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2015–What a year!

By | Homeless Youth, Job Training, Ministry, Ministry Update, Street Life | No Comments

This past April, Joe came up to me one day at work and said, “Katie, I don’t know how to read very well. Can you help me?” This was something I had noticed and observed over the past few months, but never wanted to push. We had been spending an hour a week on Joe’s math homework for college and the word problems were his least favorite; understandably so, they are so hard to understand even if you *can* read well. So, this request, “Can you help me?” was huge. I mean, these are words I hardly ever say myself. I jumped at the opportunity…except I didn’t know the first thing about teaching someone how to read. So, we called on some friends of Purple Door and over the course of the summer, Joe spent two hours a week with a volunteer tutor and other time here and there with me, practicing reading and spelling and writing.

And, the hard work and long hours of endless effort paid off! Joe passed the English accuplacer test required for community college this past October. This test is one that he had failed twice before and felt utterly defeated by. As you can imagine, we continue to celebrate! But still, even with the test behind him, reading has never been Joe’s thing. Ever. He just says, “No thank you. I have Google.” Don’t we all. Anyway, my surprise was great a couple of Saturdays ago at work, when Joe sauntered over and said, “Here”, as he laid down a book. “Mark thinks I should read this. But, I think it’ll be too hard for me. Can we read it together?” I look down and realize it’s one of my favorites: Tattoos on the Heart by Father Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest who started Homeboy Industries over 30 years ago. Homeboy is an organization that job-trains and employs former gang members in L.A. The book is incredible, but shares hard stories and unabashed opinions of God and his love. I was thinking to myself, ‘This book is not going to just be hard to read…but also hard to understand…we probably shouldn’t even try.’ But alas, I’m not in charge of deciding these things, so we began to read.

Joe started first. It was like reading with my favorite 6-year-old: steady, intentional, thoughtful. I felt myself fill with pride. I kept offering small encouragement, especially when he was uncertain. And then he stopped, “Can you take over for a while?” So I picked up where he left off. Before I knew it, we were both laughing like mad, while at the same time wiping away the tears that had popped into our eyes. Parts of these stories are so parallel to Joe’s; so many of the experiences are his own. We cried at this unspoken recognition of his story in the words and we cried in disbelief that ‘God is just too busy loving us to have time left for disappointment’. Wow. Could that be true?

And this is how we continued for the rest of the day – Joe would read a page or two and then I’d pick up and read a few until he was ready, confident, and prepared to go at it again. And then midway, in between the laughter and tears, it dawned on me: this is exactly how we do life. We get to walk alongside each other, so that when one of us gets too tired, too worn out, too unsure of ourselves, someone is there to pick up where we leave off. We get to: provide encouragement, laugh, cry, take a rest and sit in utter disbelief… together. And this; this is the heart of God. This is the divine. And that slow, snowy Saturday in which we read together all day, is forever etched in my heart.

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“A Homie named David who had sunk to homelessness and heroin addiction was beating himself up one day.
“Look, David,” I tell him, wanting to cut up his mean for him, “You have to crawl before you can walk, and then walk before you can run.”
David’s eyes soften with tears. “Yeah, but I know I can fly. I just need a gust o’ wind.” (Tattoos on the Heart, pg 9-10)

Joe read this and let out a roar of laughter. “This is me,” he says, “You are always telling me to walk before I run, ‘cept I know I can fly… I can fly ‘cuz Purple Door is my gust of wind.”

An Unexpected Reunion

By | actions, collaborative ministry, Featured, Homeless Youth, Job Training, Ministry, Ministry Update, Non-profit, organization, Street Life | No Comments

When we opened Purple Door Coffee, we knew that it was way bigger than just a couple young twenty somethings opening a coffee shop. We knew in some part of ourselves that PDC was a dream of many coming to life that we got to bear close witness to. This story evidences that and tells of the people who have been doing Work in Denver way before we were ever here.

 

The last few years, Purple Door Coffee has been a part of the Denver Faith & Justice Conference hosted by Denver Community Church. Some years we have served coffee, some years we have spoken, some years we’ve done both. But, each year there was this volunteer named Bonnie who was always SO on top of things. She is that volunteer who literally never sits down and seems to get things done in half the time it takes the average person. Over the last few years, we have had these interactions with Bonnie and it became very clear that she is a servant.

