The door at the Front Porch rattles with a reverberating shake. In the morning hours before the Cafe has opened Eric, Joe, and Larvett sit and talk of prison systems, murders in Cleveland, and the role of the Church in society. Fred is at the door, he rattles it until we open up to let him out of the cold and into the warmth of the Cafe.
Fred comes in and says hello. He is excited to be weening himself off cigarettes and shares his accomplishments with us – down to two to three smokes a day, he says. Another man stops by, he is on leave from the Oriana House and looking for positive, community resources to help him in his recovery and re-entry. He boasts of his skill with HVAC, but laments his bad eyes in reading many applications. We listen for a time as both men share and move on with their day.
An Alcoholics Anonymous group gathers at 10. It is a larger meeting than usual for this time and the lead presents some stories from his life and his recovery. A case-worker has brought one of her cases to the meeting, they all sit and listen.
As I write, the meeting continues. My respect for the AA community has grown so much this year, a group of screw-ups committed to walking through their recovery together – supporting one another through practice and experience.
I'm glad the Front Porch can serve as a dry and good place for them to gather. Throughout the day others will gather here too. Friends from Choices Community Center for Mental Health will stop by for lunch. A businessman or two may pass through for lunch-meeting. In the evening, David John and his wife will host an Indian dinner for foreign students centered on Gospel (Good News) conversations.
Jesus describes his Kingdom as a mustard seed. The smallest of seeds through which comes a large plant. One of the simplest blessings at South Street is witnessing that seed germinate and grow. We bare witness to real recovery. We bare witness to true reconciliation. We bare witness to broken and beloved community.
And like all seeds, God causes the growth. The Front Porch is the good soil for the seed and from our smallest efforts, God grows significant change. God grows his Kingdom. South Akron is not the most scenic area of Akron, nor the artsy area, nor the business hub. But I am convinced that God's Kingdom is advancing here. Through an incarnated presence, God grows His spirit in the heart of a lonely atheist Chinese-American. God grows his Kingdom as men and women choose sobriety over drunkenness and selfishness. God grows Christ in the hearts of busy-bodies as our schedules are interrupted by neighbors and friends.
Psalm 73 says that it is good to be near God. I have found a nearness to God at the Front Porch. I'd welcome you to stop by. Come for lunch at the Cafe (M-F 10-5). Come to an Indian dinner (Wednesday evenings 6-9). Consider donating to help with renovations ($40 at http://www.southstreetministries.org).
But more than anything else, come to be near God. Come to be near God's people. Visit to bare witness to the Kingdom of God advancing, and even though jails, bars, and strip clubs neighbor us, God's Kingdom advances.
Just like the mustard seed.
Come and Listen.