Advent: Peace

This is the second of a four-part Advent devotional written by Executive Director Joe Tucker. 

 

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14

I’ll confess something — I’m a sucker for the Holiday. If Christ was taken out of Christmas, I would still Fa-La-La over for the trees, movies, merriment, jingles, sleighbells, and presents. The festivities of the Holiday in many ways have eclipsed the traditions of advent. It’s easier for me to grab a peppermint mocha in a red cup, then take time to crack open the books of Luke or Matthew (or Isaiah for that matter) for an Advent devotional.

It’s easier to celebrate winter-time merriment than practice the waiting of Advent. I think of all my favorite Christmas-movies (Home Alone, A Christmas Story, Elf, and even Die Hard) all ending with families reunited singing or embracing each other.  I know for many families we ‘fake-it-until-we-make-it’ through the season to maintain that it is the most wonderful time of the year.

When it generally isn’t.

For many individuals (perhaps the majority of people?), the Holidays recollect pain, loss, and brokenness.  Holiday sentiment doesn’t begin to answer the inner-pain of a miscarriage, infidelity, addiction, abuse, or separation.  But does Advent? Does God?

One of the founding values of South Street is authenticity. We try to keep it real. This includes our theology — what we believe about God has to match reality. If Jesus is he Prince of Peace, then there should be some reality of peace in my life, if I consider myself his follower. That’s what the angels in Luke 2 proclaim, “peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When I ask the youth of After School what peace is to them the talk about a serene beach or a quiet meadow — images from commercials and movies. The real notion of peace seems distant in a small house crowded with 2 and a half families yet still struggling to make ends meet.  Moreover, the real notion of peace seems distant to me in a spacious house with a nuclear family in 2017!

What peace? Where is this real notion of peace to be found?  The practice of Advent slows us to find it … in a barn, with bleating animals and visitors from third-shift shepherds.  The angels proclaim peace, because it is not presently apparent.  It is the fool who claims peace, when there is none.  It is the faithful, the favored, who name peace by claiming it through Christ.

Let’s not pretend that all is well, from deep systemic issues and historic wrongs, to our own individual hurts. But peace is real. If we believe in virgin births, guiding stars, and angelic visitors, we can believe and act in real peace — peace that transcends understanding.

As enjoyable as Die Hard is to watch, a peppermint mocha is to taste, or Winter-Wonderland is to sing, there is a much deeper reality found in the Advent of Christ. This second week of Advent we lean deeper into the reality of peace.  

 

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Ruth Webb

Ruth Webb is a resident of the Summit Lake community. She first got connected to South Street Ministries through Girls on the Run when the group came to Front Porch Fellowship after their 5k. A year after, she joined Girls Studio during the program’s collaboration with Gum-Dip Theatre. Ruth is currently in the 9th grade, and is passionate about friends, family, food, and helping others. After she graduates, she plans to pursue a career in nursing. This blog is a part of the 20/20 Come and See series. 

I got connected to Girls Studio by a close friend in my community. Girls Studio grabbed my attention because when I first walked into a session, everyone looked like they were having so much fun. They were doing crafts, laughing, playing music, etc. I really wanted to join, so the next year, I was a part of it. The last few terms in Girls Studio, we learned about theater and how to be a good performer on stage. I’ve been a part of Girls Studio for about two years now. Girls Studio has impacted me in many ways. Being in Girls Studio has made me feel like I belong. The people there also make me feel comfortable because we are all open with each other.

Girls Studio has made me feel like I can be myself because the people there are easy to be comfortable around and never judge people for who they are. One time we did an exercise similar to Simon Says and we were acting like ourselves (crazy) and we felt comfortable around each other. We aren’t afraid to show our true colors and be ourselves. It has also made it easier for me to talk to other people.

 Girls Studio has built my confidence because whenever I’m nervous, someone is always there to tell me that it’s okay, whether it’s an adult or peer. One day we had to go on stage and speak. I really didn’t want to, but my peers encouraged me to. After a couple of tries, I conquered it. We have also done some confidence building activities. One of them involved giving each other compliments. That activity helped me along with my peers.

Being in Girls Studio has helped me get over stage fright because when we are getting ready for performances, the girls there are always super encouraging, and we make each other feel like there is nothing to be afraid of. I remember standing on stage about to perform. I had been screaming all day because of my Cedar Point trip from earlier. Of course, I had lost my voice from that. Right after I got back, the performance was about to start and I was freaking out. Before I went on stage, I heard my peers cheering me on and helping me warm up. I messed up a little, but I had confidence and didn’t worry too much about it. At the end, I got so much applause.

Those were some of my experiences of Girls Studio. It has really impacted my life. Without Girls Studio, I probably wouldn’t be as confident as I am today. It is a tremendous program, and I have no words to explain the love I have for the people there.

 

To become an unlikely partner in the work of South Street Ministries, click here. 

Advent: Hope

This is the first of a four-part Advent devotional written by Executive Director Joe Tucker. 

