San Antonio Mennonite Church is caffeinating its support for refugees with a new food trailer that will offer coffee and baked goods.
Proceeds raised by Café Cotidiano will benefit families seeking U.S. asylum through the congregation’s ministries, which have offered shelter and trauma healing to refugees for more than five years.
Pastor of stewardship Katie Best said five families are currently living with the church at its La Casa de Marta Y Maria (The House of Martha and Mary) intentional community while seeking asylum.
“Having a bakery run by refugees is something I’ve personally felt called to do for the last eight years,” she said. “And then I became a part of this community and saw there are all these women who are incredible bakers.”
Supporters near and far who can’t physically visit can also purchase roasted beans, drinking tumblers and coffee subscriptions online at cafecotidianosatx.com.
Café Cotidiano opened to the public with a soft launch Sept. 21. The plan is to staff it with church volunteers and sometimes people from the intentional community.
“We provide them with housing and food and health care, we provide them with their livelihood, and they’ve been wanting to do stuff,” Best said.
The venture is not intended to simply fund the ministry. It can also provide empowerment to people — mainly women — who have been made to feel powerless. It’s a priority baked into the café’s name, which translates directly to “everyday.”
“When you’re reading the Bible in Spanish, el pan cotidiano is your ‘daily bread,’ ” Best said. “That’s where the words come from.
“In Latino theology there’s this idea of lo cotidiano, that positive local community change can’t happen unless it happens in the lives of women and stopping oppression of people groups in the everyday, the daily life.”
For Rosa Vasquez, who found herself in San Antonio after leaving her home in Honduras, the congregation and American asylum is her only chance for change. She has no local family or other place and would be without a place to live or work.
“I am very happy that God has given us this opportunity to be here and has given us people to help us,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity the church has offered us.”
Kabibi Bamuamba of the Democratic Republic of Congo noted how good it feels to serve with Café Cotidiano because she can meet so many different people.
“It’s a great opportunity to become a part of the community,” she said.
While COVID-19 has postponed or canceled a host of initiatives for churches and other organizations everywhere, Best said the pandemic may have actually hastened Café Cotidiano’s launch. The trailer will typically sit at the back of the church’s parking lot, which members are renovating. Local artists are also working to transform a small school bus into an apothecary selling things like fresh produce and handmade soaps.
“We’re doing this to provide support for the families, but we’re also doing it to connect with our neighborhood,” Best said. “This allows a drive-through outdoor space for the church to engage the community.
“There’s a really tightknit community around us, and we hope it can be a gathering place in our parking lot that’s safe for COVID. We hope to have picnic tables and string lights and hope it will be this little oasis in downtown San Antonio.”
Those local connections can complement more distant ones. Café Cotidiano is sourcing coffee beans from asylum seekers’ home countries.
“We started with Honduras, because a woman’s whole family still works on a coffee farm there,” Best said. “Then we have a family from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and we’re working on getting beans from there. We’re hoping all the regions will be represented in the beans we sell.”