Tonight we saw the film Black Gold, which chronicles Tadesse Meskela’s uphill battle to negotiate something approaching a fair price for coffee on behalf of 74,000 Ethiopian farmers who happen to grow some of the world’s finest coffee beans.
This film is powerful. Before you read another word, go to the official website. And make sure you see this movie:
There were two scenes in particular that I won’t soon forget.
The first showed several care-worn Ethiopian farmers gathered around freshly made coffee. (By “freshly made,” I mean the beans were roasted and ground by hand just moments before.)
As one of them poured the coffee, the others prayed. (Ethiopia has a large Christian population.) I was moved by the simple, elemental nature of their prayers.
The asked God to give them food — so they could eat. They asked God to give their children schools — so they could read. And they asked God to raise the wholesale price of coffee — so they could live.
They asked God to raise the price of coffee.
They were praying to the same God that I pray to.
And it hit me: when I make a choice as mundane as the coffee I drink, I can either become part of the answer this farmer’s prayer… or I can stand in the way.
If God hears the cry of the poor (Exodus 22:23, Psalm 69:33) — which means he heard the cry of this farmer — then with each cup of coffee I buy, either I am saying, “Your kingdom come; your will be done,” or I’m telling God he can do something else with his kingdom and his will.
Because coffee is a spiritual issue.
Another scene showed men from the farming co-op gathered in a room to hear the bad news that despite efforts to secure a better price for their coffee, they still had not earned enough profit to build a school for their children.
Then one of the men spoke. He said if there was not enough money to build a school, they should keep working until they earned more. And if there was still not enough, then everyone should give their own money to help build the school.
And then he said, “I will sell my shirt and give the money for the school.”
This from a man who earns pennies doing back-breaking manual labor each day. The women in his community sort the coffee beans by hand… for just 50 cents a day.
This man is willing to sell his shirt — probably his only shirt — so his children can learn to read.
Ah, but I must have that caramel macchiato.