 

A couple of days after the conference this year, she came into Purple Door with her husband and two friends who were in town visiting. When she came was walking toward the shop, I said, “Oh yay! Bonnie is coming in!” I was working this particular afternoon shift with Ricky. Ricky grew up in the neighborhood where Purple Door Coffee is located. He didn’t have much of a father figure growing up, so early in his childhood, his mom placed in the Big Brothers program.

 

When Bonnie and her husband, Paul, and their friends came in, I started introducing myself to everyone. Then, one of the men in the group looked at Ricky and said, ‘What is your name?” Ricky said, “My name is Ricky.” Paul, Bonnie’s husband, looked at Ricky and said, “Ricky Beck?!” Ricky looked back at him and said, “PAUL?!”

Ricky looked over at me and said, “Madison- Paul was my Big Brother for years and years! He taught me everything I know.”

(I would swear that at this point Ricky had tears welling up in his eyes, but he would tell you that he was having bad allergies that day.)

 

Paul, Ricky & Bonnie ended up talking for a large portion of the rest of the day. It was the most beautiful reunion. At one point, Bonnie and I were chatting and she said, “It is so good to see him and know he is here. It is a miracle that he isn’t dead.”

 

The experience impacted Ricky in such a big way. He couldn’t stop talking about it and texting me about it for the next couple days. It was so impacting to him that he wrote a little bit about it:

 

11-9-15

Today while I was working, someone walked through the door that I haven’t seen in 15+ years. It was my Big Brother from the Big Brother program that my mom signed me up for when I was a little kid. His name is Paul and his wife is Bonnie. Since my dad wasn’t around, Paul was there to teach me things that my mom couldn’t. Paul taught me how to read, write, play chess, tie my shoes, throw and catch a baseball and football, how to ride a bike, how to fix a bike, how to eat properly, and how to fish. He took me white-water rafting, skiing (I think), to Rockies games, nuggets games, WWE wrestling matches, monster truck shows, and he taught me how to type on a computer. A lot of feelings were going through me when I was taking their order because when I was fourteen I went to jail and lost contact with them for fifteen years. I was excited but nervous, happy but afraid of how they thought I turned out. But after a couple of hugs and a little bit of catching up, all of those questions and feelings were answered with a lot of love.

The funny thing is that he has a big interest in Purple Door Coffee and that makes me love my job that much more.

He moved to the city and retired and I cannot wait to see him again.

 

 

This whole story is so beautiful to me because it goes to show that we are not alone in the Work. We are all working together for good. There were people working for good before us and there will be people working for good after us. It is our job to show up for the good, slow work of God.

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People over Tasks. Relationship over Responsibilities.

By | Homeless Youth, Job Training, Ministry, Ministry Update, Street Life | No Comments

Madison and I have been stretched fairly thin this past year. We are two very different people, but one of our key commonalities is that we are kind of perfectionists. Because of how difficult and complicated running a business that happens to be a job-training program is, we have felt that we are in perpetual need of sacrificing quality on this thing or that, or leaving something not done to our standards. This has been draining. Most days I leave thinking I could have done more, or done something better, and my mind is focused on all the tasks that are yet to be done, or the the things that I didn’t do as well as I would have liked. This is a tiring, unsustainable way to live. So I’ve been working on it, by shifting my focus from what is undone to what is done. I have also made (or am trying to make) an incredibly important shift from thinking about tasks and responsibilities to people and relationships.

Robert Lupton in his book Theirs is the Kingdom has an excellent quote concerning this:

The fundamental building blocks of the Kingdom are relationships. Not programs, systems, or productivity. But inconvenient, time-consuming, intrusive relationships. The Kingdom is built on personal involvements that disrupt schedules and drain energy. When I enter into redemptive relationships with other, I lose much of my (efficiency) ‘capacity to produce desired results with a minimum expenditure of energy, time, money, or materials.’ In short, relationsips sabotage my efficiency… I know I am called to love people, and, in a special sense, poor people. Since it is impossible to schedule their calamities, I must remain open to their interruptions. The seductive appeal of order would draw me away from my call. God’s peace much be learned in the midst of disturbance. Disruptions are his reminders that people are more important than programs and that the ordering of my life is His business.

