By Caroline Franks
A cup of coffee, a sympathetic ear and spiritual support is what you will find at Coffee House, a Salvation Army Gladstone Church Outreach Ministry that has been running for over 60 years in Ottawa.
The congregation, which used to have its own church on Gladstone Avenue until 2011 is now located at The Salvation Army Ottawa Booth Centre in the Byward Market. The Gladstone Church Ministry serves both Ottawa Booth Centre and Anchorage Addictions Recovery Program clients as well as anyone from the community.
“There is a fine gospel light shining on George Street in Ottawa from this small ministry,” said Roland Priddle, a long-time volunteer and member of the congregation.
Coffee House held every second Saturday of the month from 2:00 to 4:30 pm in the chapel at The Ottawa Booth Centre, is a welcoming place for anyone to stop in, have a chat, and a cup of coffee.
Salvation Army officer Captain Thomas Yoo came back to Ottawa to lead the Gladstone Church in the summer of 2017.
“This ministry is about meeting people where they are at. It’s a way to reach out to those that are homeless and to those that are hurting,” said Captain Thomas. “I meet people every week and I offer to pray with them and offer forgiveness and support. I am not just a pastor who preaches, I connect with people and they open their hearts and talk to me. They share with me not only their problems but their successes and talents like their writing, poetry and paintings.”
Coffee House is run mostly by volunteers and they are always needed to work in the kitchen, play music, sing or offer their time to sit and listen to people who need someone to talk to.
Captain Thomas has revitalized Coffee House by reaching out to the community and other churches to help with both Coffee House and their Sunday morning and evening worship services including the Ottawa Korean Community Church, Ottawa Korean Presbyterian Church, New Connection Spanish Ministry, The Ottawa Church of God, The Circle of Blessing music group and The Salvation Army Barrhaven Church.
Volunteers from local high schools also volunteer their time serving coffee and desserts.
“I come to Coffee House and I let the spirit lead. I ask God if there is anyone that needs to talk to find me,” said Marva Brathwaite, a volunteer from the evangelism team at The Ottawa Church of God. “The way to reach people is to show love and to listen. When people see that they can trust you, they start talking.”
Marva and her team also come to Ottawa Booth Centre on the third Friday of every month and bring coffee, sandwiches, and treats to those living on the street in the area. It’s another opportunity to connect with people.
“There are many people who visit The Salvation Army Coffee House often and then some will disappear and return a few weeks later. I think Captain Thomas is very good at recognizing people and giving people a role like singing, playing music or lifting people up in some other way,” said Roland. “That’s the nice thing about Captain Thomas; he will try anything to help people. He is an uncritical kind of person and he never writes anyone off.”
As for the future, Captain Thomas would like to see Coffee House extended to every Saturday but there is a real need for volunteers in order to do that.
“There is friendship and warmth at Coffee House and there is a real need for this ministry as this is how we connect with people,” said Captain Thomas. “We need student volunteers, music teams, people to help serve coffee and dessert and people to sit and talk with our visitors.”
If you, or your organization, music group or church would like to get involved, please contact Captain Thomas Yoo at 613-241-1573 x.233