 

The Tucker family had a long drive on Thanksgiving — from one corner of Ohio to the other to visit family.  We listened to Tish Harrison-Warren’s Liturgy of the Ordinary on our drive back from Dayton to Akron, and I was reminded of some of the depths and paradoxes of our faith.  

Waiting is one such paradox. We live between two Kingdoms — the Kingdom that is here and the Kingdom that is to come. Advent is a practice I have come to deeply value — principally because I am not good at waiting. I want quick responses to my e-mails. I stare as small dots blink on my iPhone waiting anxiously for the full response. Advent is a church-rhythm that leads us towards hope and expectation.

Over the past four years, the Tucker family has spent every other Advent season pregnant — expecting. It is perfect metaphor for God’s Kingdom, an expectant mother that knows the joy and fullness that is to come and waits for the full delivery of good news. I value the Advent practices of waiting, lighting candles, and thinking of what is to come.

What good news will God bring? What past promises still carry me today? What hope do we carry?

Hope has carried us this year at South Street Ministries. We hope in the Resurrection and in seeing lost ones again. We hope in Restoration for returning citizens (ex-felons), for recovering addicts, and for regimented do-gooders who do not know rest.  We Hope in the perfect Rest that is found in Christ — a Rest that stills our busy-ness with the simple, yet deep knowledge that He is God and we are not.

My propensity for quick results and responses stands in stark contrast to Advent. The Church has waited and waited for so long. And we continue to wait. We cry Maranatha (Come Lord Come) as we see the division, hate, and vitriol around us, yet still we wait.

The Hope of Advent does more than remind us to continue waiting. It bolsters and strengthens us to be God’s agents of change between two Kingdoms.  Thus we plant gardens and wait for fruit. We work with After School kids and address the same disciplinary issues again and again. We strive to maintain support for reentry and recovery and health and wholeness at the Front Porch Cafe to make sure there exists a place in-between for all peoples.  

The Hope of Advent reminds us that we are an in-between people. The work we do, from repairing a bicycle, to hosting a community event, to working with teen girls has eternal ramifications and slowly ushers in ‘good news’.  The Hope of Advent is fully realized in Jesus — this unlikely representation of the fullness of God, come at the fullness of time. Advent helps me filter the merriment of Christmas-time for the depth of God’s inception here on earth and the calling we have presently — to wait, to rest, to work, and to hope for God’s Kingdom fully come, on Earth as it is in Heaven.

 

To become an unlikely partner in the work of South Street Ministries, click here. 

Eric Harmon

Eric Harmon has worked at South Street Ministries since 2010 as the Project Manager for The Front Porch.  During his time at South Street Ministries, Eric also co-led the Barnabas Jobs Ministry with Toni Jones, and the Reentry Network with Donovan Harris.  He now works as a prison chaplain in Mansfield, Ohio. He and his wife Anne have two beautiful daughters–Evelyn and Alice. This blog is a part of the 20/20 Come and See series. 

 

When I was asked to write an article on my time at South Street Ministries over the last eight years, I thought “No problem, I’ll get that done right away!”  Well about three months later, I have finally sat down to write.  It is not that writing is a drag for me, but attempting to encapsulate what I have seen God do in the last eight years at South Street is not straight forward–it has not been simple.  

My time at South Street has been an all encompassing experience of life, faith, death, new birth, learning, and joy.  My only regret is that I did not record more of what I experienced, not for my own personal recollection, but only to share with others what I have seen God do.  To share with others what it is like when God sends his rain on both the just and the unjust–like the time when actual rain was destroying The Front Porch before the roof was finished, and I had no choice but to release its fate into God’s hands. But how could I put to words the process where my heart was broken and reformed so many times by the men that walked through our doors, so that even with the sadness of each failure, my heart still anticipated the love for and success for the next guy? This article is my attempt at sharing just a small artifact that records my witness to just how good God was over the last eight years.

Less than two weeks out of prison back in 2010, I sat in the same seat that Joe Tucker often occupies when you see him working in the Café.  South Street Ministries had yet to possess the building, but in that room were many of the people who would speak into and form my life over the next eight years.  In my attempt to “be about the right thing,” my Grandma reconnected me with Matt Simpson who “was about the right thing,” and he quickly welcomed me into his world and the community at South Street.  The first time I met Duane Crabbs I thought “Boy, this guy drives like a nut.” But he had the smell of Jesus about him, a familiar fragrance I had first gotten a wiff of during my stay in an Oklahoma prison.  Soon to follow were: Lisa Crabbs (who I thought had a refreshing sense of humor,) Toni Jones (we quit smoking together),  Ben and Adam Flossie (they became my quick friends), and Bobby Irwin (who was and still is the guy most like Jesus I have ever known).  While rehabbing the Batchel house with Matt Simpson, I met Anne Schillig.  I thought she was so awesome that I had to ask her out right away before the other guys figured it out!  She is now my wife.  God is good.

