Kids and grandkids were all gathered together to celebrate Marcia Mell’s 80th birthday. As 80th birthday parties go, this was a perfect time to share and reflect on memories from a long life. Each grandchild honored their grandma by sharing a favorite memory of her; dinners, recipes, or time spent together.
One grandson turned the question to Marcia and asked, “What has been a highlight of your life?”
The answer came easily and without hesitation, “Coffee Break!”
“Why is that Grandma?”
“There is nothing like seeing God change lives.”
And that’s what Marcia has seen over and over again in her 45 years of involvement with Coffee Break. When she and a friend decided to start a Coffee Break in Orland Park Christian Reformed Church, their only training was to observe the first Coffee Break leader ever, Neva Evenhouse, lead her group. After that, they just jumped in with lots of prayer and confidence in God’s leading. Marcia can talk of how their Coffee Break and Story Hour grew quickly and about the excitement of a church full of women and children one day a week. She remembers handing out invitations outside of a grocery store and distributing them by door-to-door canvassing. She has a binder full of special event ideas used throughout the years and remembers fondly planning two Coffee Break Conventions, including the first one ever. What especially makes her happy is the page-and-a-half listing of people who came to her church as a result of Coffee Break. She knows the story of each one; of how studying the Bible with others at Coffee Break brought them into a fresh relationship with Christ and his Church, some for the first time.
God’s story is woven into Marcia’s story. It’s worth paying attention to certain movements of God that her story gives testimony to.
- Marcia remembers being challenged to “get out of the boat”, to get out of her comfort zone. This means moving outside of comfortable church circles and being about the work of inviting. It means being concerned for those who are not Christians. Marcia was inspired to go about personal evangelism by inviting everyone on her block to Coffee Break. As she went door-to-door, one woman was not home. That didn’t bother Marcia too much, because she knew that neighbor would never come to Coffee Break anyway. After two weeks of God nudging her, Marcia finally gave in and went back to invite this neighbor. She said “yes”! It was a beautiful moment when more recently this neighbor told Marcia that she knows everything she knows about the Bible because of Coffee Break.
- An evangelistic heart draws you into all kinds of relationships wherever you go. As Marcia got to know her neighbors around their summer trailer, she learned that one woman was a bartender who had been hurt by the church, causing her to never want to go back. Interestingly enough, Marcia met a bartender who is part of the church they love to attend while at the trailer. Before heading home for the fall, Marcia struck up one last conversation with her summer neighbor. She was led to talk about this great church nearby where another bartender goes. The conversation ended with the woman asking Marcia if they could go to that church together next summer. Of course, Marcia can’t wait!
- Marcia has taught each of her groups to pay attention to the Holy Spirit. Often, when a person unexpectedly comes to mind, that is the Spirit’s nudge to pray for that person. What a blessing when after surgery a former group member called Marcia wondering what was going on. She hadn’t known about the surgery but had felt the Spirit’s nudge to call and care. Marcia’s teaching came back to bless her.
- Marcia noted that some of the people who have come to Coffee Break “take a lot of work!” There was the woman with few basic life skills who needed help finding a car so that she could find a job. There was the day a woman who had an abortion visited with Marcia at her home. Loving others takes time and effort. And that reminds her. A faithful Coffee Break attendee hasn’t been able to come for a while because of shoulder surgery. “I have to bring her a meal,” says Marcia.
Marcia wonders how to get the word out about Coffee Break. What are effective ways to invite in 2018? How do we cast a compelling vision to our church members so that they invite people? More women work now that 45 years ago. How do we adapt so they can experience Coffee Break?
And a word to the wise from Marcia to church leaders. Being a Coffee Break leader takes a lot of time and effort. Be encouragers. Be sure to thank them!