My $100,000 Cup Of Coffee

by | Apr 21, 2023

Back in 2002, when pastoring a church in Palm Desert, California, I frequently met with members to talk about their relationship with Jesus Christ at Espresso-to-a-Tea, a local coffee shop. Sometimes I’d strike up conversations with complete strangers, listening to their stories—always interesting—and sharing the gospel.

The coffee shop was my mission field.

One experience stands out in my mind. I was meeting with a young man from our church who had many questions about God. Sitting at a table next to us was an older woman, probably in her late 70s (I was 52), who was eavesdropping on our conversation. After praying with the young man, he left and I lingered for a second cup of coffee.

Upon returning to my table, the woman spoke up, “Who are you? I listened to your conversation with that young man, and I have some questions.” But first I wanted to know more about her. A slight woman, weighing barely 100 pounds and frail, she told me was a snowbird, escaping the cold Canadian winter. As she shared her story, I was impressed with her kind heart, keen mind, and a desire to know more about God. 

I told her that I often met with people, mostly young men, to encourage them in their faith. “I try to answer their questions about life, death, meaning and purpose,” I said, “and frequently I fall short. But we always pray.” She then asked me to tell her about the God I know, and I shared the gospel with her. She was a receptive listener, asking more questions about Christ, the cross, his resurrection, forgiveness, and eternal life.

We probably chatted for 30 minutes. When we finished, I invited her to visit my church, the Desert Springs Church, the next Sunday. I had invited many casual acquaintances from the coffee shop to the church, but few showed up. Much to my surprise she was sitting in the congregation the next Sunday, and a Sunday or two after that. We never spoke in depth again. She had told me she was returning home to Canada in about a month. I have always wondered what happened to her.

I learned a valuable lesson from my Canadian friend: when we share our faith in public, more people hear the gospel than those with whom we are meeting. In fact, sometimes, those are unintended men and women that God is targeting. I think of them as collateral blessings that the Holy Spirit has set up for divine appointments.

I don’t know how deeply my words affected my Canadian eavesdropper, but something happened a few weeks after she returned home that cause me to believe it was significant. 

Unknown to her, Desert Springs Church was going through a challenging financial time. On a Wednesday after she returned to Canada, I was sitting in my office praying about how we were going to meet our payroll when my office manager walked in with a $100,000 check. She was bewildered, not recognizing who sent it. “It’s a Canadian, but I don’t recognize her name.” I did. It was my friend from Espresso-to-a-Tea. 

To this day when I think of our meeting, I call it my $100,000 cup of coffee—and most likely salvation for a special woman.

In Acts 3, Peter and John healed a man lame from birth near the Beautiful Gate of the temple. He was a beggar who had asked them for money. Peter said, “Look at us,” and then said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” And the lame man walked, then leapt into the temple, praising God every step of the way.

In an ironic twist, I offered my short-lived Canadian friend the gospel over a cup of coffee, which she received, and then in gratitude she offered silver and gold to God.

God works in mysterious but always surprising ways.

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