Crossing barriers with coffee
A cup of coffee is so much more than a person's preferences of milk or sugar. Inviting a friend to share a cup of coffee is inviting someone to share life, the highs and the lows, and everything in between.
Mel served short-term with SIM Australia in South Sudan and is preparing to return to Africa to serve long-term with SIM in the future.
Coffee. It’s a drink that crosses barriers — whether it’s a cappuccino at your favourite café down the street or the bitter, gingery goodness that is a South Sudanese boon. A cup of coffee is so much more than a person's preferences – “milk or sugar?” Inviting a friend to share a cup of coffee is inviting someone to share life, the highs and the lows, and everything in between.
I think fondly of my time in South Sudan and the many cups of sugary, thick, black coffee. I think of the amazing women that I met and was able to do life with: the young mothers with babies in their arms and the old "habobas" (grandmothers) with grandchildren all around. I think of the ex-pat women whom I served alongside, far away from their own home countries. Some of these moms homeschooled children, and other women worked at the clinic or school. Each and every one of these women are amazing and strong.
South Sudanese women work had physically every day, cooking, cleaning, and making sure that there is enough water. They would often slave over hot charcoal in 40-degree heat to put food on the table. Mentally, these women are resilient. Many have seen the horrors of war; they have had to flee their homes or listen to planes fly over as bombs were dropped. They have lost loved ones and had to start over in another new place.
Amidst the hardships there is joy; a new addition to the family or someone getting married. The joy of seeing a loved one who has come back after being away. Regardless of the joys and challenges women face around the world, they come together over a simple cup of coffee to share life.
In some ways, a woman is like coffee. She is rich, fragrant, and able to withstand heat. When heat is added, it brings out the strength of flavour and fragrance: sweetened with sugar, spiced with ginger or cardamom. The combination of all these ingredients creates incredible flavour.
As I drank cups of coffee with women in South Sudan, I appreciated the sharing of memories and stories. Stories of life, love, and loss. Stories of freedom and hope. Stories of God and his love for us. Each person has a different story. One works at the clinic as a cleaner, another is a refugee from the North who sells peanuts while her husband works at the market. Another proudly proclaims to people walking past that I am her Sudanese sister when they call me a "foreigner."
It was a privilege to be able to call these women my friends. I may not live in South Sudan any longer, but part of my heart will always be there. I think of the copious amounts of cups of coffee that I enjoyed, the sweetness of fellowship, and the strength, resilience, and determination of women in South Sudan to persist despite the harshness of life.
Pray for SIM's ministry in South Sudan. If you think God could use you to share coffee and the gospel with people in South Sudan, contact SIM.