January 2008 - Vol. 26

Coffee Ala Koinonia

By Georges Farhat

‘Would you like a free coffee, tea, or hot chocolate…please help yourself to some biscuits…’

Over the last year, many students from the University of London heard something similar from the Koinonia Koffee Stall team. This directly causes the students to respond: ‘Sorry but what’s the catch? What’s this in aid of? Who are you guys?’

‘Oh very good question,’ we reply while stirring milk into the hot chocolate. ‘We are Koinonia: a Christian student society based here at the University of London Union building. We are trying to express love and care for the students of London. I think a cup of warm coffee in this cold weather will do you good… there you are.’

Over the last year, I have had the privilege of leading the Koinonia Koffee Stall team. Koinonia Koffee is an opportunity for us to share God’s love and his message of hope. We try to communicate to the students around us that there is much more than the clothing they are wearing, the subject they are studying, or even the free drink they are enjoying…there is also a loving God and life eternal available to them.

The Koffee Stall could be described as pre-evangelism: like tilling soil for sowing seeds. We serve the students free drinks so that we can talk to them about their life and allow for questions about faith and Christianity to be raised. This may seem overly strategic, but we do this because God the Almighty is very interested in them; from the mundane details of their life just now to life with him forever. We want the students to know this as well!

This past year, most of our Koffee Stalls were around the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS); serving there is very challenging. I think SOAS might be the heart of radical ideologies and ‘free thought’ at the University of London. I can remember one day three guys approached our table and began shouting at us and pointing fingers at us while saying: ‘You should be ashamed of yourselves! Religion, and especially Christianity, brought and is still bringing war and conflict to our world…’

Throughout this and other incidents, God was giving me new ears to hear and new eyes to see the confusion that these students are living in. As we were praying for and working in the stall, God was transforming my heart to love and accept these students; they are God’s beloved children. Through the many conversations we’ve had over the year, God has given me the grace to hear the students crying out to Jesus, shouting for the truth, and longing for the salvation of Christ.

One young man, a regular at our Koffee Stall and studying religion at SOAS, is a good example of one of these students searching for the truth. Every week something drew him to our stall; he would come over and chat with us for about an hour. Although he is an atheist, he enjoyed spending time with us; he could feel something very different about us.

Perhaps the most important thing I learned from the Koffee Stall was that successful outreach and evangelism demand that we be loving and welcoming to students; not simply judging them but being willing to walk beside them and listen to their challenges, fears, and concerns. I’ve learned to trust that God will reveal himself to them at the opportune time. For my part, friendship and trust are two very powerful weapons that can take down and destroy barriers and open the way to Christ.

More then 2,000 cups of various beverages were distributed from our Koinonia Koffee stalls last year. Half of these turned into genuine conversation with students about their life and about what we believe. What a great privilege to be part of this expression of God’s love to the students of London.

[George Farhat is currently a staff volunteer for Koinonia in London, UK and an affiliate of the Servants of the Word. George grew up in Lebanon and has been a member of the People of God, an ecumenical Christian community in Beirut.]

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