One cup of coffee - 40 years of memories

Where I live, you can be invited to someone's home, drink coffee, eat various courses for a couple of hours, then be offered çay (tea), followed by cakes, biscuits and pastries, then more çay, perhaps more coffee. Hm? Then what about fruit?

If you didn’t already know your hosts, you will begin to make life-long friends. After hours of pleasant conversation, when you can’t fit in another bite and need to leave, your hosts will indignantly proclaim, "But you haven't eaten a thing!" or "But we were going to cut the watermelon!" or "But we were sitting together!"

They will invariably look quite hurt and put out that you are leaving, and try to persuade you at least three times to stay longer. You need to drop the hint about half an hour before you really MUST leave and let them know that you will slowly prepare to leave ("yavaş yavaş kalkacağım") or you will definitely miss that next very important appointment… But then again the assumption is that there cannot possibly BE ANYTHING more important or a better use of time than being together - sitting together, eating, drinking, chatting, eating, drinking, chatting, laughing, crying and, what's more - eating. And drinking. And chatting.

This is the way relationships are built, maintained and developed. This is the space of 'welcome', of finding common ground, breaking down barriers, of shared experience over a coffee, of relaxing in each other's company and into each other's lives. It is where hearts meet, love is passed on and received, where what's really important can gradually come to the surface, and where Jesus himself can enter people's homes and hearts.

It's actually hard work to host. The house must be sparkling clean, and there's hours of food preparation (and cleaning up afterwards!), but it must look as if you did it absolutely effortlessly, and that you've whipped everything up in a few minutes (even though you've been rushing around preparing up to the very last second and you're perspiring and out of breath). When that first guest arrives you open the door to your sparkling clean home, which is by now emitting wonderful aromas of freshly cooked delicacies. You usher them in with a smile that says:

“I've just been sitting around waiting for you, your coming is the best thing all week, you have HONOURED me by coming, and NOTHING is too much trouble. THANK YOU for coming, I am SO glad you are here!"

Of course you can use words as well. But there's something in that smile! From that moment your first priority is their comfort and happiness, that they feel at ease, at home in your presence, that they will remember this time. You're giving the gift of a warm, open, welcoming space where your friends can let go, be themselves and be accepted. There is a proverb here that says, "Bir fincan kahvenin kırk yıl hatırı vardır" (One cup of coffee holds 40 years of memories).

This small gift will be remembered as if it was something magnificent, something precious, something transforming.

Giving this gift also draws me closer to Jesus. There's a sense of 'together we're loving these precious friends in the way they can receive as love’, and inviting them into his heart.

Alison lives in West Asia and loves spending time drinking coffee with friends.