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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:



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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The Widow and Her Lottery Ticket

By | Non-profit, organization, Street Life | No Comments

Many of you might be familiar with the story of The Widow’s Offering in both Mark and Luke. Here is Luke’s account of that story- Luke 21:1-4 “As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

I love this story so much because it emphasizes the beauty of sacrificial giving. Another reason I love this story because I am currently experiencing the reality of what it means to live on someone else’s donations. Through my experience, I have realized that every single penny donated helps us so much more than anyone can ever know. I would like to share a story with you that happened to me just two nights ago. Yep, just this past Monday night! That means that you are on the cutting edge of society because you are receiving immediate news from me, a highly credible source of information.

So, I moonlight as a Zumba instructor. I teach only once a week and I LOVE it. After class this past Monday I went out to eat with a group of students and we chatted about life and its ups and downs. While we were chatting, someone asked me to clarify exactly what I am doing right now for work. The set up of our work can be pretty confusing, so I get questions about this a lot.

I explained that Belay Enterprises is incubating us and that we are currently working at Bud’s Warehouse as Goal Coaches so that we can learn the ins and outs of running a non-profit job-training program. I talked about how we are working to raise money to open Purple Door Coffee and that we are also raising our salaries and spoke briefly about the stresses that come along with raising money.

After explaining these things, one of the ladies, Linda, quickly reached down into her purse and pulled out a small, square piece of paper. She handed it to me and said, “I don’t have any money to give, but I just won $25 on this lottery ticket and you should have it!” Linda is truly one of the most giving and supportive people that I have ever met. She continues to amaze me with her generosity and encouragement with each interaction. This story is so beautiful to me because on Monday night, Linda gave Purple Door Coffee what she had; money that she could have spent on an awesome meal or on a girls night out or on some new shoes for her two beautiful kids.

Linda’s generosity has given Purple Door Coffee so much more than $25, it has given us encouragement to get through today and press forward to a goal that is much bigger than both Mark and I. (Just to clarify, Linda isn’t a widow. She has an awesome husband named Doug. I titled this story ‘The Widow and her Lottery Ticket’ because her giving reminded me of the story in Luke that I mentioned earlier.)

The super exciting thing about this kind of giving is that you have the ability to participate! YAY! We have a Crowdrise campaign up and running to raise money for coffee equipment for Purple Door. You can become a part of this journey to open Purple Door Coffee by donating here, today. Please consider donating to help us create jobs for kids who are working so hard to get out of homelessness. I assure you that every little bit helps!

How To Donate To Out Crowdrise Campaign

We love you guys and are so thankful for all that you have already given! Peace and blessings.

Love, Mads

Inconvenience or Major Setback?

By | incubation, organization, Street Life | No Comments

Sometimes on the streets there is just a weird vibe. Last night was one of those nights. I still can’t put my finger on it.

Thursday nights are spent with Dry Bones at their weekly bowling event and hot meal downtown. Dry Bones gets a bus and takes everyone that shows up out to a bowling alley. We are there for a little over an hour, load back up onto the bus and head downtown where a hot meal is waiting.

Image by divinemisscopa on Flickr

To start the weirdness, the crowd at bowling was a lot smaller than usual. Which is fine. It was just different. At the meal we had about the normal amount, maybe a few more than normal. As weather gets nicer the population at the outdoor events tends to grow. There were a lot of kids that were just passing through last night–hitchhikers and train hoppers mostly. It’s interesting to see that culture interact with the mainstays here in Denver.

Most of the individuals that I have gotten close to in the past few months were either gone, or just not themselves last night. They weren’t as happy to see me, or anyone really. Most didn’t feel like talking. They pretty much wanted to get some food and head out.

In processing last night I have realized how little things impact our friends on the streets in much more dramatic ways, and so that can affect their moods and actions in a bigger way.

Example 1: If I miss a meal that is being offered for free, I can get into my car drive to a restaurant and buy food. If my friends miss that meal, they sleep hungry that night.

Example 2: If I lose my ID, I can grab my birth certificate and social security card which are kept safely, and go to the DMV and wait and have the problem resolved in a day. If our friends lose their ID, they need to track down their birth certificate and social security card. If they are missing one or both, what is a several hour process for me could be a 6 month or longer journey for our friends.

Example 3: If I wear out a pair of shoes I can: 1) Change to a different pair that I already own 2) Buy a new pair. If my friends’ shoes wear out, they must wear them until they can get some for free, and those have probably already been worn by other people, or they won’t fit quite right, or try to save some money to buy some. Since our friends walk a lot of the places that they need to go, a bad pair of shoes is very noticeable to them.

These are just simple things that I gave little to no thought to prior to working with this population. But when you live in these conditions a bad day is amplified greatly. So, if a few of our friends are having a bad day, it’s noticeable in the group.

