Irish cafe serves up more than espresso to teens
In the Irish culture that is stereotyped by people drinking Guinness for breakfast, a local coffee shop seems like the last place young adults would want to hang out.
The youth would rather drink beer than sip a cappuccino and eat at a pub not a café. This was the problem that Missions Emphasis Week speakers Kelly and Susan Curry ran into when they decided to open a coffeehouse in Ireland.
Fourteen years ago, the Currys knew they had been called to leave their familiar American lifestyle and become missionaries on Ireland’s west coast. Not having any idea of what they were going to do when they got there, the family took a leap of faith and headed overseas.
“We didn’t know what our mission was. We just knew we were supposed to go,” Susan said. “We knew that Ireland has a very young population and, through prayer and finding different pieces of the puzzle, we knew that we wanted to minister to them.”
After searching for a year, the Currys found the perfect building in Galway, an old and dilapidated army barrack along the canal that they carefully restored to become the city’s first coffee shop. It was given the name An Tobar Nua which is Gaelic for The New Well.
In the beginning, business was slow and customers were leery of going to the shop because it was “different.”
The Currys were discouraged and at times wanted to give up, but members of the community kept encouraging them to just wait it out …. And it is a good thing they did.
By ministering to their local, multi-denominational employees, the Currys began to bridge the gap in their small part of the world between religions.
“We work alongside each other, Catholics and non-Catholics, as a team, and they (the community) see us as a model. We are focusing on the Lord and building a deeper relationship with Him rather than worrying about religion,” Susan said.
Au Tobar Nua is thriving and branching out into more ministries.
Aside from the daily witnessing to customers by building relationships, the Currys have started and maintained community Bible studies, hosted guest speakers, put on events for the youth and built a retreat program with the local schools.
Students come to the shop for a day in which they receive a meal, hang out and listen to talks about drugs and alcohol abuse and the importance of purity.
After graduating in May, UMHB alumna Sarah Crawford moved to Ireland to work in the coffeehouse. She met the Currys at Missions Emphasis Week and felt as if God was calling her to work with the youth there.
“After talking to a few of the Irish workers, I soon discovered one of the best things about the retreats is that the kids feel like they are listened to, and they told me that they don’t get to experience that often,” she said. “This made me think … I really want to have an opportunity to tell them that they can change the world and give them ways to make a difference.”
Crawford enjoys working behind the counter brewing coffee and serving sandwiches alongside Irish men and women. She thinks that the coffeehouse is a practical ministry model both to the customers and the employees.
Kelly runs the business aspect of the shop and is the president and chairman of Foundation In Christ Ministries, the charity that sponsors Au Tobar Nua.
For him, the most rewarding part of owning and running a foreign coffeehouse is “seeing young people coming to know Jesus in a personal relationship.”