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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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Reflections After the Break-in.

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Since I’ve had time to reflect on the break in at Purple Door I’ve unpacked it a little more. This post of Facebook is still my heart and response to the situation. Here is what we shared:

While the recent break-in is unfortunate and frustrating, this does not change how we feel about our neighborhood or any individual in the neighborhood. We love Five Points and the surrounding area. The break-in was an individual or group of individuals that still have incredible worth and value. We are saddened that they feel a need to do such things, but this does not change the fact that we care about them. We are also so thankful for the way the neighborhood has supported us up to the break-in and since the break-in. We will continue being who we are and doing what we do! Thank you so much for supporting us!

This is certainly how we still feel, but there is also more to it.

When Purple Door was broken into I thought about how fragile a thing it is. The Coffee shop could burn to the ground, we could be completely vandalized, or we could simply fail as a business from a financial perspective. So, what does that mean for us? What is actually the importance of this thing called Purple Door, and what would that mean for me as an individual if Purple Door Coffee were to simply cease to be? What I have come to realize over this past year is that Purple Door is the vehicle that we are driving at the time. It isn’t the point. It’s not the destination. Purple Door allows us to do what we believe we are supposed to do. Our value in our mission, the value of each employee or each customer and my own value are never in question, even if Purple Door Coffee were to fail. The Kingdom of God is bigger than any single organization, group of people or individual. Purple Door Coffee fits into the Kingdom of God, but it is not the Kingdom itself. And so if Purple Door ceases to be, or if it shifts in how it functions, as long as we are true to what God has for this world, we are doing what we are supposed to be doing. And so, things like a break-in are seemingly insignificant. They create opportunities for us to be who we say we are. It’s easy to proclaim the value and worth of people when times are good and when everyone is treating you well. It’s a different story when people are doing things that impact you in a negative way. We must continue to proclaim the value and worth of those that are against us, otherwise we will cease to hope for their future, and if we see cease to hope for anyone’s future, we no longer proclaim what God has for this world. And that is the only way we can truly fail.

And so when we function out of this truth–we cannot fail until we cease to be faithful to the life God has called us to–we are free to do that using whatever vehicle we choose, and if said vehicle breaks down, gets in a wreck, is stolen, it doesn’t change who we are or who we are called to be.

That said, we hope to have Purple Door Coffee be here for a very very long time, with other opportunities growing from it.

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!

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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!

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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!

On Being a Bad Boss

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Hello. My name is Madison Chandler. I am a 25 year old single female living in the beautiful state of Colorado. Through a seriously miraculous series of events happening over the span of 3 years (probably even longer, really), I have found myself working at a super stellar coffee shop in Denver that was created to employ teens and young adults who have been homeless.

It’s an awesome ‘job’. It’s a hard ‘job’.

One of the biggest struggles is this: my pain and my flaws directly affect my coworkers and employees. When I am stressed, they stand in the direct path of my stress; when I am tired, they receive my annoying stares and barely-listening ears; when I am facing the shadow of who I thought I’d be, they are the ones squished below my feet in effort to preserve a false sense of power.

It’s a hard thing to watch your flaws hurt others.

When you dream about something like Purple Door Coffee for years (click HERE to watch the video if you don’t know what PDC is), you imagine all of the moments when your wisdom and love will bring positivity and change into someone’s life, you don’t imagine the moments when you really blew it and hurt and/or pushed someone backwards in their journey.

But, the reality is this: in the 9 months that Purple Door Coffee has been around, I know that I have hurt all 5 of the people who have worked here.

You want to know what else I know? I know that they have all forgiven me. They continue to love me and support me and listen to me. They continue to work with me and laugh with me and ask me questions about my day-to-day life and who I have a crush on and other silly things.

Their forgiveness and continued love through my shortcomings has been transformative.

