I was recently asked to briefly comment on the history of my role at Aroma as it pertains to our current situation and future outlook. Here’s a brief synopsis.
In 2006, we (Chris and Jamie) first trip to Taiwan together. At that time, we were just friends looking for adventure on an ICE Trip from Crown College. We knew we wanted to be involved in what God was doing around the world, and so Jamie led a team of six of us to Taiwan to stay in the Rainbow Hotel in Ximen. We went as a part of what was then called STMO (Short-Term Missions Office), which is part of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Matt Peace and Jason Ostrander were trying to get people out there, because of a burden they had on their hearts to reach youth in that area of Taipei. That was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. It was there that God birthed a strong desire to be a part of what was going on in Asia.
In 2007, we got married and began our last year as students at Crown College. That spring semester, we received a phone call from Matt Peace, inviting us to be a part of what was then called “Praxis” a grouping of missional communities living around the world. We immediately knew that God was re-awakening our passion for Asia and particularly Ximen. Shortly after this, I (Chris) saw a pretty clear indicator of the magnitude of what God wanted to do one day while I was in the prayer room at Crown College (the one behind the chapel). I was truly amazed as I looked up at one of the maps on the wall and saw a picture (some might call it a vision) of Taiwan being three times bigger than China with arrows flying out from it. I believe it was God telling me two things: 1) Taiwan holds a very special and important place in His heart, and 2) Taiwan is going to come into a nation-wide revival and be used instrumentally in world-evangelization. I then used one of my remaining classes associated with my minor in “church multiplication” to write a synopsis for a church plant in which we partnered with a missionally focused business to create a sustainable ministry that would reach hundreds, if not thousands, with the truth of the gospel. I had no idea how deep the rabbit hole went.
In 2008, we got one-way tickets to Taiwan two weeks after we graduated. We found jobs and began learning Chinese. Things started off pretty simply: grow personally, grow in community, and grow on mission. It was our job to grow in our relationship with Jesus, learn Chinese, and teach English. It was our job to cultivate a community of like-minded individuals who would learn to love each other. It was our job to find a specific missional focus for reaching out to the community. We did these things and worked hard at them. Each year a few people heard about Jesus, made commitments to him, and grew in their discipleship. We began English outreaches and even Bible studies. All this was done in the context of a group of people who saw the potential. There were five of us at first. Then, there were seven. The number kept growing. God kept teaching us new things about the power of the gospel, the love he had for the people of Taiwan and the desire He had to reach each person we came into contact with.
In 2010, we began sensing the need to find a specific missional focus beyond individual living towards our goal of reaching people for Jesus. We started praying and felt led to begin preparations for a coffee shop. This was after intense dialogues and discussions with multiple people both on and off the team. This was after relentless fundraising, recruitment of new team members, and hundreds if not thousands, of hours of prayer and planning and preparation.
In 2012, after two years of hard work, The Aroma Coffee Shop finally opened. Call it strategic planning or definite insanity, but we also launched weekly services in the church at the same time. It would be foolish to think that this was just Jamie and I. There have been a countless number of individuals who have participated in this great work. There are those who haven’t stopped praying since the day we left the States. There are those who give finances sacrificially. There are those who have taken hundreds of hours to coach and consult with us and our team. And there are those who have gone, who come to the Aroma whether it’s for a short-term trip of two days or a long-term experience of five years. Here are just a few of the people who come to mind (in no particular order):
- members, past and present, at Nowthen Alliance, New Prague Alliance, The River, River’s Edge, St Croix Falls, Parkside, Victory Christian and other Churches for almost seemingly unlimited prayer and resources support.
- students, staff and faculty at Crown College for cultivating an environment that encourages people to be fully devoted to Jesus in whatever endeavor they pursue and for preparing us (as much as possible) for what we would run into in Taiwan.
- Steve and Kathy O’Dell for raising Chris and knowing that he would “bear Christ” to the nations before he was even born. Add to this tons of family members who believe in and support what we’re doing.
- Dave and Ann Julik for letting me marry the most amazing woman in the world. Again, various family members play a critical role in support.
- Matt Peace and Jason Ostrander for deciding we weren’t insane (off one 20 minute coffee) and buying one way plane tickets for us to move out to Taiwan.
- John Hinton, Chris Folkestad, Marc Trujillo, Tony Roos, Rinata Sokrutova, Aaron Ernst, and other leaders who have brought out short-term teams. We have been encouraged and reinvigorated by your determined focus. And we trust that you’ve been challenged to live life as the Aroma.
- Sharon Duddles, Emily (Ballinger) Matarazzo, Dave Wickersheim, Kyle Kjormoe, Dan Werner, Rachel (Parker) Wichert, Sarah Mabee, Victoria Crowley, Lindsey Nagel, Scott Sidwell, Kalong Wong, Miki Bennett, Caleb Bennett, Michael Shiflet, Belinda Lin, Tiffany Barron, Jesse Wagner, Andrew Trein and other short-term and long-term interns and team members that have participated in the ministry at the Aroma. These people gave up a lot to move to Taiwan and serve.
- Mark Cheng, Ariel Wu, Sweetie Chen, Jimmy Wu, Sandra Wu, Alexa Li, Cloud Shih, Afra Lin, Chris Hugli, Amy Miller, Van Jiang, Stephen Donaldson, Steven Chen, Ulainda Chang, Brian Markley, and countless others who have contributed thousands of volunteer hours to running the coffee shop, church, and missions teams.
- Rick Mann, Jim Nichols, Al Prentice, Gary Schmidt, and Kris Blanchard for teaching me the importance of business as mission and valuing everyone who contributes to the kingdom.
- Kyle Whitlow, Jim Malone, Liz Udall, Becky Gorton, Michelle Olson, Bill Ramirez, and others at the National Office of the C&MA for providing such awesome administrative support.
The list could go on and on, but for now, just remember, it takes a village to raise a child and it takes two nations to start and run the Aroma.
It’s now 2013. We have more focus towards our goals than ever before. We’re learning to lean and press into what God wants for us. We desire to “be the Aroma.” We want to see our neighborhood, our city, our nation, and the world transformed. We want to participate in seeing Heaven come to Earth. We are hungry for everyone to come in through our coffee shop, be transformed by Jesus in the church, and go out living life as the Aroma in their families, amongst their friends, in school and at work. We also know that in the future, God is going to launch more Aromas. He’s going to lead us into the more that He’s been promising. We are excited. For now, we’re learning more everyday about what it means to be the Aroma as we invite people to enjoy good coffee and great friends. 2014 is coming!