From Nicaragua to Ohio via Coffee

Two days ago, before Grayson and I left behind our new Mennonite friends at Rosedale Bible College in Ohio, a student there told us to go visit her family's coffee shop down the road in Mechanicsburg. She told us that they do direct trading with Nicaraguan farmers so that these farmers can get a fair price for their crop. She said that her family then brings the beans back to Ohio to roast in their shop and act as a wholesaler to other coffee shops in the area.

We entered the shop and were hit with the calming rush of coffee beans being roasted, crushed, and filling the air of an old brick building on the small town's main drag. The young woman's mother, Grace, was working the cash register and quickly noticed that we weren't from around there. She assumed that we had perhaps attended the Bible college, but we corrected her and informed her that her daughter had told us to check out the shop. She then gave us a student discount on our beverages and morning food selections.
Her husband, older daughter and son-in-law were roasting in the far back area of the rectangular room. She told us that more and more of the shop had been taken over by roasting equipment and bean storage as the years had gone on. Eventually, she imagined the whole room would be totally designated for the roasting operations. 

Paul Kurtz, her husband, took a break from his work and chatted with us about his mission in buying coffee beans from Nicaraguan farmers at a fair price--one that would allow them to be successful, earn a livable wage and sustain their local economies. He is a simple man, passionate about serving people by living out the Gospel in a practical way through the coffee industry.

It turns out that Paul attended a Masters program at Simpson University in Redding so we had a little California connection. He gave Grayson and I both a pound of his coffee and also a small book that he had written about his adventures in travelling to and from Nicaragua to establish partnerships with local farmers.

I've been reading his book while on the road and have been shocked by how simple and beautiful an illustration of the Christian gospel it is.

This man is working hard to make a living at selling coffee here in America, in a small town in Ohio no less, which is made even more economically difficult by the fact that he is unwilling to compromise his missional values in serving Nicaraguan farmers by offering them any less than an amount that will enable them to grow a sustainable economy in their communities.

His book brings up the point that so many Christian mission organizations, as well as US aid, give hand-outs to impoverished people all over the world and thus enable them to become addicted to foreign charities for survival. Paul's approach is to empower these people to create for themselves economic opportunities to succeed, thus breaking them from an unhealthy mindset of being dependent on another country's hand-outs.

Doesn't this make so much sense? So why don't we develop country's to be self-sustaining and independent?

Mechanicsburg, OH 11/07/11
I believe we don't do this because it requires too much hard work and too much sacrifice on our part. It's easier to give poor people temporary solutions instead of fixing their long-term problems. It's easy for them to take aid, and it's easy for us to give aid and feel good about ourselves for doing so.

Paul's taking the more difficult approach because he's thinking long-term with these farmers. He's trying to create lasting opportunities and a sustainable economy for their communities to thrive within. He's doing the difficult thing because it's the right thing to do and he makes a good point that maybe it's even the Christian thing to do.

I never expected to meet such a simple man of faith in Mechanicsburg, Ohio.

Go check out his coffee shop online: Hemisphere Coffee Roasters.

1 comment:

  1. Ken... (airport taxi driver)November 10, 2011 at 7:02 AM

    Loved this Dane! Really great!