Eighth Avenue Place

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Do you ever wake up with an impulse on your heart to pray about something in particular?  That happens to me sometimes.

This morning, I woke up at 4:45 sensing that it was important for me to pray for a ministry that is dear to my heart.  The ministry to which I am making reference is called Eighth Avenue Place.

Located in Homestead, Pennsylvania (in the heart of Pittsburgh’s “Steel Valley”), Eighth Avenue Place is a unique Christian community in which people living on the streets have coffee with suburbanites; in which people with divergent narratives and diverse racial and ethnic identities find themselves at the same table, worshiping and breaking bread; in which marginalized, disenfranchised, and addicted people often find themselves drawn more deeply into recovery, healing, and authentic relationships.

That is Eighth Avenue Place.

Through its professional counseling ministry, its addiction recovery ministry, its care for the homeless, its work in community development, and its dual commitment to Christocentric piety and holistic social justice, Eighth Avenue Place creates an always-welcoming “sanctuary” in which unique but interrelated souls might worship, pray, seek, weep, laugh, love, and be loved.

The ministry of Eighth Avenue Place is overseen largely by my friend and colleague, Pastor Keith Kaufold, and his wife Monica.  In ways he probably doesn’t even realize, Keith always leads me to a deeper place through his sacrificial faithfulness, his willingness to laugh heartily at life’s absurdities, and his prophetic vision for Gospel-related transformation.  Together, Keith and Monica (and those who lead and serve alongside them) are helping to build and sustain a desperately needed ministry of Christ-centered community in a time and place where trustworthy community can be difficult to find.

So, today, even as I type these words, I am praying for Eighth Avenue Place, its ministry, and its leadership.  More specifically, I am praying that the Holy Spirit will be so dynamically present at Eighth Avenue Place that the transforming and life-giving presence of God will be experienced in every conversation there; in every cup of coffee consumed; in every moment of laughter, weeping, insight, and prayer.  I am praying also that Keith, Monica, and all those involved in leadership there will experience a fresh and energizing joy, accompanied by a renewed sense of divine calling.

A few years back, Tara and I recorded an original song that represents our best effort to tell just a small part of the story of Eighth Avenue Place.  I listened to the song this morning, and it led me into a more attentive experience of prayer for this ministry where “the suburbs intersect the streets,” where Jesus changes lives, and where servanthood is  practiced in some wonderfully engaging ways. I hope that the song falls meaningfully upon your heart today.

Eighth Avenue
(words and music by Eric Park; recorded by Tara and Eric Park and Rick Witkowski)

Streets replete with untold stories
Buried dreams and hidden glories
Some hearts warm and others broken
Some prayers voiced and some unspoken
We are joined in our addiction
Some to wine and some to fiction
Scattered lives in search of center
Drawn to depths we rarely enter

The suburbs intersect the street
In this haven of commingled souls
And nothing ever tastes so sweet
As sacred food in simple bowls
Poverty and privilege meet
On common ground of what’s perceived as true
Unlikely saints, we now retreat
To respite on 8th Avenue

Black and white and every label
Gathered ‘round a common table
Funny how a truthful vision
Builds a bridge across division
Summer’s heat and winter’s coldness
Make the streets a place for boldness
Open door to those who travel
Open heart when lives unravel

The suburbs intersect the street
In this haven of commingled souls
And nothing ever tastes so sweet
As sacred food in simple bowls
Poverty and privilege meet
On common ground of what’s perceived as true
Unlikely saints, we now retreat
To kindred on 8th Avenue

Save the city, save its soul
We are broken, make us whole
On hardened streets
On satin sheets
We are broken, make us whole
We are broken. Always broken.

Streets replete with desperate voices
Fragile hopes and bitter choices
Open door to those who travel
Open heart when lives unravel
Wonder if they’d hear me screaming
Through the rainfall’s steady teeming
Wonder if they know I’m praying
Or care about the words I’m saying

The suburbs intersect the street
In this haven of commingled souls
And nothing ever tastes so sweet
As sacred food in simple bowls
Poverty and privilege meet
On common ground of what’s perceived as true
Unlikely saints, we now retreat
To respite on 8th Avenue
To kindred on 8th Avenue
To Jesus on 8th Avenue

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2 thoughts on “Eighth Avenue Place

  1. Heart wrenching, So many truths Incorporated into one beautiful song!🙏
    Thanks I needed that! Going through a tough time at the moment and this beautiful song gave my life perspective. Prayers would be appreciated. 🙏

    Like

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