God STILL is, and all of His faithfulness in our lives. And as Christians today, we can remember that we now have the blood of the eternal Lamb of God, Jesus, covering us now and forever.
Written by: Herb Bailey
One of the best ways that we can connect is to be open to meeting people. The best way for us to learn is to be willing to meet with people that are unknown to us. There is an invitation in the gospel to be one, even as the Lord God is one. We then, must consider how to accomplish that.
Some parts of each of us would rather be comfortable and stay to ourselves in an attempt to preserve some semblance of decorum, but unlike Jesus, we do not become close to people with problems. We see Jesus taking on flesh in order to feel what we feel, to desire like we do the sense of safety. Yet we know that Jesus did not stay “safe”. As we enter into the season of Easter/ Resurrection, let’s think about ways to be proximate, close to people so that they can see what it's about and eventually, by God’s grace, glorify the Lord with us.
This activity is a powered by a God that gives us everything we need to live a life of
godliness, and it’s a free gift. This free gift, in the same breath, costs us everything that we hold dear… Jesus replaces what we have given up with eternal satisfaction, and a hope that does not disappoint.
We experience this giving up of our will, our desire for self-importance, and instead
take on the role of servant of the Most High God. And the peace that passes all understanding be yours, in increasing measure. Blessings.
Uncommon Grounds Cafe