For the past year, Trent and Christine* have lived in Manila learning everything they can about Filipino culture and coffee in order to open up their first missional coffee shop, Narrative, later this year. Scroll through their photo journal to see how, in a city of millions, they are making disciples one cup of coffee at a time.
Meet Trent and Christine (and Gordon, too)
Mabuhay! We are Trent and Christine and we’ve lived in Manila, Philippines, together for just over a year (Trent since 2010). We have the best job in the world: setting up a specialty coffee shop in one of the major business districts of Metro Manila. This has been a year of “new” for us: a new marriage, a new home, new friends and a new profession.
This handsome little guy is our beloved 6-year-old pug, Gordon. Born in the Philippines, he achieved world traveler status when Trent brought him to Canada and then the U.S. for our wedding. His favorite activities include eating and sleeping. He is a great cuddler as well, so he has become a form of stress-relief therapy after a long day.
Serving in a Coffee Shop
We arrived in Manila with freshly roasted coffee beans from Vancouver and an Aeropress. A year later, we’re baristas certified through EDSA Beverage Design Studio, where we now intern in order to hone our skills and interact with the community. For me (Christine), it’s been a challenge to learn a new skill in a new language, but it’s also teaching me valuable lessons like the need for constant practice and being okay with failure.
If you come into the shop on a hot day, I’ll recommend you try EDSA’s dirty white latte — milk and a shot of espresso over ice, topped with ground coffee beans from our specialty blend.
For years I (Trent) was on a journey to discover that one thing that I was passionate about and skilled at doing. Ten years ago, I would have laughed hysterically if you told me that I would eventually become a specialty barista and open my own shop. I could barely stand the smell of coffee let alone the taste. Now coffee has become the canvas on which I create, and I suppose you could say that milk has become the paint.
Currently, I am in love with Geisha coffee from Panama, one of the rarest and most costly coffees in the world. I’ll prepare this coffee slow-brewed by hand using the Kalita Wave brewer. This is the only type of coffee that can literally cause me to see colors (orange and purple) with each sip.
It’s no wonder that Wednesday mornings are the most photographed time of the week in the coffee shop where we intern. This is a time when coffee aficionados come together at EDSA Beverage Design Studio for a cupping (coffee tasting). Usually, we will taste and evaluate six to seven coffee samples. Sometimes we cup coffee to sharpen our taste buds and build our taste catalogs. Other times, it is to choose the coffees we will serve in the shop or assess the quality of a roast.
The best part of cuppings for us, though, is the opportunity we have to interact with people of all demographics who are all at different points in their specialty coffee journey. Cuppings are the most tangible expression of community happening (quite literally) around coffee.
David (pictured far right) has been one of the biggest blessings in our lives over this past year. Beginning two and a half years ago, I (Trent) started praying that if we were indeed going to go ahead with opening a missional coffee shop, David would be a key member of our leadership team.
One year ago, he got in contact with me to see if we could meet to talk. At the time, he just offered to volunteer, but after only a few months, it became clear that we needed him on a more permanent basis. In a step of faith, David quit his job with a large corporation to join Narrative, our future coffee shop, as our business developer. Since then, David has become one of our closest friends and is now growing as a leader. Once Narrative opens, David will be a barista and trainer.
This is a view of Ortigas Center from one of the upper floors of our church. I (Trent) have loved this view so much that ever since our church opened its doors a few years ago, I take any chance I get to stand in the giant floor to ceiling window and gaze at the skyline. It’s pretty fitting, then, that this business district is the area in which we anticipate opening the first location of Narrative in just a few months. Now, I no longer just gaze at Ortigas, but I take every chance I get to pray over it, too.
Our Life in Manila
In a city of 20 million people, there are countless new smells, sounds and experiences! This is the view from our condo’s balcony — the aspect that sold us on the unit in the first place. We both grew up in suburban North America (Trent in Alberta, Canada, and Christine in Connecticut, U.S.), and this outdoor space has become our urban oasis where we read, talk with friends and pray over our city. Read more about how we made our home here in “How to Create a Home Overseas.”
The week we arrived, our team leader took me (Christine) on a jeepney and taught me the Tagalog phrases I need to know to ride it. She fed me the words quietly as I put them to use: “Bayad po!” (“Payment sir”) and “Para po!” (“Stop sir”). Now I use the jeepney, along with the Manila Metro Rail Transit, at least twice a week to and from language school. Just this month, I learned the phrase, “Sa tabi lang po!” which asks the driver to stop along the side of the road, rather than in the middle.
Twice a week I (Christine) commute to language school, and this is the view that greets me when I walk through the front gate. First thing we do is trade out our street shoes for these “tsinelas,” each teacher and student with their own designated pair. This community has become a lifeline to me. Even when I’m discouraged (which happens often), I don’t want to give up because of the love, patience and friendship I have here.
Manileños like ourselves love to eat! In the past few years, we have seen the city become more and more of a foodie’s paradise. Everyone is on the search for the next great gastronomic experience. One of our favorite sweet treats here is Scout’s Honor, where you get to craft your own cookie and have it baked fresh right in front of you. Their milkshakes are an experience in themselves as they come covered with your choice of signature craft cookie.
God has provided us with an incredible group of deep friendships from the start of our time here. It’s been such a key part in keeping our marriage healthy — making sure we have time with other people who know us, love us and keep us accountable to God’s Word. We usually meet with these friends every Friday.
Mentors of ours lived in the Philippines for over 20 years, arriving in the mid-1960s. They have shared stories with us of the resistance to the gospel and how, in some areas, the Bible was forbidden to be studied. Now, decades later, the church we attend in Metro Manila has an average of 30,000 attendees weekly. This is just one of many larger churches in the city, and God is doing many big things through these bodies of believers. We see this as a key place to work with the churches to mobilize God’s people toward global missions — reaching the unreached in Asia and around the world!
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*last name withheld for missionary security