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Jul 16, 2013 | Daniel Coleman

Grace Steps Out with Coffee, Donuts and Prayer

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“To become fishers of men and women, we first became their coffee baristas,” Shawn Oujezdsky says, speaking of the success of Grace2Go, a community outreach begun in April at Grace, Houston.


Oujezdsky said the idea of offer coffee and prayer during the week to people who drive by Grace on their way to work expanded to include middle school children waiting for the bus just outside the church. “We added orange juice, bananas, and muffins to our menu,” he said, adding, “We’ve gotten to know them and they’ve learned that they are welcome here. And we pray for them on Sundays, too, as part of our liturgy.”


Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 a.m. until 8:30 a.m., parishioners serve coffee, juice, a light breakfast, and offers prayer in a set-up that provides drive-thru and walk-up service to anyone going past the church, in southwest Houston.  This includes teachers and students at Grace’s school, school parents, as well as many passersby.  


“Grace2Go is the best excuse for getting up early in the morning that I’ve ever had,” says volunteer Jeff Johnson.  “Most of all it’s the countless stories of who the people are, what they do and what they need, want, and share with us that inspire me,” he said. 


“The community around here knows that we are here, that we care and that we listen.  I think it’s taught us to communicate better among ourselves, and with the strangers that we meet,” Johnson said.


Another volunteer, Mitzi Coleman, has seen the reciprocity of blessings associated with Grace2Go.  “In the first week, a young woman drove up in a van to ask for prayer for her youngest son who was ill. After praying with them, we asked if she lived in the area. To our surprise, she lived in the apartment community next to the church, which houses many families and had been on our hearts as a place for outreach and service,” Coleman said. “Just before she pulled away, almost as an afterthought, she asked if we knew where she could get some children’s Bibles or Bible story books.  She said she had recently begun teaching Bible stories to some 40 children. She got the books she needed that week from another source, but through Grace2Go our friendship with this young mother has continued to grow. Recently, she volunteered to be a part of Grace’s Vacation Bible School and invited all of the children in her Bible class to attend. 


"Not long after our initial encounter with her, she drove up to Grace2Go with her older son sitting in the front seat beside her. She said that her son told her he wanted to pray for the Grace2Go servers that morning. And he did. He prayed the most beautiful prayer for Grace2Go, and for all of us!  ‘Let love meet love.’ Love is the greatest evangelical tool that we have—and it works both ways.”


While the rest of the group serves coffee, breakfast snacks and prayer, volunteers position themselves on a nearby intersection, wearing sandwich boards that announce free coffee and prayer while pointing to the drive-thru lane. 


People often wave at C.L. Johnson standing on the median with his sandwich board. “It’s increased our presence in our community and made a connection that few churches in our community have.  Several people have joined us on Sundays, and several more have at least participated in some church events. They see more than just the outside of our church: they see the diverse faces of our volunteers and come to know each of us. Doing this has caused us to bond closer together as brothers and sisters in Christ, with our neighbors and with each other. It’s also brought the church and school closer together. We haven’t had a ministry in 30 years that has had this kind of broad result. Most of all, they want prayer to start their day. The prayer makes the difference,” Johnson said.


Baldwin Needham, Grace’s Junior Warden, and a former teacher and principal, records the the names of those to be prayed for during the Sunday service. “It’s a small but significant act, not just to provide coffee and a breakfast snack, but to serve it graciously as an act of brotherly and sisterly love, and to pray for all who wish it—and so many do.  Yes, yes, yes . . . many people stop only for prayer,” Needham observed.


“I had never prayed spontaneously with a stranger before,” says Marian Seidel. "I didn’t know if I could do it, but God gave me the words. People are so appreciative. And the kids—it’s so good at the bittersweet beginning of a day of schoolwork to first hear an affirming and encouraging word. They leave happy, and so do I."


“There are far more people outside the church than in,” said Grace’s vicar, the Rev. Gena Davis. “Grace2Go is a way of going outside to meet them there and let them know that they are welcome and wanted inside. It’s encouraged us to be a more open church community, open to the whole world of God’s grace that those within and those outside the church inhabit every day.”