Faith in Books: How Coffee Saved My Life

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How Coffee Saved My Life: And other stories of stumbling to grace

By Ellie Roscher

Someone in my husband’s church recommended this book to me and let me borrow a copy. I really got into it at first and was not even thinking about reviewing it as it seems to be a religious book. However, by the time I finished, I felt like it was more secular than religious and decided to write this review.

Roscher tells of her experience as an ELCA missionary in Lascano, Uruguay. However, her real reason for going seems less about spreading the gospel or even sharing the love of Christ as much as it is about her wanting to do something interesting and to slow down the pace of her life. She wants a non-North American experience that will make others think more of her. I suppose there was also a desire to do something about injustice in third world countries as well.

Roscher’s experience and background was in urban ministry, so she assumed she would be assigned a major city. In fact, she chose not to go into the Peace Core because she understood that to be focused on isolated villages rather than cities. Ironically (or tragically) the place she was assigned was a very small village where she was isolated and really not well treated for most of her stay. In fact, I really found the book to be more depressing than uplifting. I don’t think it would inspire anyone to go in the mission field.

I was also expecting more talk about God. What I got instead was incredible details about Roscher’s constant constipation, loneliness, depression, bulimia and lack of self-confidence in speaking the native Spanish. She talks about hospitality and grace throughout the book. I suppose she did find it in unexpected places. But her experience was incredibly painful (she talks about brokenness and healing as well). She does finally overcome much of her problems when she moves into the home of another family and finds her place in the village.

Where, really, was God in all this? She mentions God a few times but even in her preface she admits that she has kept some intimate details of her experience to herself. Maybe her relationship with God was one of them. How does God enter our ordinary lives? Am I too focused on personal details like the state of my digestion that I miss God? Am I so self-absorbed that I can’t see when others around me are effecting me in negative ways and I miss the Spirit’s nudging to just get out of there? I pray that I can look and see God and share God even in ordinary experiences.

I do not recommend How Coffee Saved My Life.

Happy reading!

Amelia

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