Monday, April 16, 2018

Missions and Coffee: It's Epic

Why this interview?  Why Epic Coffee and Justin Hopkins? I love a good cup of coffee.  I have a heart for missions.   I know that THE most effective ministers are ministers who are bring the Word and the Spirit into their own language and culture. So when I ran across Justin on a Christian bloggers board I am a part of, his story flipped all the switches!  I'll let you tell you more in his own words.  (By the way This post contains affiliate links.  Your price is the same when you click through our link.  But MaidservantsOfChrist does earn a small commission on your purchases.)

Hi, Justin. Welcome to Maidservants Of Christ.  Tell us something about yourself. Where are you from? Married? Family? Where did you grow up? What's your educational background?  What do you do for fun?

How Do You Like Your Coffee?  Epic Coffee- Missional, Fair Trade, Batch Roasted CoffeeThank you. It’s a privilege to be here. I grew up in Austin, TX, and my life has been graced by my amazing wife, Leah Hopkins. We have three sons, from thirteen to seven years of age. I am a graduate of the Southwest School of Bible Studies, hold a B.S. in Human Development from Amridge University, and a graduate diploma in Christian Education from Southwest Graduate School of Bible. I enjoy spending time with my family, and of late have been doing a lot of camping and hiking with the boys.

Ministry, missions, small business and coffee--that seems like a counter-intuitive combination. What led you to this unique combination? What inspired you to roast coffee to help support yourself? When did you go into business? What services do you offer? What kind of ministry do you do? Tell us something about your congregation. What's your favorite part of your job(s)?

That’s a great question. I’ve wanted to preach since I can remember. I think a lot of that had to do with growing up at the Southwest congregation, and spending time with the preaching students and their kids. After graduating from SWSBS myself, we went into local work. Currently, I’m preaching for the church in Itasca, TX. It’s a small congregation, but they’ve got a big heart, and are determined to make an impact in the community. Our other work is under the oversight of the elders at Granbury St. in Cleburne, TX.

From local work, we transitioned into a supported ministry creating Bible class curriculum, and study resources. That all started when my wife wrote her first book, which is a study of purity for teenage girls. Even though I’m not a teenage girl, I highly recommend it. Since then we have been privileged to publish a number of great books and study tools. We spend A LOT of time working on curriculum. We have a one-year Bible survey that will be finished up later this year, Lord willing. Also, I provide teacher’s workshops and evangelism seminars for congregations here in the States. My next Teacher’s Workshop will be Saturday, May 12, at the Fort Sam Houston congregation in San Antonio. You can check out what we’re doing at https://Azimuth.Media 

The coffee came next, I guess. It started as a hobby about two years ago, and just kinda grew. Now it has reached the point where it is beginning to help some with our support, and I really enjoy it. Over the years I’ve gotten to know Gage Coldwater and the Manna Project and have been impressed with the great things he is doing overseas. Somehow or another the topic of coffee came up. One of the things that Brother Coldwater has been doing is helping preachers become self-supporting through agriculture. He’s been working with brethren in a few coffee growing regions, and they aren’t really getting a fair price for their coffee right now. I just couldn’t let go of the idea of getting my coffee directly from our brethren and helping them spread the Gospel in their own communities. So, that is what we are focusing on doing.  

Tell us about the coffee part of your business!  What is your favorite thing you sell for your own morning cup of joe? How do you source the beans? How was your coffee different than what I get in the supermarket? How long does it take to roast the coffee? Describe the process? How long does it take from end to end? What would you improve about your process if you could?  

My favorite coffee? That’s a hard one. Each coffee has a unique flavor profile that is affected by the soil, altitude, rainfall, and other environmental factors, as well as how it was harvested, and how the coffee beans were extracted from the cherries and prepared for shipping. One big thing I have noticed is that most people have been conditioned to prefer a dark roast. However, the darker roasts actually have a lower caffeine content. Also, the darker roasts tend to bury the unique flavors of each coffee, making everything taste more like the roasting process than anything else. So, I prefer lighter roasts, which allow me to enjoy each coffee for what it is. It is truly amazing how different two different coffees can taste, even when they come from the same region. Right now, I’m drinking our coffee from Narino, Colombia

I am contacted periodically by different importers, wanting me to try this, that, or the other coffee that they have in stock, and occasionally they’ll send something that’s exceptional and I’ll bring it in. Usually, though I work through direct-trade relationships to select the coffees I want, and to make sure the farmers are treated fairly. I’m very excited about our growing relationship with the Manna Project, and I’m looking forward to supplying coffee directly from Christians to Christians soon. This summer while I am in Uganda teaching in the preaching school there, I am planning to meet with some of our brethren there that raise coffee and work on moving that relationship forward in a way that will help them out. 

The actual roasting process doesn’t take that long. I am using a roaster that I had custom built because, well, nothing like it existed. I build a natural fire using Texas Oak and Pecan and crank up the heat to around 450 degrees. After my stainless-steel drum is preheated, I load it with green coffee, and start roasting. It takes about 8-12 minutes for the coffee to be roasted. After that it’s got to be cooled off quickly to keep it from turning into charcoal. To do that, I’m using a custom-built cooling tower, that uses dry, HEPA-filtered air to cool the beans. After that, it’s into heat-sealed bags to lock in the freshness. I’m pretty happy with my process right now. As far as I know, I’m the only roaster doing anything like it, and it gives a subtle, mellow flavor to my coffees.

