I have not posted a blog update in far too long. I won’t lie, I am just starting to get into a rhythm when it comes to this season of life. I am working on the café construction site several days a week, I am working with youth, and I am a stay at home dad. If it wasn’t for Quinn, I wouldn’t be able to do any of it. She has recruited babysitters for the work days, does our newsletter, and manages the budget. She is a super hero to me, and works a full time job at the same time. So I am sorry that the blog updates come once every 2-3 months. I will try to do better going forward.
I have a personality type that tends to overthink things. Since I do that, I have been overthinking whether or not people really understand why we are starting a café in the first place. I really want to re-address that point just to be sure we are all on the same page, before we move on to updates. We are starting the café for two essential reasons. The first is that we want a place that literally encompasses Matthew 9:10, “And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples.” I want it to be a place where anyone…. Anyone, can come and encounter people who follow Jesus. Not to force feed the bible to people, but to live out the bible in the way we run the café. We will also invest money into all the different ministries God is calling us to do. We want to help the teens have a place to go (building a teen center as soon as we make enough profits). We want to help the kids and teens in school (pay for tutoring out of the café and teen center). We want to help our teens advance their future (paid internships that require the building of a resume and going to mock interviews, so we can teach them how to enter the workforce. We also plan to offer some sort of scholarship for the teens so they can go to college or tech school). And we want to use profits to address socioeconomic issues facing Ogden. Hence, a business that is not-for-profit. The irony is that our long term goal is to be self-sufficient, and reach a point where we no longer ask for financial support. We know the café is going to be the source of revenue for all of these plans. But so far we have been asking for a lot of help, and so many people have been a part of that. I cannot thank you all enough for the part of this you have been. The most amazing thing is that we have only had a couple of donations that went above $1,000. Yet through such consistent generosity we have had constant financial provision for the café. I have to be honest, the fact that our donations have come in this form means that our friends and family are giving what they are able to when they can. I know times are tough financially for so many people, and yet we continue to get donations of what people can afford. I appreciate those donations so much. I don’t know if people realize it, but $25 dollars is several pieces of 2×4 lumber. So someone who donated $25 one time, paid for a portion of our counter frame. Every single donation helps. This process has helped me experience first hand Luke 21, “Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, ‘Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Here is what I know, everyone who has given to our ministry is donating what they can afford. That means so much to me. We have actually had teenagers come up and donate $1, and it causes me to thank God for moments like that. Thank you, everyone, for helping us make this vision a reality.
I can’t even describe the amount of work we have done. I just started thinking yesterday about where we were last year. We had to completely demolish the building to give us an empty space (structural support is from above, so no load bearing walls). After months of demolition we dug in a sewer line, a plumbing line, we framed in everything on our own, we installed an entirely new electrical system, hung new siding, repaired roof damage, hung drywall, and now we are painting. In the next few weeks, we will have even more progress than we have now. As of this writing, we have our HVAC almost completely done, we have a running bathroom that is painted and nearly finished (Shout out to Casey’s general store as we have used their bathroom until this week), we are priming the walls for paint, and we will be laying floor next week. We are getting close to hanging lights, counters, and making our finishes on the inside of the building.
Having said all of this, I was convicted last week when Quinn was telling a friend about all of the God stories we have through the café process. This friend said, “I didn’t know any of that.” So I am compelled to share a few of the stories about how God has provided:
- Our contractor. I haven’t talked about this man enough, but God brought a retired home builder to us. He has been diligent in his commitment to “The House.” He has built the café with the help of 3 unskilled helpers – Myself and two tech school students – and spent countless hours making the café a reality. The fact of the matter is that I didn’t know anyone in Manhattan who could help us do this, but through a friend he heard about us. He has been relentless in making the Café come together. This leads me to my next God story
- Health – Our contractor is 63 years old. He fell roughly 18 feet off a ladder two weeks ago. We spent the day and part of the evening in the emergency room. Somehow he avoided any serious injury. He hurts, but by the next week he was showing up to the worksite to make sure things were getting done (against my wishes by the way, I wanted him to rest). He has recovered slowly, but he is doing better. There was a time there I was terrified he wasn’t going to be alright, but thankfully God kept him from being seriously hurt. He landed between tools and boards with nails in them, and his head landed on his arm which prevented a concussion. The doctors kept telling him how lucky he was at the hospital.
