Grateful for the Cafe

Why I’m Grateful for Mars Hill Café

2018 has been quite the year, in a good way. So much has happened since I began officially as the general manager of Mars Hill Café back in January. As I type this evening, memories flood my head of all that has occurred so far—memories of which I am grateful.

The café has been a busy place so far this year—a very busy place—and as I take a few steps back and reflect on the business as a whole, I am reminded of how grateful I am to be in this position. It is refreshing medicine for my soul to be reminded of the many areas in which to thank the Lord, especially when work gets difficult, and we meet various trials in our food industry sector. The food industry can be a very challenging place to work. I have heard it said before that “All Christians should work in the food industry at some point in their lives.” After working for a decent amount of time in the industry, I can say that I agree. There are so many lessons to be learned about serving people and about working hard in this particular line of work.

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While there are indeed new, sometimes unexpected challenges that we face, our daily tasks in this industry can become somewhat monotonous, and it is possible to become unaware or even calloused as to what God is doing in our particular workplace. It is oftentimes so easy to skip over thanking God for the opportunities He provides for us on the job, as we are usually wrapped up in the good endeavors of making food and coffee for customers. We can spend our days working tirelessly to create an excellent experience for our customers and mistakenly forget to reflect on how our Creator is using our work.

Upon some reflection this evening, I am reminded that God is not, in any way, disconnected or uninvolved in the daily affairs of our workplace, or any workplace for that matter. For this, I am very grateful! He is always working, laboring through everyday happenings to teach the staff and me many lessons that we will carry with us the rest of our lives. We have much to be grateful for at Mars Hill Café.

Growing up, I would not have ever imagined that I would be the general manager of a restaurant. Never was it on my radar, even though my business management degree might lead one to think otherwise. I could go into great detail about my selecting business management as my major in college, but I will save some ink and say that the reason was not that I was passionate about business at the time.

Mars Hill Café is a place I found myself working a year and four months ago. During a season of praying through what direction I should go after college, I was offered a job at the café. Ryan Parazine reached out and hired me with the intent of possibly training me up to slide into his general manager position at the end of 2017. It sounded like a neat opportunity (also a scary one), so I accepted the offer, and the journey began. During my time at the café so far, a lot has happened.

I have learned more about the degree that I pursued in college. I have gained experience as a leader. I have developed the skills of latte art, cooking, and customer interaction. I have been blessed with opportunities to grow in my relationship with the Lord through the ups and downs of daily business trials and interactions. I have had the great opportunity afforded to me, to meet so many customers and foster friendships with them. And last but far from least, I have had the incredible privilege of being trained initially by the lovely girl who became my wife a month ago. God has taught me many lessons here so far and given me many excellent experiences and blessings. There is great cause for me to be grateful.

I do believe that God is using Mars Hill Café and, for that reason, I am grateful to be a part of this ministry. I genuinely believe that people come into the café every single day with hungry stomachs and even more starved hearts, whether they know it or not. People are searching for answers. We want to be a gateway to people finding the answers that will lastingly satisfy their spiritual hunger. We make it our aim at the café to serve people quality food and service. We are thankful for our amazing staff for working so hard in this challenging endeavor! We believe that doing excellent work is indeed worship to God. The likely result of serving customers with excellence, giving them a good product is that they will return time and time again. This customer loyalty then means that we have the great privilege of learning their names and developing lasting, meaningful relationships with them. We aspire to be a beacon of light in the community that represents Mars Hill Church well and that points customers and employees to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We hope to exceed customer expectations by not only filling their stomachs but also by filling their hearts. That’s an endeavor worth pursuing, a journey only possible by the power of God.

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Mars Hill Church, take heart. God is using the café in some unique ways, and there is much about this little restaurant to be grateful for. Thank you to everyone who loves and supports the café. I hope this encourages you.

Come grab some food and cup of coffee!

