Caffeine and the Spirit

One morning this week, Pastor Dan and I had just left the meeting of the Clean and Safe Committee. It’s the working group of civic leaders, business owners, police, and civil servants who try to keep downtown “clean and safe.” Dan and I were pleased that our Tuesday night meals for the homeless, with our friends at Outreached Arms, were part of the discussion. This ministry lifts people up while helping address needs for health and safety.

I started to head straight back to the church, but Dan turned right, wanting to get coffee first. Standing next to the coffee shop, waiting for a bus, was a lady who yelled when she saw me: “It’s the pastor of First Presbyterian Church!”

Carla was beaming. She reminded me that my wife and I had helped her one Sunday after church to connect her with the services she needed. Now she was working, had her own place, and was enrolled in school. She said we had helped her when she was new in town and didn’t know where to turn.

Dan prayed, we all hugged, and we went on our way after telling Carla that her joy had made our day.

Dan drinks a lot of coffee, so you could say it was his need for caffeine that caused us to take the longer route back to the church. But I doubt it. It was the Spirit. It was the Spirit who allowed Jana and me to help Carla months before. It was the Spirit who filled her with joy. It was the Spirit who brought the tears that morning on the sidewalk.

Ugandan gold

Jill never expected to lose her husband and her job.

Neither did she expect to go to Uganda on a mission trip. But through that trip she met people with a unique coffee farm. Instead of exploiting its workers and keeping them locked in poverty, this farm fed its profits back into raising its workers’ standard of living.

The coffee is called Ugandan Gold, the farm is in Wambabya, Uganda, and the ministry that began there is called CEED, Christian East-African and Equatorial Development Trust, Jill Whitecap is the sole US staff member for CEED; the other 60 workers are Ugandans. Jill was the speaker at our annual Women’s Christmas Breakfast last week.

CEED is a model for transformational mission partnerships. All the profits from the sale of Ugandan Gold go back into providing clean water, healthcare, and jobs.

With the profits from the sale of Ugandan Gold, CEED partners with local villages to meet needs identified by the locals. The most pressing need is for clean water. CEED keeps costs low by partnering with local people for labor and direction. The locals then know how to operate and maintain the well. If it breaks, local folks have the wherewithal to fix it (unlike what often happens when outside groups fail to consult the locals first).

But it gets better.

When there’s local ownership, not only do the wells keep working, but the profits from the sale of clean water go back to local businesses. People live healthier, better lives, and others start businesses of their own, which lifts up the whole village.

Even better.

True partnerships lead to deep and abiding relationships. When Jill was seriously ill, the local Ugandan church came together to pray for her.

Jill’s story was so compelling that one person at the breakfast made an anonymous challenge. This person would match donations to CEED up to $1000. Within minutes, others had pledged another $1500.

And so now our church is two-thirds of the way to funding a well ($3900) in another Ugandan village.

People love to give when it truly makes a difference.