So, my idol of efficiency and achievement is daily being sacrificed. I am constantly striving to see the humans behind the tasks. Go has given us this task of running this beautiful thing called Purple Door Coffee, and there certainly are tasks and responsibilities to be taken care of, but more importantly there are people to be taken care of. The tasks must support the people. Tasks and projects are not the point. I have to daily remind myself of this.

Christ did not come to help us have more “good” tasks and responsibilities. Christ came to love, redeem and set us free. It is our “task” as his followers to help others know that love, redemption and freedom. If we can focus on that, I think our other tasks become much less stressful and draining. But that is the challenge–to stay focused on the love, redemption and freedom. When we can focus on Christ and what he offers, life can be so much more full!

Meet Jenna!

By | Employee Bio, Homeless Youth, Job Training, Ministry, Street Life | No Comments

We wanted to introduce our other new employee to you! Jenna started working for us a month ago, and we are so have to have her working behind the bar with us! She is a fast learner that is very personable and helpful!

photo 1-2

Where are you from? Denver, Colorado

When is your birthday? September 19th

Why did you decide to work at Purple Door?
I’ve been dealing with homelessness on and off since I was 16 years old. Running on the little amount of faith I had, I applied to Purple Door to work towards my goal of self-sufficiency and to keep myself from returning to the street life.

What is a dream you have for your life?
I plan to on day open up my own coffee shop. I start business school August 2014

What’s been the most fun about working at Purple Door?
Learning everything, helping customers, and being productive.

What’s been the most difficult about working at Purple Door?
Being Quiet. I am a very loud person and I have a hard time keeping the volume of my voice down.

What’s something you’re good at?
I am good at singing and helping others.

What was your favorite cartoon as a kid?
Rugrats

Where in the world would you most like to visit?
Ireland, to better understand my heritage.

What’s your favorite movie?
Wall-e

What’s your favorite food?
Chicken

What’s your favorite coffee drink?
Caramel Mocha

 

 

Come down to the shop and meet Jenna! We love having her here, and she has a very bright future ahead of her!

Meet Marcus!

By | Employee Bio, Homeless Youth, Job Training, Ministry, Non-profit, Street Life | No Comments

Today we wanted to highlight one of our new employees, and we hope to do this as we move forward!

Meet Marcus! Marcus started working for us a little over 2 weeks ago!

afterlight

When is your birthday?
 April 3rd

What were your favorite cartoons as a kid?
Pinky and The Brain, Rocket Power, Sonic

Where in the world would you most like to visit?
Tokyo, I love the sights. It looks amazing to visit.

What’s your favorite food?
Pizza and Chinese

What is something you’re good at?
Art, Music, and learning new things quickly.

What are some dreams you have for your life?
Become a better man.
Have my own clothing line, bring the old school hip-hop flavor back.
Provide something better for my daughter, and show her the best things in life.

Why did you decide to work at Purple Door?
It’s a good opportunity, and to better my life as a man.

What’s been the most fun about working at Purple Door?
Employees and people I meet and interact with.
Learning how to make coffee and learning where it comes from.

What’s your favorite coffee drink?
Mocha with vanilla. Mmm mmm mmm.

Other thoughts:
Purple door is wonderful and gave me a shot to work in a place I never thought I would ever see myself in. Warming and calm, a place I call relaxation and peace. It is a place for improvement and visions. A place that makes me feel home and family.

 

We love having Marcus on the team! Come meet him at the shop, and be looking for a post about Jenna as well!

A Week in the Life

By | Homeless Youth, incubation, Non-profit | No Comments

One of the questions we get most frequently is, ‘What do you do everyday?’ We aren’t open yet, so this is a good question. Each week looks different right now with a few consistent activities. We wish that all of you could come see the cool things that God is up to in Denver, but we know that isn’t possible for everyone. So, we wanted to convey as much as we can about what we do.

Flickr image by russelljsmith

Right now we are perpetually looking for ways to share our story. We are making connections with people to spread our network by meeting with different churches, businesses and individuals in Denver so that we can share what is going on with Purple Door Coffee. We’ve been comparing this a lot to Mark 4. We’re spreading as much seed as possible and only some of it will grow, but God will grow it!

