By this point in time, I am guessing that many of you have heard about our plans for the revitalization of the old gas station/repair shop across the street from CLDI on the corner of South 29th Street and 1st Avenue South. But, in case you haven’t, allow me to share this new exciting project with you!
As a Christian community development organization, we are driven by kingdom principles to make the gospel of Jesus known in both our words as well as our deeds, much as Jesus Himself modeled to us as He went “throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people” (Matthew 4:23, NASB; italics mine). Immersing ourselves into the fabric of the community as neighbors and friends, we can’t help but be confronted by the challenges that plague our community – addiction, abuse, homelessness, broken families, neglect, and violence, to name but a few. Thank goodness for the gospel, for this ‘brokenness’ that is so apparent in the South Side is merely a visual reminder of the brokenness of every single person. The gospel is the good news that Jesus suffered on our behalf, though He Himself was innocent, to bring you (and me) to God! Thus, our hope is to herald this gospel message as we pour ourselves out into the community, convinced that there is a gospel response for the brokenness among us that leads to restoration, healing, redemption, hope, joy, life, satisfaction, and kingdom abundance!
So, the gas station. Why would a physical building be a concern of ours as we labor toward the transformation of people through the gospel? From the life of Jesus, it is clear to see that He cares not only for the spiritual well-being of a person, but He cares for them wholistically. Going back to the story of creation, it was God, the creative One, who made the heavens and earth; the sky and waters; the grasses, trees, and flowers; the sun, moon, and stars; birds of the air and fish of the sea; animals of great diversity; and finally, Mankind in His own image and likeness… and His creation was good! Perfect in fact. Though the world and everything in it was marred by the rebellion of Adam and Eve, a day will come when all things will be restored and there will be a new heaven and a new earth; a place where God will dwell with His people and no longer will be there be any death, mourning, or pain, but rather the fulness of His presence; life as it was intended to be. The prophet Isaiah, as instructed by God, called the people of Israel to genuine worship of God – to oppose wickedness, free the oppressed, share with the hungry, provide shelter to the homeless, and clothe the naked. Calling Israel to pour themselves out as a demonstration of worship unto the Lord, they would be like a well-watered garden, and the Lord would use them to rebuild, renovate, and make the community livable again. Obviously, on this side of heaven, the work of restoration and transformation through the gospel is but a shadow of what is to come. Until Christ comes, though we may know Him, we will still be plagued by the realities of a broken world – despair, cancer, heartbreak, and eventually death. Just the same, the work of “community restoration” will also take its toll as buildings will become old and outdated, cities will thrive and die, and business will come and go. But we press on in hope, tasting a drip of the sweetness of His kingdom now, and growing in our longing for the fulness of His kingdom to one day come.
Rail//Line Coffee was birthed out of this longing: to invest in a neglected part of our city, on the wrong side of the tracks, by renovating and re-purposing what might otherwise be considered blight to stimulate the economy of a marginalized neighborhood by creating employment and leadership development opportunities for at-risk youth and women. We believe that through this tangible investment in people and places that others deem worthless, we have an opportunity to proclaim the gospel message that all people are of tremendous value, have been created in His image and likeness, and thus have a capacity to know the One for whom they were created. This project provides us a redemptive entrepreneurship opportunity to breathe His life into the heart of the community.
The goal of this business is twofold: 1) the creation of a neighborhood coffee house; and 2) the establishment of an employment and leadership development program for at-risk youth and women. The program consists of three intermediate objectives and one final objective. The three intermediate objectives are Hard Skill Training, Soft-Skill Training, and Holistic Assessment. In addition to teaching our trainees how to be a barista, we will also teach them teamwork, problem solving, time management, customer service, and more. Lastly, we will address the mental, emotional, and spiritual health needs of our employees. This includes life coaching centered on addressing all aspects of their personal well-being. This will enable our trainees to arrive at the final objective of developing a solid skill set, becoming well rounded and self-sufficient, to the point that they are able to transition to long-term, sustainable employment.
As we speak, we are actively writing grants and seeking out businesses and individuals to partner with us financially to make this vision a reality. For the acquisition, renovation, and business start-up, we have projected this to be a $867,000 project. To date, we have received $238,000, leaving a deficit of $629,000 yet to be secured. It is our hope to secure these funds in pledges or gifts by February, enabling us to begin construction in March in order to have a grand opening in July of 2020.
If you would like to learn more about Rail//Line Coffee and ways you can be involved, please visit our website or send me an email and I will gladly send you our full project proposal!