Cafe creates buzz in Bethlehem

Connect Cafe, an innovative project launched in 2017 by JEO Ministry, creates a space for relationships, outreach and discipleship in Bethlehem.

JEO, an organisation that seeks to reach out to all people in the Holy Land with the message of Jesus, is led by Church Mission Society local partner Rami Fellemon.

“One in two young people are unemployed. In addition, local people have restrictions on their movement.”
– Raj, manager of Connect Cafe, Bethlehem

JEO runs ministries that aim to help Arabic people to connect to the gospel in ways that make sense to them, using various media, tours and Christian bookshops.

They have a particular focus on reaching young people – to see younger people in the Holy Land following Jesus, growing in their faith, and becoming pillars for Christ in their communities.

The vision for Connect Cafe came out of a process of considering how best to serve young people in Bethlehem against a backdrop of many challenges.

Cafe (for) society

Cafe manager Raj explains: “One in two young people are unemployed according to the economic statistics. In addition, local people have restrictions on their movement. The only place where youth can hang out is within the confines of their town, at cafes or restaurants, especially due to the limited recreation facilities or green areas. And so we came up with the idea of a cafe.”

“New relationships are formed and existing ones are strengthened… Since discipleship is both a journey and a way of life, this is a place where we can freely demonstrate the love of Christ on a practical level and with all sorts of people.”
– Raj, manager of Connect Cafe, Bethlehem

Connect serves freshly made food – including both local and international dishes – as well as a variety of hot and cold drinks, from healthy shakes to speciality coffees. These are all offered at competitive prices and made even more affordable with discount cards through a loyalty programme for young people.

Teenage boy collects pizza from counter
Food for the soul: Connect cafe’s menu has had glowing reviews

The customers come from Bethlehem and surrounding areas, as well as Jerusalem. People of all ages and faith backgrounds come to the cafe, though it is particularly popular with the 14–25 age group.

Loyal following

The journey from idea to opening began with a venue in an easy-to-reach central location. Nonetheless, Raj told us, “It took a whole lot of courage to start up this model and to make it self-sustaining.”

Once the necessary renovation and decoration work had taken place, they recruited and trained staff – making sure that the relationship staff have with customers would express the Christian ethos of the cafe.

This seems to be having an effect, as the cafe has been developing a loyal customer base and receiving glowing reviews. Customers have commented:

“Delicious food, kind staff, great fellowship with friends! I love this place.”

“Wonderful food, wonderful coffee, wonderful atmosphere! I can’t wait to go back!”

“The best taste and best service, and we enjoy our family time at Connect Cafe”

Discipleship on the menu

Alongside welcoming individual customers, the cafe hosts a number of different groups.

There are ministries with young women and widows who meet for fellowship and Bible study, needy families are invited to enjoy a meal and experience loving care from the JEO team and young businessmen meet regularly to help one another in spiritual and character development.

They also facilitate events, including music nights where young people can showcase their talents and invite friends and family.

One particularly encouraging story is that through one of the programmes run at the cafe, two young women drew nearer to Jesus and are now growing in their faith. They had encountered God as they met along with others to read the Bible.

Pray that there would be more such stories.

Published 9 October 2018
Europe, Middle East and North Africa

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