It was the summer of 2015. Alysha was happily married to Kevin Owens and loved being a step mom to her two sons but she was starting to feel like her life had no purpose. As a para-educator she was on summer break and her husband and friends were working. One day she realized she didn’t put her pants on until 5 p.m. and there were too many days like that. While on a Wednesday night date with Kevin she remembers telling him she needed a reason to wake up in the morning.
Looking for a reason to put her pants on by at least noon and with a background in photography and graphic design Alysha made a bomb resume and presented it to David Sebald, who was the manager of Sozo at the time. She could now put some pants on before 8 a.m. She was hired.
In February 2016 Alysha felt deep down she should leave teaching and work full time with Sozo. When she told David he revealed to her it was what he had been praying about. In March, David started training Alysha to take over his position and in August David left Sozo to pursued his passion to be a missionary in Canada. Alysha was large and in charge….and getting dressed!
Sozo has a heart for helping people.
What she loves most about working at Sozo is the freedom to speak her faith. She worked in a middle school with kids growing up in poverty and addiction and coming from a home where a parent was an addict the one thing that got her through was her faith in Christ. Working in the school, Alysha had to hide the one thing that gave her life hope from children who needed hope. At Sozo, Alysha doesn’t have to hide her faith. In fact, sharing Christ is encouraged and it fosters conversation, and yes, over coffee. She is always happy to answer any questions one may have about Christ or her faith whether they believe or not. She has proven to be the perfect fit for Sozo.
Alysha described Sozo as a connection spot. She put it this way:
Let’s say your immediate family or home church are your mom, dad, brothers and sisters. The people who grow you. Extended family, or other churches, would be your aunts, uncles, cousins, even the weird uncle no one wants to talk about but are still family.
Sozo connects the family, connects ministries. To gather, to catch up, share experiences, points of views or beliefs and even embrace the weird uncle.
While listening to Alysha and Chad I realized their definition of ministry was not only applied to church and religion but to people walking in their gifts. Ministry takes on a much broader meaning for Sozo. There have been 150 different ministries to connect at Sozo. Among them are The Hope Center, First Responders, Nutritional Therapist, IOP (for people who are transitioning from jail and addiction back into society), UNO bible study, youth groups, businesses and of course church groups.
Resource to heal and grow.
Alysha understands how people recovering from addictions may feel shame because of the mistakes they have made, "how lonely people are and alcohol can be a way to cover up what's happening. If we can give a place to people where they don’t have to feel ashamed, where they can just heal, and move on from those mistakes, why wouldn’t we do that?”.
The word ministry was used a lot during my conversation with Chad and Alysha. Most of the definitions of ministry in Webster have to do with religion. But this definition, I believe, fit Sozo’s meaning of ministry: A person or thing through which something is accomplished and to give aid or service.
The meaning of Sozo in the greek means a safe place for salvation. That very definition ministers to those in need of help and calls to those who can and are willing to help. I believe that is what the people at Sozo are all about. Helping people feel connected. Have a place to connect. They are a resource for the church. A resource of family. A connecting spot for people.