UM REPORTER By Mary Jacobs Staff Writer.
October 1, 2009
October 1, 2009
Thanks to an ecumenical group of donors and volunteers, U.S. soldiers are enjoying fresh cups of coffee, sent from home and served with love by over 125 chaplains deployed in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The initiative, known as “Holy Joe’s Café,” was started by Thomas Jastermsky, a member of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Wallingford, Conn. And it’s earning high praise from United Methodist chaplains “on the ground” in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The chaplaincy is a ministry of presence, and coffee is a way for more real interaction,” said Mr. Jastermsky. In the past three years, Holy Joe’s Café has shipped over 110 tons of coffee to military outposts overseas. Chaplains use the coffee and supplies to set up coffeehouses, offering free refreshments to military personnel, as well as quiet places to converse with chaplains and friends or to write a letter home.
Maj. Karen Meeker, a United Methodist Army chaplain, called the donations of coffee and supplies from Holy Joe’s “a miracle in our midst.” She helped operate a coffeehouse called “The Lighthouse” while serving in 2008 and early 2009 at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan.
“Thank you so much for your incredible generosity,” she said in an e-mail to Mr. Jastermsky. Some 1,500 cups of coffee were served the first night the Lighthouse coffeehouse opened. At the airbase, hundreds of troops passed through day and night on their way to and from dangerous missions. “A warm cup of coffee and a place to sit down for a moment is a tremendous comfort to our troops fighting the enemy in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan,” she wrote. “You are making a difference in the lives of our young men and women in uniform.”
Another United Methodist chaplain, Major Steven Ashbrook in Camp Taji, Iraq, praised Mr. Jastermsky for securing thousands of pounds of coffee as well as tea and other supplies for the “Mudhouse” coffeehouse he helps operate. “When our slushy machine went out, literally in minutes he had a donor lined up, to go out and buy us a new commercial grade machine, which cost $2,000 plus shipping to Iraq,” he said. “He has found numerous donors who have given us countless bottles of coffee syrups, and vendors who have donated thousand of dollars in goods and services to help us to do ministry here with the troops on the ground. “This guy is a ‘Godsend’ to us here in Iraq.”
Churches and individuals get involved by ordering fair-trade coffee through UMCOR’s Equal Exchange program to send to Holy Joe’s Cafés. For ordering instructions or more information:
call (888) 970-7994, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org,
or visit http://www.holyjoescafe.blogspot.com/.