By Wil LaVeist of Mennonite Mission Network
Entering the front door of Top of the World Coffee in Nepal, the aroma of fresh roasted brew draws you toward the corner of the café.
Across the brick-colored floor and beyond the black metal chairs and tables, a smiling Dale Nafziger works behind the coffee roasting machine, the source of the aroma.
It’s not Starbucks but even better, particularly for the soul. This coffee shop is the vision of Dale and Bethsaba Nafziger, long-term Mennonite Mission Network workers.
“It’s very different. It’s homey and cozy,” says Bethsaba of Top of the World, which they opened Dec. 11, 2011. “We thought a coffee shop would be a wonderful place to be with the people.”
The Nafzigers are fishers of men and women, only their bait is a blend of steaming cups, caring conversation and business integrity. They share God’s love through their business ventures. From selling frozen French fries, pizza and fruit juice to roasting coffee beans and pulling shots of espresso, they model Anabaptist principles and business ethics as a way of bearing witness to God’s love and power.
The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal is in South Asia between India and Tibet. Hindus make up more than 75 percent of the country’s population, while Christians are less than 2 percent. Economic life among Nepal’s 30 million citizens has been improving. While about 25 percent of the population lives on less than the international poverty level of $1.25 per day, or $1,000 annually, a decade ago the rate was 41 percent.
Still, conducting business is tough in Nepal, the Nafzigers say. For many business owners—even Christians, unfortunately—paying bribes and avoiding taxes is believed to be as necessary as having customers. Taxes can be as high as paying a worker’s salary, Dale says.
The Nafzigers opened Top of the World (because they are in the Himalaya Mountains) just before Christmas in a residential neighborhood. Patrons have been steadily increasing, they say, but as with any business, it hasn’t all been a piece of coffeecake.
“We had an excellent first day, but after that we quickly confronted the reality of what it means to run a restaurant on a daily basis,” the Nafzigers write in their monthly newsletter update.
Two mission workers, Melissa & Jim*, arrived last September from Texas and from a different agency to join in the venture and handle day-to-day operations. Bethsaba is also a registered nurse and midwife, and both Bethsaba and Dale are leaders in church. Dale preaches and advises church leaders regularly.
Through the coffee shop and other business ventures, the Nafzigers aim to show that integrity is important, even if it costs more. As the deadline approached for completing Jim’s business visa, a bit of “speed money” would have expedited the process, Dale says. Jim and the Nafzigers declined to pay the bribe, and Jim’s visa was completed just 10 minutes before the deadline.
The Nafzigers are intentional about hiring people of different faiths and backgrounds. Three Hindus and three Christians make up the coffee shop’s six-member staff. “We meet the staff every day and pray with them,” says Bethsaba. “We never force them to pray with us, but we see them as being happy to come and pray in the morning.”
Bethsaba recalled an experience that illustrates the type of godly relationships they hope the coffee shop will foster. Before they met and eventually married, Reena and Prakash Thapa were working at the Nafzigers’ home. Particularly Reena witnessed the type of love that Dale and Bethsaba bestowed on their daughters, Shova, 14, and Sushma, 12. Reena Thapa felt devalued by her family, which is the case for many women in the culture.
The love she witnessed and received from the Nafzigers led her to accept Christ. Reena and Prakash, a carpenter, fell in love while meeting at the Nafzigers’ and now have a daughter. They now attend “Tejwasi” (Radiant) Church with the Nafzigers.
The Nafzigers are supported by Franconia Conference congregations including Vincent, Providence, Doylestown, Plains, and Towamencin. Vincent is Dale’s home congregation and he still has family that attend there. He will be at the June Pastors and Leaders Breakfast talking about what he learned through his business at Top of the World.