A young boy in a small Brazilian village. A local homeless man making a fresh start on life. An elderly Biloxi woman devastated by the hurricane. These are just three individuals who share an unlikely bond – their lives have been touched by the love of Christ through a coffeehouse tip jar. For the staff and patrons of journeys coffeehouse in Midland, Michigan, the missions jar is just one aspect of what an intentional third place can do to fund causes locally and globally.
Located inside Messiah Lutheran Church, journeys is uniquely positioned to service the faith family as well as to reach out into the community – even if that outreach happens on the go via the drive-through window. journeys is a third place for people to gather, connect, share, relate and let life happen. The joy of being an independent third place is that we are free to impact the world for Christ in all we do in our business and mission… that is right, there is more to journeys at the end of the day then slinging coffee. We have the great privilege of being able to fund causes with every dollar that journeys as a small business generates. From the moment of of conception we knew that revenue from the sales would go to fund the mission of Jesus in this world through the faith family of Messiah Lutheran Church but we get to go beyond that. It was not until opening weekend, when several customers asked whether we had a tip jar, that God presented the idea of funding outreach in that way.
Each month a mission organization is selected and signage is hung to promote the cause. As time goes on we have patrons asking questions about each mission as well as asking what the next one will be. It is not uncommon for a customer to ask about the mission, receive back their change but then offer back a five dollar bill to be placed in the missions jar. How great is that? The compassion of our customers has now transformed what the world sees as a “tip” jar to an offering to Christ and His Kingdom.
Now that is a bit about the background, but where does the coffee hit the cup? Shortly after journeys opened, our faith family was sending hurricane relief teams down to Biloxi, MS to help clean up the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. That mission trip was the first beneficiary of the monthly mission offering. So every dollar that came in was sent along with the relief team to fund aid in Biloxi. We also have used the funds to send a group of youth to West Virginia on a construction mission trip, aid in the relief effort in Darfur, and support mission teams working in an orphanage and medical mission in Haiti. On a local level, we have had the honor of using the offerings to support a men’s crisis center, donate funds to a Christian radio station, and provide holiday blessings to families at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
One of the greatest months for me personally was the month that we collected the necessary funds to sponsor a child from Compassion International. We wanted to be very intentional about this and the impact this would have so we did a little research through our coffee supplier. Then we went to Compassion and asked them to find us a child in the very spot in the world where the beans we use each day are being grown and harvested. Now we have an even more compelling story to share with every guest at journeys: “Did you know that we are financially and prayerfully supporting a child in the very place where these beans are coming from?” This child’s father, mother, grandfather…could be the very people growing the beans that we use. Wow – to me, being able to share a connection with a child and touch his life with the love of Christ is very cool.
I’ll close with one other story of how we have seen our customers fully embrace a mission. Recently, we funded the purchasing of tooth brushes for a medical mission trip to Guatemala. We not only had customers giving through the missions jar but also bringing in toothbrushes to have sent down. By the time the month was over there were nearly 300 toothbrushes donated and enough funds to purchase 1000 more. What makes the story even better is that a large toothbrush manufacturer matched our funds, thereby doubling the toothbrushes purchased to 2000! We even had a dentist in our faith family offer to cover the shipping charges.
When God moves through His people, awesome things happen. Around the world and in our backyard, the staff and patrons of journeys are showing God’s unfailing love – one cup of coffee at a time.
Note: The above is the full length version of an article posted as “end notes” in Sept – October 2008 issue of Worship Facilities Magazine.