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.
Uncommon Grounds Cafe