November 2011 – While many people struggle with the challenges of daily life, contributing to mission work may seem like a luxury. Yet the key to finding the time and money for missions could be in your fist – or in your mug, to be precise.
What if you didn’t have to go any farther than your coffeepot to reach the world? What would that look like?
It might look like More than Coffee, a Columbus, Ohio, company that donates 100% of its profits to fund ministries around the world. Nick Lamatrice founded More than Coffee with the vision that evangelism could be part of everyday life and as simple as pouring a quick cup of coffee. Begun on behalf of Lamatrice’s local church with the goal of increasing its capacity to support missionaries, MTC now helps other churches support ministries around the world.
A mug for missions
The inspiration for MTC came from Tony Jones, a missionary in Haiti who exported coffee to fund his work.
“He introduced me to the idea that we can take something profitable,” Lamatrice said, “something that people really want, and we can funnel that money back into God’s kingdom.”
After being deported from Cuba for his underground evangelism, Jones landed in Haiti where he continued evangelizing, despite the dangerous environment. That is where he met Lamatrice.
“He has no fear,” Lamatrice remarked. “He’s gone into the middle of voodoo circles and started preaching the Gospel.” Jones’ lifestyle exemplifies Lamatrice’s life verse: “In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
By making contact with isolated farmers, Jones showed Lamatrice how buying coffee could be used as an evangelistic tool. This is made possible by practicing what Lamatrice calls “direct trade.”
For MTC, that means buying directly from farmers in places like Haiti, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and eliminating the many middle men typically involved in coffee production. This cuts the cost of importing and allows MTC to pay the farmer more for the coffee.
“We pay the farmers a very good wage, anywhere from $2.25 to $5 per pound,” Lamatrice said, “Then they’re able to feed their children, put their kids through school and buy clothes for them.”
In addition, direct trade involves small, family-run farms that have more control over how laborers are treated and what farming techniques are utilized.
“It’s nothing new that the farmers in the third world are often exploited by businesses in the developed world,” Lamatrice said. However, it is the low profit from traditionally marketed coffee that forces farmers to pay their laborers, who may include children, very little. While this may be a “necessary evil” of large-scale coffee production, MTC is able to avoid this problem through direct trade.
A way to witness
Direct trade also enables MTC to build relationships with farmers. Thus, the business integrity displayed by MTC serves as a witness to farmers and workers.
“At the end of the day, we’re just treating them the way God treats us,” Lamatrice said. “We have an obligation in the way we do business with people to reflect not only the grace, but also the character of Christ.”
MTC’s mission is intended to have a far more lasting impact than economic improvements alone. Lamatrice makes this clear, saying, “It’s about changing and impacting lives for Christ. Our goal is certainly not to create a middle class; it’s to win souls for heaven.”
A look at the management of MTC testifies to the truth of this claim. MTC does not have a paid staff. “Everybody who works with us is a volunteer,” Lamatrice explained. “This is what enables us to give away all the money we generate.”
Lamatrice personally puts in many hours as a volunteer while supporting himself and Lynsey, his wife of three months, by managing rental properties and operating a company that does real estate maintenance and remodeling.
“More Than Coffee is just the way I can use the talents God has given me to glorify Him,” he concluded.
MTC is simply the way one man answered Christ’s call to engage in evangelism, a way that allows others to do the same every time they drink a good cup of coffee.
“More Than Coffee will make great Christmas gifts,” said AFA president Tim Wildmon. Groups may also raise funds for their own projects through MTC’s fund-raiser opportunity. For more information visit www.morethancoffee.org or call 614-448-4454.