Brett Glover- Manager Mars Hill Cafe’

Gospel Living

Hello to all! Before I go any further, I just wanted to take a moment to introduce myself and give a brief background to those of you who I may not know. My name is Machaela Cowart, and I am 24 years old. I graduated from the University of Mobile in May of 2017 with a degree in History and a minor in Intercultural Studies. During my junior year of high school, the Lord called me to church planting, but I had no idea what that was at the time. When I got to college, I knew that whatever I majored in I wanted to be able to use it as a gateway into the mission field, specifically overseas. During my fifth year of college, the Lord changed my plans from possibly moving overseas to staying in the States. Never in a million years did I think that place would be Salt Lake City, Utah. I had the opportunity to travel out to SLC twice in college with the college group at Mars Hill and participate in inner-faith dialogues and immediately was exposed to some of the brokenness here. A couple of months before graduating from UM, and not having any idea what the next step was going to be, I was told about an internship in SLC working alongside a church plant for the summer. During my second week of the internship, I strongly felt this was the direction God was calling me. After lots of prayers and seeking counsel, God opened the doors for me to move to Salt Lake and this is now the place I call home! 

 

    Since moving to SLC, I have had the incredible opportunity to teach middle school, at Endeavor, in what is known as the “rough” part of the city, West Valley. I had no idea what I was stepping into (almost think of Freedom Writers), but as the year went on these kids absolutely stole my heart. There is a good mixture of different beliefs in the workplace as well as among my students all ranging from Christians, Latter-day Saints (Mormons), atheists, and agnostics. I ask that you would join me in prayer for my kiddos as some are returning to Endeavor next year or moving on to high school. The majority of these kids deal with a lot of pressure ranging from not living with their biological parents, having to make up for one or both parents not being present, peer pressure to join a gang (there are huge issue in the schools here), abuse at home, depression, and drug use—both of these are state of emergency here, where Utah leads the country. Pray for teachers to be able to love on their students and for school to be a safe place for them. Pray for the minority of Christian students and teachers to be a light. The downside to working in a public school is that I can’t talk about my faith, but I have had so many kids this year ask me my beliefs and had a few get excited to hear Christian and even had a few ask to know more. 

 

    Pray for church planters here in the valley and for the church body. One very unique thing about ministry in SLC is that no matter what denomination you come from, as Christians, we stand together to see the Gospel brought to the valley and lives be transformed. I will never forget my first week during my internship last summer meeting a lady who talked about growing up in Utah as a Christian and how for years and years she has prayed for God to send harvesters out here to work the fields and how incredible it has been to see God do that. Pray that the Lord continues to send people to Utah and for the courage and boldness to speak the Gospel in a place that believes they already have it. Pray that the Lord will continue to break down barriers and remove the blinders over people's eyes so that they can hear and see the real and true Gospel.

 

    Hope to meet some of you as I travel between Alabama and Utah for visits! If you have any questions about Utah- life here as a Christian, what ministry looks like, or even if you are just planning a trip, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Authentic community

Finding Authentic Community at Mars Hill


Have you ever walked out of a Sunday gathering longing for something more? What you are longing for though is difficult to explain.
Maybe you, like many others I have talked to, have devoured the biblical teaching at Mars Hill for a while, but still don't feel connected. Maybe you long to meet new people and get involved with the ministries of the church. Perhaps you don't know where to start.
At Mars Hill, the best way to find authentic community with other believers is to join a “community group.” These groups are small, typically 10-20 people who are seeking to honestly and biblically live life together for the glory of Jesus Christ. They meet all throughout the week, some in homes and some at the church. The purpose of these groups is not simply to provide more teaching like Sunday morning. Instead, they serve a different role. The bible is still the focus, but community groups offer a place to foster meaningful relationships, serve one another, and put God’s word into practice as we make disciples of Jesus. 


Meaningful Relationships Change Everything

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Our friends Michael and Allie moved to Mobile from a few states away with no real relationships in this area. During their first year or so here, the stresses of life compounded to the point that they began to dislike and even hate Mobile. They counted down the days until they could leave. They visited several churches and eventually began attending Mars Hill. They loved the Sunday services but still longed to be connected. So, they visited a community group. Their world has been turned upside down ever since. Not only did they find the friendship and biblical accountability they were longing for, but they also had triplets!

