“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” -Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Over 11 years ago, we toured a Guatemalan coffee bean farm while in the country to adopt our son. During other trips south, we saw other coffee bean farms in Guatemala, Costa Rica, and throughout Central America. We were intrigued. Over the years, I researched on and off about how to start coffee bean roasting and the necessary equipment, and then toward the end of last year, Jay started to take intentional steps to make this crazy idea a possibility. More research was done, calls were made, budgets were drawn up, and the possibility turned into a plan. Then, prayers were answered for an amazing, far-beyond-our-dreams coffee roaster when a number of you contributed and an anonymous donor stepped in to cover the rest of the cost.
Eventually, one day in January, some big bags of green coffee beans arrived at The Bridge from parts of Africa, Asia, and Central America, and we started officially experimenting with the roasting process. Jay, Charlie, Tou, and now Khoi (an intern from ICCC) went through training and started to turn out batches of freshly roasted coffee beans for the first time.
This endeavor of coffee roasting becomes one of The Bridge’s two enterprises, together with our Cultivate Training Garden. These small businesses have been started with the intention of using them as a vehicle for training for youth and an opportunity for mentoring. Through Endless Sea Coffee Roasting, we envision high school and college-aged young people having the chance to learn the intricacies of roasting as well as accounting, business, promotion, sales, data entry, customer service, and many life skills alongside adult mentors.
But, we hope and pray these enterprises do more than teach skills, as valuable as they are. Many of the youth we work with at The Bridge don’t have generations of family members completing school or getting jobs here in the USA. Many come from families who have risked everything just to start over here, and they are surviving day-to-day. Thus, as reflected in the quote and name we chose for this enterprise, the goal for these enterprises is to develop skills as well as to give youth a solid reason to envision a brighter future for themselves and then provide some necessary components to do so, such as positive job references, a community of supportive adults, and growth in work ethic.
Most importantly, the enterprises provide a way to embrace the “everyday divine” – using routine moments and an ordinary job setting to work alongside young people in a way that brings God glory. At The Bridge, we embrace a holistic approach to ministry, and the enterprises are a key component. While we do invite young people into a loving, growing relationship with Jesus, we don’t regulate that experience to our weekly Bible studies. Thus, all activities can be defined as spiritual – whether it’s an hour spent in God’s Word or an hour spent seeing it fleshed out in roasting coffee with a mentor, building trust and skills and hope. We are excited to see how something as practical as coffee roasting can somehow make the Gospel tangible and credible for these young people!