“I grew up going to all the wrong places with all the wrong people. When I got saved, I didn’t really know any believers or where to hang out anymore, so I spent most of my time reading in coffee shops. I came back to Fairhope and, you know, the enemy has all of these spots he uses to draw people into the world, so I wanted to create a safe place, a refuge, where believers and nonbelievers could bump shoulders and engage.”
Jim McLean planted the first Refuge Coffee shop in Guatemala during his time overseas. It became a place of worship, prayer, and strong community and is still running. After returning home, he opened another shop with this hope in mind, and was kind enough to expound on it for me one morning!
As I sipped an incredible iced cappuccino, I heard about the purpose Jim’s shop was built on, learned that his baristas pray for customers regularly, and listened to his desire to see Refuge as a haven for those passing through. While sharing, he mentioned a Bible verse, 1 Peter 2:11, which calls us sojourners and pilgrims. He said, “Really we’re all passing through, and don’t be deceived, we aren’t here for very long.” The reality of that interrupted the air with an almost tangible weight. With this pandemic bringing the entire earth to a halt, it’s hard to ignore the brevity and uncertainty of our lives.
I heard Jim’s story right at the start of Ten2 this summer, and it felt like a huge, wonderful analogy. This summer is an opportunity for all of us to remain in our hometowns and make spaces for conversation among the lost territory in our communities. As followers of Christ, we carry the presence of the Holy wherever we go, and He always has work to do. In this way, He acts as a traveling refuge for those passing through this life–a peace that is foreign to the laboring world, joy that can animate the most desperate, and love that gives of itself for the sake of another’s freedom.
Like this humble shop in lower Alabama, we are positioned daily to share refuge with neighbors who need it. That need will never go away as long as we all bear souls that live eternally. I can’t imagine what celebration awaits those who make their home with Christ one day, and what mourning for those who lose their chance to. I have been praying that God would take his followers confidently on “feet fitted with readiness that comes from the gospel” (Eph. 6:15) to those who have yet to make their refuge in him. Come and do the same!
In your praying, please say two for Jim and Refuge Coffee:
1) that the mission work Jim does in his Guatemala location can resume soon following COVID-19 closure,
2) that while Jim has been happy to see the dreams God gave him come to fruition in many ways, Refuge can start hosting intentional discipleship for younger generations, whether it be through Bible studies, prayer events, worship nights, etc.
– Haley Henson, Ten2 Project 2020 Participant & Storyteller