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Coffee Chronicles

The coffee roaster at Federico's coffee shop where I buy my green coffee beans. Federico is a friend we met last term who's recently become a disciple of Jesus. (Photo is from One of the great things about having the opportunity to return to Merida has been the blessing pick up where we had left off–to catch up with old friends. Certainly there have been some sad occurrences: our pastor, Orlando Vazquez, a minister with over 50 years of experience and our good friend, went to be with the Lord in October. Still, there have been joyous ones as well. Take for example what has happened in the life of Federico.

A few years ago, I had posted about one of my favorite things, coffee. In that post, I talked about the significance of coffee in my life. Among other things, coffee is what had led me to strike up an ongoing conversation with Federico. Federico roasts and sells coffee in downtown Merida, and he’s my source for green coffee beans for my own home roasting enterprise. At that time, although interested in religious things, Federico lived on the outside looking in, close enough to comment on the goings on within religious circles, but too far away to experience the transformational power of life with Christ.

We talked about many subjects during those first years here in Merida, political, social, and religious alike. We talked about our personal problems as well. And while there was many a time where I had turned the conversation to present Christ’s solution to our social enigma, to talk about the difference that He had made in my life, and to show how his life could be different as a Christ follower, I never had the chance to welcome him personally into life in the kingdom.

Imagine my joy then, when I returned and saw the change in Federico. Since I last saw him, he’s talking about his relationship with Jesus, he’s been attending an Evangelical Christian Church, and he’s finding ways to invite others to experience the change that the Lord has made in his life. He’ll be the first to admit that he’s not perfect, but he’s certainly tasted and seen that the Lord is good, and he’s committed his recourses, his business, and his life as tools in His hands to make a difference in the world around him.

Was it our conversations that made the difference in his life? At this point, it’s difficult to determine, but it’s wonderful to know that Federico is no longer on the outside looking in, he’s a changed man, and what a blessing it has been to celebrate it with him.

(Photo from

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Ahhh… Coffee.

Coffee SmileKelly and I had a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of the everyday as we were looking for a birthday present for a local pastor’s wife. With the kids being watched by fellow missionaries and the present acquired, a stop at the local Segafredo Café gave us time to talk, plan, and enjoy one another for a while. Kelly ordered an Oreo Frappé, and I ordered my usual Espresso Macchiato. My recent sickness had kept me from heading out, and our stash of coffee at home was depleted, so expectations were high as we awaited our order. I’m happy to say that not only did the coffee meet our expectations, but that mine arrived with a smile.

The smile got me thinking. We have found coffee to be more than just a morning pick me up. Kelly and I have seen our relationship grow stronger and other relationships formed within the conversations we’ve shared around coffee. We’ve now had several Yucatecos over our house to enjoy a cappuccino or a vacuum brew, and, much more than enjoy the coffee itself, they’ve opened up their lives to us, sharing thoughts and feelings that we’d never hear in other settings.

I’ve also found open doors to relationship where I purchase my coffee. There is a small café near the foot of Paseo de Montejo called Café Cafico. There the owner, Federico, roasts and sells coffee from all of the growing regions here in Mexico. He has been my source for the raw coffee that I use to roast at home and good conversation as well. We’ve talked about everything from Mexico City, to the political system, to the Catholic Church in my twice monthly “meetings” with him. Yet we’ve also talked about man’s problem of sin and the need for relationship with Christ.

Who’d thought that when my brother bought me my first Mr Coffee 4 cupper at CBC that I would be lead on a journey to discover, not only how to create a great cup of coffee, but also the revealing and redemptive relationships that form around this beautiful beverage. Espresso anyone?

There is a saying in Costa Rica that reads, “Lunes ni las gallinas ponen”, which means On Mondays, not even the hens are laying. We certainly can relate to Mondays in that way. With all of the activities and projects, it sometimes seems like we need another weekend in order to rest from our weekend. For this reason, it is important to start off with a good breakfast to get our energy going, and on days like today, Costa Rica’s national holiday of Labor Day, we have the time to prepare it.

For starters:
Of course, no breakfast is complete without a good cup of coffee, but how to prepare it? Prepare it Costa Rican style, café chorreado. First, you need a chorreador, the coffe maker pictured in this post, which essentially is a cloth bag suspended by one of a various arry of wooden frames. I picked up what I thought was a fairly attractive one for about $12. The coffee, ground fairly fine, is placed in the wet bag at the desired strength. (I prefer 2 tbls. per 6 oz. of water.) Then, water, just off of the boil, is poured over the grounds slowly, so as to create a stream, or “chorro” from the bag into the cup. The result is a fine brew that allows the natural oils of the coffee to pass through to the cup. And although many Ticos have switched to the “coffee maker” because of convenience, the choreador is still the most repected way to make coffee.

The main course:
OK, the coffee is taken care of, but what to eat? Gallo Pinto of course! The traditional breakfast food of Costa Rica, Gallo Pinto consists of beans, (normally black) and rice to which is added cilantro, bell peppers, onions, and the top secret ingredient, Salsa Lizano. A truly Tico flavoring that gives gallo pinto it’s charateristic taste. Added to this is usually eggs, the tomato for color, and in this picture, some Mexican chorizo or spicy sausage. We added it to give the meal some Mexican zing. (We are missionaries to Mexico.)

