San Jose Café in Newville Will Support Families in Honduras
Last November, with two master’s degrees in hand, Nicholas Higgins was planning to find a job as an industrial engineer in Florida.
Today, he’s in rural Newville, working to open a coffee shop to benefit the people of Honduras.
“I’ve had a total conversion. It is very clear that God has called me here,” Higgins said from behind a display counter, which will become the espresso bar and pastry case for his project, the San Jose Café.
Higgins, the Young Adult Minister at Our Lady of the Visitation Parish in Shippensburg, is a member of the Missioners of Christ, an association of the faithful whose mission is discipleship of evangelization of youth and young adults. The association is based in Virginia Beach, and has a permanent mission in Honduras. Higgins has been involved with the Missioners for eight years.
After completing a two-year mission trip to Honduras as a Missioner last year, Higgins prayed about his next step in life. Soon, he heard God calling him to work not as an engineer, but as a missionary to help support the families whose lives he became part of in the Central America country.
“I have a very close friend in Honduras whose family has a coffee farm, and I wanted to find a way to help him,” Higgins said. “Having seen the Honduran people making sacrifices for their family, I had a conversion.”
Higgins left Florida for Newville, where set out to convert his family’s once-operating general store into a coffee shop.
Located on the main thoroughfare at High Street at Route 641, a few doors from the only stoplight in town, the San Jose Café is a work in progress. Volunteers have painted and decorated the shop with furnishings and décor reminiscent of a Honduran mountain village. Professional plumbers and electricians have been creating progress too, and the transformation has generated a space with coffee-bar tables and chairs, couches, room for live music and an outdoor area for summer-evening gatherings.
Additional volunteers and funding are necessary, though, to achieve a planned soft-opening early in the new year, and an intended Tuesday-Saturday operation.
“We’ve been working with other churches in Newville to help breathe new life into the community with this shop, a healthy place to hang out and enjoy coffee and conversation,” Higgins said.
“San Jose Café is named for St. Joseph the Worker, particularly on the dignity of the worker,” he explained. “Seeing the injustices in Honduras regarding the ability to find work and make a living, or to get honest pay for coffee, inspired me to choose that name.”
“Seeing the Hondurans sacrifice for their own families was my conversion,” Higgins said. “I spoke with a family there, which I’ve come to love and be a part of, about the struggle of selling coffee. That was part of my motivation to turn this building into a coffee shop.”
In the coffee trade in Honduras, money is lost with the middle-man who sells a family’s product to buyers. The middle-man, known as a coyote, often keeps most of the profit from the sale, leaving little or nothing for the Honduran farmers in return.
“At the café, we’ll be doing direct-trade coffee,” Higgins said. “The sale of it here eliminates the injustices in the coffee trade. Direct-trade coffee gives as much money to the Hondurans as possible, so they can sustain themselves.”
San Jose Café will feature two coffees produced by families of Missioners of Christ from Honduras: Roil Coffee from the mountains of La Paz, and Volcán Coffee from the mountains of Comayagua.
Handmade items by the people of Honduras are currently available for a suggested donation, with monies directly benefitting the people of the Honduras, the café and the projects of the Missioners of Christ.
One of the projects is a physical therapy program, which rehabilitates, among others, people who have suffered injuries as a result of violence in the country. The café has several handcrafted items made by patients of the physical therapy to support their families. Among them are Rosaries, Rosary bracelets and decorative woven bracelets.
Another program is one for teenage boys in foster care. To help support the efforts, the teens carve stunning wooden pieces, from crosses to decorative patterns, to benefit their family working to provide meals and a home for 13 foster sons and three biological children.
“This mission is about discipleship, walking with people for the long haul to help them become leaders in their community and in their country,” Higgins said of the shop and its products.
Discipleship is also part of the plans for the second floor of the coffee shop. The San Jose Café is public and non-denominational, but upstairs holds space for private events like Bible study and praise and worship. It’s also where Higgins will live as a Missioner of Christ as he operates the shop.
He continues to pour his time and efforts into the San Jose Café, with gratitude for volunteers and benefactors, and optimism for a grand opening in the spring.
“It comes down to my own conversion,” Higgins said. “Jesus died for us on the Cross; little sacrifices and giving up my intentions for a full-time job is necessary to help the Honduras that I want to help. I want to give every penny and every ounce of time I have to help them. It’s all or nothing.”
(For more information on the status of San Jose Café, its coffees, handmade products and how to help, visit www.sanjosecafe.wordpress.com.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness