Sunday, December 28, 2008

Alliance World Coffees and the CIMT

It's unseasonably warm for Central Indiana when my father and I roll into the poured-gravel parking lot of the "Coffee Church" in Muncie, Indiana. Muncie is nothing like the town that Steven Spielberg showed us in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. For starters, there are no mountains here like you see in the movie. It is unbearably flat here, save for the rolling shores of the White River as it cuts like a fat snake through the heart of "Middletown USA."

A few minutes before 9:30AM, Guy Pfanz bounces into the lot, driving his small car. The man that emerges seems taller than the car can accommodate but he manages to unfold himself into a tall and slender form, topped off with a sleek grey hat.

Moments later, my father and I are inside, shaking hands with Guy.

The church looks about as normal inside as it did from the outside, save for the gourmet coffee bar in the lobby, decked out with some serious coffee-making machinery. Guy switches on the steam-powered instruments and then digs for his keys. We follow him away from the lobby as the bar gurgles to life behind us.

Slipping outside, we leave the main building and twist around the back corner. No more than 10 feet away, a modest secondary building swallows us. Stepping inside, we are immediately wrapped in the comforting aroma of freshly-roasted coffee beans and burlap. This is where the magic happens. As Guy gives us the tour, we meet a gorgeous roasting machine, a warehouse stocked with un-roasted coffee beans from several countries, and a laboratory-styled room where the various blends are drafted and eventually refined.

The whole experience was inspiring.

Those who labor here are mostly students, interns who are specifically focused on growing their spirits and learning a trade. Each is provided housing (if needed) and paid a stipend from the coffee business to offset their living expenses. By the end of their internship, they will have learned a valuable set of new skills (both practical and spiritual) and will walk away with no new debt to show for it. The model is beautiful and I intended to explore ways that we can apply it similarly for our students in Haiti.

After the tour, we returned back to the lobby where the luxurious coffee-making-machines were eagerly waiting for us. Guy poured my father and I a couple of beautiful cups of Java and we sat around and proceeded to delve deep into conversation.

By the time we left, Guy, my father, and I had agreed that what we are collectively doing is deserving of some form of partnership, some form of shared-learning and information exchange. I really cannot speculate about what that might look like, but I can promise you, if there is something to be gained through community and cooperation, I am completely open and welcoming to it. As Guy expands the work of the "Coffee Church" to include a possible video production internship, we will be readily available to offer our advice, encouragement, and support. Beyond that, the possibilities for student exchange between Muncie, USA and Cap Haitien, Haiti has already been considered and the river of ideas has begun to freely flow.

For more information about what Guy Pfanz and his team are doing, or to order your own bag of extremely-high-quality coffee, please visit Alliance World Coffees online.

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