I quit my job and accepted an offer from Duane Crabbs to work as the Project Manager for the rehab of the Front Porch Café.  It was certainly a Holy Spirit moment and the Holy Spirit had found someone ignorant enough of construction and passionate enough to ignore the reality of just what bad shape the building was really in.  We would have it done in a year!  Seven years later we all said “It is finished.” Meanwhile, Nehemiah was shaking his head.  Within these years we opened the doors to the Café downstairs, created a jobs program for guys coming home from prison, and my two daughters, Alice and Evelyn, were born.  All the while, Sunday services were full of “The Presence of the Lord.”  During all of this I went to theological school, was ordained, and called to prison ministry “within the walls.”  Now that I have written just some of the events and people the last eight years, I realize just how full those years were.  God is good.

My last few weeks at South Street were so bittersweet as we said goodbye to our good friend Thomas Jones and I accepted a Job as a prison chaplain at Mansfield correctional for the state of Ohio.  As I told many people as I left, “I am going but I am not gone,” I still try to have a sandwich at the Front Porch Café on my days off.  While my new job is a great fit for my calling, nothing could have prepared me more than eight years at South Street Ministries loving some good people in some hard places.  God is good. 

 

To become an unlikely partner in the work of South Street Ministries, click here. 

Bob Pacanovsky

Bob Pacanovsky is an entrepreneur and was in the hospitality industry for over twenty years.  He now uses that experience to assist the Front Porch Café in a volunteer role with food and service related opportunities.  He relishes these opportunities to help the Front Porch Café grow and prosper.  When Bob is not assisting them, he is a full time Keynote and Conference Speaker who speaks on The Black Tie Experience- how to use the power of Hospitality to make lasting impressions. This blog is a part of the 20/20 Come and See series, and a special honor to the life and legacy of Thomas Jones .

I vividly remember the meeting that I had with Thomas early in the fall of 2016–I knew that he was getting “it”.  What was “it”?  It was the business part of the food service/hospitality business.  As I had continually mentioned to him (and the rest of the team at the Front Porch Café), when you give good food and service on a consistent basis, people were not only going to return, but also ask you the question–“Do you cater?”

But, with that answer came challenges.  What would you charge, what would you offer?  How many people would you cater for?  And so on. But for the first part of 2016, as the calls were starting to come in more to the Front Porch Café to cater lunches and other events, the pricing and menus weren’t there yet.  But the staff team was working hard to make sure these items were good to go, and the guy that was leading that charge (and learning the most), was Thomas.  I knew that by the end of 2016, everything would be ready to move forward with the catering aspect for the Front Porch Café.

About two weeks after that call, I received a call from Duane.  It stopped me in my tracks.  “Thomas is in the hospital and he has cancer.  And it is Stage 4.”  I can’t even remember what I said in response, but I started praying for him.  And I started thinking back on the friendship that two guys, from two separate worlds, formed over the last few years because of The Front Porch and South Street Ministries.

* *  *

Looking back, I met Thomas when I owned my catering and event business in Akron.  But I met him through The Front Porch.  I learned of The Front Porch and South Street Ministries through my nephew and his family a few years before that.

South Street was starting up for the Front Porch Café for the second time in 2013, and I volunteered my services to help them get the restaurant off the ground.  I met Thomas as he was volunteering for them as a cook. He was pretty shy and quiet, but I also knew that he had kitchen experience.  I needed part time staff for my business, so I asked him if he would like a job with my company as well.  What I saw was that he was a hard worker, and he wanted to learn more about food service.

That hard work and willingness paid off as he became the person in charge of the Front Porch Café just a year or so later.  At that time, I had just sold my company and told him that I would be happy to work with him and help him as he took on this new role.  My strengths have always been in customer service, as well as systems and operations, and we worked together on improving both of these for the Front Porch Café. He absorbed everything like a sponge, and while it took some time, we could both see that both the restaurant and the catering were growing.

More importantly, I found a friend that I never would have expected.  And I think I learned just as much from him about resiliency, trust, and faith as he learned about the business aspect of food service from me. 

* *  *

I kept hoping and praying for the best after I heard his diagnosis, and he kept fighting too. He always wanted to talk about how to improve the Front Porch Café when we met during this time, and he was still learning and listening to my advice, observations, and knowledge.  As I look back, he was really a true servant leader, although I don’t know if he realized that or not.  He had the respect from his coworkers and was always there to encourage them.  And he would lead by example.

I believe that he was the driving force in getting the Front Porch Café back off the ground.  I believe that the Café is poised for more success because of the foundation that he laid.  He is there watching over all of them and myself as well.  I think about him often, and I thank God for the time that I got to spend with him being a mentor, teacher, and most importantly a friend to him.  I received that in return and much more from Thomas.

Thomas left a legacy at the Front Porch and he made a difference in the lives of many different people by simply providing a quality meal with a friendly smile.  But he did much more than that.  He was that quiet servant leader, which is missing in some organizations today.  Most importantly to me…he was my friend.

 

 

 

To become an unlikely partner in the work of South Street Ministries, click here.