Everyone Wins When We Serve One Another


Hebrews 10:24-25 commands us, as Christians, to "consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near." Why would this biblical writer command us to fellowship together? Because we are made for community!
Nothing about Allie and Michael’s community group is magical. But for them, it was an answer to prayer. They were able to be honest about their needs and struggles, and their community group has walked with them through this crazy season of life. Their family and friends have sacrificed time, resources, and lots of diapers to help them transition from a family of 2 to a family of 5. They are, imperfectly, of course, living out what Jesus modeled when he willingly sacrificed his life on the cross for his children. Different seasons of life can put you on the side of serving or as the one being served. Both are a part of God’s perfect plan to show his glory through the church. 

The Simple Way To Make Disciples  

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Paul was a teacher of God’s word, but he also used his life as an example to make disciples. In 1st Corinthians 11:1 he told fellow believers "be imitators of me, as I am of Christ." His discipleship "program" was simple, he lived a life devoted to following Jesus and invited others to follow his lead. First and foremost, we must know God’s word. Then, we apply it practically to love and serve one another.
So, what does that mean for us? It implies that authentic community is crucial because it is where we learn what it looks like to live out the truth of the Bible in our daily lives. How do we learn to pray? Study the bible? Spend money wisely? Deal with marital struggles? Handle disobedient children? God gives us others in the church to practically illustrate how to live for his glory. But, we can only truly see lives transformed if we are willing to invite people into our messy lives.

Have You Found Your Place In Community?

We each have a role to play in bringing God’s kingdom to our neighborhood, city, and world. One of the most effective ways that Mars Hill builds authentic Christian relationships is through community groups. It should be easy for every church member to find meaningful community with other believers. Please join me in seeking how we can better serve our church family. Maybe you need to find a community group where you can put your gifts to use. Maybe God is calling you to be a part of launching a new group. Perhaps you need to invest in the people around you now. I pray that each of us will seek God’s perfect will and be willing to follow wherever he leads us.   

 

For the Sake of God's Glory

Bosnia and Herzegovina sounds like a fair destination for tourism. It is in fact a location marked with great historical significance including, the Ottoman empire, the assignation of Franz Ferdinand that sparked World War I, and an interesting Civil War that happened there in the 90’s. There are sights to see, trails to walk, information boards to read, but, no, it doesn’t carry the same ring as destinations of other short-term mission trips. It isn’t South America or Africa. It’s Europe, Eastern Europe to be exact. Wasn’t Europe the epicenter of Christianity for hundreds of years? So, why would an American church send missionaries there?

It is worth noting that the Evangelical presence in Bosnia is so minuscule that it places it in the Unreached category. Therefore, any short-term trips to this country should uphold two objectives: 1) Evangelism and 2) Encouragement of the local church. Therefore, all aspects of Mars Hill’s trip centered somehow around one or both of these. 

A specific instance of the latter protrudes beyond the rest in my mind. In a town that will remain unnamed, there is a house church with fewer than ten believers. This small body of believers is the only evangelical witness for the approximate 35,000 residents of the town. In addition to this, the family that composes this house church belongs to a class of people that the locals marginalize. Needless to say, many times this group of believers feels isolated. 

So, what might a small team of American Christians do for Bosnian brothers and sisters who feel alone? The answer is much more straightforward than you might think. We partook in a series of simple, yet profoundly essential activities with them.

1) We broke bread together. To simply share a meal with fellow believers heightened their spirits as well as our own. One begins to understand Paul’s sentiment of mutual encouragement with the Roman believers (Romans 1:12).

2) We studied the Scriptures together. It never ceases to amaze me that people from various sectors of the globe can gather to study the divinely-inspired Word of God unto the conviction, challenging, encouragement, and edification of those studying it.

