This is an excerpt from “God of the Long View,” a new book from Pastor David Wigington and Stone Table Publishing. This timely book is filled with beautiful stories of a God whose agenda is worth waiting for.
The Yunnan Province is one of the most unreached places in China. It’s really hard to get there. After a 14-hour flight to Beijing, we took a three-and-a-half-hour flight from Beijing to Kunming (a city the size of New York City but pretty much unheard of in America). From there, we took a bus for three hours into the mountains to a small town of around one million people. This town was remote, and our group of 16 Americans was the largest group of foreigners to ever visit. We met kids who had never seen a white person before.
Our organization started a coffee shop in this town. It’s the only coffee shop in this town of one million people. Actually, it’s the only foreign-owned business in town. There are no Dunkin Donuts, no Starbucks, no McDonald’s. While this place is beyond the influence of the West, people are developing a taste for coffee. So they come, drink coffee, eat a slice of pizza, build relationships with our team, and get an opportunity to hear about Jesus. One young man rode two hours on a bus every day after school just to have coffee and hear about Jesus. Eventually, some friends bought him a scooter so he could make the trip in 30 minutes. He’s now a believer in Jesus Christ, the first member of the first church God is building in this town.
Our workers on the ground desired to expand beyond this town into the surrounding villages, and one local mentioned that surrounding the town in the mountains of the Yunnan Province were coffee plantations. How could this be? How could there be coffee plantations in a place where the local people don’t even drink coffee? After a little research, our workers found this information to be true and discovered that the Yunnan Province grows 90 percent of all coffee beans in China. Starbucks even recently released a Yunnan coffee blend.
In China, visitors cannot just go wherever they want. In every town I visited, I had to present my passport to the local police to be registered. Authorities are always watching. Thus, the workers cannot just go evangelizing through the mountains. They must have a reason to be there, and they have to register when they arrive. But now, because we know coffee beans are grown in these villages, we have a reason to go! We now buy coffee beans from them.
But how exactly did people who don’t drink coffee come to grow coffee? Enter the God of the long view. In 1852, a French missionary named Pere Charles Renou came to the mountains of the Yunnan Province. He came to build the church among the Yi people there. He built a few buildings which survive today, but otherwise he had very little success in building anything that lasted. There are no churches and no believers in those mountains.
But Renou brought the gospel and something else with him—two coffee plants. He loved coffee, so he brought plants to grow in order to harvest beans, roast them, and brew coffee for himself. Upon arrival, he found the mountainous environment perfect for growing coffee, so he taught the locals about the coffee trade and showed them how to grow coffee for export. One of the two original coffee plants brought by this French missionary is still alive and producing beans today. If you haven’t put it together yet, here’s what’s amazing: God sent a French missionary 166 years ago to a region of China where coffee didn’t exist so that our workers could have legitimate access to hundreds of thousands of people working in the coffee trade in those mountain villages today. If that missionary had not gone, there would be no coffee growing in the region, leaving our team with no access to the area, leaving multitudes of people with no opportunity to hear about Jesus. That’s the God of the long view.
Can God ordain and anoint a business to help plant the church? What do you think? If we started an English center, a gym, a tour company, a restaurant, or anything else in this town, we would have no access to those villages. We would have no reason to be there. But we started a coffee shop. I believe the God of the long view knew that the only way for us to gain access to those villages in the 21st century was to send a French missionary 166 years earlier to teach the people how to grow coffee. Such an incredible “coincidence” that, in fact, is not a coincidence has led to the start of another business. Because we now buy raw beans in the mountains around town, we needed to open a coffee roasting business. That coffee roaster has its own location, its own visas, and its own employees and customers.