I love the way that God works through coffee. There is an undeniable sense of well-being that comes from slowly sipping down a good cup of steaming, hot coffee. And not only is it a self-satisfying moment, where one can happily slurp away, but it is a gateway to some of the greatest conversations ever to be had.
Little did we know that coffee would play such an important role in our NYC ministry. Albanians seem to really love two drinks: beer and a macchiato. For the last eight months, my husband has been a regular customer in various Albanian coffee shops. He often goes alone, ordering a macchiato, while bringing his Bible and expecting conversation. At first, things moved very slowly. A lot of the time, my husband would come home feeling like a failure, unsure of what he was supposed to do and unsure of how God would use him. But, with time, these trips to the local coffee shops became more than just uncertainty and hopelessness. Yes, these seemingly normal coffee breaks became a way for the Gospel to be shared and the truth to be heard.
Do you remember the parting of the Red Sea? Well, this is a similar situation. God took a mundane cup of coffee and parted it, pushing the coffee to the side while opening up a path that brought my husband from being just another customer to a friend. Now, he is good friends with one of the waiters, "Loui", whom he has been sharing the Gospel with, and although "Loui" is a Muslim, he is listening and curious and asks my husband to explain Christianity. "Loui" is interested, but he is not ready to accept the Gospel as truth. However, he has been opening doors for us that we could have never opened ourselves. "Loui" has been introducing my husband to all of his Albanian friends and one of them is even a Christian! This is exciting because it takes a lot of time to build friendships and break into this particular diaspora, but it is happening and we are so thankful!
A couple of days ago, my husband was visiting "Loui" at the shop when he and several other young Albanian men were invited to an older Albanian’s house for coffee. The older gentleman looked at my husband and said, “Even the Americano is invited!”
Coffee can be a great way to bring people together. My husband rarely ever pays for a cup of coffee these days as his Albanian friends are always paying for him or serving him for free. And it can also be a great way to start a conversation, to grow a friendship, and to share the love of Christ, even if it is a seemingly unlikely ministry tool. Getting invited into the home of an Albanian is a really big deal, because they are often exclusive and interact very little with other cultures in the city. We are stepping into their inside circle, becoming a regular part of their everyday life. Here in the Bronx, God is parting coffee and bridging relationships, leading the lost to the found so that they may one day be found as well.