Originally written April 9, 2012
A lot has changed in my life since arriving in Melbourne as a missionary on January 10, 2007 and I have learned many lessons (a lot of them the hard way) about ministering in the Aussie culture. Looking back on the last five years I remember experiences that revealed truths about the way Australians live, and had a dramatic impact upon my life. One of the most important ones was the night I had my first cappuccino.
If you come to an Australians house for a meal or to visit then they will offer you a “cuppa” which consists of drinking a cup coffee, tea, or hot chocolate with desert. If you don’t drink any of these things that’s fine but I suggest at least drinking a glass of water unless you want their head to explode. Just kidding their heads won’t explode but seriously mate, drink the water.
During a fellowship dinner at a pastors house a few months after arriving on the field his wife asked whether or not I would like a Cappuccino instead of my usual cup of tea. After saying yes she came back about five minutes later carrying the cup as if it contained a priceless treasure and handed it to me; the room got very quiet as I took my first sip.
From that moment on I have been a proud cappuccino drinker and arch nemesis of anything in America called a cappuccino. Of course the hit of caffeine wasn’t what stuck with me but the conversation we had during that evening and spending time with close friends. Melbourne has cafes on every street corner it seems but not because people are desperate for their daily coffee fix. Walk into one of those cafes and you will find friends sitting and talking for hours because deep connection through conversation is a massive part of Melbourne’s culture.
Now to be honest sitting down in a cafe and talking wasn’t necessarily my idea of ministry in Melbourne. After years of raising support I was there to WORK not sit around sipping coffee! Thankfully the Lord showed me that it wasn’t about drinking massive amounts of coffee but connecting with Australians in a way that was meaningful to their culture.
In 2007 Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book entitled Tipping Point which explained that small choices can make a huge difference in our lives down the road. For me accepting that cuppa and becoming a cappuccino drinker was a Tipping Point in my ministry because of the countless conversations I have had since then over cups of coffee. And instead of being a waste of time the cuppa is one of my favorite ministry tools.
Each culture has connection points in them or opportunities to develop relationships with the people, and taking advantage of these points is a crucial part of ministry. Whether its learning more about teens struggles by playing a video game with them (it helps if you die a lot like me), watching a movie that sparks discussion about Christ, playing a sport together, or catching up at the local cafe they can all be used by God. So next time put down the water, get a cappuccino instead (unless your in America) and ask how your friends day has been. You may be amazed at what happens next.