I was reading the blog of a fellow missionary in Prague the other day and he was writing about coffee. He wrote about how for him, like many fellow Americans, Starbucks served as his introduction into a world of coffee outside of the big cheap brands, or as I like to refer to them: office coffee. And I realized that I am one of the lucky ones. My introduction into the coffee world was not Starbucks. My introduction into coffee was at Cafe Intermezzo, a European coffee shop in Atlanta.
Basically, what had happened was, I met a girl at a summer camp after my freshman year at Georgia Tech and she asked me if I liked going to coffee shops. So of course I said yes. Then directly after the camp I sought out a fraternity brother who I knew frequented this cafe and I asked him if he could introduce me into the world of coffee. Thus my love affair with coffee began. That pretty young lady is far gone from my life but the coffee remains. Little did I know that years later I would be standing in the coffee fields of Central America drinking coffee from the local farmers next to the actual trees that grew the coffee beans used to make it.
In 2012, I was riding in a van through northwest Panama being driven by a new friend who was a coffee farmer. As we were riding down the road we passed some really lush and beautiful coffee trees. Through some broken English he pointed out the trees and asked us if we noticed anything about them. We commented on how beautiful they looked. Then he said words I will never forget: No fruit! These beautiful trees did not bear any berries where the coffee beans are found. It turns out that after about twenty years the coffee trees stop producing fruit and spend all their energy on growing themselves rather than reproducing.
These trees are an all too real representation of us and the church. When we start caring about ourselves, our own needs, and our appearance, there aren’t many resources left to bear fruit. On my friends’ farm there were other trees. These trees were smaller, ugly, and didn’t have very many leaves (think the Charlie Brown Christmas tree). But what they did have was a massive amount of berries. The energy in these trees was focused on reproduction. They looked beat up, not the perfect looking trees we had seen earlier, but they were full of life and focused on reproducing, creating seeds that could grow into other trees.
What are you focused on in your life? Are you focused on self-sustaining or are you focused on helping others grow? Like these trees, lives that look pretty and perfect are not usually very useful for helping others. When we embrace our brokenness and accept that life is messy and that real people have real problems we come to a place where we can be of use to really help others grow. And that is what makes our lives truly beautiful.
We here at English Connection are all broken people who are not perfect and who don’t look pretty all the time, only most of the time. And we sometimes struggle in doing the work God has for us to do. But He is faithful in equipping us to do this work. He is faithful to see the seeds planted and see them grow to a place where they too can be used to grow others. This is how we make disciples.
We are a team and we celebrate together in our victories. Pray how God would use you to support this team. We are constantly in need of your prayers and we know that they are making a difference in the work that we are doing. We have opportunities throughout the year to travel to Guatemala and see our friends there who farm coffee. Ask God for an opportunity to go if you would like to join us. And finally the unsung heroes of English Connection are the donors. Ask God if He would want you to be a part of our team in this way. As our ministry grows and is able to reach more people with the Gospel our costs increase. God has abundantly provided in the past and we know He will continue to do so in the future.
Then, after you pray for us, go and treat yourself to a good cup of coffee. I mean a really good one. And as you are enjoying that black gold think of the trees where the beans in that coffee came from and how they look. Chances are they look pretty beat up, just like some of us are, because if they were not then we wouldn’t be able to experience their fruit.