Missions: Money from your sales goes to missions, a cause near to my heart. How do you choose the mission to go to? Can you tell us the details of one of those missions?  Have you been a missionary yourself? 

A portion of each sale is donated to the Manna Project. I’ve selected that work for a couple of reasons. 

1. They are working with brethren that are growing coffee and helping them to support their families (without American money) while preaching the Gospel. 

2. It is through them that I am getting connected with these brethren and forming relationships that will hopefully help them find more financial security while growing my business. 

The Manna Project is overseen by the church in Vidor, Texas, and is the only thing of its kind that I know of. These brethren are making inroads into mission points that are further off the beaten path, and are experiencing explosive growth, often converting entire churches to the true Gospel. Then, they help the brethren in these areas grow spiritually, and train preachers there to go out into the surrounding villages. They are working as partners, not as benefactors, which really empowers those brethren to do great things on their own. In several places the local brethren are now sending out missionaries themselves.

I have not yet been blessed to teach the Gospel outside of the United States, but I am excited to be going this summer to Uganda. I’m still raising the last of my support for that trip. While I’m there I am going to be teaching in the preaching school at Kasese, hopefully helping with some local work, and also meeting several preachers who are growing coffee so that we can talk about how to make their crop more profitable, and figure out an economical way to buy directly from them.

Did your work as a small business owner or coffee roaster teach you any spiritual lessons you’d like to share?

Running a small business is full of spiritual lessons and opportunities for growth. One thing that I have really appreciated about it, is that it has opened doors for evangelism that are often closed to “the preacher.” When I introduce myself as a coffee roaster, conversations start (usually over a cup of coffee), and folks are often more receptive to studying the Bible with me than they would be if I was “the preacher.” It has reminded me that some of our most effective evangelists, and some of the greatest opportunities to share the Gospel come with a job and a paycheck.

If you aren’t drinking your own coffee, what’s your favorite?  Do you brew at home or go out?  What’s your brewing method?  Drip, french press, percolator?  Do you drink it black? If not what are your add-ins?

When I’m not drinking my own coffee, I try to seek out the local stuff. The big franchises and national brands, probably as a product of their wild growth, often loose touch with the nuances that make coffee exceptional. A couple of weeks ago I stumbled across a local shop in Forth Worth called Sons of Liberty. I had a great chat with the Barista, who was serving up Onyx coffee out of Arkansas. It was a solid cup that I’d gladly go back for.
Where Does Your Coffee Come From?  Small-batch roasted, fair trade, missional coffee
I’m always brewing at home. If I happen to be out and about, I’ll grab a cup from a local shop, but that adds up if it’s a regular thing. My go-to method of brewing is the Chemex or the Hario V-60 pour over. It’s a clean cup of coffee with great body. If I’m in the mood for something a little bolder, or maybe quicker, I’ll grab a French press. Almost always I drink it black. That’s the best way to enjoy the flavor and body unique to the farm, processing method, and roast that the coffee brings with it.

In the afternoons lately, I’ve been reaching for the cold brew. For desert coffees sometimes I’ll go with Turkish coffee, Café Olla (a Mexican recipe), or a latte. 

What has the reaction been in your community/church to the fact that you are partially self-supporting?

I think folks have received it very well. Of course, at this point I’m still a long way from being self-supported, but it’s a goal. I almost never meet somebody who doesn’t want to talk about coffee, and that can open doors. I think that tent-making preachers may become more common place as time goes on. That is a two-edged sword. You become acutely aware of the increased demands on your time. It’s a balancing act. I’m probably more self-conscious and worrying about making sure that I give the Lord’s work its proper time, because I’m acutely aware of the sacrifices and trust of those amazing brethren who support me with their prayers and their funds. 

What do you love about being a minster? What’s not your favorite?

Several years ago I heard an older preacher say that the work of the Gospel is the only permanent cause. I love the idea that I can make a difference in people’s lives that will last into Eternity. I love seeing the lightbulb go off when somebody sees the simplicity of the Gospel for the first time. I love the look of excitement and peace when they come up out of the water. I love sharing that with other brethren who catch the fire. 

The downside is the haunting memory of those souls who turned away. Those that I couldn’t reach. I always wonder. Could I have said or done something different? Did I try hard enough? Was I Christ-like in all my dealings with them? All we can do is sow the seed, and trust it to grow, but it still hurts to see someone walk away from the truth.

See what I mean?  I'd love for you to go grab a bag or two of the coffee for yourself.  I'll be posting a review of the bag that Justin sent my husband and I to try soon!  Ready to find out more?  You can catch a video about Epic Coffee here. 

Catch me linking up at any of these fine places: Mommy-MomentsSpiritual Sundays, Inspire Me MondayHolly GerthThe Mom GeneGood Morning Monday,  The Modest Mom BlogMoments of HopeGod-sized DreamsGlimpsesBreakthrough Homeschooling,Be Thee Inspired,

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  1. This is very interesting. Justin mentioned several local congregations, but not a church name. I'm just wondering what church he is involved with?