Directors Marty and Martha Johnson will be the first to tell you that Fresh Grounds is all about God and what He does to bring people together. Fresh Grounds' motto, “Caffeine for the Soul,” is not only a great catch phrase but is indicative of the unique aroma that is the desire of this couple who have dedicated their lives to the mission field in Greenville.
Relationships are the most valuable commodity traded at Fresh Grounds. Coffee of great variety and quality, unique soft drinks and delicious desserts - as well as diverse forms of entertainment and education - are offered as a way to accomplish the business of making God’s will a reality in this place. Conversations are sparked in a comfortable and attractive venue designed to draw those who are hungering and thirsting for at least a morning pickup, and possibly righteousness, in this special blend of Caffeine and Consciousness (Matt 5:6).
As you walk in the door, it’s not unusual to see some of the neighborhood regulars enjoying their beverage of choice and discussing anything from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the fallacy of Pelagianism. Students, teens, parents, singles, couples, the lost and the found all have a place at Fresh Grounds. But what makes this place so special?
The community has always been involved in the process of making Fresh Grounds a reality. “Eclectic” is one of the best ways I can describe this ministry which required coordination of diverse individuals and abilities in its volunteers to procure, design, build and maintain this building. In operation for over four years, Fresh Grounds provides a beautiful place for the ministry to leave its subterranean roots, matured from the seeds planted so many years ago in the fertile soil below the Bible Gift Shoppe.
Diversity is still a big part of what makes this place tick. Volunteers serve at the counter and provide the face of Fresh Grounds. Marty and Martha both attribute the distinction of this ministry to God’s coordination, feeling that they only provide the opportunity for others to minister with God’s direction in the broader Downtown Ministries (DTM). Fresh Grounds has been the touchstone for the other ministries that have grown out of the success of this unpretentious yet distinct coffee house.
I asked both Marty and Martha how they feel this ministry has affected the lives of the patrons, the volunteers, and their own spiritual lives. Marty said, “We intentionally engage those with whom we come in contact. There is a desire to get to know them, befriend them, and earn the right to share the gospel.”
Martha added, “One young man who used to be a regular part of the bar scene told us after his conversion that coming into Fresh Grounds was like stepping from darkness into light”. She went on to say, “Our evening manager, Kyle Marini, talked about attending a party the week before he first came to Fresh Grounds. Fresh Grounds then became an option that he chose over a party scene.” Martha feels that the ministry is much like a mosaic, “made up of unique individuals, sharing their talents and ideas, making it an ever fresh and organic kind of place. When one person leaves, the picture shifts a little but there is always a picture, because God always has a plan in place.”
“As for my own faith,” Marty said, “the creation of Fresh Grounds and now with the other satellite ministries, I have absolutely no doubt that God is real. Del Tackett asks in the Truth Project, 'Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?' To that I say, ‘I really do!’ And, I can’t imagine the most adamant nonbeliever, upon hearing all the stories of how God has interacted on our behalf, admitting that there was not in the very least, something up.”
Martha said she has “seen far too many miracles, answers to prayer, changed lives and evidences of God’s caring omnipresence to do anything but fall on my knees before Him. I have also become (I hope) more patient and loving. I have learned that everyone’s faith does not have to look like my own. I appreciate the differences in how the members of the body of Christ express themselves and how they serve. I also have begun to grow in my attitude toward those who are held captive by the philosophies of this world. Even those who attack what it is dearest to my heart and soul.”
This ministry, led by God, continues to be a blessing to our area, but requires people who are obedient to the calling that they have received in order to function productively. I asked the Johnsons how we can help this ministry to continue to function. Additional people, prayers, and pesos are required to keep things moving in the right direction. While the coffee sales certainly provide some revenue, it does not accomplish all that is required. They would love to be open more days of the week, but currently are challenged to staff the number of days that are scheduled.
So, to get the mix of people, patrons, ministry and relationship, it is important to rely on Christ to create just the right blend. This is something that Fresh Grounds aspires to accomplish, and it seems to me that they always have something brewing.