3) We genuinely shared in one another’s lives. Paul’s commendation to the Thessalonians is that he not only desired to share the gospel with them but his entire self (1 Thessalonians 2:8). This shared experience took the form of team members kicking a football around and unrushed conversation. For these believers, as well as us, a light broke through the darkness present in this spiritually desolate land as we gloried in Christ Jesus together. 

Instances like these are of such great importance because Americans aren’t the heroes of world missions. God’s glory is the ultimate aim in all missions, so the edification of His Church abroad without tangible results is an endeavor worthy of prayer, financial sacrifice, and expedition for the purpose of seeing God’s glory manifest among the nations. 

So once again, why go to Bosnia? For the sake of God’s glory. Americans won’t be the heroes. There will probably be little to show regarding conversions. There won’t be a report for shelters or wells built, though those are worthy endeavors in their own place. God’s glory in the proclamation of the gospel and the edification of His Church is the motivation for short-term or long-term mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

 

Thomas Smyly

Rest For Nicaragua

Rest For Nicaragua

As you may already know, Nicaragua is experiencing civil unrest. Political uncertainty has thrown the economy into a downward spiral, which will inevitably hit the small business development and the "empowerment model" of our mission the hardest. As a result, our Nicaraguan friends and the One Collective (Iteams) crew have shifted their focus, at least for the time being, from development to relief.

Four Stories You Told in 2017

You and I are a part of a story. In fact, we're a part of a lot of stories that are ultimately telling one story.  At Mars Hill, we realize that every opportunity we have to be generous and express Christ's love plays a part in telling one of those stories

Because of your support we have seen stories of pain turn to joy, stories of death turn to life, and stories of despair turn to hope.  God has shown us his goodness and we are grateful to work along side you as we take part in building the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.
 
As a thank you for being a Story Teller, we want to share four of those moments with you from 2017.


A FAMILY HAS A HOME

Our deacons worked hard to meet the need of a family in our church facing devastating hardships.  Their Mobile Home had constant roof leaks, dangerous structural issues and many other difficulties.  We were able to provide a new Mobile Home to replace the old one and give this family a safe and warm place to live for years. 

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WE BOUGHT A FARM

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We had the opportunity to work along side missionaries and local pastors in Masatepe, Nicaragua to meet a giant need in the city.  

One of the biggest issues facing the people of Masatepe is drug and alcohol abuse, mainly due to the high unemployment rate.  We were able to provide the local pastors with all of the needed funds to purchase a self sustaining farm in Masatepe that will be used as a Christ-centered drug and alcohol rehabilitation program housing up to 60 men at a time.  

The local pastors and churches of Masatepe will use the program to meet the needs of the community while providing rehabilitation to men that will ultimately show them their deep need for the gospel. 

UPDATE: This past week the Pastors and local officials from Masatepe held an inaugural event to celebrate the launching of the addiction recovery center.  They named the center "Luke's Inn" after the hidden hero in the parable of the Good Samaritan, The Innkeeper. The local pastors were not the only ones involved in this celebration. The new mayor and deputy mayor both attended the event to show their support for the center as well.


PEOPLE WENT ON MISSION

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Because of your generosity, we were  to send over 60 people on mission locally and around the world.  In fact, we gave over $300,000 to support missionaries and send our own out in the past year.  Some of these include:

  • A team of 8 to Nicaragua including some of our High School Seniors and College Students in the Spring.

     
  • A team of 12 high school students to work in St. Louis, MO over the summer. 
     
  • A team of 11 in the Fall to Nicaragua that built a home for a family on our farm opening the doors for our first group of recovering addicts to begin to heal and experience the power of the gospel.
     
  • A team of Four traveled to Sarajevo, Bosnia to pray, search for potential people of peace that could lead the local church, and encouraging the full-time missionaries who are there.
     
  • One of our Pastors went to Egypt with Open Doors Ministries to bring much needed financial support and encouragement to the persecuted church there in Cairo. 
     
  • We sent one of our college students to work with church planters in Salt Lake City, Utah as an intern. After serving there for several months, she felt God calling her to move there in a full time capacity to reach that largely Mormon community for Christ. 
     
