- Associated Press - Sunday, August 21, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Sister Jobita Thachuthara George is an unlikely barista.

A year ago, she moved to Mandan from southern India to work with the Spirit of Life Church as a Carmelite sister, The Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/2bnNmZg ) reported. Today, she lives out her vocation by serving espressos at the Jocutla coffee truck, a project of the church’s Mother Teresa Ministry.

“Come taste and see the goodness of the Lord,” she is known to cry out to the uncaffeinated guests.

Dressed in her habit, the sister dispenses coffee and the word of God.

“When they see me as a sister, they share their happiness and sadness,” she said.

The truck serves gourmet, organic coffee drinks from a distributor in Mexico. Profits from the 2-month-old business support the food pantry and homeless outreach efforts of the church.

“It’s a little more ambitious than just asking for help,” Monsignor Chad Gion said. “We want to run this like a business. The charity side is what goes on in the church.”

The truck got its start about a year ago when Cheryl Hansen, the business manager at Spirit of Life, met Mayela Assad, a young coffee producer from Mexico. Assad had come to Mandan to escape violence at home, and a mutual friend introduced them.

Assad wanted to bring her coffee to America, and Hansen saw an opportunity for the church.

At first, they had trouble understanding each other. Assad spoke little English; Hansen spoke no Spanish. Each is learning, though they still use a translator for business discussions.

“It just sort of evolved,” Hansen said.

The coffee is grown along the Gulf of Mexico in the Veracruz region; all of the beans are grown organically and hand-picked. Assad recently won top honors for her brews at a competition in Europe.

Assad is temporarily back in Mexico; but while she was in the United States, she trained the monsignor and the sister on how to make the coffee just right.

“There is definitely a correct way to do it and a lot of incorrect ways to do it,” Gion laughed as he demonstrated the proper way to press espresso.

Assad described the response to her product in Mandan as “fabulous.” Many people have quickly become regular customers.

In October, the church will open a year-round operation at the new strip mall in Lincoln. Employees and volunteers will serve coffee and food at the new location. There will be seating for at least 50 people and a room for meetings and events.

Lance Hagen, the mall’s developer, said it will be a good fit for Lincoln, which lacks a coffee shop or deli.

“We need something like that,” Hagen said.

After expenses, all of the profits will support the Mother Teresa Outreach program of the church, Hansen said. These include a food pantry, a daily hot meal, and rental assistance for the homeless or needy. Profits will also go toward the transitional housing unit the church is opening at the old junior-high school in Mandan.

Hansen said the coffee truck has already made about $5,000.

Hansen said she wants to use the coffee shop as a place for job training of people who receive help from the ministry.

“The whole process is driven by mission,” she said. “It gives us even more incentive, since the outcomes we generate can go on to help so many more people.”


Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

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