A little cafe on a mountain changing lives

There is a little café perched above the bazaar. It has windows that look out onto Tibetan prayer flags and rooftops covered in a patchwork of clothes drying in the sun. Beyond, the mountains stretch green into the horizon. The café is worn out and painted all in army green. It is faded, cockroachey and weary, and there is no joy left. It is losing money and will have to close soon.

The vision of the café is a great one: to support women from difficult backgrounds. To give them training and employment and purpose, while working in a Christian cafe. To mentor them in their faith and teach them life skills. And yet there are no customers anymore and the café has had its day.

3277689332_4afde1239e_z (1)I receive a call one night from my brother, the day before the café is to close and the lease given up. He suggests that I should take over the café and make it live again. Could I? The possibility is terrifying and exciting and ridiculous all at once. My passion was baking and I had years of on-the-ground café experience (ie, going out for coffee with friends in Australia) but my admin skills were negligible. How could I run a café? I turn it over to the Father and then I remember the day before my best friend here had asked me to pray for her that God would help her find an area that she could use her gifts of administration in – and she wanted it to include working with nationals. And so it begins. Cheryl and I and a team of nationals begin to make the café live again.

It was a labour of love that tested us again and again. We relied heavily on the Father’s strength. If it was not His will and if He had not empowered us, it would have ended before it even started. Cultural blocks and obstacles paved our way. Finding staff and training them took far longer than I could ever have imagined.

There were moments of incredulousness as I taught our staff to boil a kettle and slice bread, and then moments of joy as I saw our new waitress serving customers and clearing tables without being reminded. Hours of painting, cleaning, redecorating; including painting tabletops with blackboard paint so customers can draw as they wait. One table is covered in a collage of pages from old books, and all of it is under the shadow of the tree painted on the roof.

The café is designed to be a place of rest for weary travelers, and rest for those who work there as they find shelter in the shadow of the Most High.

The labor of love was so worth it. The café is now bright and airy. It is quirky and fun and there is a joy that pervades. It offers delicious baked goods, fresh food and yummy drinks.

We now have four incredible ladies who work in the café. They are beautiful in a way that I have never known beauty. Their stories are mostly of pain and rejection, and yet they shine with inner beauty and resilience. When we first met them, they were obviously broken and had stories of suffering behind their downcast eyes.

One was abandoned by her husband and rejected by her family. She had nowhere to live. Another is physically disabled, and another is supporting her entire family after their father left them because they were all girls. The ministry of the cafe is primarily to them. They have found acceptance and identity through their work at the cafe. At staff meetings they are often in tears as they express how their workmates are now family to them and they have so much more self worth.

Two girls didn’t know Jesus when they started working at the cafe, and now through the love and testimony of another girl who is a believer they have accepted Christ. They are being discipled in their faith. Their eyes now shine with joy and hope. They are now bringing their families to church as well. Through these girls the light of Christ is being shone to all they know; their families, friends and their whole villages.

Our hope and prayer is that all who come into the café will experience something of the love of Christ. Through the service they receive, the Bible verses on the walls and the Christian books on the shelves.

Supreeti had been married a short time when her husband decided to take another wife. When she objected, he said he would leave her if she didn’t agree. She didn’t agree and he left. In this society, she was seen to be at fault and her family rejected her. For months she moved from unfriendly relative to unfriendly relative, until she heard about the café and was offered a job. Her personal rejection affected her so deeply. She wouldn’t look us in the eyes, and she cowered when we spoke to her. After a year of love and acceptance and meeting Jesus, she is a new woman. She is Christ’s bride – perfect and without blemish, never to be forsaken. She works cheerfully and has a new joy and purpose. Jesus has changed her life and she is full of the joy of His love.

My hope and prayer for the café is that it would extend its reach to include more women who need freedom and hope in Jesus. That we would continue to bless and train the women who are already working there. I can see this happening but it depends largely on increasing our income. It all comes down to the fact that we need more customers to be frequenting the café. We will keep doing what we can to improve the quality of the food and baked goods and keep praying that over time, this little café with a big heart will grow to bless the entire town.