Throughout our time in Guatemala, we have been meeting many different people who execute very different aspects of ministry. My eyes have been greatly expanded to the variety of different approaches these amazing people of faith have taken in their ministry. From Tita, who runs three academies in a poverty-stricken and violence-filled community, to David, whose cafe is very similar to BSHOP’s model, to the Siclose’s, who employ a business as mission cafe. Very different approaches to the same goal: bringing heaven to earth and shalom to their community.
And all this in only the month we’ve been in Guatemala.
I’m sure there are thousands of others using many other different techniques all over the world that are just as effective. But here are my observations on business as mission (BAM).
Gabor and Candy Siclose are amazing! They felt God’s call to move to Guatemala four years ago and have been here ever since. Gabor is into the coffee business, both because he loves the drink and because he sees the huge sociological and economical disparity there is between the farmers who pick the coffee beans to people in Madcap back home in Grand Rapids. So, in the process of asking why that was, God revealed to him what he could do about it. As Ryan Waalkes often states, “Now that you know this, the only excuse you have for not doing anything is that you just don’t care.”
But Gabor did something.
He started a coffee shop in Tourist Central, Guatemala (aka.. Antigua). To the common passerby that may be all it appears to be, another of the many corner cafe’s in Antigua. Oh, but it is so much more than that. And this past weekend we had a once-in-a-lifetime experience how GuateJava is way more than just another coffee shop.
We left around 2pm on Friday, and picked up Gabor and Candy. Then we drove four hours through the mountains to Santiago Atitlan. Little did we know, but the next morning would have a huge impact on our view of conscious consumerism.
Gabor took us out to a coffee cleaning plant. But not just any coffee cleaning plant. Gabor works with them directly to provide the coffee that he sells in his cafe, GuateJava. Gabor partners with five different coffee cleaning plants around Guatemala that he buys his coffee beans from. These coffee cleaning plants in turn get there coffee beans from thousands of farmers that are literally everywhere around Guatemala.
At the plant, we got a tour of the cleaning process. Unknown and surprising to me, the beans grow on trees and when they are ready to be picked look like red cherries.
After they are picked by the numerous farmers that contributed beans to this cleaning plant, they are put into a huge cement vat. Once in the vat, they usually sit to ferment for 24-28 hours, depending on climate and such. The batch we saw had only been in there 12 hours. Once they are ready to be sorted, one of the workers takes a giant hose to them. He hoses them into a chute that somehow sorts out the more red ones, which are of a lesser quality. The red beans can still be used but just aren’t as good quality of the yellowish colored beans.
After the sorting of the least quality beans, the rest of the beans go down a chute that continues to sort them. The lesser quality beans rise to the top and the water takes them to the end of the chute while the premium beans lay at the bottom of the chute. At the end of the chute the lesser quality beans are shoveled into white 10 pound bags to be sold at a lower price than the premium beans.
After all the sorting is done the premium beans are wheelbarrowed and spread out on cement right next to the chute to dry. We were even allowed to help wheelbarrow them over and spread them out with rakes.
Eventually, after a couple days the beans are then moved from the cement out to tarps.
There they sit for a week or so until they are ready to be bagged and shipped.
And all this was done next door to a giant lake and surrounded by mountains and Valcan de Fuego. We got a gorgeous view.
And the best thing about all of this is that Gabor is working with Ferris Coffee & Nut in Grand Rapids, Michigan to provide local churches around Grand Rapids with GuateJava coffee beans. Ferris already provides Crossroads Bible Church with Gabor’s coffee. So, Gabor connects one of downtown Grand Rapids fastest growing churches with coffee from Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala.
And he, unlike most buyers, workers extremely hard to provide the farmers with fair wages. He pays them what their work is worth. At his cafe in Antigua he employs locals to manage and employ it. None of his business is him coming in and showing Guatemalans how to run a coffee farm or cleaning plant. He doesn’t approach them from above, but as an equal. He is simply providing the world with better quality coffee, meanwhile caring intimately for every person who helps him accomplish that goal.
For Gabor and Candy, doing business as mission means just that, having a business that actually cares about its employees and the entire process of creating a brilliant cup of coffee. Talk about brewing change.