on Thursday, August 15, 2019

Coffee drinkers everywhere know that a cup of coffee is more than a beverage. It’s an experience.

Coffee comes with shops – like NOBTS’ Café New Orleans – that allow you to escape the world and withdraw into your laptop, if you want to. Or, it can be the place where new relationships get their start.

After all, who hasn’t heard, “Let’s go get a cup of coffee”? Somehow, coffee makes conversation easier.

Yet, much of coffee’s mystique is its deliciously rich aroma, something even those who don’t like the taste can appreciate. For NOBTS students and alums, the smell of coffee brewing at Café New Orleans is as much a part of their seminary experience as anything else.

Melanie Lawler, (MACE, 2000), in her blog “Life in 744 Sq. Ft.” wrote about the gift of Café New Orleans coffee she received when she attended the alumni dinner at this year’s SBC annual meeting in Birmingham. The gift of coffee is a tradition at alumni events.

Lawler titled her entry, “Joy in a Brown Paper Bag.”

But not for the reasons you might think. She wrote:

"The gift elicits great memories of hours spent in the campus coffee shop studying, writing papers, and meeting with professors or friends. The only problem with my gift? —I hate coffee. Love the smell; hate the taste. Thus, each year I promptly regift my coffee when I get home."

Smell does indeed call up powerful responses. Memories. Thoughts of other times and places. One prominent psychology magazine went so far as to say, “Smells ring bells.”

Lawler left the alumni dinner with the brown paper sack of coffee in hand, though she knew it would never fill a mug of her own. As she walked through the convention center towards her car, she met a couple and learned they were missionaries now serving back home.

A former NAMB missionary, Lawler understands the cost and rewards of ministry and loves to retell others’ stories of their service to the Lord. As they walked and talked, the couple told of “great cities and obscure people groups,” as well as “celebrations and difficult events.”

Returning “home” was difficult, the couple explained, as it meant returning to a place that had changed, as people who had changed, and realizing that “home” in actuality was a place on the other side of the world.

Lawler learned too, that the couple were NOBTS alums. The man spied the brown paper bag in her hand and asked, “Is that what I think it is?”

Lawler knew then she had found the recipients of her next “regift.”

"I offered my paper bag to the couple with the explanation of my detest of coffee and watched as their faces beamed! They talked about how they remembered the smell and taste of this coffee and shared a story or two from their hours spent at the campus coffee shop."

When they arrived at the parking garage, Lawler and her new friends discovered that their cars “by God’s perfect design,” were parked next to each other.

In the quiet of a deserted parking garage late that evening, we hugged goodbye knowing that though our worlds of experience and the times spent at the same school differed, we were fellow pilgrims on a journey following our Savior.

That’s the power of the familiar. Maybe even the power of coffee.

Even when the coffee isn’t actually consumed, it can provide the soothing comfort of familiar times and happy places, all while setting the stage for new memories, new friendships, and hope.

Here’s the link to Melanie’s blog:   https://lifein744sqft.wordpress.com/2019/08/05/joy-in-a-brown-paper-bag/