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.
Written by: Ferdinando Turkovich
The hurt and pain that often leads people our way lends itself to the delight of freedom and community. It has been my experience that in this freedom we (as the newly freed) have the ability to now see the world through new eyes. With new eyes, we begin to see new possibilities to life. Life is no longer the life that we knew, but is becoming the life that we once dreamed of.
These transitions can seem at times like fragile sprouts, coming out of the new spring soil. In some of our lives though, the winter has been long and our roots (unbeknownst to us) do go deep. Our friends (myself include) have come through many a cold night on the edge of winter’s breath. Sometimes wander from place to place wanting to find a home.
The cafe has become a home for so many people. For some, it is on a Thursday Night to play a song on the stage. For others, it is Tuesday Mornings where one finds some soul-full conversation early in the morning. And for some few, it has become a place to give back, to fight the good fight, to have fanned into flame the gifts of God deposited in them by the Laying on of hands.
As time ebbs and flows transitions happen in the lives of the cast and crew. Some move on, some fall away, and some will resolve to stay. It has been said that “in the Kingdom of God we learn to give away”. In the terms of relationship it sometimes means giving our friends the permission to strike out, forge a new path, but with a promise of a place to always call home.
Written by: Tessa Sentell
As a newer staff member at the café, I feel like I get to see and learn about a new aspect of God and His character on the daily. This week brought a new light to God as The Provider.
We’ve been learning in our Tuesday morning bible study on 2 Peter that God has given us everything we need to live a life of Godliness; there are things already deposited in us that equip us to respond to His work. So aside from any physical things that he blesses us with, we ALREADY have the truth and the hope of the gospel that is not only bigger than our feelings or opinions, but is outside our current reality. This means we can offer hope to those stuck in addiction or poverty, because we know that even if God doesn’t provide for physical needs (which we’ve also seen Him do)—he’s already deposited a way out within them.
This week God provided experiences that could be used as fuel to recognize other people hurting, and provided words to extend to them through the truth of this gospel. Because my own experiences of isolation, I was able to recognize a hurting heart in isolation and invite them into adoption and community in the body of Christ. I was granted the ability to hear when a regular expressed the same mental struggles I’ve been dealing with, and God provided the experience of a conversation I had the day before to remind me of the truth this person needed to hear.
I also had a material need cared for this week, by the grace of God. I wrecked my car on Friday, and not only was I miraculously unharmed, but I was blessed to receive a car donated on THURSDAY. God provided a car before I even knew I needed one! His provision is real, you can’t make this stuff up!
Even bad situations are turned around to be used for good in future ones, so that more people would benefit and even receive life (Gen 50:20, Rom 8:28). Because of this we can praise in our current circumstances and keep a close watch for how they are being used even in the present--because He loves us.
So keep watch. How is He providing?
Written by: Scott Colburn
Henry Adams, an American historian and the grandson and great-grandson of U.S. Presidents, once wrote that “Politics is the systematic organization of hatreds.” Even a casual look around at the national scene today would seem to confirm that. Can Christians do anything to change this, or should we just disengage?
A group of Church Army and Cafe folk were in the Washington, D.C., area in February for a “Matthew 25” conference. We met a lot of other folks who are also answering calls to love and work for the least, the last and the lost. There were great speakers, great fellowship and lots of worship and prayer. Thanks to anyone who sponsored us or prayed for us while we were there!
For me, one of the highlights was a “field trip” by bus to the National Mall and the surrounding area where many of the nation's monuments and government buildings are. On the way back to the conference we stopped by the Capitol and the White House, and prayed for congress and the president. I think this is how Christians can best be involved in politics. We vote and donate and canvas, as citizens should, but we also pray. As I prayed, knowing I was setting aside my partisan political views, my “organized hatreds,” I felt genuine concern for people who bear the weight of government, and real love for other Americans who answer that call. It doesn't diminish my sense of justice, or my sorrow when some of our leaders use their offices to harm others, even in the name of the people. It does kill my experience of politics as a blood-sport my side must win at, and gives me patience, and I hope, God's perspective.
As we go into Lent I repent of my political partisanship and my need to be right, even when it is supposedly for the sake of others. I am not my own savior, and I'm not the savior of the country. I'm resolving to pray for our leaders daily. I'll still vote, of course. I just won't vote from hatred, or fear. I'll also “vote” by continuing the work of bringing Jesus to the marginalized, and by living in the margins myself, to seek humility and solidarity.
Written by: Greg Miller
A Marine veteran who was addicted to heroin for 5 years after returning home from Afghanistan shared his story at Uncommon Grounds Cafe. He had come to participate in “Church in the Margins”, a ministry where people not yet ready to enter church life can come and learn about Jesus.