So there you have it, a good Monday morning pic me up. Sorry that this came on Tuesday for those of you who are subscribing via email.

Coffee is more than a morning beverage here in Costa Rica. It is the product that transformed this country into what it is today. In the 1800s when coffee was first brought to Costa Rica, this country was a small, remote, unimportant part of the Spanish Empire. But when coffee was introduced, the people found that the product flourished in the rich volcanic soil and high altitudes that were readily available.

The superior product soon created a demand, and the Costa Rican government, wanting to speed production, provided incentives for farmers to begin to cultivate coffee. Not only did this bring about the Costa Rican coffee industry that is know world-wide today, but it also created a strong, independent middle-class that has hosted the 2nd oldest democracy on the continent. (US has the oldest.) For Costa Rica, coffee truly is the “bean of gold.”

The students and faculty of CINCEL recently took a trip to Britt, one of the most recognized producers of coffee here in Costa Rica, in order to gain a bit more appreciation for this wonderful drink that has played a large role in the shaping the Costa Rican culture.

Click on the picture to the left, or here to view the photos of the tour.

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The New Year has begun with a bang, literally, here in San Jose. It all started with a get together in our house, where the language school students, as well as several of the resident missionaries rang in 2006 with some highly competitive games of UNO Attack and Cranium , as the kids stayed up to celebrate amidst the explosions of bottle rockets and firecrackers throughout the neighborhood.

Following a groggy first, I drove for the first time here in San Jose (good thing I had a license), practicing in order to get the new students arriving on the third to the grocery store to pick up their first round of necessities. Following a slight detour onto the autopista, we were able navigate successfully thorough the streets of Curridabat and Zapote, arriving at our house a little wiser, and perhaps older from the excitement.

The new students arrived on the third, full of excitement and wonder as they hit the tunnel leading from the airport and into the Costa Rican night. Memories rushed back of our first days here. It is hard to believe that it has been 4 months since we’d landed. Among the arriving students were Josh and April Amiot and Peter and Delia Breit, fellow missionaries to Mexico, and we got to pass along the favor that Missionaries Mark and Sandra Smith did for us as newbies here at CINCEL.
Some other items:

  • The trimester starts tomorrow with a welcome lunch. We begin classes on Tuesday morning.
  • Mike (my twin brother) was mistaken for me during the World Missions Summit you can read about his experience at his blog.
  • We tried for the second time to view the crater of the Volcano Poas, but we were unsuccessful as the clouds kept us from reaching the top. We did stop at the Tres Generaciones coffee plantation again, this time for the tour. We’ve added more pictures to our coffee collection for your viewing pleasure.
  • Kelly updated her blog with more about the kids and the goings on in the Godzwa household.

Christmas was different this year. Usually, we have our schedules full of family events, bouncing back and forth between Kelly’s family and my own in a dizzying array of dinners, shopping events, and get-togethers. This year, we’ve pretty much stayed put, and aside from sharing Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinner with our missionary family here in San Jose, we’ve been in our house catching up on some cleaning, snatching time to play games with the kids and of course playing with those cool presents that we got each other.

My present this year was yet another coffee maker. If you know me (Dave), you know that coffee has been a hobby for me, at times bordering on an obsession. I roast my own coffee as well as prepare it in a number of different ways in a number of different coffee makers. This latest coffee maker, a coffee syphon, or vacuum coffee pot, is something that I had owned before, but there is a distinct difference about this one.

This coffee syphon makes coffee like all others. You pace the coffee in the top of the maker, while the water goes into the bottom. As the water in the bottom is heated, it rises through the tube and into the upper portion of the maker where it is mixed with the ground coffee. Then after a few minutes of brewing, the heat source is removed and the brewed coffee is sucked back into the lower container, resulting in a perfect cup of ground free caffinated goodness. (You can use decaf as well.)

The difference in this pot is that the heat source is an alcohol burner, that’s denatured alcohol friends, and that is what makes it an extra special coffee gadget. There is just something about watching the flame lick the bottom of the pot that makes this method so intriguing.

Isn’t that the truth about fire in general? It has a certain mesmerizing quality about it, be it in a campfire, or a fireplace. It seems to cause us to just sit and watch for awhile.

So it is with those who have been touched by the flame of the Spirit of God (Acts 2:4). It seems that those who have really experienced the power of God in the way that the apostles did have a certain quality about them. A certain manner that causes others to take notice of them. It was true for Peter and John in the temple(Acts 3), for Paul in Lystra (Acts 14), and is true for us today.

So what should we seek for in the New Year? A better coffee maker? Perhaps, but ultimately, we should seek for the fire that will cause others to take notice, take notice not of who we are, but Who we represent.

Many of us would be able to finish that verse from the book of Zechariah from memory, and it is a comforting thought that this task of saving mankind has not been left to human devices. Of course, many of us draw strength from a much more earthly source of power as we begin our mornings. That morning motivator, coffee, is in abundance here in Costa Rica, and they don’t just sell it here they grow it here.

We recently had a chance to take a side trip to the Tres Generaciones coffee plantation, and I had a chance to snap some pictures. Click on the picture to take your own tour and sample the latest feature to our website, photo albums! Hopefully, you’ll never take that morning cup for granted again!

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