Starbucks Ministry


Maybe you think missionary work is slashing through jungle vines with a machete (wearing a pith helmet, of course!) Or maybe it’s teaching Bible studies and doing evangelistic outreaches. Or how about translating the Word of God?

All of those, are true. And yes, I’ve even done the vine-slashing thing in years past. And now most of my time is spent translating God’s Word and teaching the group of believers here.

Did you know that missionary work can revolve around coffee? (Now maybe more of your are feeling “called”?!)
It’s a fact. It’s not the coffee so much as the relationship. Taking time to fellowship and develop relationships while drinking coffee.
Abil loves coffee. He’s the main teacher in our fellowship of Palawano believers here. We’ve known him since he was around 14. He’s closer to 40 now. Quite often he stops by my house in the late afternoon. First he fills my generator and transfers gasoline for me (the fumes are bad for my asthma, so I have him do it for me.) Then he comes to my porch to hang out. So I serve him coffee.
So the relationship is give-and-take.. he helps me, I caffeinate him (mine’s decaf in the afternoon… yeah, the middle aged type.) Fair deal. Coffee (and sugar) are expensive for him, so a free cup means more to him that it might to most people where I come from. He’s grateful and that doesn’t hurt the relationship, ya know?
But the coffee drinking is only the context. It’s the time we have together sipping our coffee and chatting that matters.
Sometimes we do nothing more than drink our java and chit chat. Palawano small talk deals with farming (how’s your rice doing? where’s your next rice field gonna be? when are you gonna plant? etc.). It also deals with weather (a big topic among farmers. Surfers are into knowing the weather, too, but there are no Palawano surfers.)
A waste or time? No way. All those low key times of sipping (slurping, actually… that’s fine in Palawano manners) and chatting, all those visits were there is no “agenda” and it’s just relaxed hanging out, all those times make it easy for Abil to bring up other issues when he feels the need. Then on those days, we have good discussions. Non-threatening, indirect and seemingly coincidental, which is important in a culture like this. Abil would feel embarrassed if it was obvious that he came with a heavy agenda. But if he comes all the time, then today it’s more like “Oh, by the way, Uncle Bill. There’s this situation…”
Over the past few years, Abil has “coincidentally” brought up quite a variety of topics and issues. Sometimes I can help, sometimes I cannot. But it’s usually an encouraging time just to be able to discuss things together.
He updates me on the political situation in here and the latest news on the mining company that is trying to move into our area. We have discussed issues in the church… sin, backsliders, new believers, you name it.
A few times, Abil has had science questions, or questions related to things he heard on the radio. Often, he has some passage of Scripture or a doctrinal issue he wants to get my input on.
He has asked me what to do about community issues. For example, the local school teacher and others in the area with generators and TVs were showing what he considered “bad” movies and letting the Palawano kids see them, usually for a nominal fee. That’s our version of the theater, but he was concerned about the content and the values being taught, and about unwelcome culture change being initiated.
A few days ago he asked me if I could make his son a new birth certificate, since it was incorrect (it had the older brother’s birthdate and birth year!!) I said that, unfortunately, while I have a computer, any document I made would not be considered valid. So he has to take the error-ridden certificate to our municipal seat. Sadly, that is several days’ travel from here and the transportation costs are no small problem. I laughed when he told me, “I’ll wait until next year just before the city council elections. Then they’ll do it for free. If I go now, it will cost a lot of money to process the correction.”
I am grateful for Abil’s friendship and the chance to visit with him over coffee. And I thank God for his leadership role in the church. I count it a real privilege, too, to have even a small part in his life. Pray for me that God will continue to give wisdom in what to share and how to communicate it well.
Discipling men like Abil is a big part of the future of the Palawano church.
And hey, I get to do it over coffee!

About billdavisthoughts

From San Diego, CA. I've been a missionary and Bible translator in the Philippines for over 30 years and have travelled as a language learning consultant to 15 countries. I play piano and guitar. I write, read voraciously and love to work on word puzzles. Married for 35 years, we have two daughters and two grandchildren.
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