This Vet had been searching for help but had been looked down on by churches because his appearance was too rough. However, he couldn’t stand his life of addiction so, when a policeman asked him how he was one day, he blurted out “I’m a Marine vet addicted to heroin and I’ve got a needle in my pocket”. A bit taken aback, the policeman sat him in his car and called for another officer. It turned out that there was a warrant for his arrest. Apologetically, the policemen explained that they had to take him to jail. He willingly complied.
After his attorney arranged for him to be released he went back to his girlfriend and started shooting up again. Old habits die hard. Nevertheless, he didn’t want to fall back into his lifestyle of addiction so he found a piece of paper that one of the policemen had given him. On it was the policeman’s name and phone number. “Call me if I can ever help you out”, the policeman had said. The Marine wanted bus fare to go to rehab so he called and asked the policeman for $2.50. The policeman met him and said “I’m going to give you $25.00. You have two choices to make. You can either go buy some heroin and continue in your old lifestyle or you can get something to eat and get yourself to rehab.” He was stunned. No one had trusted him like that before. He couldn’t let the policeman down so he went to rehab. In rehab he met Jim Skal. Jim MC’s at Open Mic night and runs Outdoor Immersion, a ministry that ministers to Vets. Jim talked to him about Jesus. The Marine came to faith, was baptized, and became a new creation in Christ zealous to learn about his new walk with Jesus.
This is just one story about lives changed that we hear at the Uncommon Grounds Café. It is a modern day Les Miserables tale. It is a story of grace and redemption and new life in Jesus. It reflects the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives. To God be the glory!!
Written by: Captain Nancy O'Leary
As I considered the Spring Street Garden’s start up for this year and the myriad of things that need to be accomplished, I was reminded that the work at the garden begins during the first week of our journey through the contemplative season of Lent. I thought of the scripture “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit (Is 11:1- 1), And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD” (Isaiah 11:1-2). It seems appropriate to contemplate the new beginnings of the garden and the Lenten experience as an outward sign of the reality of God’s redemption plan.
Considering the vision for ministry this year being Capacity for the Aliquippa ministries of which the Spring Street Garden is a part, I came across a segment in a documentary about Fred Rogers, where he states that “no matter what our particular job, especially in our world today, we all are called to be repairers of creation.” He stated that whatever we do and where ever we are, we are to bring joy, light, hope, faith, pardon, and love to our neighbors and to ourselves. I pray that this Lenten season will renew and inspire capacity in all we do as repairers of creation.
Written by: Lilikae Shepherd
Uncommon Grounds has had a very huge impact on my life. I love the way they always want to tell you about God and how good He is. The major love that the staff here has is great. They are all about helping you in anyway that can get you to where you want to be. They are answer people.
One of the new staff member's name is Tess. Tess has been so much fun to work with and be around. I love the times on Saturday mornings when I am working behind the counter with Tess. We always have a lot of fun. We talk and we dance while we are working. Customers will come in and laugh at us because we are so goofy while we are doing our jobs.
It is really great to be able to serve with people who love God and who also can bring joy into my life. I love working with these people and I love that we can have fun when we do. It makes community so much sweeter and so much more enjoyable when you can laugh while going through the every day tasks. At Uncommon Grounds Cafe, it's super easy to have fun with all of the people on staff at any point in the day.
Written by: Maggie Dannenmueller
Hello friends! It’s been a while since I wrote my last espresso, much has stayed the same, but much has changed. I’m still working behind the counter at the cafe and loving on as many people as I can. Which isn’t always easy. I’ll be the first to admit that I get so frustrated and bent out of shape, but it’s because I love so hard. I genuinely love and want the best for all of my cafe friends. A few weeks ago one of our regular cafe friends came to the door at 6:30 am before I even opened. All he had on was just a hospital gown and a pair of hospital socks. The gown wasn’t even tied in the back, and he had Nothing on underneath. No shoes. He is standing at the front door. I let him in early before I opened the cafe because it was cold outside and he was basically naked.
Now I’m getting annoyed. I’m not open yet. I have other stuff I have to do that’s more important than taking care of this grown man. This grown man who could get help if he wanted it. But I guess he doesn’t. And this frustrates me everyday. I’ve made it out of the trenches of addiction, I know the way, and I can help! But you have to want the help. And not everybody wants it. I didn’t want the help myself for a long time. So as I’m working I start asking if he was in the hospital, and if he is okay. He says he just got out of the hospital and he had nothing to wear and nobody to help him and he didn’t know where else to go so he came here.