  • We also supported 15 of our church members who served in various short term missions capacities both domestically and internationally outside of Mars Hill.

WE'RE TRAINING FUTURE CHURCH LEADERS

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We had the special opportunity to partner with the University of Mobile and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to house and train four pastoral interns who will receive credit for their Bachelors' and Masters' degrees after working with us for a year.  

Our staff has had the honor and responsibility to work with these young men and train them for future ministry in the local church.  Mars Hill leased an apartment across the street from our Mobile Campus so these guys could grow and learn together as they prepare for the journey of church leadership.

We hope to continue these partnerships and expand our influence to train and develop leaders.


YOU ARE A STORYTELLER

We are so grateful that we have the opportunity to be generous to the people around us and be a part of stories like these.  You make this possible.  Because of your generosity, and God grace, we are able to impact lives in our church, in our community, and around the world.  Our goal is to increase the amount resources we send out every year, as the Lord grows our influence, expands our reach, and builds his Kingdom here on earth.  If you would like to continue to be a part of these stories and more like them, click the link below.

Hope For the Homeless

Do you ever visit downtown Mobile on Friday nights? If you have any time in the last six years, several Mars Hill church members were down there too. But, probably not where you might think. About six years ago some college students at the University of Mobile wanted to serve their city. Ryan Parazine (now a staff pastor and manager of Mars Hill Café) and I were two of those students. Our initial plan was to find one homeless person in a park downtown, get him some dinner, listen to his story, and share the love of Christ with him any way we could. And that is what we did. At the end of the night we asked if we could return the next week and our new friend said yes. None of us had ever done anything like that before. We had stepped way out of our comfort zones in an attempt to do good works for God. 

Fast forward six years, the people of Mars Hill Church have adopted this ministry and it still continues today. Every Friday a few church members, usually including Ryan and Rusty Roberts (Mars Hill college pastor) meet in a church parking lot downtown to serve the homeless men and women of Mobile. The model is simple. Show up, talk to people, build relationships, intentionally spread the hope found in Jesus Christ, give them a burger, provide for physical needs when possible, and pray. The weekly crowd varies from 1 to 50. Many mistakes have been made, lessons have been learned, and some strong relationships have been forged. 

Serving the homeless can be both disheartening and encouraging. Many of the people on the street need help that far exceeds the scope of what can be done by a few people. Their issues are complex and far-reaching. Sometimes it is simply not possible to help beyond a simple cheeseburger. But, at times, we have been able to do more. Several individuals have been helped off the street and others have found stability through other organizations. I wish that I could report that many people have come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord through these Friday night meetings. I can't do that. But, I can share some of the stories of how God is working through these relationships. 

Douglas
Douglas is a kind, soft spoken black man with matted dread locks. He turns 65 years old on Christmas Eve and is a veteran of the Navy. Whenever he is downtown and someone asks him how he is doing, without fail he gives the same response, "staying out of trouble." Douglas rarely misses a Friday night and is always extremely grateful for anything provided. According to others, Douglas likely suffers from schizophrenia or something of that nature. Apparently, his demeanor can swing quickly and he is prone to vulgar yelling. But, amazingly, no one has ever seen that side of him on Friday nights. He has never even spoken above a kind, soft voice to any of us. His change in persona has made an impact on some of the other homeless people. Our presence around Douglas seems to help him and they have taken notice.

Steve
If you have visited Mars Hill on a Sunday morning over the last several months you may have met Steve. He also goes by the nickname Hogan because of his white horseshoe mustache resembling the wrestler Hulk Hogan. Steve has struggled with addictions for much of his life. He was one of the first guys that we met and the relationship has grown ever since. Steve is one of the most honest men you will ever meet. He willingly admits his shortcomings and knows that his friends at Mars Hill truly have his best interest at heart. Ryan, especially, has had many meaningful conversations with Steve about God's love for him and the gospel. It brings me, and many others, great joy to see Steve at our Sunday gatherings each week. A few young men in the church pick him up and go out of their way to make him feel welcomed. Thanks to their faithfulness Steve hears the gospel and experiences the love of the body of Christ. He has not yet surrendered to Christ, but God is using the positive influences in his life to slowly prepare his heart. Let's pray for Steve to experience the freedom found in Christ. And until that day comes, let’s continue to show him the unconditional love of God through our actions as the church. 

