Some might assume that the coffee beans of Costa Rica, Colombia, and Brazil flow throughout South America, making good coffee a standard in every country. Some might also assume that the diet south of the US border resembles Mexican food. Whenever I crave corn tortillas, only recently available in Chile, I have to go to a Mexican restaurant and pay $2.50 for a package of twelve, not quite the 39 cents a dozen you pay in California. Once I stuffed 120 of them into my carry-on suitcase (tortillas, not packages—but that’s another story).
As part of the naïve group mentioned above, I expected to find quality coffee beans when I arrived here in 1992. What a surprise to discover that instant Nescafe was the most common coffee served in homes! A few bags of beans could be found on supermarket shelves, but their flavor did not entice you to a second cup, and the only decaffeinated option came from Germany at about $18 a pound.
However, ours is a tenderhearted God. While I was learning to appreciate Nescafe, He let me know that my coffee grinder had not crossed the equator in vain.
For birthdays or Christmas, friends would send me Starbucks coffee beans. What joy! It was like keeping gold in my freezer, only better. One time, thanks to a kind group of touring Mennonites (which is like saying touring relatives when you are born into a Mennonite family), four bags of Starbucks beans cruised around the tip of South America before they reached my grateful hands. Not once has a bean been lost in those little folds at the bottom of the bag.
God knows that good coffee is a treat to me, not a need. Still, He has sent many of these treats my way, the one in August of 2003 being the biggest of all.
On a wintry Saturday morning, I packed my Bible and journal into a shoulder bag and set off walking toward a breakfast café about twelve blocks away. I was going on a date with my Lord Jesus. Time together in a cozy setting was my desire and need.
Crossing a park near the café, I remembered that Starbucks was coming to Chile and that their first store would be somewhere in this neighborhood. As I looked down the block, those familiar green letters jumped out. Wow! I had to go check it out, of course.
Though the building was not yet finished, I asked one of the workers when they planned to open. Not knowing, he pointed me to the man in charge, Carlos, an American. Seeing an empty Starbucks cup in his hand, my question tumbled out along with my greeting. Were they already selling coffee?! No, not for another week. Noting my disappointment, he asked if I would like a tour of the place. Yes!
Inside the beautiful locale, warmly decorated in typical Starbucks style, I felt reinserted into my own culture. Minutes later I felt even more at home when Carlos and I discovered we were brother and sister inChrist! Amazing! In the middle of an unfinished Starbucks far from the States, God gives two strangers an instant family reunion.
Arriving at the personnel training area, Carlos asked me what kind of coffee I would like. What? …Now? Yes, he would give the trainees experience with real public. Hurraaaaay! The youthful Chileans cheered when Carlos introduced me as their ‘first customer.’ Their very first customer in Chile? Not just in Chile, he informed me, but in all of South America!
Tears filled my eyes as I headed back to the park with my 20-oz. cup of Sumatra. On a bench in the warm sun, I pulled out my Bible and tried to read, but it was useless until my vision cleared. My dates with the Lord were far from predictable. Why did He care so much about the tiny details of my life? Why did He lavish me with His love in matters that had no eternal significance?
My goals that morning were not about evangelism or discipleship or Kingdom service. I just wanted a special time with my King, and that is exactly what He gave me, beginning with an unexpected treat. Coffee-flavored.
Gracious Father, thank You for your never-ending surprises of love and kindness. May they fill our hearts with gratitude and increase our love for You. Please protect us from being so busy with Kingdom work that we forget to spend time alone with our King.