This all reinforces what some of my close pals told me long ago — Life Is A Dance. In this particular scenario, it is a dance of forgiveness. I need forgiveness as much as the girl who spent 6 years in prison or the guy who sold meth to your kids or the lady who is an annoying know-it-all or the man who loses his temper way too quickly.

As we dance, we move towards and around each other in forgiveness. We surround each other with forgiveness, with love–with the love of Christ.

Thank you Mike, Charla, Guyia, Mark and Ali for forgiving me.

Thank you Father for using me though I am so flawed.

Thank you Jesus for teaching gentleness.

Thank you Spirit for your strength, made perfect in weakness.

Seeing the Hurt.

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Driving around Denver I tend to notice places of hurt. I see drug deals happen in parks. I notice the intoxicated man lying in the grass. I notice the tired mom, wrangling four kids as they wait for the bus, because they have no transportation of their own. I see a world that has more hurt than one can sort through. That’s part of the burden of working with populations on the edges–you start to see how prolific and populated the edges are.

How do you engage that much hurt? How do you love well in the middle of it? How do you unsee some of it?

First, I don’t know. I don’t know how you can engage all the hurt that is present. It’s dizzying to think about all the hurt that demands a response. Why does this injustice exist? Why is that hurt perpetuated? It’s impossible to know what to do with it all.

Second, I think the only way we can ever love in the middle of it all is to simply start. Start loving in someway some how. Start a conversation. Share a smile. Begin getting personal with the hurt, because then the hurt becomes about people you know rather than about problems to be solved. That is much more energizing, humanizing, and beautiful. We have to trust that love will be at work for much longer than we can understand, doing more than we can do on our own. Love amplifies our efforts to something bigger than our own capacity. We have to trust that and lean into that hope.

Third, you don’t unsee the hurt. You can’t. Personally I wouldn’t want to even if I could. The seeing of hurt makes me appreciate healing. My recognition of the ugly allows me to recognize beauty all the more. And when I am able to see the hurt in me, and in the individuals I engage with, we can provide an avenue for healing through one another. Not that we provide the healing, but sometimes our own hurt prevents us from seeing Jesus, and we need someone else to point us there. As we seek to be like Jesus as we see the hurts of the world we must respond with compassion. Henri Nouwen says this about compassion: “Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”

When we see the hurts of the world, we must immerse ourselves in the hurt, otherwise the hurt will overcome us. And thankfully, we have a Healer that can overcome any hurt.

Redeeming the Ordinary

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A food scale. This is something that is used all the time in the restaurant world. You’ll also see it in the kitchen of those concerned with portion sizes. It’s a pretty normal object.

At Purple Door we use food scales all the time, because we weigh our coffee beans and our water in order to ensure that we have the proper ratio of coffee to water so that we can consistently serve a great product. We have 6 scales scattered around the bar area and a few tucked away incase one breaks. They’re just another item in our massive list of equipment.

In our first week of training our employees said that they didn’t realize scales could be used for this. You see, on the streets, scales are used for drugs. That’s their usage in the world our employees are seeking to leave.

In their minds and lives scales have been changed from something that is associated with activities and items that drag people into the darkness to something that accompanies them into a place of light.

In some sense, this is a picture of God’s redemption. God redeems the person, but not just in some big abstract sense. God redeems the person in the everyday, in the little things. God also goes beyond the redemption of people, but delves into the redemption of this world that he created “good”.

Frequently as I’m portioning our coffee using our scales, I think about something as commonplace and ordinary as a food scale is a picture of redemption. God is bringing all things back to Himself.

I challenge you to look for the redemption of the ordinary. If God redeems scales, he certainly redeems His children. Take notice.

Jesus Is Why.

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Lately the blog has sat a bit dormant. This is for a few reasons: 1) We’re busy, and writing frequently gets back-burnered. 2) I’ve written a lot on the topics of Purple Door, and feel a bit inadequate sometimes to add to the larger conversation and 3) I think I have placed a burden on myself to say something, new, intriguing and profound every time I put something out there.