Kenny
Kenny was someone who I didn't know, but Ryan and others knew him well. He came around for a time before moving off to Las Vegas a few years ago. Ryan had shared burgers and the gospel with him, but never saw much fruit from their conversations. Even after he moved away, Ryan kept up with him periodically through Facebook. One random afternoon Kenny messaged Ryan to inform him that, according to Facebook, Rusty appeared to be working with the Mormon church in Utah. He was concerned that Rusty had left his Christian faith. This is funny because Rusty was actually there to dialogue with Mormons in hopes of leading them to faith in Jesus Christ. After the confusion was cleared up Kenny sent the following words. 

"I will always love you guys for putting me on the right path and will always say what I feel is right. God bless you and praise Jesus forever. If you don't think you impact people's lives by just a cheeseburger use me as an example. See you in heaven my friend."

Pat
If we are honest, those who go downtown to serve every Friday night probably receive a greater blessing than the homeless. The main reason for this is people like Justin Patterson. For anyone who met him though, he was "Pat!" The friendship we developed with Pat cannot be overstated. He was a large black man with a love for life and a knack for making people laugh. I couldn't begin to tell you how many hours we sat on a park bench, after everyone else had left, just laughing at Pat telling stories about anything and everything. We trusted Pat and considered him a dear friend. So much so that when Emily and I got married, Pat was one of our groomsmen. He stayed with me for the last few days leading up to our wedding. He liked to joke later about how I treated him like a king for a few days then kicked him out for a pretty girl. 

Unfortunately, Pat passed away a few years ago. But, his memory will not soon fade from the minds and hearts of everyone that knew him. He taught us what it meant to be filled with joy even when life was difficult. Pat's joy was the true joy that comes only through faith in Jesus Christ. Pat loved the Lord. During our time knowing Pat we saw his affections for the Lord grow and overflow to everyone around him. When we passed out food, he was always the last one to take anything. He would even give away his food if someone showed up late and there was nothing left. He taught us all what Jesus truly meant when he said "it is better to give than to receive." 

Created for Good Works
So what is the point of these stories? It is certainly not to point out the righteousness of those who serve in this area. We each are flawed and this ministry is far from perfect. In Ephesians chapter 2 the bible teaches us that our salvation comes only by our faith in Jesus Christ's saving work on the cross. He covers our sins by grace and grace alone. We can do nothing to earn any part of our salvation, it is simply the gift of God to us who believe. Because we are so loved, and yet so unworthy, our natural response will be to do good works. 

My aim is simply to share some of the ways that people in our church are doing good works around our city. My hope is that you will be encouraged to seek ways to serve Jesus Christ right where you are. Maybe you will join this ministry or start something similar. At the very least, I hope that you will brainstorm ways that you can serve those around you. Please do not read these words and feel overwhelmed, like you need to add something to your busy life. Rather, consider how you can show God's love right in your daily life. God can use even the smallest acts of faithfulness to change lives, even the simple offer of a cheeseburger. We all have different gifts, passions, and influence. How are you using yours to help build the kingdom of God?
 

James 2:14-17 says,
"What good is it, my brothers, if someone has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

How are you working to serve Christ in your city? How has God uniquely gifted you to influence the people around you who need to experience the love of Christ? Let's challenge each other to do good works that garner eternal rewards. Let's serve others selflessly, love unconditionally, and pray unceasingly to see God bring dead men and women to life. He alone is worthy because of the indescribable grace he has shown each one of us.

Brady.

P.S. I want to share more stories about how the people of our church are serving our neighbors to the Glory of God. Maybe you or your community group serves college students, refugees, retirees, or your kid's soccer team. Please contact me with stories of how God is using our church to transform lives and I would love to learn about and share them.