You’ll want to make sure you bring some cash for a tip when you visit Tripointe Coffeehouse in downtown Papillion. First you’ll want to drop some cash into the barista’s tip jar, because everyone who works at this particular coffeehouse is paid volunteers. You’ll also want to add some money to the “love tank,” which is box for donations to buy a cup of coffee for customers who can’t afford to buy it themselves. Then you’ll want to drop some money into one of the three jars intended for donations to Revolution 61, a non-profit organization fighting human trafficking. You have to choose which jar to drop your money into wisely though, because the jar with the most money at the end of December dictates what kind of facial hair barista Chris will have to sport for a month and a half: handlebar mustache, full facial hair, or my person favorite, mutton chops.
This is no ordinary coffeehouse. This is a place where outdoor workers get free hot drinks on the coldest days of winter and people are invited to enjoy the AC in the hottest days of summer even if they don’t buy anything. It’s a place where impromptu counseling sessions are common and the clientele is as varied as the wide variety of drinks available. This is a place to come hang out, get into a deep discussion, and drink a lot of good coffee.
It all started when Tripointe Baptist Church decided it was time to move from their location at 84th and F Street. “A couple years ago around the end of 2011 we got the feeling it was time to move,” says Chris Evenson, pastor/barista. When the real estate agent showed him the building (which used to be the Times Publishing office), Chris envisioned an outreach opportunity for the church. “At the time I was thinking that I’d put a sign outside the building that said ‘Free coffee & prayer – come in and we’ll talk.’”
Things got complicated when Tripointe took their plans for a church in the downtown area to the city officials. “After we had signed our lease we found out this area wasn’t zoned exactly for that type of assembly, so we were like, ‘Now what?’ God put it on my heart to say, ‘Well, what if we do a coffee business?’”
A sit-down with the mayor and administrator yielded good results. “We looked at a bunch of scenarios and found that this plan worked. It didn’t violate any laws or ordinances,” says Chris. “So that’s what birthed the coffee house. The city works really hard to help businesses come in.”
Not everyone who enters Tripointe Coffeehouse realizes that it’s run by a church. Art from local artists is prominently displayed throughout the room, pastries from Siedlik Bakery are available, and Beansmith coffee is served. The typical coffeehouse fare is available here; whether you want a simple cup of coffee or a flavored latte complete with whipped cream and syrup drizzle, you can get it here. The baristas are all friendly folks who you might never guess aren’t earning a paycheck for their time.
When I say the baristas are friendly, I don’t mean they’re the typical “I-just-drank-an-espresso-so-if-I-don’t-keep-moving-my-head-will-explode” friendly that you’ll find at some coffeehouses. They learn your name and they remember what drink you like. If you want to chat they’ll chat, and if you want to just sit and tap away at your laptop, they’ll give you your drink and leave you alone. “Every single person
here, including me, is all volunteer,” says Chris. “I wish we could pay them, at least a little bit. But maybe that will come. We’re just trying to pray about what God wants us to do.”
The role of barista has been an interesting one for Chris to take on, and it was one that he didn’t necessarily think he would ever have. Initially, he was only supposed to fill in as a barista as needed when the coffeehouse first started, but once it became obvious that there was no room in the operational budget for paid baristas, he stepped in and learned quickly. Now he balances his coffeehouse duties with his pastoral duties. “It’s a kind of give and take,” he says. “I’m still trying to figure out how that needs to balance out. I’m starting to learn how to balance that and use that for God. I used to have a traditional church. I used to be able to just get up and go for any church needs; if someone was in the hospital or needed help moving, I could be there. But on the other hand, I have so much opportunity to speak into people’s lives here.”
“I had a guy come and visit our church for a while, and he told me I need to pray about figuring out what I can do with this ministry,” says Chris, gesturing around at the coffeehouse. “He said stop trying to do traditional ministry. Now I’m starting to think maybe he was right.”
“What we’d love to see is that this is ‘Bible and Prayer Central’ where there are people doing Bible studies and praying for each other all the time. That would be cool. How to do it, I don’t know.” Chris pauses in thought and adds, “I don’t know what next year holds, but it’s pretty interesting. All the time you’re wondering, ‘Did I hear God right?’ And little by little you hear, ‘Yep.’”
As I leave, Chris hands me a flyer. On the one side is an announcement for an upcoming music night at the coffeehouse, and on the other side is scribbled, “Pray for a Miracle on 84th Street.” For the folks who have found friendly conversation here when they needed it most, it may be safe to say that the miracle has already happened.
138 North Washington (84th) Street in Papillion
Tuesday – Friday: 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday: 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Closed Sunday and Monday