“I will turn a cup of coffee into an ocean of love.” These were the words whispered to Jason Kelloway in a quiet moment. The words emanate warmth and safety, but without action, they are nothing more than letters poetically put together that lay dormant. Maybe we can say the same about life being nothing more than a series of events that unless we allow them to lead to action, the experiences fall into nothingness. Jason Kelloway was not a man to allow life’s poetic nature—the good and the bad, the highs and the lows, the devastations and the victories—to fall into a darkness that comes about from inaction.
Jason was two when his father left him and his sister to be raised by a young mother that was often more interested in drinking than being accountable. Fortunately, his Polish grandparents stepped in and took over. While Jason is forever grateful for their sacrifice, his grandparents were strict and cold. His grandfather was in the Army and often gone, while his grandmother oversaw the grandchildren. His body was clothed, his stomach nurtured, yet his heart remained empty. His upbringing was one of checking off boxes and getting through the requirements. While his grandparents loved his sister and him, by nature, they were unaffectionate. This upbringing left Jason with a yearning for the parents that decided parenting was not for them, and a sense of sadness began to grow inside of him.
Despite this emotional disconnect and pain, Jason stayed away from drugs and alcohol at this point in his life. He was quiet but active in sports, specifically baseball. He earned average grades and plodded through. At about age fifteen, his mom started coming back in the picture, but their relationship was weak at best. The wall had become too thick to break through with a few conversations, and the desire to work harder at it wasn’t there for either one of them.
A darkness fell over Jason when he was in college. His grandmother, the one that had a hard time showing affection, the one that maintained structure with strictness, passed away. And although the relationship was not nurturing, it was Jason’s life preserver in an ocean where he often felt he floated alone. Without this safety net, Jason began to sink into a world of drinking and minor drugs. He left college and baseball, feeling too depressed to succeed in the environment.
Craving the structure that he had lost, Jason joined the Marine Corps at the age of twenty. In his five years of service, Jason excelled and was promoted to sergeant. The change was exactly what Jason needed at the time, both mentally and physically. “When I got out, I felt I could accomplish anything,” Jason stated.
For a while, this feeling saved him from making bad decisions, but life has a way of clouding feelings of euphoria. He attempted to get into Florida State College at Jacksonville, but the classes were full. For a while, he had a hard time finding a job. In this drifting time, his foundation built on quicksand couldn’t protect him any longer. Depression lingered like a cloud, and he viewed the world through the darkness.
At the age of 28, Jason got married and a few years later had a son. At this point, he was working with info structure cabling and going to school at ITT at night. Jason finished valedictorian of his class and became certified as an installer. This journey helped him realize how capable he was and how easily he learned. In some ways, Jason had found his niche.
On the outside, Jason’s life might have appeared fine, but the stresses of life and the struggling emotions due to a failing marriage were building. Jason began drinking more and dabbling in more potent drugs. It was at this lowest point in Jason’s life that he regrettably went to pick his son up from daycare, high on cocaine. As Jason says, “I would zone out for days. My heart would be racing. I couldn’t sleep.” In this state, Jason chose to keep his son longer than was agreed upon in a marriage surviving only on smoking embers. His wife issued an Amber Alert. The incident ended with Jason bringing his son to a friend’s house. No formal charges were filed, but Jason feels this was the incident that led to him being saved. Not from a record, but from a life leading to certain death.
Unsurprisingly, the marriage eventually ended, and Jason found himself sleeping in his car and on friends’ couches. His wife tried to terminate his parental rights knowing that Jason was struggling. Even though he did not lose custody, his wife took their son away, feeling it was the best decision she could make for their child. Jason went four years without seeing his son. The day the Amber Alert was issued might have been the day things began to change, but change is slow. The following years of his life were learning how to walk on these new wobbly legs.
To begin with, Jason went to The Family Nurturing Center for one year. In his words, “They were drug tested and monitored. Many people could not make it through the program.” In exchange for giving up freedoms, he was allowed to start seeing his son on weekends. Jason also decided it was time to forgive his father. After reaching out to him, they began building a relationship.
Also, during this time of discovery, Jason read a book titled, “Compelled by Love.” The book spoke to him, and he felt drawn to go to a missionary school in Mozambique, Africa. The problem was, Jason was living on other peoples’ couches, and the school was expensive—$10,000. It was an astronomical number, but with hard work and donations, Jason made it to his destination and sealed the change within him. When he returned, he found himself back on his friends’ couches, but this time it was different. The callings that Jason heard were no longer for alcohol or drugs. Jason firmly believes that God told him that he could spread love through coffee.
With faith and not much more, Jason heeded God’s words, “I will turn a cup of coffee into an ocean of love.” Jason took the little bit of money he had and started brewing coffee in his friend’s apartment. He then took it to the homeless people. Jason prayed and let God lead him to a street corner—Union and Broad. There, he served 80 cups of coffee in the freezing temperatures. And from that very first time, Jason knew that he was making a change, and Cup of Love was formed. Every Wednesday, Jason, along with others, serves coffee to a growing line of homeless people. Often, they serve bread as well, and sometimes donations are distributed by local groups.
Jason met his new wife at church, and through her and her children, Jason feels he was given back the seven years he lost to drugs and alcohol. His wife, Mandie, shares his desires to spread love and compassion to the ones in need. In fact, for their honeymoon, Jason and Mandie went back to Africa to serve and to celebrate their new life together. While he didn’t get back to the same location due to unrest in the area, they did run into familiar people at Livewell, a place that rescues children. Jason has turned his passion for spreading love with coffee into a coffee shop, Social Grounds, an establishment full of warmth in many ways.
Jason’s faith and dedication inspired me, and I wondered if he had a favorite Bible passage that guided him throughout his journey. Without hesitation, Jason said Romans 8:37-39. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. “Jason’s story shows us that through many situations and events—other people’s choices, or our own bad choices—we can surely feel separated. But his story also reminds us that the moment we chose to follow the callings, to lend a hand or a warm cup of coffee, to accept the support of the ones around us, that the wall between darkness and light will suddenly diminish. We will then glimpse a reality that is nothing short of miraculous.