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Jonathan Miller proudly stands in the hallway in front of his classroom at First Baptist Church in Horn Lake. The hat, dog tags and flag hanging on the wall are all gifts sent back from overseas soldiers who got their “Cup of Joe” through his Eagles Sunday School Class at the church. 

It’s amazing what can happen over a cup of coffee.

Friendships can be made, business deals may be consummated, just a myriad of things can take place through the extra moments shared with a coffee, latte, or cappuccino.

For servicemen and women stationed overseas, that moment may be an important break from the battles or stresses that come with protecting our freedoms.

Thanks to a special needs class at a Horn Lake church, that moment may also be the soldiers' introduction to the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

The Eagles Sunday School Class at First Baptist Church of Horn Lake is made up of four young adults with varying levels of special needs and are led by Joy Miller, wife of associate pastor Calvin Miller. Their son Jonathan is considered the “founder” of the class as he encouraged the church to start the class in 2012. Jonathan has dealt with seizures since birth which have caused brain damage and other issues.

Joy Miller said she wanted to group to embrace their faith and to live it out to others, giving them the same opportunity to spread the message of Christ.

“One of our goals with the Sunday School class was to give our special needs folks a class where it was a slower pace,” Joy said. “The lessons are tailored to their level, like a typical special needs class. Every member of the class has been saved. Then it became, ‘what do you do with that, how are they going to share it?’”

She said the class has undertaken a number of projects, such as collecting toys for the police department to give to children as they deal with crisis situations. Another project has been to support the Voice of the Martyrs organization that looks for persecuted Christians worldwide, then try to help them and their families.

Joy said the class was an active participant in a recent event held at First Baptist Church.

“Our class helped host a big conference here at the church and we all had a part in it, whether it was picking up the garbage or cleaning up the kitchen, we all helped with that,” Joy said.

Another project was called Change for Change, where money was collected and donated to support the Voice of the Martyrs program.

However, Joy said the students weren’t able to experience seeing the receiving part of their projects.

“It all wasn’t real personal because we couldn’t get involved in the other end of that,” she said. “They didn’t get to see children get their stuffed animals or did not get to hear from the family in Syria who got our refugee packs.”

Those projects were a precursor to the current project, called “Cup of Joe for a Joe.” It has become a popular program with the class members and has attracted involvement of the entire church and beyond.

“Cup of Joe for a Joe” is an online giving program done through a national coffee company called Green Beans Coffee Company. People become part of the effort through donating money to “Cup of Joe,” knowing that for every $2.50, a soldier overseas gets a free cup of coffee, latte, whatever, wherever Green Beans has set up a hut on or off a base somewhere in the world.

“I come from a family that was in the military so I tend to keep up with things going on in the military,” Joy said. “Searching out online I found out about Cup of Joe for a Joe. Green Beans partners with the military and the military lets Green Beans come on to the base and they set up a little hut.”

Beyond just collecting money, those in The Eagles Sunday School Class are allowed to add notes of encouragement, prayers, Bible verses, best wishes, whatever they want to say.

“They have never restricted us, they’ve never censored anything,” Joy said. “Whatever they say, I write it down word-for-word. I’m typing it, I know the soldier may not believe it, but I promised the kids here that whatever they say, it’s going to go in there.”

Word spread about Cup of Joe for a Joe and now church members contribute on a regular basis each Sunday morning. In fact, Jonathan said they even got a letter from another state about it.

“We received an envelope from a family in Missouri and they were in-laws of a soldier named Zach,” said Jonathan. “His mother and father-in-law sent to our class here at the church a letter and a check for $30 saying, ‘Put this into your Cup of Joe fund,’ because they wanted to give to their son-in-law so he would have his cup of coffee while he was away.”

On the receiving end for the class has been the notes and letters sent back to them, thanking them for their Cup of Joe. The classroom is decorated with shirts signed by soldiers, plaques and even folded flags that have been flown overseas and then sent back to the class. The flags are each placed in a case specially made by a church member who is a veteran.

There are dog tags, hats and bracelets they proudly wear while paging through a scrapbook full of letters and photos from soldiers whose free coffee came courtesy of the Horn Lake Sunday School class.

Jonathan and his classmates get the return thanks from the soldiers, but he also knows that he is fulfilling his Christian mission and his own ministry.

“It’s like our outreach or mission project for our class,” Jonathan said. “Just like the missionaries go out to witness, this is our way of witnessing to our country’s military. Cup of Joe gives us a chance to witness to our soldiers and share the Gospel with them.”

Jonathan added he wants to spread the Good News to keep people in a dangerous situation overseas from being in an eternal crisis.

“The soldiers are already in danger by fighting battles and if they die they may go to Hell and be cast in the Lake of Fire,” said Jonathan. “I don’t want to happen to our soldiers. I want them to have Spiritual victory and go to Heaven.”

The other members in The Eagles Sunday School Class are Kimberly Robertson, Terry Tims and Shari Barrett.

You can find out more about Cup of Joe for a Joe through the website www.greenbeanscoffee.com, or simply call First Baptist Church in Horn Lake at 662-393-7620 and ask about it.

Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

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