Mondays and Tuesdays are filled with miscellaneous things–meetings with people that are interested in Purple Door–churches, businessmen, other urban ministries and anyone else you can think of– efforts to share our story on the internet (like this blog), sending out thank you letters, sending tax receipts, updating databases, helping out with Belay’s other faith ventures, making calls, sending out updates, organizing smaller fundraisers, and so much more. These are the days that look different each week. Mondays and Tuesday are also days that we intentionally learn from Jim Reiner and the Belay team about job training ministries and running a non-profit. Learning happens throughout the week, but on Monday and Tuesdays we typically get to spend more time with Jim and share vision and goals for Purple Door.

Wednesdays are a fun day for us. We get to sit in a conference room with all the  Bud’s Warehouse employees and share about how our weeks are going, what goals we are working towards, and update everyone on our own spiritual journeys. It is a beautiful time of community and encouragement.

Thursdays are also a lot of fun–but challenging as well. The morning and early afternoon are filled with similar things as Monday. We also check in with some of the Bud’s Warehouse employees that we journey with as goal coaches. This happens at other times throughout the week as well. The late afternoon and early evening are times spent with Dry Bones. We attend bowling with Dry Bones.

Each week Dry Bones rents a bus to take our friends bowling. We bowl and have a good time. It is a place of belonging and safety. This time is used to simply build relationships with our friends from the streets and the volunteers that work with Dry Bones, as well as lavish love on everyone present. We then go to the meal that is served after bowling and continue the conversations that took place at the bowling alley as well as start new ones. This is a joy as well as a challenge.

Sometimes the conversations are light hearted and fun, and at other times they are dark and sad. This is valuable relational time that helps us remain connected and in tune with the culture that is present on the streets. This is vital as we dream about and plan the training components of Purple Door. If we were disconnected from the culture of the people we are striving to work with, we would not be able to help them as effectively as possible. Our consistent presence on the streets also communicates our love and concern for our friends, and helps us establish ourselves in the culture on the streets.

Fridays are also a very enjoyable day. Friday morning is started with Bible study with the Bud’s warehouse employees. I (Mark) have been blessed to lead these studies for the last month and a half. “Lead” is maybe a bit misleading. Each week I bring a passage to the group and give a little context. After that the discussion begins. I chime in as a participant in the discussion, and we all journey through scripture as a community.

It is challenging and beautiful. I have been presented with a new angle on a passage I have read a hundred times on more than one occasion already. The diversity of backgrounds and the different lives that have been lived in that room provide a component to the study of scripture that I have not encountered in a traditional church setting. It is a huge blessing to journey through scripture with this group of people.  After the Bible Study we again just work on what is before us–emails, sharing our story, checking in with Bud’s employees, meetings, etc.

In the early afternoon in the summer months we head over to Dry Bones’ picnics. We spend time in the park with our friends from the streets and just continue to grow the relationships there. This is a relaxed atmosphere that allows us to connect and have meaningful conversation. Again, this is a valuable time for us as we seek to stay in tune with the culture on the streets.

As much as we love what we’re doing now, we are ready to open the doors of Purple Door! We are ready to provide employment, job training and life skills training to the street kids in Denver that want to exit street life.  Please consider donating today as we currently have a $30,000 matching donation! Click here to donate and help us open Purple Door Coffee so that we can provide employment to our friends that are working to rebuild their lives from homelessness.

Job Training

By | Homeless Youth, incubation, Street Life | No Comments

Madison and I continue to attend Dry Bones events and build relationships on the streets. Over the last few weeks many of our friends are getting job interviews, but so few are actually getting jobs. It makes me see the need even more clearly for Purple Door. We hope to teach our friends interviewing skills, job skills, give them a job history, give them positive references, and be a source of encouragement for them to help them keep going.

Job training ministries are interesting places to work. There is certainly never a dull day. I have the opportunity to lead the Bible Study at Bud’s Warehouse on Friday mornings. Lead is a relative term. Really, I pick the passage we read and we go from there. We’ve been bouncing around the Sermon on the Mount lately. It’s amazing how scripture speaks and moves in our lives.

Flickr image by DaveBleasdale

I learn more than I teach in this setting. It is awesome and challenging when I see aspects of faith that are stronger than my own in that room on Friday mornings. I am excited to see that take place at Purple Door Coffee–to be challenged by our employees while simultaneously challenging; to grow together as we walk our personal paths.

Purple Door will be a place of community, a place of love, a place of respect, a place of challenge, a place of growth, a place where Christ is evident. Our prayer is that Purple Door will be a place where God is glorified and all people are changed.

