WALLINGFORD (02/08/2008) -- On Pentecost morning 2006, Thomas Jastermsky, a Deacon at the First Congregational Church, UCC in Wallingford, heard an announcement by the boyfriend of an Air Force reservist stationed in Baghdad. As he reported that the base chaplain there said they needed coffee, something spiritual began to stir in Jastermsky. “From then on, the Holy Spirit sort of grabbed me and said, ‘Hey, this is for you,’” he said.
With the support of his church, he began raising money locally and seeking national corporate support for the initiative that has come to be called Holy Joe’s Café. A major component of this coffee ministry has been the donation of shipping by one of the church members. Through this coffee ministry, the support initially offered to troops in Iraq has been so effective and so well received that the outreach program has grown to assist over 50 chaplains in Kuwait, Afghanistan as well as Iraq.
Holy Joe’s Cafes provide a morale boost for the troops in a quiet, relaxed atmosphere, giving them a chance to be physically, emotionally and spiritually renewed. It brings a little taste of home to those far away from family and friends and provides an opportunity to speak with their chaplains in an informal setting, where they can offer spiritual care and a good cup of coffee.
Coffee may seem to be an unlikely ally of the Gospel, yet in the hands of a chaplain it can enable meaningful ministry, addressing an individual’s normal reactions to the sometimes extreme situations and stress encountered in a war zone. In these safe spaces, soldiers can come to talk and gain perspective on their experiences in war, while developing a rapport with a skilled pastor. The momentary respite and comfort found in a Holy Joe’s Café can help troops return to us as healthy, functional human beings, capable of loving and caring for others and themselves.
Jastermsky has received many letters and e-mails of thanks, including this from one chaplain, Captain Jeff Smith. “Because of what you are doing, we are opening another “coffee house” down at our motor pool. This is where the majority of our Troopers work and spend most of their day when they are not out on mission. My hope is to provide a place where they can come and get some coffee, tea, hot cocoa, treats, and be reminded of God’s love for them.”
Jan Resseger, UCC Minister for Public Education and Witness, has praised Jastermsky’s efforts, offering “many, many thanks for setting up this very original and important ministry.”
Whether or not we agree with our country’s policy with regard to Iraq, we can offer our troops a cup of coffee, reminding them that they are remembered, cared and prayed for through the ministry of our military chaplains and Holy Joe’s Café. To support Holy Joe’s Café:
- Donate coffee via Equal Exchange, which partners with the UCC Coffee Project. Orders: 774.776.7366. There is also a link to Holy Joe’s on the UCC’s Coffee Project page at www.ucc.org/justice/coffee-project/holy-joes-cafe.html.
- Monetary donations are also accepted. Checks should be made payable to First Congregational Church, attn: Holy Joe’s Café, 23 S. Main St., Wallingford, CT 06492.
For more information, please contact Tom Jastermsky at 888.970.7994; or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Chaplain Mike Lake, at email@example.com. Congregations and individuals can support the Coffee House Ministry and simultaneously participate in the UCC Coffee Project by sending Equal Exchange Coffee to the military Chaplains in Baghdad.