From the Field: The Role of Coffee in Refugee Care Circles

By Aimee Stucke

Abdul first arrived in the United States in August of 2022 from Qatar, where his family was living in a refugee camp after the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan and the Taliban took over.

Abdul’s family of six became Send Relief Boston’s very first Refugee Care Circle and has slowly become a part of our community ever since.

At first, he was very shy, rarely sharing his thoughts and hesitant to speak English. As a recent high school graduate, there wasn’t a place for him to engage with the community. He had finished school, ESL classes were online and there were few Afghan families with young men his age. Nevertheless, Abdul was very eager to start working and help provide for his family.

Then, in the winter of 2022, Send Relief Boston partnered with The Well Coffee House to launch a café internship program for refugees.

In many ways, it was based on an earlier program they had started with under-resourced youth, but in this iteration, Send Relief Boston agreed to fund a new three-month training program to recruit participants. The Well Coffee House then agreed to develop a curriculum and assign a Christian mentor from a local Send Network Boston church. They also agreed to consider hiring any participants who proved themselves upon completion of the program.

In the spring of 2023, I introduced Abdul to the program as an opportunity for him to start working and integrate into community. He was interested, so I set up a meeting for Abdul a few weeks later.

Coffeehouse staff will tell you there’s a steep learning curve in memorizing the many beverage names and ingredients at a shop—even for native speakers—but Abdul worked diligently and caught on quickly.

While working his first job in the U.S. is a great accomplishment for Abdul, the most encouraging part of this story is the relationships he found through mentorship and staff friendships.

Ben, a member of a Send Network Boston church, had a personal interest in missions in the Middle East and happily accepted the opportunity to become Abdul’s mentor. Since then, he has gone on walks with Abdul after work every Tuesday. Abdul told us he has been a great mentor and deeply appreciates their friendship. Ben also helped Abdul enroll in a free journalism course at Michigan State, investigated getting his driver’s license, transferred his foreign education credits and prepared for applying to college. The two friends have built a solid foundation of trust and have shared their beliefs over the last three months.

Behind the counter at the coffee house, Abdul also had spiritual conversations with his manager, Andrew. In May, as his internship was drawing to a close, co-founders of The Well Coffee House, gladly offered Abdul the opportunity to stay on as a full-time member of the team. “He is a great addition to our staff,” said one founder, noting that it has been a blessing to see Abdul become more proficient in English and more confident in himself.

Over the summer, Abdul will work side-by-side with GenSend interns—an opportunity we hope will allow him to witness even more of Christ while interns learn cross-cultural ministry skills.

If you or your church would like to help more young men like Abdul and visit the Boston ministry center, click here for more information or to sign up for a mission trip today.

Published September 19, 2023

Aimee Stucke

Aimee Stucke is Send Relief Boston’s Geneva Initiative Coordinator.