This is a word thrown around a lot in YWAM, and for good reason as we claim it is our main purpose. But what is missions, really? What are the limitations to this word? If the idea behind missions is simply to share the gospel – to take the love of Jesus that we have read about and experienced and put it on and share it with others, is there a limit of what missions can look like? Often when you think of missions, or a missionary, certain images come to mind. I know for myself, images of building wells and orphanages under the African sun pop up immediately. Also skirts, very long, heavy skirts. As it turns out, this is missions, but the interesting thing is that it’s only one form of missions. If missions truly is “to go out into all the world and preach the gospel,” then we have to actually go out into all the world; all the world: such as orphanages, but also hospitals, café’s, businesses, media, the list could go on forever. Yet, very rarely do we hear stories of people taking the love of Jesus into their everyday lives as “missions.” And that’s what this blog series is about, bringing a new perspective to this idea of missions, and what it truly means to live missionally focused lives.
So with that in mind, I decided to sit down with Hayley Kowalski, to gain some of her perspective in this area. Hayley originally hails from Chicago, USA and at 20 years of age is the assistant manager of the Oval Café. She is also a missionary.
The Oval Café is just one of the many ministry outlets YWAM Harpenden uses to exemplify the love of Jesus. I sit with her in the main room, the atmosphere buzzing with excitement from coffee being made behind the bar to the warmth of the families sitting next to us radiating. Just talking with her it’s easy to see that she has a joy within her for what she does. As we sit I ask her a few questions about her chosen profession.
“I have a huge passion for community building and for creating a kingdom culture atmosphere,” she tells me.
I consider this. But, surely you could do that anywhere, why have you chosen to be a part of running a café in a missions focused community, if you could do this anywhere and get a pay check for it?
“I feel like if I worked at a secular café I’d really struggle with my integrity. A lot of café’s are about up selling, and that’s not what we’re about, we’re about blessing people,” Hayley tells me.
Blessing people. Wow, there’s an idea. Hayley actually believes in the idea of blessing people and receiving nothing in return, not a salary, not a tip, and perhaps not even a thank you.
“I can’t show them all the love that God wants to give them but I can show them a piece of it by doing the best that I can do. I feel like this is a place of honour and I feel like this is a place that God wants to show a piece of his love through us.”
What has been the response to you living and working in this way? I ask.
“I’ve had some of my atheist friends think it’s the strangest thing, but really cool. They really honour that we’re doing good things for people. They don’t understand the gospel or anything, but they really love that we want to make the world a better place.”
But why YOU? I ask. Why is this your responsibility?
Her eyes light up as she responds, “That’s everybody’s responsibility, isn’t it? He says ‘love your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.’ And that goes along with ‘love your neighbour as yourself.’” People like Hayley inspire me, to be honest. She believes not only in Jesus, but she has decided that her life is to be telling the story of Jesus with her actions. She believes in the cause of Christ and believes that she can exemplify it in everyday actions such as serving someone a cup of coffee and providing a space where they feel safe.
“I think it’s just really important to know that God is in everything,” she says to me, “people’s lives can be changed by the littlest things, just by hugging someone can change someone’s day, a cup of coffee can change someone’s life and this is a place where you sit down and you build community.”
It may seem small when you discuss the grand scheme of the world, when you contemplate poverty and war and inequality issues, it’s hard to imagine that something so simple could change anything or make an impact. But the truth is that people like Hayley are changing things. When we choose to use the things that God has given us to tell the grander picture of his love, we make a difference, and people see that. Every day, people walk into the Oval Café and experience the love of Jesus. Every single day Hayley and her staff are influencing someone for the better. They believe in honouring one another and offering their lives to Jesus so that others can encounter Him. This is missions.
(Photos: Lauren Malpass)