Community connections and coffee
A church launched out of a café
SonRise Café opened in October 2009 as a vehicle to meet and get to know people living in the Oyama area of Itabashi Ward, with the goal of eventually launching a church. My husband and I, along with Owen and Sarah Ames, started the café. But over the last 10 years the SonRise Team has included various TEAM missionaries. All of us are thankful for how God has enabled the café to be a “lampstand” in our community.
SonRise Café allows us to create neutral ground. It is a warm, friendly space that is inviting to all. It is non-threatening while still maintaining a Christian presence through the staff, the interior decorations, and the free reading materials made available. Community connections and outreach have happened naturally and gradually just by the mere presence of the café.
Local vendors know us well. For instance, our kitchen manager, Mahoko, has established friendships at a local roaster where she buys our delicious coffee beans, the bakery where she buys bread for our original panini sandwiches, and with the “Uber Eats” bicycle delivery personnel who deliver food, drinks, and desserts to online customers.
By being members of the local Happy Road Association (商店街), we take part in seasonal promotions, and relationships have deepened. They have used the café to air Happy Road TV programs at Christmas with Mahoko and missionaries being included in the panel of stars. Every December, we take part in their Christmas campaign with SonRise Singers being invited to sing Christmas carols on Happy Road.
SonRise is also a hub for ministry. Japanese Christian performers take part in Friday Night Live concerts and Japanese Christians join missionaries in outreach to the homeless of the Ikebukuro community. Discipleship classes and one-on-one Bible studies take place during café hours, and group Bible studies after hours. We’ve hosted English classes and monthly workshops (including crafting, cooking, music, and English café). All of these events have connected us with dozens in our community.
SonRise Church was launched out of the café and is held on Sunday mornings when the café is closed. The relaxed atmosphere of the café matches our style of worship. This has attracted many who were first introduced to the message of Christ or the concept of church while living overseas.
I wonder what “lampstand” God may be calling you to create as a place for Jesus to shine and connect with the lost in your community. “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24 ESV).