Generational Impact

By | Homeless Youth, incubation | No Comments

Generational impact. It’s a bit of an abstract concept. So frequently we think only of what is in front of us. We think of immediate needs and the needs of a single life. Seldom do we think of how choices made now impact our descendants–the next generation. This is true of all people in all places. Generational impact is real, but difficult to wrap our minds around.

Flickr image by edanley

Generational poverty is a widely studied and researched concept. It is a cycle that is vicious and difficult to break. Most of our friends on the streets were not born into wealth and affluence. Most were born into situations that mimic theirs today, and research shows that without marked changes in their own lives, their children will enter a similar situation.

Changes that are made today (positive and negative), affect those who come afterwards.

I’m reminded of the Biblical story of Abraham. Abraham was told by God to get up and move to go to a land that God would show him. I don’t know about you, but when I move, I like to know where I am going. Abraham just left. He took his family–his whole life–and moved. Had he not done this, the narrative of the nation of Israel would not have begun through him. An entire nation was established because of the change made by Abraham. He made the change based on a promise for the future, the promise of becoming a great nation. Not a promise of riches or immediate power, but a much more nebulous and futuristic promise.

Many of our friends have experienced a lot of negative changes in their lives–many of which have been decisions made for them. When a pattern of changes being negative develops, it is difficult to make the necessary changes to improve one’s situation.

We hope that we can provide the support needed for our friends to make the brave decision to change. Change in a way that improves their situation for themselves and for the future.

It’s important that our employees realize that the changes they are making as they work to improve their situation now will impact the rest of their own lives, but it will also impact the lives of their children and grandchildren. Their changes will change the trajectory of their future and their family’s future.

This generational impact is very important to us at Purple Door because it is about working towards the repair of a broken system. God is restoring all things to himself by using His people, and we are blessed to be a part of that restoration in this specific area.

It also helps us remember that one life changed by God through Purple Door Coffee is not a solitary life, but a life that is connected to many lives. That changed life will have a ripple effect to others.

Abraham got up and moved. He changed his life, but never saw the full fruits of that change. We at Purple Door must remember that we will never see the full fruits of the changes that are started in the lives of those connected to us, but it is still worth it. And our employees may not see the full fruits of their change either, but we pray they find conviction and courage knowing that they are impacting their family generations from now by making positive changes now.

Hope. Story. Humor

By | Homeless Youth | No Comments

We’re working on a video for Purple Door Coffee. We have interviewed some of our friends in various stages of connection with street life. Some that are young in the culture on the streets, others that have been away from Street Kid culture for awhile, and still others that are right in the middle of the culture. We asked questions about job history, life goals, experiences in the workplace, job market–the areas we specifically are seeking to impact.

Image by laRuth on Flickr

We really just tried to have conversation with a camera on, and there were a few things that struck me in these conversations:

1. Hope. There is hope everywhere on the streets. Our friends have goals to be veterinarians, own their own house, get married, own their own businesses. But that hope doesn’t seem to be enough to get them there. They have too many roadblocks right now, and so their hope is frequently deferred. Proverbs 13:12 tells us that when hope is deferred it makes the heart sick.

I have seen this from time to time on the streets. Our friends will be hopeful about their future and hit road block after road block which then turns into depression or destructive behaviors or other signs of having a “sick heart”. So, at Purple Door Coffee we’re trying to remove some of those road blocks and help grow that hope that is in the hearts of our friends so that they can really work towards their goals with some success! The second half of Proverbs 13:12 says “but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

2. Each story is intensely personal. When asked about my job history I can rattle off the jobs I’ve had in my life pretty quickly. There are some interesting stories that arose when I worked at the grocery store or when I was a go-kart attendant, but no painful memories. Our friends on the streets have had very different experiences in the work place.

Some have been victimized in some way, whether by being exploited and cheated out of money or experiencing some sort of abuse or harassment. These interviews helped me see the struggle that employment is for those that have been pushed to the edge of our society. We hope to help them find a path to sustainable employment in a healthy, just and safe environment.

3. Humor is a good thing. Even in the middle of their tough situations our friends maintain their humor. They’re funny. We laughed a good amount when chatting for our video, and we seem to laugh a lot when we hang out in general. Laughing is a good thing. We hope to provide a place that teaches job skills and helps our friends rebuild lives, yes. We also plan to laugh together!

Be looking for the new video in the not too distant future! Blessings to you!