By: John Bryant
People often ask me what a street pastor does. I tell them I go to a lot of soup kitchens and eat what everyone else does. I wait in line, get my tray, and look around for someone who’ll look back at me and nod. These are people I would pass in my car on my way somewhere, people sitting on the street, bumming cigarettes. I would normally pass them by. Now, I’m waiting for their permission to sit down. They have no reason to trust me other than the fact that I love Jesus and have a tray full of food.
There’s a gruff looking guy. Always wears a cap and a sweater, even in the heat. Keeps to himself mostly. I see him all the time. He does something miraculous. He looks up, says my name, and asks me what time it is.
It’s all I need.
You may not know what it’s like, but if a guy like that asks you what time it is, looks at you, says your name, and asks for the time, it means you’re alright. It means you get to sit down. It means you get munch on the baked beans, swig down the coffee, and pass the time with all the other gruff dudes. It means you get to sit down.
For the first two weeks starting this job, I just sat down where I was allowed to. Turns out, if you know someone and they know someone, and they think you’re alright, then everyone’s cool with you. You get to sit anywhere. You sit down, you wait, and you pass the time. You talk to Jesus on His throne and pray for an opening.
I sat down next to that same gruff man a few days later. I pulled my small Bible out, the one I keep in my back pocket. He looked at me, and I expected the next question to be what time it was. He looked puzzled.
“What are you reading?” He asks.
The man looks concerned, tips his hat back, squints at bit.
“You think he’s gonna do it?”
“Who?” I ask.
I’m puzzled “Think he’s gonna do what?”
“You think He’s gonna raise the dead?”
I sit back on the bench.
“Yeah,” I said. “I think so.”
He looks relieved. “Yeah, me too. I think he’s gonna do it. I think he’s got it in em.”
“I think so too.”
Two men. A bench on the street in the hot summer. Two men waiting the resurrection of the dead.
By: Tessa Sentell
Cycles of addiction are hard to watch. Everyone has their own cycle tied to substances, people, power, money...pick your poison. Everything functions out of relationship at the cafe, and this cycle is something everyone is very familiar with, so I have been learning to engage when I see it.
I work behind the counter and see several regulars come and go in any number of stages of altered reality, and I never know if or when they will be back. As I enter closer into relationship with hurting people, I’ve had to ask God how to handle this.
Something along the lines of “What do I do?” “How can I pray?” “What do I say?”
I kept seeing hurting people and wanting to solve the problem while knowing nothing about their situation. I kept stepping up on the cross and tried to make myself the savior.
What God has shown me in revealing a deeper view of His gospel is the discipline of daily throwing all the sin and nastiness and hurt back to the cross of Christ, and letting Him say “it is finished.” In this spot of kneeling before the cross, I get to acknowledge Him as the one running the universe. I get to give the weight of my hurt and others' hurt that I’ve been carrying back to Him and see what He will do with them.
Because He lives, I can be satisfied praying and interceding from behind the counter since I’m not the one running the room. Because those people belong to Him, I can take my hands off and simply watch what He does, and the development of that every time they walk into the cafe. And because Jesus took the weight of our collective mess, I can engage in relationship and love anyway.
What a freeing thing to do nothing but love, step down off the cross, be available for His purposes, and let the God who knows and loves people much better than I ever could run the universe.
By: Gabriel Roman
I moved to Pittsburgh at the end of February. Ever since that move, my life has been a constant cycle of: “Lord if you don’t show up, I can’t get through this situation.” These are situations that are bigger than me and are supposed to take me out. Over the last few months the Lord has been showing me how he is bigger than the biggest situations I can face, and how being in a place where you are desperate for him is the best place to be. He has shown me how he takes care of his children. When I moved here, I felt like the Lord was telling me to go, but I didn’t have anywhere to stay, I didn’t have a job, and most importantly I didn’t have a community to plug into. One by one the Lord knocked each one of those obstacles down. Let me give you some examples...
