Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pedestrian Interviews: conversations from The Pod Coffee House

As many of you know, the CORE Church of Troy is now operating a coffee house in downtown Troy called "The Pod". The name merely reflects the idea of a small gathering place for the purpose of engaging people in conversation and entering into spiritual chats as God opens doors in people's lives and hearts. Since our opening in May we have had some great conversations with folks ranging from the Olympics to politics, from the weather to the troubled economy, from good times to bad times. And, oh yes, the spiritual side of life. I have since posted a number of blog entries detailing some of these conversations. Beginning today, with this very post, I will include such conversations (with permission from those whom I am chatting with) in a new category entitled "Pedestrian Interviews:conversations with ordinary folks about life and other stuff" or something like that.

My first official entry into this new category is a conversation I had recently with a fifty-something year old lady named Theresa. Theresa is a civil servant, employed by the state of New York. She comes to the Pod somewhat regularly for coffee and a bite to eat and to relax for a few minutes during her lunch break. While we don't advertise The Pod as a ministry of the CORE Church, neither do we hide our light under a basket. We do keep a few Bibles on hand, along with other reading materials like Rolling Stone, Interview, Travel and Entrepenuer. We also give away certain books like John Piper's little devotional "For Your Joy." Every now and then a customer will catch on to the fact that we are here for another purpose besides making coffee and selling food. Such is the case with Theresa.

As I've gotten to know Theresa a bit she has begun sharing bits and pieces of her life with me. She is a single mother with three grown children. Her youngest is in his second year at the University of Albany, majoring in political science and pre-law. She has two grandchildren, whom she admits are her pride and joy. She has also had a series of broken relationships. Her parents split up when she was very young. Her mother had a series of live-in boyfriends from then on. Being an only child she admits that she was rather spoiled by her many "uncles."

This same lifestyle carried over into her own life. She admits that she had never been married and had three children from three different men, along with two miscarriages and one other child that she gave up for adoption when she was just a teenager. She quit school at the age of sixteen because she got pregnant, and although she gave that baby up for adoption, she chose not to go back to school, which led to a lack of opportunities for employment. She had to settle for low paying, no skills required jobs. At the age of 35 she finally got her GED and went to Hudson Valley Community College, earning an Associates Degree in business. She took the state civil service exam and scored very high. A few months later she started interviewing for state jobs and was eventually hired. She now works as a Calculations Clerk for a Troy based state agency. She admits that her job is rather monotonous, but it pays the bills and has allowed her to raise her children without having to rely on public assistance, which she did for the first half of her adult life. She now feels as though she is contributing to instead of taking from and depending on society.

She bought her first home five years ago and has finally met as man whom she loved enough to marry. "He has shown me what it is like to be truly loved for who I am," she stated to me. "He knows about my past and he doesn't mind it. He says that we all have things we've done that we're not proud of." They have been married for three years and met at a local church that she started attending at the invitation of a co-worker. She shared with me that she accepted Christ as a young girl back in the seventies. There was a church that would send a bus to pick her up, along with some of her friends who lived nearby. Every Sunday she would go. She said she enjoyed the Bible stories and skits they would do. At the age of eleven, while attending a summer program at the church, a lady named Grace led her to Christ. She continued to attend church until she got to high school. Then boys and hanging out with friends became more interesting. She stopped going to church and started congregating with "the wrong crowd." She started drinking and smoking weed. When she got pregnant her mother told her to "get an abortion or get rid of it." Believing that abortion was wrong, she chose to give birth and give the baby to someone who would take care of it.

We go to talking about current trends in church planting and she believes the "seeker sensitive thing is over done and over-rated. She says that lost, hurting people simply need to know that someone cares about them; not just to get them to come to church, but to be a real friend they can talk to and confide in. That is what drew her back to church, a Christian co-worker who simply opened her heart and life to her. Theresa says if Christians can learn to do that; just chat over coffee and share life and problems and just be friends then there would be no need for evangelism and church growth strategies.