HE DIDN'T KNOW WHERE ELSE TO GO SO HE CAME HERE! He KNOWS! Just like so many of our other friends know. We are for them. I start to think about when I was in addiction. I didn’t have anyone or anything. All I had was the clothes on my back and the gift of desperation to want to get clean. I didn’t have a place like this to go to. He came here for help, because he knew he could, and he knew we would help. I poured him a cup of coffee and I went downstairs and found an old pair of donated jeans, a shirt and a sweater, a coat and an old pair of boots. I hand him the pile of clothes and his face lights up.
Instead of going to the bathroom to change he just undressed right in the cafe. But this is who we are. This is what we do. This is who we are for. These are the people that are generally counted out, forgotten, not included, the “extras” in the scene. But more than that these are our friends, our cafe family, our neighbors, our brothers and sisters. They have value and they have dignity just like me and you. This cafe friend helped me more than I helped him that day. And he doesn’t even know it. I’m reminded of how blessed I am, reminded How grateful I am. Reminded how i need to remain grateful even when I don’t feel it all the way. A little bit of love goes a long way. And that’s all any of us really need.
Written by: Marla Duncan
One day, my dad told me that I am like an onion you have to peel back one layer at a time. He said he watched it in a movie and immediately thought of me. Now that my volunteering days are over at Uncommon Grounds things are different. Things have 100% changed for me for my life and for my spirit. It has been a kick to my ego. It terminated my cockiness. It made me completely humble myself.
As the days go by, God gives me a new challenge. To speak the truth in love, to love unconditionally, and to love in ways that I never knew to love or wanted to love in my entire life.
Hate, bitterness, and anger were always something that I lived by because of certain situations that happened in my life that put me in the position to just want to hate. But I always wore a smile and put an I'm okay in front of everything that I did wishing and hoping it would change things.
Every morning before work, I would look in the mirror and say "Ok Marla time to put on your happy hat". And day after day after day, I would become more and more exhausted. And more and more sluggish to the point where the spiritual warfare was unbearable. And the layers slowly started to peel back.
When I grew up my mother was a Jehovah's Witness and we lived by rules: no holidays, no sports, no doing anything that would hold you from studying the truth. Then when I became a fruit of Islam, you had to live by the rules of Allah and the honorable Elijah Muhammad. And that's the thing, there were so many rules but one thing that was never taught to me is that God loves me unconditionally and as long as I have that relationship with him and I live by his word, pray without ceasing, and open up my true heart of who I really am, things will look up. And things will get better.
I am just rejoicing at the fact that I can now be me because I got exhausted from always being someone I'm not. And knowing and understanding that it’s okay that I don't have it all together. Because I started feeling as if I've been exposed kind of like standing in a room with no clothes on. I was hurt, I was embarrassed, but now I'm confident in knowing that I "GET TO" love on the weak, the strong, the big, the small, no matter the gender color, or the race. But most of all, I get to do all of this by just simply being simply who God created me to be and that right there, my friends, makes me excited about learning who I am as a person and who I am in ministry. Thank you, Father God for putting me in the position to learn who I really am and helping me work on the imperfect person that I am and still love me unconditionally. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
We are only a few weeks in to 2019, but it has truly been a blessing here at the Cafe. This month has been the first time that I had the chance to interact with a missions group. Through our short time together, my heart burned for more. My heart longed for more groups of young people to come and see our ministry in action and hear about the amazing stories of God's provision and power in and through our ministry.
It was such a blessing to see a group of young adults and college students come to Aliquippa to serve the community however they can. The group was so open to serving and I watched as they joyfully reorganized rooms in our Cafe basement. They took down every box and item on the shelves and went through all of them and separated the trash and unusable items with items of use.
At first, I felt so bad because I wanted them to have an experience of something substantial, but every time I would apologize to them, they responded with saying they were enjoying it and did not mind being in a dusty basement going through bags and boxes of donated items. I was worried before they arrived that they would be a group of young adults who did not want to do any physical labor and would do the bare minimum, but I was so wrong. They enjoyed every moment and worked so hard. They laughed the whole time and had amazing attitudes. My worries and apologetic feelings ended up dissipating because I knew that their hearts were in it for the Lord and they didn't mind the labor.
The time with the group made me realize that ministry happens best when the ones serving are doing it with a grateful and thankful heart. It made me realize that the capacity to serve others should be measured by how much someone is willing and how much love and joy the person is pouring out. This is meaningful ministry.
We want more groups who have this capacity to come and do some awesome work for the Lord. Why don't you come join us this year?
Uncommon Grounds Cafe