By: Ferdinando Turkovich
This year has been marked with many “new beginnings” for my family and I. It is fitting that we pause this week for Thanksgiving. Highlighting just a few, I’ll start with Celebrate Recovery. What seems like eons ago, our late, beloved brother Mike Parrish started this ministry with a vision in mind. Growing out of that vision the ministry has taken on a new identity. At one time we struggled to see maybe one or two men show up who were not already leading the group in some capacity. Now, we have a dedicated men’s group who will be faithfully finishing their first year together. In that year we have seen many “firsts,” and have been blessed to “Celebrate” both personal triumph on an individual level, as well as the establishment of a brotherhood of safe people.
I would be remiss if I did not pause and say thank you to the men and especially to the woman who sacrificed so many Tuesday nights or Wednesday evenings to provide a firm foundation for the future healing of many hurts, hang-ups, and habits. As I meander down my list of thanksgivings, I linger over the memories from Anna and I’s
wedding. Even the lows leading up to it and the few that have fallowed are cherished, for they represent a very blessed new beginning. In tangible ways, the Lord has shown me how his mercies are renewed every day.
To my wife who has been one of my biggest supporters, thank you for holding me accountable each and every day. As I wind down this year’s thanksgiving list, I pause at a few that continued to show up year after year. To the men and the woman who took me in when I was an angry, broken, and confused; to the friends who stood by and watched me struggle as I searched for a cause and was militant in my beliefs; to the
organizations who never saw me the way I saw myself, but championed the man of God I am becoming; to those I say thank you for your prayers and support. I would not be here if it were not for all these thankless individuals.
The Apostle Paul states that peace will come when we pray and are thankful to God. I have come to realize that it is through all of the aforementioned individuals that he shows me why and how I can be thankful. So this year, whether you find yourself riding the wave of triumph like the men of Celebrate Recovery, or you are somewhere closer to where I was at the beginning of this journey, listen to the advice of someone who is not too far removed from death and disaster. This year be thankful for what you do have, and not what you don’t.
“Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your
prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all
understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 4:5-7 C.E.B.)
By: John Bryant
It was about two months into my work as a Street Pastor in Beaver Falls that the Lord told me my work would be about tables. One of the first things you learn is that people can’t hate each other if they sit with each other. If you sit with a person, you are reconciled with them, even if being reconciled just means asking what their name is.
Early on in this work I had a vision in my heart, something in between an intuition and a daydream. I saw in my mind a man at a table. I had seen him once or twice on the street, and knew him as someone with a sweet smile, a grimy face, a brown coat, and a lifelong battle with schizophrenia. He would approach me hunched over, mumbling a few things I couldn’t understand with a cigarette in his mouth. We had talked for a bit. For the purposes of this post, I’ll call him Ben.
In my mind there was Ben - still in that brown coat, no cigarette, but with the same sweet smile. Only now he was at the head of the table. He didn’t look ecstatic, he looked like he was content, like he was exactly where he’s supposed to be. He seemed relaxed.
It was a vision of what ministry is for.
“Will you serve my table?” I heard the Lord say.
If all provision is the Lord’s, if His is the great offering of His Flesh and Blood, the gift of His own life to us, then every table points to His Table. Every bit of hospitality is about His Great Act of Hospitality, offering coffee and time to people we don’t know even as He offered His own Son to enemies and strangers. So that enemies might be reconciled through an offering set on a table.
Mission, evangelism, the little efforts we make, are about gathering people in the highways and byways for the Great Feast set by that Great King. We must serve at the table set for Ben. It is where he belongs. We must not forget that we go out so that people might be brought home. Mission is ultimately about home. Mission is about tables.
By: Lilikae Shepherd
Over the past few years, Uncommon Grounds Cafe has become a place where I can really be myself. There are so many ways that God has helped me here. For example, he has given me a great community in the cafe. They have welcomed me with open arms and have been a blessing to me. I am grateful for such good people that have come across my path. I've found that it is a good thing to learn who people are, what they do, and be a helping hand to them if there's a way that I can.
Another thing that God has helped me with is showing me that He will give me wisdom and peace. I really like the verses in James 1:5-6 that say: "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind." He has taught me that He will help me if I ask and trust Him, and He has shown me that He is the strength to my soul.