Much has been happening for Second Story Coffee Roasters, including small-scale renovation of the shop location, the pre-open of our business, the launch of our website allowing customers to join a coffee subscription club, and the planning for our grand opening event on June 4th. This has required all of us, all days of the week. (Though I usually spend at least one day fully in my PJs, drinking coffee and reading, to make up for it!) We had heard that starting a business requires the investment of your heart, your time, and your finances, and it is totally true. We are excited for what we have begun, but it is up to God now whether or not it will flourish. We still have not been able to find investors, please pray that God would provide them.
Because we are deep in the details and processes of starting a new venture, which one of my favorite people once described as "trying to take a drink from a fire hydrant," it is easy to forget the WHY of what we are doing. We have taken a time or two together as Second Story staff (Rob, Tara, and Masayoshi) to discuss, debate, and pray about what God has in store for us as a shop and business within the community of the Oya neighborhood of Shizuoka, Japan.
The vision statement of Second Story Coffee Roasters is the following:
We exist to cultivate a safe and vibrant middle space, where mainstream Japanese can encounter the values of the Kingdom of Jesus and experience gospel-centered community.
God is already moving within this vision, giving us relationship with the workers of the cafe next door to us, a few of whom seem drawn to us and with whom we have been able to discuss: What is the meaning of life? Why were humans made? Why do we exist? We are grateful.
But we are also exhausted, us and our fellow Second Story workers. Really, we experience the truth of 2 Corinthians 12:9, where Paul recalls God's words to him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." We are a weak and motley crew, four of us not native to the language and customs, none of us experienced in business, six children between us, some of us living with illnesses of varying kind, but ALL of us being brought to a place where we remember by WHOSE strength any of this is possible. Several times a week, I have the thought, "What we are doing is CRAZY. Why would God choose us for this job? For the job of living in Japan even?" But the answer to that is never far behind, when I am reminded softy of the heroism of our Creator, who challenges his people to daily pick up their cross and follow Him, to be willing to be a weak tool in His strong hand, for ends and goals known mainly to Him alone. Following Jesus into the unknown of faith is the job of every Christian, and we are greatly encouraged by thoughts of His people around the globe, doing hard things for Him.
Please pray with us for the success of this business, so that it might open doors to the Kingdom for the people around us. We long to see the impact of Jesus's love on this Oya neighborhood, where we have lived and labored since our move to Japan nine years ago.
Wife, Mother, Founder, Writer
Previous posts from Jamie and SSCR.
My husband Bryan is a risk-taker. It's something he is well-known for, from his love of climbing mountains to his willingness to try any new food set before him. Raw horse, anyone? Squid still squirming? You name it, he's ready to try... He even held a job after college repelling from the roofs of tall buildings to wash windows. Risk – something necessary to business, particularly new startups – is second nature for him.
It is well known that I married my opposite. I love safety. I love things being nailed down and decided. I don't have a risky bone in my body and usually only attempt new things after much research. Needless to say, the new interesting food items on the menu when we moved to Japan weren't calling my name. Our move to Japan itself was a huge leap of faith for me. Though I was completely convinced it was God's desire, my natural inclinations and instincts fought me the whole way, even for years after our move.
And then God led us to start a business.
Though we find ourselves on different ends of the personality spectrum, Bryan and I experienced similar feelings and thought processes about opening up shop in Japan. The question of WHAT we would do was always answered for us: we both had storied histories with coffee culture and had dreamed about how our loves of coffee and people might intersect. Bryan had made easy friends and connections in the coffee industry of our city and greater Japan, so God was already opening doors. But a business? In Japan, of all places? The paperwork, all in a second language – an arduous language. The stress stories from other entrepreneurs, with the added stress of a different culture. We can't own property, get a loan, or sign up for a credit card here – how would we pay for it? And if we are somehow able to begin, how could the two of us possibly sustain it? What if the business fails? What if we can't find other workers and collapse under the pressure? What if it turns out that we are horrible at business?
Without answers to these questions, Bryan and I began taking turns playing the roles of doubter and encourager for one another. We both knew the truth that God never promises success, but always promises His presence. We also knew that obedience is the safest place to be, even if it looks risky or downright crazy from the world's perspective. And God had affirmed us time and again, through the mystery of His peace, through the encouraging word of a colleague, and through the excitement of our Japanese friends and neighbors. Some of those friends breathed sighs of relief, saying, "So you're really going to stay, then?" We were ready to give it a go; in fact, a fire had been lit and we NEEDED to do it, even if it would be crash-and-burn. We trusted that God would lead us, and He would either open doors to success in this venture, or He would close them and teach us in the process.
So far, like so many stories of those following Jesus, it has been one risky leap of faith after another.
Wife, Mother, Founder, GEN Desk Writer
Previous posts from Jamie and SSCR.
After a particularly crazy December, I finally carved out an hour to hole up in the local Starbucks and compose my introductory blog for the GEN Desk explaining Second Story Coffee Roasters, our missional enterprise in Japan. My coffee had arrived, my computer was open, my earbuds were in -- and just a literal moment later, my phone buzzed. A text message, written in Japanese: "Are you at Starbucks?" I looked up, puzzled, mainly because I didn't recognize the Chinese characters of the author's name. How do you read that kanji again? "Yes, I'm in Starbucks. Where are you?" I glanced around for a familiar face as I typed, hoping I might remember the name that went with it.
I didn't need to wait long, because she showed up at my table: a woman I'm slightly acquainted with through my volleyball league. She asked if she could join me, though I was clearly there to work and even said so. Nonetheless, she grabbed her bag and sat down, which is unusually forward for a Japanese person, so I took the hint and closed my computer. This was outlined long ago in our cultural training, right? To let go of expectations and go with what comes? I took the opportunity to practice, and found myself excited to have coffee with a new friend.
She and I talked about the normal things of life: work and children, medical appointments and shopping, daycare, school life, and trips we'd taken. It was essentially an hour of chitchat. The time I had set aside to work had been totally enveloped into conversation with this woman, whose name I would later look up and make a note of so I could actually use it the next time we met. I mentioned the time and we parted ways, she to get groceries and I to pick up kids. I was musing over our meeting in the car, when realized that God had given me my blog post, though I hadn't written a word. That simple conversation about day-to-day life in Japan? That was at the heart of our desire to start a missionally-minded business.
When we worked in traditional ministry with college students, though we had good relationship with the young adults that came to our home, we felt out-of-sync with the culture at large. While everyone else's husbands were at work, mine was available to help. Whenever anyone asked what our job was, they quickly became lost after we tried to explain. We were living our lives in a way that was very different from the people around us. Though we had moved to their country, studied their language, and sent our children to their schools, there was a part of the nominal, everyday chitchat that we just didn't get. We keenly felt the ways in which we could not relate to our Japanese friends and neighbors, from childhood memories to language, skin color, family culture, and even worldview. But we felt that if there was anything we could do to bridge the gap, enabling us to understand the hearts and minds of our friends just a little bit more, we wanted to do it.
This is one of the reasons we have started Second Story Coffee Roasters.
Wife, Mother, Founder, GEN Desk Writer