Early one Saturday afternoon at the Grand Prairie Campus, before any of the pastors had arrived for weekend services, coffee grinders whirred and steam rose from the espresso machine as the Gateway Café baristas prepared for the weekend rush. But the noises subsided when a woman walked in the door and approached them. Tears were in her eyes as she told the Café team about her daughter who had committed suicide the night before. The only thing she knew to do was find the nearest church and talk to someone.

There were no pastors there to offer ministry, but without missing a beat, the baristas stopped everything to talk and pray with the woman. In fact, they had been trained to handle situations just like this one. After putting her in touch with the Gateway Care ministry, they went back to their duties at the café, and the sounds and smells of coffee being made returned.

There are several things you might be surprised to know about the Gateway Café. One is that the managers, supervisors, and many of the baristas attend altar ministry training in case someone needs prayer. Another is that from the time you give your name to the person at the cash register to the time you pick up your drink at the bar, the Café team prays for you. “We want to be more significant to the church than just making lattes and grinding beans,” says Barney Paradise, the director of the Gateway Café. “We look at it as our opportunity to minister.”

In addition to ministry, the Café team is dedicated to their craft—making high quality specialty coffee drinks. Of course, a lot of thought and preparation goes into a simple cup of black coffee, and it starts well before the coffee beans arrive at Gateway.

On the hills of South America, Africa, and Asia, farmers from small coffee farms grow the beans that will eventually end up in the cups of Gateway Café customers. We have partnered with Coda Coffee Company, who, for more than a decade, have traveled the world to find growers of high-quality coffee. They ship the beans to their headquarters in Colorado, where they are roasted in the world’s first recycled-air roaster. The resulting product earned them the 2014 Roast Magazine Roaster of the Year award. Their focus on well-made coffee is matched by their passion for helping the farmers and their communities. By paying the farmers a fair price, their communities begin to improve. So when you order a coffee from the Café, you’re helping improve the lives of people thousands of miles away.

The Café also helps people in our own communities. All the tips collected at all the Gateway Cafés go directly to benevolence at Gateway. You might think a dollar here or fifty cents there isn’t much, but in 2015 the Café gave nearly $15,000. And at the end of the year, when a tornado devastated residents in the city of Rowlett, Café employees and volunteers sprung into action to put together 400 boxed meals to send via Mercy Chefs to families impacted by the tornado.

At the end of each day, any remaining food products are boxed up and given to I Can Still Shine Shelter for Women & Children in North Richland Hills. “We love to give to them,” says Jamie Griffeth, a café volunteer. “And if we don’t have anything to give, a lot of times we’ll make something.”

The spirit of generosity and excellence at the Gateway Café has affected more than just the customers who grab a coffee before heading into the service. Several of the employees and volunteers have seen dramatic changes take place in their lives stemming from time spent at the café.

Last year Heidi Watson, a missionary who ran the Oasis Café, a small ministry-run coffee shop and bakery that reaches the community in Canilla, Guatemala, came home to Gateway, where she and her family have been members since 2009. When she arrived in Canilla in 2014 to work with Adonai International Ministries, she was put to work at the Oasis Café, which was located in a converted garage. It had dirt floors and a rodent problem, and it was losing money and running out of steam. But when Heidi took over, she helped it stay afloat for a little more than a year.

“I was the baker, accountant, and janitor, but I had never done any of that before,” says Heidi. “Sometimes God calls us to areas where we don’t have experience. I don’t even like coffee!” After about a year, she came to visit the Gateway Café, and when she returned to Guatemala things began to change at the Oasis Café.

Through the support and resources she was given by the Gateway Café team, the Oasis Café began to reach more people and bring in more money. Now it can afford to pay other employees to run the Oasis—something they’ve had to do recently when God called Heidi back home to Texas.

Although her time at the Oasis Café has ended, Heidi’s connection with the Gateway Café has continued. If you’re ever at the Gateway Café at The King ’s University campus, chances are Heidi will take your order and make your drink. Since returning home, she’s serving at the place that did so much to serve her when she was on the mission field. “I had a lot on my shoulders, but Gateway held up my hands when I was in the battle,” she says. “I learned to trust God when He calls you to your weakness.” 

For more information or to volunteer, email cafeserve@gatewaypeople.com. For café hours at each campus, visit cafe.gatewaypeople.com