Everyone has bad days, it’s just that our friends’ days can get pretty bad, pretty fast. This just really helped me see the need for love in the lives of our friends on the streets.

And in regards to Purple Door, we’re trying to make it so the little things aren’t as big in the lives of our friends. We want them to be able to have a job and earn money so that they can buy the things that they need. We want them to learn skills on how to deal with issues that arise in a healthy way. We want to walk with them as they journey to a level of stability that makes every day inconveniences into simply that–an inconvenience–instead of an issue that is going to set them back a great deal.

Step 1: Treat People Like People

By | actions, incubation, organization | No Comments

As we spend time on the streets and get to know more and more people, we see how frequently our friends have been dehumanized by our world. We see how they are treated like a group that causes problems for the city, or makes the city less desirable; we see how they are treated as second class citizens. This breaks my heart. How can this change? How can we create a society and world where all people are valued and seen as important?

Well, start with you. Start by treating all people like people. Realize the humanity and the life that is present in every human you meet–from the homeless teen, to the rich businessman, to the elderly person in the nursing home, to yourself. Christ died for all of them.

Image by B.S. Wise on Flickr

As we live with this mindset, our sphere of influence will be impacted. We must use our existing connections to impact the world now. We can’t wait until we have a large stage, because if we wait until then we won’t know how to use it if we ever do get it.

Gustavo Gutiérrez was a theologian and priest from Peru that worked among the poor there. He says the poor “are found in the statistics, but they do not appear there with their own names…they are insignificant in society, but not before God.” (Preferential Option for the Poor, 1968)
God’s mission is to restore all people–all creation– back to Himself. This must come into play with how we engage the world. If we are to be about the things God is about, we must be about restoring the entire world back to God.

So, what things don’t belong? What things do?

People living in poverty and oppression is not what God desires. So, we must respond. We must journey with those who have been pushed to the side. We must journey on the road of restoration. It’s a long road, but a road that is well worth it.

What does belong? Community. Love. Reconciliation between people groups. All people being viewed as valuable creations of God that show the image of God simply in who they are.

So as we step out on this journey of embracing the mission of God and being active participants in God’s restoration of the world Step 1 is to treat people like people that are dearly loved and reflect the God of the universe. Step 2: repeat step one.

Why Do This?

By | incubation, organization, Street Life | No Comments

Hi guys! Madison Chandler here. I feel like I should clarify that because Mark is the one who usually writes the blog posts. Go ahead and prepare yourself for the fact that this blog post will neither be as insightful nor as wonderful as any of Mark’s posts. Okay? Have you prepared yourself? Good. Let’s do this.

I want to tell you about an experience that I had recently at Bud’s Warehouse. So, if you don’t know what Bud’s Warehouse is, let me enlighten you. Bud’s is a home improvement thrift store that is also a non-profit job-training program that exists to rebuild lives through a life-skill development program. Basically, Bud’s is awesome. Bud’s not only gives people a chance to succeeded in the form of a job, they also build these amazing relationships and help each other towards personal life goals while loving each other unconditionally.

madison chandler

Mark and I are working out of Bud’s right now and will continue to do so until we can raise enough money to open Purple Door Coffee (PDC). Being here at Bud’s has been wonderful. We have learned so much about job training, personal development and love and how those relate to each other. So, I reiterate, Bud’s is awesome.

Every morning before Bud’s Warehouse opens, the employees all meet for one hour with Andy, the manager of Bud’s. Depending on the day, the hour is devoted to education, personal check-ins or bible study. At the personal check-in meeting, everyone has an opportunity to talk about what is going on in his or her personal life. Some people talk about their children; some people talk about housing; some people talk about their relationships; some people talk about their addictions. It really is a beautiful time that is totally devoted to understanding the lives of the people that surround you everyday.

When it was my opportunity to share, I spoke mostly about how my life has been a bit challenging recently because I am totally relying on donations for living. I talked about how I am in a place where I am depending on God to capture people’s hearts with Purple Door Coffee’s mission, then perhaps people will donate, then I will have money to pay rent and buy groceries and continue to work toward opening Purple Door Coffee in the Fall. I told of my tendency to worry about how many donations will come and I told of my efforts to have full faith that God will provide if it is in His will.

After my brief speech, one of the guys in the meeting looked at me and asked, “Why are you doing this? ” Now, I know that sounds like a really simple question, but it is one that I have not been asked before and in that moment, I didn’t know how to answer it. I had to take a couple of minutes to think about the question and then I answered him with, “Well, a lot of those kids on the streets are my friends and most of them have not been given a fair chance at life. In my life, what has changed me the most is the love of others. I want to create a place that gives others that love; a place that gives them a chance.”

