Dealing in Resurrection
When our small band of jail chaplains north of Seattle considered starting a direct-trade coffee-roasting business to support incarcerated gang members reentering society, the first man who wanted in was a tall, tattooed former white supremacist.
His addiction before prison had led to his trade as a meth cook. Roasting coffee, he shrugged, couldn’t be that much harder. Hey, we thought, transferrable skills?
That’s been our passion at Underground Coffee ever since.
Take the woman who graduated from a Christian drug recovery home and then approached us for a job. She didn’t have a good work history on paper, and confessed to having been a mid-level drug dealer in our area. Now, two years into working with us, she runs the accounts and bookkeeping for Fidalgo Coffee Roasters, the larger company operating Underground Coffee. She’s a natural with numbers. She closed all open accounts within a week.
Another man covered in gang-related tattoos used to drive all over our valley hustling doctors for pill subscriptions. At Underground Coffee, he now supports his recovery and his family as the delivery van driver, crisscrossing three counties each day, charming grocery store and café owners and often upping sales with each conversation.
It’s more than giving those with criminal convictions a charitable chance at a job. We’ve found that those rising out of our society’s underground of drug dealing and addiction have countless transferrable skills that can transform our businesses.
Underground Coffee, now a partnership between Underground Ministries and Fidalgo Coffee Roasters, is creating a culture that celebrates employment as a key to interrupting recidivism and a sign of resurrection.
How can you support us? Well, churches and offices consume a lot of coffee. Some might call it an addiction. We want to be your dealer.
Hit us up.
To learn more, visit underground.coffee.
Faces of Santa Ana
See Brian Peterson’s artwork in Plough Quarterly here.
Sitting in his living room one night four years ago, Brian Peterson heard the screams of a man on the street below. Two days later Peterson, a car designer for Kia Motors who had recently moved to California with his wife, Vanessa, found himself sitting by that man on the sidewalk and asking him for permission to paint his portrait.
Dozens of portraits later, Peterson’s nonprofit, Faces of Santa Ana, is changing lives and growing rapidly. The basic process: Peterson befriends a person experiencing homelessness, paints his or her portrait, and puts fifty percent of the proceeds from the painting’s sale into a “love account,” to be used however the subject wishes: for food, medicine, or art projects. While helping those in need, the project also inspires those who purchase the artwork. Peterson says, “They’re investing in a life, in someone who is living and breathing and hoping and looking for love and looking for change.” In some cases, the painting’s subject and purchaser develop a lasting friendship.
More recently, Peterson’s work has expanded to creating murals and involving local high school students in painting portraits; the nonprofit has been spreading to other cities as well. In November, Peterson resigned from his job to pursue Faces of Santa Ana full time. Support the project at facesofsantaana.com.
Orders of Magnitude
Sister Andrea and Sister Roseann are an order of two. But the vitality of the Sisters of the Gospel of Life in Glasgow makes up for their small numbers. Both women found their vocation caring for the needs of women with unexpected pregnancies who want an alternative to abortion. Since 2000, the two nuns have lived in full Christian community, sharing a life of prayer and running a center that provides counseling and practical support for such women.
Though several others have considered a vocation with this order, the sisters are still waiting for someone to join them. This has not discouraged them, they say. As they continue to advocate for women, network with others doing similar work, and witness to the possibility of radical Christian community, they remind themselves of Jesus’ promise, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”