Uncommon Grounds is a café in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. In the heart of the former steel town, the café is a place of sanctuary and Christian outreach and care. People come in to find a warm meal and a listening ear and sometimes, hope and a fresh start.
One day a man came into Uncommon Grounds looking for someone to listen, and to understand “his side” of the story. Frustrated with his ex-girlfriend, he had chosen to be more forceful than he knew was right and had been put on probation. Part of his probation was to go to 12 step meetings and anger management classes, some of which are hosted at Uncommon Grounds Cafe. In talking to me, he seemed at first to be agitated, but then eventually calmed down. We are all sinners, I assured him. I thought of Romans 3:23. I didn’t quote the scripture, but it did begin to play in the back of my mind, as I fought the desire to judge him unworthy.
The more I listened to him, the more I heard his true heart. He had a deep love for his children. He wanted to be a good father. He didn’t have a great role model growing up, but he wanted to do better for them.
He and I met weekly for a couple of months, and at one point, he asked if he could borrow some money to keep his lights from being turned off. It is my policy not to give out money to people, but to refer them to other agencies in the city that. This time it was different. I heard the Lord say “Yes”. So I said, “Yes”.
What happened next shocked me, too. He offered to pay me back! Instead, I asked him to do a service project for the neighbor with his kids on Saturday and send me a picture. That would be payment enough.
A month later, I was driving down the street and I saw my friend, sharply dressed, working for the local funeral home, with a huge smile on his face. He is now taking his children to church, spending time with them, and showing them the value of an honest career. He offered his life to the Lord, and offered his children what he had received by God’s grace: hope.
Impacting peoples’ lives in this way through Christ is what the ministry of the Uncommon Grounds Café and Church Army USA is all about. To God be the glory!
Uncommon Grounds Café is part of the Matthew 25 Ministry initiative of The Anglican Church in North America.