I think the third has been the biggest hangup. I have about seventeen half finished blog posts that I can’t seem to get right. I constantly think that it has to be just right, with every possible hole and angle covered. Just today I realized that’s not the case. Today, I want to communicate one simple thing: Jesus must be the source for what we do.

I often burden myself with knowing everything there is to know about job training, non-profit, for-profit, coffee, marketing, the theology behind what we do, finances, and any other field Purple Door interacts with. I take a look at the list of the areas of expertise that need to be known in order to do this thing called Purple Door perfectly, and I think, “What am I doing? How did I get into something that I know so little about? I guess I need to educate myself and prove that I am educated about such topics.” And as I start learning, reading,  and asking questions, I do learn more, and get better with various areas of running Purple Door; but then something changes–an employee does something unexpected, sales trends change, a new coffee arrives, a new point of view on Biblical Justice is presented–and I have to reshape what I think, and how I function. And so this is the dance I am bound to, and, in a sense, the dance that we are all bound to. We’re constantly reevaluating, changing, adjusting. If we’re not careful, we can forget who we are, where we’re headed and what we’re about and dance in a way that is incongruent with the music being played. But if we just stand there, and refuse to dance, holding on to what we know we will miss out on something incredibly beautiful.

So, I take a step back. I look at the lists of expertise, I look at the skills and knowledge necessary to run Purple Door “perfectly” and I realize that I can’t. I can’t possibly know all these things. I can’t predict how employees will act. I can’t predict what is going to happen in the neighborhood surrounding the shop. I can’t do this perfectly and I will make mistakes. There are too many unknowns, too many variables, and it is dizzying. I realize there is a constant in it all. Something that can be a central touch stone. Someone.

Jesus is the constant. Jesus is what makes this dance possible. He makes the dance beautiful. Sure, we’ll step off beat on occasion, and even step on our partner’s foot, but that’s okay. It’s still a beautiful dance, and Jesus makes sure that we can dance and not get overwhelmingly dizzy. With Jesus there we adjust to the music being played, we learn new dances, we become better out on the dance floor. He instructs, challenges, brings joy, and helps us be better. All of this is driven by his character and nature–that of love. Dancing is most fun when it’s with someone you love and you know loves you. Such is life with Jesus.

The person of Jesus–all that he is–challenges us to be better, and equips us for the task at hand. As we get to know Jesus we get to know His love. We get in touch with God’s vision for the world, and He invites us to play an active role in that vision. As we look to emulate the character of Jesus we delve into a source of Love that is not our own, that enables us and equips us to love more fully. Live more joyfully. To be the beloved of God. We get to be Jesus to all we encounter. Jesus also inspires creativity, and the ability to know how the Creator has fashioned us as individuals. Jesus invites us to engage the world in love, just as he did, but his desire is for us to do it in a way that is authentic to the way God has created us.

In the process of engaging with the mission of Purple Door I’ve discovered personal areas of strength as well as personal areas of weakness. There are some dances I’m good at and some I’m just awful at, and that’s okay, because I trust my dance partner. I’ve seen God engage the world through me, and through others. I’ve seen Love take root and begin to grow and transform. I’ve seen God work in ways I could never predict.

And so as I continue to stand back, I look at the different areas of Purple Door, and I see that Jesus is in every area that is thriving, and the areas that are struggling, they typically are not reflecting the Love of God as found in the person of Jesus.

So, in all of this, at Purple Door we strive to be as Jesus was in this world: Fully committed to love, and as an outpouring of that, committed to do what needs to be done to grow the presence of the Kingdom in the place that we have been planted. Sometimes that looks like a meeting with an employee speaking value into their life,sometimes it means making a great coffee for a customer, and sometimes it simply means paying bills. No matter what it is, we pray we are able to make the Love of God known in new and beautiful ways to all we encounter. We pray that the way that we engage in this dance inspires onlookers to join in the dance; to enjoy the music and trust the partner and not be afraid to make a mistake here and there.