As a brief introduction to this post it is important to know that I will be in Rwanda from June 23 – July 11.
Stories connect us. I’ve known this for a long time but have only recently have been able to capture the sentiment in words. We learn about and from each other mostly in terms of telling stories. Fiction or Nonfiction, illustrative or biographical, stories are all around us and deserve to be heard. One of the my favorite poems I like to perform is entitled “Every Story Matters”. It tries to communicate the importance of hearing and being a part of others stories. Over the last 20 months or so I have had the honor of being a part of an eternal story with Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Company. I’ve known of the company before working with them. I understood they had a special relationship to the people of Rwanda, the coffee fields and the forgiveness after the terrible genocides that continue to define the country. What I’ve been able to see and experience working for them is my simple acts, joys, frustrations, customer interactions, coffee brewing, and small moments of grace are connected to stories of love, gardening, forgiveness and mercy halfway around the world. By being a part of this company I have been able to be a part of an entire country’s epic story. So have countless others who might not receive a pay check from us, but enable the work to be done because of their decision to drink coffee with a greater purpose.
Being a member of the LOTH team means we are also a part of the specialty coffee community, this means not all of the coffee we sell, brew, and enjoy is not directly from the farmers we have created personal relationships with in Rwanda. Coffee is a tremendously glorious thing that has a million different things that happen to affect it’s flavor, one being, the origin in which it is grown. As a coffee professional I get to experience the joy of Guatemala, the brightness of Nicaragua, the sweetness of Natural processed Ethiopian. By tasting these other coffees I have “traveled” the world with my taste buds. I have never actually been to or even know who grows that coffee. The coffee we are most invested in is Rwandan. It is this coffee I am most proud to brew. It is the story Rwandan farmers I have participated in from a distance. That distance is about to close dramatically. Soon I will be boarding a plane with our Roast Master and overall amazing guy, Mike Singletary. We will land in Kilgali Rwanda meeting up with our founder and CEO Jonathan Golden to meet and learn from people like Manu our agronomist and most direct connection to farmers like Laurant, Andrew, Alphonse, and others. There will also be people from around the US traveling about a week later for us to show them around. These are individuals who partner with us mostly by purchasing our coffee and telling our (and their) story who now get to see what they are a part of first hand.
I don’t really know what to expect when I get there. I’ve had the incredible honor to learn and hear stories from people have been there already, my boss Jonathan, also Sarah and James from Kula Project. Every time I hear their stories and see their pictures I notice the smiles, I notice the infectious joy that casts out fear and sadness. I notice the people know what it’s like to follow the words of Jesus to forgive those who persecute you more than I can even imagine. The people that know me well know that I don’t shed tears very often and I don’t know if I will when I’m there for almost 3 weeks. I do know that my entire coffee life, my ministry life, my poetry life, seems to be converging on this trip. Words will fail and poetry can’t communicate what it will feel like to taste a coffee cherry, to shake the hand of a coffee producer, to pray with those I have only thought I have been affecting with my typical day of selling and brewing coffee.
I’ve heard a lot that this is going to be a trip of a lifetime and I don’t disagree. I’ve tried to imagine what it’ll be like and I can’t. I’ve stared at pictures taken by others who have already experienced what I’m going to and it seems too surreal to picture myself there. So as I go on this trip I expect to be overwhelmed, I expect to be changed, I expect for God to show me things He has already done there and is continuing to do. I am truly grateful to be traveling with Mike not only for his friendship but his connection to coffee so I can learn from his expertise and questions as we learn together from Manu. I am grateful that the story of Thousand Hills Coffee includes gracious hearts that have allowed me to step into the lives of humble coffee farmers who probably have no idea the impact they have on people everyday looking to enjoy coffee. I am thankful for the people who enjoy the coffee and might be clueless to the impact they are having on the people I am about to meet. I am thankful for my wife who I will dearly miss. I am awaiting in anticipation for my heart to explode and be able to bring back with me the stories I will hear and be connected with. It’s amazing that I have created cups of coffee, enjoyed them and thought of a farmer in Rwanda but have never experienced their hand shake or smile and now I await with expectation to be a part of their story and for them to be a part of mine that can never be disconnected.
I will be constantly updating this blog while I am over there so fee free to follow along with me or with Mike: http://landofathousandhills.com/fromtheroastmaster/ Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook