For Justin Carabello '94 and his wife, Emily, coffee extends beyond the average morning pick-me-up and serves as a way to financially support those in need. Based in northern Ky., just south of the Cincinnati, Carabello Coffee is a small, philanthropic roasting business built on a vision of change and a God who works powerfully in unlikely circumstances.
In 2009, Justin and Emily were introduced to the art of coffee roasting by a friend with a hot- air popcorn popper. While originally skeptical, the couple was pleasantly surprised by the decreased cost and improved quality of the resulting brew. Coincidently, while aboard a flight, Justin's attention was caught by an article in an airplane magazine challenging the justice of fair trade. It was there, in a moment of vision that Carabello Coffee began to take shape. Three months later, their newfound hobby transformed into their current business and ministry.
"It was the first time I genuinely got a vision of something," Justin reflected. "What if we could equitably source coffee from within the body of Christ, building relationships with the farmers, then sell the coffee and put the money back into those communities that the beans came from? God put something in my heart that was bigger than me, and I knew that God was the only one who could bring it to pass."
Three years later, this vision is alive as a full-fledged business. From the beginning, people quickly showed interest in Justin's idea. "There are a growing number of people looking for opportunities to exercise their consciences with expenses," Justin explained. "Coffee is already built into people's budgets, so this provided a way for that money to go outside business' pockets."
Beyond covering the cost of the beans and the roasting process, all proceeds from Carabello Coffee go directly to helping people who are in need. Since the founding of Carabello Coffee, the business' main ministry has been to support an orphanage in Nicaragua. The 18 children, rescued from a dump in 2007, have been greatly blessed through funding from the roasting business. Over the course of their three years spent supporting the orphanage, the Carabellos have had the privilege of visiting the children four times. Over these few years, God has been active in their ministry. "We have seen transformation in the kids from shy, scrawny, and underdeveloped into healthy children who are receiving an education," Emily recalled. "We have seen them come to life."
The Carabellos' connection with Nicaragua is not a one-way support ministry. In December 2011, Luis Alberto Balladarez, a local coffee farmer, pastor, and friend from whom they had been buying beans, informed the couple that he wanted to partner with them. He shared their vision and promised to provide them with 1,500 pounds of coffee each year if they would send the profit to people in need.
"Our partnership with Luis is such an affirmation of God's hand," Justin expressed. "In third -world countries, that's just not how it's done! God confounded us. On every step of the journey, whenever we think it might not go any further, He pulls things off that we couldn't imagine. He's in it, and He's doing it."
This story of God's faithfulness and power has reached many people, both internationally and locally. As teachers at a private Christian school, most of both Justin's and Emily's opportunities to share the Gospel with nonbelievers have come through their roasting business. During Saturdays spent selling at farmers' markets, the pair has built relationships with many nonbelievers, providing opportunities to share about Jesus. "I find myself interacting with people from many different spiritual perspectives," Emily reflected, "and they want to get involved and help us. I have an opportunity to shine the light rather than just wishing I could."
As the Carabellos anticipate the future for their roasting business, their focus remains on those it will impact rather than on the business itself. New projects, such as the "The Africa Project," which gives $4 to HIV orphans in Kenya for every bag sold, are being developed, while established ones continue to grow and transform. "Right now we are using most of our profits to help meet immediate needs — food, clothing, infrastructure," explained Justin, "but we look at the kids in the orphanage and wonder what is next for them. It is imperative that we seek to empower the indigenous people to pursue and fulfill the calling of God on their lives so that sustainable change is established."
Justin's and Emily's business is a reminder of God's faithfulness and desire for his people to love and serve. As they follow God's direction, He uses them to reach people in need.