- HVAC – There is a company in Manhattan that does Heating and Air. It’s owner is a Christian, he heard about us and gave me a call. He wanted to come out and here about why we were starting the café and see the layout. The funny thing about this is how the relationship even began. We have been keeping our eyes on restaurant auctions for café equipment. We found a commercial fridge unit (like the ones subway has for their meat and veggies for the sandwiches). We knew if we bid on it, we would have to go get it. I was going to be in Arkansas during the pick-up window. Quinn assured me it would be alright and if God willed it He would provide. So we bid and I left town. Here is the order of events from there:
- A friend who helps us on Thursday nights with the teens went to get it with her mom (two ladies hauled a 500 pound fridge onto a U Haul truck)
- On the way back that friend asked her roommate to ride along
- This roommate knew an engineer who called me and came out to the café
- This engineer knew the owner of the HVAC company through his men’s bible study.So through no effort of my own, God brought a man into the picture who took over the mess that was HVAC. He is the one who got a heater and air conditioner donated, has coordinated mission teams to come out and hook up the ducts, and provided supplies. We will have to pay for some of these services, but honestly, instead of a $14,000 bill, we are looking at half of that.
- Partnerships – During the HVAC delay (While God was bringing all of those people together) I had two weeks of what I thought would be “down time.” Not so much. I had partnerships opportunities come up. A local coffee shop heard about us and is willing to teach me how to do coffee. We had a doctor find out about the Café and meet with me about a possible “health clinic” to bring things like shots and checkups to Ogden for people who can’t make it to Manhattan (Not official yet, still in talks). A person with the school district met with me about possibly bringing out tutoring or after school programs to the café and future teen center. Instead of the school finding a way to budget this, we could cover the finances and the school could coordinate it. God gave me a glimpse into the things we could do in the future.
- Youth and their families – We have had teens in the building pulling nails, or sweeping, or any number of time consuming tasks that helps us get construction done faster. Some of our teens have parents I have never met, but they have stopped in to see the café their kids talk about. Some have even spent days doing demolition with us, or helping us on construction days. The café isn’t even open yet, and I see God’s purpose being shown, without tables or chairs, it is already “The House” A gathering place for the community, where Jesus is present.
- The Landlord – Just in case you forgot, or did not read the blog about it…. Our landlord kicked us out and cut off all negotiations once. We were doing demolition while negotiating a contract. It was low risk for him, as we were cleaning up the property. I have followed the Holy Spirit to this specific building. we knew it was a mess, we knew the work was a mountain in front of us. We knew it would cost money, time, and resources. I also knew we didn’t have any of those things. I didn’t know anyone in construction, Quinn and I had very little money to offer of our own, and the only thing we had was confidence that God gave us this vision – a business that would transform a community – and that the Holy Spirit had picked this specific building. But one night the landlord told us we were done. Get out. It felt like all was lost, but by the end of the next 12 hours we had a six year contract, with the first two years being free rent. This is huge! We won’t be making money initially, it will be about breaking even on product and start up costs. Not having rent during that time will be a life saver. Once we start making money we can save it until we can afford the “teen center.” Having a year head start on savings is going to be so powerful.
I am missing many God stories here, frankly there are too many to keep track of. He has blessed the challenges, and provided in many unique and powerful ways to show us we are doing exactly what He wants us to do. The teens are excited, and they are committed to volunteering at events with us to get this café going. At our benefit concert we had almost 20 youth show up in the heat and do thankless jobs to help raise money for the café. I am thankful for what God is doing in my heart through this. I am thankful for my kids and wife who are enduring all of this and helping make it become a reality. For the babysitters who make it possible for me to meet with people and be on site during construction. For the donors and people who pray and encourage us in what we are doing. I thank God for the mighty things He has done for us, and in us during this adventure. But mostly, I am thankful for what God is going to do in our town of Ogden. Teens are excited about volunteering, and I think it will be quite the experience when they see their volunteer hours resulting in community service ministries. I am excited about the quality time the kids will get with true followers of Jesus. People who live out their faith in a way that is worthy of imitating. As the teens see these people volunteering, serving, and loving the Lord, they will have a real life example of what it’s like to follow Jesus. God will use the café to bring people to Himself. I have such confidence in this. Yesterday a guy had a broke down car at a carwash. I stopped to see what I could do. While there I got into a conversation with a guy who asked me where I was from. I said, “Ogden.” He looked at me and said, “Ogden…. My son used to hang out with stoners from Ogden. That’s where you go to hang out with the kids who will do drugs.” I started to think about all of the stuff that has been said to me since I have been here. Ogden is the leech on the backside of Fort Riley.” “Ogden is the ghetto of Manhattan.” “Ogden is like the step child of Manhattan and JC. It’s just forgotten.” A day is coming when Ogden will be a testimony to God’s power, His grace, and how a community that people thought of in this way, became a community of God’s favor. Things are going to be changing here. Soon.