Holy Joe's Café
Tom Jastermsky, Wallingford, Connecticut
Holy Joe's Café is a place where chaplains in the small Forward Operating Bases, hangar bays, hospitals, aid stations, and their makeshift chapels are able to bring a taste of home to the tired, the anxious, the angry, the lonely, and the wounded. They all can enjoy gourmet coffee—a reminder that the world they willingly left behind still cares and is still there waiting for them to come home. The impact on our troops is truly immeasurable!
— CHAPLAIN SHOLTES
This is the story of how Holy Joe's Cafe got started and just a little bit about what it has meant to folks. Holy Joe's Cafe is a volunteer outreach of the First Congregational Church of Wallingford Connecticut, which ships ground coffee to deployed chaplains in support of their ministry to our troops.
In 2006, I heard about a military chaplain stationed in Sather Air Base in Baghdad who was in need of coffee. I love coffee and like to help so I began working to figure out how to get coffee there. I called the national office of the United Church of Christ and through our conversation the UCC leadership saw the huge impact coffee could make and got to work. Rev. Gundlach and Rev. Mike Lake started talking with the UCC Coffee Project provided through Equal Exchange. Jan Ressenger of the UCC Coffee Project and Peter Buck of Equal Exchange created the logistics to get our project off the ground. A fellow church member and business owner helped package and ship Holy Joe's coffee for the last seven years to hundreds of chaplains in combat zones throughout the world.
Holy Joe's Café is a tremendous ministry multiplier. The Combat Support Hospital had sections making their own coffee but as soon as we started Holy Joe's, we immediately went through 80 cups of God's nectar. We now move over 120 cups a day!
— CHAPLAIN Snyder
Small touches of home can have a big impact on solider morale and welfare. The warming effects of a cup of a coffee on a soldier’s body and soul are as important as its caffeine content. Back in the states, coffee shops line the street corners, but in places like Afghanistan comforts like a cup of coffee are few and far between!