Since that meeting, I have thought a lot about that question, “Why?” Am I working on PDC because I feel like I have to as a Christian? Am I working on PDC so that I can have my own business and make a name for myself? Am I working on PDC so that I can be around coffee all day? Am I working on PDC so that I can convince Mark to fall in love with me? (Just kidding!) I can go on and on with these questions all day long…but the point is that I have had to be super honest with myself in examining all of my motives in opening PDC.

This is the answer that I have come to- God’s unconditional, unfailing love has changed my life forever and I want to create a place where I can pass that gift on. Mark and I are opening PDC because we have experienced that beauty of love in giving chances and we know it’s amazing power. We want nothing more in this world than to further God’s Kingdom. We truly want to create a space that is going to be a little slice of His Kingdom on this earth. We want to create a space where love is so present that even those who don’t believe are changed by it’s power. That’s why we are working to open PDC in the Fall.

God is good and His provision and love are never failing. Praise God for love and chances!

Where do you find your motivation to do all that you have to do every day?

How can you help Purple Door?

By | incubation, organization | No Comments

In February a couple of friends of ours talked to us about wanting to do a 5k to raise money and awareness for Purple Door. We thought this was a great idea, and gave them the green light. So, Purple Door Coffee has a 5k on April 15th in York, Nebraska at 10:00am. If you’re in the area, please come join us!

This is a great example of how you can help. Use something you enjoy to raise funds and awareness for our effort.

Image by Maxim Novikov on Flickr

There is a group of ladies at the Lakewood Church of Christ that is running the coffee bar for us in April and donating the proceeds to Purple Door.
This is a great example of utilizing a resource that is already available to raise funds for Purple Door.

If you connect with our mission, we ask for help raising our funds. Find a project, host an event, do a change drive, whatever you can think of. We appreciate any gift–small or large. You can also head to our website to simply donate. Your donations will set us on the road to being a self-sustaining non-profit that will by God’s grace serve Street Kids and the city of Denver for many, many years.

Please get in touch with us if you have a heart to help out this new ministry!

How Did Purple Door Coffee Even Happen?

By | Featured, incubation, organization | No Comments

Purple Door is just now really starting to materialize, but it has been in the works for a long time. Dry Bones Denver has always been about not reinventing the wheel. They have wanted to be an organization that is about meeting unmet needs for the Street Kids of Denver. As they were ministering among friends, they realized that employment and job training was one of the greatest unmet needs present on the streets. This is so key in helping our friends transition off the streets. Some might be able to get a job, but holding it is very difficult for many. Others are not even able to be employed because of mistakes in their past.

image credit: purple door by David Christian

Dry Bones started dreaming about a café to employ and train friends that were ready for employment and ready to transition away from street life, because of the transferable skills that working in a café environment provides. They have had this dream since 2007. This effort kept getting delayed until Madison started work on it.
When Madison Chandler started a year long internship with Dry Bones in 2010 the dream resurfaced. She had decided to take on the dream of starting a coffee shop that will employ and train homeless youth seeking to rebuild their lives. As she started efforts she remembered a conversation that she had with Mark Smesrud when they were interns with Dry Bones in the Summer of 2009. They had discussed their love of coffee shops and how it would be incredible to combine work at a coffee shop with ministry among the marginalized–particularly Street Kids. While this conversation was very surface level and short lived it happened, and we believe for a reason…

Madison contacted Mark about coming to work with Purple Door Coffee a couple of times. He initially said “not now” simply because the timing was never right because of his life situation. Finally, in August of 2011 Madison talked to Mark again about joining the Purple Door Coffee effort and this time Mark had a peace about it. He spent two months praying and seeking if this is what he was supposed to be doing and in October of 2011 Mark committed to moving to Denver in January of 2012.

Purple Door took huge leaps forward in July of 2011 when Belay Enterprises began incubating the effort–granting Purple Door Coffee non-profit status and an incredible network of people that know what they are doing in efforts such as this. Belay is a ministry that partners with area churches to develop businesses to employ and job-train individuals rebuilding lives from addiction, homelessness, prison, and/or poverty. They have been around for 17 years and have had incredible impact in the city of Denver. Purple Door is so blessed to be a part of what they are doing.
The combination of Belay and Dry Bones has been remarkably beneficial to the progress of Purple Door Coffee, and is a great example of partnership in Kingdom work.

Mark and Madison are now working at raising funds for Purple Door Coffee, spreading the word about our effort and praying over this new ministry with the hope of opening in August of 2012.

As we continue forward we look at how God has been so incredibly present and faithful in the entire process, we know that this will continue. We are excited to be a part of what God is up to in the world, and we know that this is only the beginning of the journey. Join us as we continue expanding the story of Purple Door Coffee.