We were privledged to be featured in Living Sent Ministries stories about how our social enterprise seeks to make a Kingdom Difference by Jerry Moll.
A living sent in cities application example comes from Fresno, California. Fresno has the second highest rate of concentrated poverty in the Unites States. It is a city of over 500,000 people. The story of Lanna Coffee, a Fresno-based coffee business, is a wonderful example of living sent in cities. Its story contains missions initiatives that are both internally and externally focused (www.lannacoffee.com).
Lanna Coffee found its roots 55 years ago in the lives of Richard and Marlene Mann. The Manns went to the northern mountains of Thailand with the goal of freeing villagers from the cocaine drug trade and sex trafficking. Their solution to the problem was coffee. The Manns formed The Integrated Tribal Development Program (ITDP). ITDP’s goal is to eliminate poverty in the northern mountains of Thailand. Today, over 25 villages are growing coffee that is 100% owned by the villagers.
Lanna Coffee works alongside the ITDP to purchase the coffee for distribution in the U.S. market. Lanna Coffee is a small social enterprise [a sustainable nontoxic company for the social good]. It has a goal of dedicating 25% of its profits to the coffee-growing villagers of Thailand. By purchasing the coffee from the ITDP and returning some of their profits back to Thailand, the company embarked upon an external missions strategy. The profits will be used for clean water, education, and healthcare. At home in Fresno, the company is achieving internal missions objectives. It employs people in Fresno (internal missions), a city of high unemployment, and distributes its coffee to local coffee shops as well (internal missions). One such shop is in downtown Fresno, an area where business is desperately needed.
What caused Bryan Feil, CEO of Lanna Coffee, to form the company? Here’s how Mr. Feil describes what happened:
Lanna Coffee got started initially to be a US distributor of the coffee that is grown by our partner in Thailand. Groups and teams were coming back from Thailand with roasted coffee and selling it. We thought why not import green coffee, roast and distribute it, then send funds back to Thailand. This process would help continue the amazing work in health care, education, and clean water. Fresno is a great spot in Central California that is lacking in quality coffee roasting. We thought that we can add to those that already exist here and continue to serve those in the valley and beyond. (B. Feil, personal communication, December 15, 2015)
In the case of Lanna Coffee, one sees an example of “business as missions.” In other words, the sum of the total is greater than its parts. Lanna Coffee wasn’t just formed to make profits; it was also created to do social good. Mr. Feil sees God at work in Lanna Coffee:
In all that we do in work, life, and education, I believe we should be living sent. God has created us with skills to use for his Kingdom. My skills are business, and seeing people come out of a transaction feeling served and blessed. I want those who drink coffee to know that each cup is making a tremendous change in opportunities for those who worked so hard to grow and harvest it. Coffee is an amazing crop that requires lots of work with hands. I believe coffee making is an amazing spiritual work that has been given to us to accomplish. Coffee is not only enjoyed but makes spiritual deposits and provides a way out of poverty for generations to come. (B. Feil, personal communication, December 15, 2015)
Mr. Feil’s work at Lanna Coffee is a blessing to the Kingdom of God on multiple fronts. First, there is an internal missions focus by the hiring of people in Fresno, a community of high unemployment. Second, by buying coffee from the Thailand growers, Lanna Coffee is helping to lift people in Thailand out of poverty (external missions). Third, when Lanna Coffee sends profits back to Thailand, it is on an external missions strategy again. The leadership of Lanna Coffee demonstrates the value of living sent in a city at home and in villages abroad. A scripture that drives home the importance of living sent in cities, and particularly with Lanna coffee’s work in Fresno, is Jeremiah 29:7: “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city…because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”