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?
Written by: Herb Bailey
Our theme this year is CAPACITY.
Blessings to you and yours! It’s a new year and things are already heating up! We are so grateful to be engaged with community development by developing the very members of the community. Part of that development is offering our Philosophy of Ministry training to you and your organizations. Often people will see what we do, be encouraged, but not sure what the next steps are, and some are not sure if they have the CAPACITY to do it. Let me be the first to encourage you to come to our Philosophy Training January 18 th and 19 th , Friday 6-10 and Saturday 9-1. Lunch and refreshments are provided. 20 dollar suggested donation. Those that have gone through the training have been blown away at how powerful and transformational it has been for them. I encourage you to make this a priority….
One of the things we are doing is being a warming center during the cold months. We have the CAPACITY to be a sanctuary for folks when it’s too cold. We are one of 4 places in the county. We are honored to do so. If you or your organization has a desire to volunteer, but need to know where, we will have opportunities for both Church in
the Margins, which is a weekly meal that needs meal prep, and our once a month Veterans Appreciation Breakfast in partnership with Aliquippa Diversity Council. If you would like to participate or your organization would like to make a meal, send me a note and we will add you to the calendar.
Finally, we are looking forward to the park being leveled and seeded. If you would like to volunteer to be part of the maintenance for the property, let me know. It will be basic yard work and great for a youth group or other active group to manage. Here’s looking at 2019 as a year we GET TO walk more fully in loving the community we are blessed to live in and provide tangible experiences for engagement and investment in the lives of our neighbors. We have the CAPACITY with your help. Praying you all experience the presence of the Lord in your day to day lives.
Written by: Herb Bailey
This year has been one of the most defining of any year that we have experienced.
The theme for 2018 was Identity. Who am I? Whose am I? The more we listened to
the Lord, the more we realized that we had multiple hats with multiple labels, but
one Identity rose to the top.
Child of God
As a child of God, first, we can prioritize the other identities and filter our
relationship with the Creator and creation in the proper order. If indeed we have
given our will and emotions over to the Lord, we have come to the end of ourselves
and accepted the free gift of eternal life. Trusting the Lord to lead us, trusting our
future to Him, frees us from having to, and instead we are privileged, or we GET TO.
What we have seen, heard, and experienced is the blessing of the Lord as we
continue to get our priorities straight.
Trust the process.
We have been blessed by others joining us in reassessing priorities, and through
their giving of time, talent, and treasure, we have seen the Awareness of the
Kingdom of God expand. With that expansion comes real Freedom as the message
of God’s grace is spread, hearts opened, and lives changed.
This season is a great opportunity to reflect on the victories as well as the struggles, ongoing, that the Lord has yet to remove. We continue to walk with the marginalized who may be disconnected from family and we ask that not only will you pray for them, but also connect with them as the Lord leads you. We have been blessed with such great opportunities to love the community, and as rewarding as this is, we are painfully aware that needs don’t end as the season of giving often does.
Our prayer for you is the same prayer that we have for ourselves. That your first
identity will be “Child of God” and you will live out of that, give out of that, and love
as a lifestyle, because the least , the last, and the lost are in desperate need year
Blessings this Christmas from our family, Herb, Angel, Kyah, Amara, Andrenna,
Maggie, Nancy, Turk, Jim, Jim, Greg, Helen, Tess, Marla, Scott, Paul, Karen, Tim,
Terrell, Josh, Chris, Lilikae, Steve, Jared, Deamonte, and a whole host of other
volunteers. May the Lord Bless you and Keep you and make His face to shine upon
Luke 2:10 He told them, "The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few.
Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.
Written by: Greg Miller
During a recent trip to the Beaver County jail for our weekly bible study one of the participants stated that he had been having a lot of difficulty with his cell mate. There were also tensions on the pod in which he is confined. This man is a believer who wasn't sure what to do. He was sharing his trials with someone else who suggested that he pray about those situations. So, he began to pray. He was amazed at the transformation that took place within one week. The relationship with his cell mate improved dramatically. The tensions in the pod disappeared. Most of all, he was in awe of the fact that God had answered his prayers so rapidly and so obviously. As a result, his faith and his trust in the Lord grew.
Even though he is incarcerated, he is experiencing a growing relationship with Jesus that surpasses what a lot of Christians experience. His body may be locked up, but his spirit is free and growing. He is experiencing God's love in a way that many of us don't get to do. That is a marvelous reality of God's work. It is not hindered by our physical circumstances. He can work anywhere; anyway; with anyone. God is amazing!
When this man is released back into society I look forward to seeing what the Lord will do with his faith that is growing, even while in jail. I can't help but think that the Lord has some big plans for him!
Written by Angel Bailey
I met a new couple at our Community Thanksgiving Dinner. They are new to the area and in recovery from addiction. The wife was 7 months pregnant with her first child. She was nervous and unsure about being a parent. I sat and talked with her for a while and gave her some tips for preparing for baby. 2 days later, her husband came in to the café and told Herb that his wife thinks her water broke. Herb called me and asked me to call and talk to her. She didn’t answer at first and I was a bit nervous but started praying. I finally got ahold of her and strongly encouraged her to go right away to the hospital.
Thank God they did, because her water had broken and the baby was in duress. They did an emergency C-section and had to give the baby a breathing tube. They had a little girl, and named her, but she was life-flighted to a hospital if Pittsburgh so they couple didn’t get to spend any time with her. Tuesday morning, the husband came to the café for bible study and confessed through tears that he was scared for his baby’s life and about being a father. Everyone around the table was so encouraging to him and it was amazing to see God’s love in the flesh. We are waiting to hear back from him about where they will be staying when they get a room at the hospital where Piper is being cared for so we can go visit them. Please join with us in keeping this couple and their newborn in your prayers. God bless!
Uncommon Grounds Cafe