My fiancé and I were invited out to California to be a part of praying over a vision that a close friend had of revival in the United States. We both felt like we were supposed to go, but did not have the financial means. A little bit of time went by and we just prayed and said, “Lord if you want us to go, you are going to have to provide a way.” That same night we got a phone call from our close friend, and he said that he had been saving money for the last few months and felt like the Lord was telling him to buy our plane tickets. We went, and on that trip we experienced the Lord in new ways, and had a glimpse of what doing ministry together looks like. The team we were with got to put on a worship event in the middle of the food court of a public university, and 500 people showed up. We got to experience all of this because the Lord provided for what he called us to.
Shortly after California, rent was due, and because I wasn’t working for two weeks, it wasn’t in my bank account. However, I knew I had been faithful to where the Lord asked me to put my funds and time. I remember sitting in my room trying to figure out a way to pay rent. Starting to feel overwhelmed, I just prayed. I knew I had done what I had been told up to that point. If following the Lord got me to this situation, then I knew the Lord was also going to provide a way out. So as I was praying I asked the Lord, “what is my role in the way you want to bless me?” Honestly his response was the last thing I wanted to hear. He said, “I want you to go and ask people.” In that moment, I realized that there was pride in my life. I didn’t want to ask people for help because I didn’t want them to think less of me. I remember being so convicted after the Lord said, “Are you going to follow me even when it makes you look bad?” I called one person and shared my struggle and what the Lord had been doing my in my life, and the person responded: “Gabe I love you, I trust you, and I want to cover your need in full.” A lot of times what the Lord is asking us to do goes against what WE want to do. Sometimes our blessing is behind the door that is the most uncomfortable for us.
I am not saying that following the Lord is going to give you riches and that He is going to give you everything that you want. God is not a genie. I am saying that when you follow the Lord you will eventually find yourself in a tough situation. But any tough situation the Lord leads you to he is going to lead you through. In the midst of those tough situations, he is either going to show you more of his characteristics and who he is, or he is trying to weed out of your heart something that isn't supposed to be there. The Lord is faithful to his children and he wants to bless you in the process of becoming more like him. Sometimes that involves doing something that you are uncomfortable with. So, if you find yourself in a situation where something seems much bigger than you are, then congrats. The best place to be is a place where you have to be completely dependent on the Lord.
By: Scott Colburn
Sometimes when I walk through my kitchen, I sense that something is a little “off.” I'll stop and try to smell where it's coming from, and I know that something will have to be used up, thrown out or mopped up. Sometimes this happens in my spiritual life, as it does for all of us, from time to time. We've neglected something, or hidden something away and it's festering, or we failed to throw something out, or we made a mess and never cleaned it up.
At the Uncommon Grounds Cafe and in our Church Army Ministries, we have some ways to bring renewal and cleansing for ourselves and for you when something is off. Our staff reads and discusses books on listening, on creating boundaries for helping and loving people ,and on using spiritual disciplines to grow closer to God. We have weekly Bible Studies, a support group for grieving women and a Saturday Night church and dinner fellowship.
That fellowship, Church In The Margins, partners with my “Sunday Church” occasionally to host a healing prayer service. Trinity Church, Beaver will join us August 3 for the next healing prayer meeting at the cafe, at 6pm.
Of course, one of our main ministries is just listening to people. Sometimes when your life is off, it helps to talk to someone so you can hear yourself talk too. I know it helps me to confess what I think is wrong in my life that I have to take responsibility for, and to know that it isn't getting me thrown out of community. The cafe hosts a Celebrate Recovery meeting on Tuesday evenings, and I've been attending, because I want to take steps to address the change I need in my life, and I want to do it in the context of my relationship with God. We also have folks just sitting around the cafe sometimes who are trained in our listening ministry methods, and who are happy to listen.
Those smells in the kitchen are almost always easily taken care of, and some of our spiritual “stinks” may not be, but it's certain they don't get better if we do nothing. Consider using the Cafe as a resource—Call us the Quicker Picker-upper!--and get your life spiritually spiffy again.