A Cup of Coffee and a Piece of Hope


carolina hinojosa-cisneros -cup of coffee piece of hope-3By Carolina Hinojosa-Cisneros | Twitter: @CisnerosCafe

I watched the homeless boy come in to our church cafe, his hoodie too big for his small frame, his shoes worn, his curly hair piled under a baseball cap. I served him a cup of coffee; he added sugar, canela, and took a swig. He pulled off his baseball cap, curls spilled out, and he pointed to his dented head where he was missing large chunks of hair.

“See this? My dad took a hammer to my head. Tried to kill me! But God. God’s real.”

He took another swig of coffee, began to preach, and layered me in poetry from his salvaged bones. The system failed him, but God had not.

When he wrapped up his poetic, hip-hop-inspired sermon, he looked down like he was embarrassed to have raised his voice in a church, although it was the cafe next door to the sanctuary.

“You’re a poet, my friend,” I responded. “A disciple. Thank you.”

He lifted his head and offered a half smile. “No, thank you.”

And he left with his cup and a message. I don’t know if I’ll see him next week for another cup or if he’ll consider attending service. Even though he may not, when he shows up we’ll continue to serve him.

There is a system that continues to oppress people like my poet brother and it is because of church and its people that we are reclaiming what it means to be Christian in the 21st century. There are churches building bigger tables and re-imagining what it means to break bread and fellowship.

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” —Acts 2:42, NIV

We learn in the book of Acts that the first church was a community of people, a gathering of hope-filled believers. There were no buildings, crosses, or stadium seating. There were only hands, feet, and the Good News of Jesus Christ. Church was a group of people who believed in miracles and offered their skills and life-transforming words to one another.

I keep showing up, because hope keeps showing up first.

In 2014 when I found myself ready to disarm my broken narrative and place my life in the hands of God, a pastor’s family allowed me into their guest room where I lived for a year and a half. The way I was writing my story wasn’t working anymore. My resume became stockpiled with broken relationships, a false identity, and an insurmountable amount of excuses. I did it all on my own terms and it was no longer working.

That year, I dove deep into church, I released control of my own narrative and married my husband. Pastor Candy Rattray was sent as a mother and mentor for that mending and rebuilding period of my life. She was church to me in more ways than one. When I needed a warm cup of coffee and a piece of hope, she was ready and willing.

When I doubt hope is alive and when I doubt the wisdom of the revolutionary thinkers of our time, like my poet brother, I do the church a disservice. I cripple the body of people who make up the church by becoming a missing piece. If I am Christian and meant to be the hands and feet of Christ, then I am to show up and do my part.

Church, with all its imperfect growth, and broken limbs, continues to foster a community of revolutionary believers. We need people who stand on the other side of the table, ask for a cup of coffee, and then deliver a disarming sermon of hope.

When I look back at that morning, my flesh wants to show off all the ways I served him, but in truth, my poet brother left me with far more than what I could give him. Riddled in doubt, in my bones, he looked me in the eyes and reminded me of a time when I asked for a cup of coffee and a piece of hope. He reminded me from where that hope comes. He reminded me that church is still my hands and feet in service to the Almighty. He reminded me that for every lingering doubt, there is an angel of hope.

I keep showing up because, like the poet brother who came in to preach life from the roughest part of the streets, I need a hope to carry me through the crippled streets inside me. I, too, need a hot cup of coffee and a poetic embrace from the Most High. Like the many busted up people who come into our church cafe each Sunday for a cup of coffee, I, too, find comfort in a warm welcome.

I cannot begin to know what my poet brother needs. That morning, he needed a cup of coffee and that’s what we poured him. He needed to tell us that God is real. He needed to bring Kingdom come into the church cafe and maybe I wasn’t the only one listening. I won’t romanticize what I believe is his homeless situation. Romanticizing poverty is violence against marginalized bodies and all too often, instead of elevating a story, we oppress a body.

I only know what he came in for and what he left behind: a cup of coffee and piece of hope.


About Carolina:

17990246_1546400422045010_1458712168462864255_oCarolina Hinojosa-Cisneros is a Tejana poet, freelance writer, and aspiring author. Her work focuses on Latinidad and faith. She is mom to three and wife to one. She is passionate about marginalized voices in both the church and in publishing. Her work can be found in The Acentos Review, The Lookout Magazine, Rock & Sling: a journal of witness, and more. She is a monthly contributor at The Mudroom and runs a regular blog called Cisneros Café.