Alumni-staffed coffee shop becomes venue for spiritual conversations

by Alexis Marie Berry, web content manager

Just south of the Roosevelt Red Line stop, Overflow Coffee Bar is all about the kind of Christian hospitality that crosses social barriers and preconceived notions. This young coffee shop is becoming a fixture in the neighborhood, welcoming locals to a space for conversations, community gatherings and opportunities to spend their coffee and sandwich money with social responsibility.

“Every part of this building shows a different part of God working in the city,” said Justin Buege, 2010 alumnus. After graduating from Moody and spending time at the Charlotte Fellows Program in Charlotte, N.C., Buege kept in contact with his boss from Chicago’s Daystar School, the Christian elementary school he worked with throughout college. He learned about the building next door, which Daystar also owns, and the various non-profits that rent office space there. Soon after, he moved back to Chicago and joined the Overflow staff and community of Vineyard South Loop.

The coffee shop is in the center lobby between all of the rented space. Some of the offices they share the space with include that of a Fuller Theological Seminary professor, an athletic ministry, Christian counselors, urban school ministry, assisted living, language learning, music lessons, entrepreneurial assistance and Vineyard South Loop. Extra space is also rented out to the community for meetings, performances, film screenings and other church groups.

“We are building off of connection points here,” Buege said. “They are not all necessarily communicating religious beliefs, but being the Good News together,” said Brandon Neely, who first opened Overflow with his wife, Amanda, in January 2010. The couple, who are also leading the Vineyard ministry in the South Loop, began the coffee shop as L3C, or low-profit limited liability company, with the intent to be generous to the local and worldwide communities.

“[People are] not doing justice at Starbucks and Caribou,” Neely said. Overflow sells products that are fairly traded through Coffee Ambassadors. They also want to give to local and global non-profits. “We really want to focus on human trafficking and oppression,” Neely said, adding that their team has been conducting research about global poverty.

Locally, Overflow is making the effort to spend time with local customers and pursue the daily mission of God in their surroundings. Their staff, which includes Jess Hunt, a 2009 Moody graduate, takes care to build bridges and offer a local space for people to feel welcome and safe in.

Each month, Overflow holds a number of events that give opportunities for people to ask questions and talk with Christians about a concert, film screening, drama or even a Bible study. “This is being Christianity to the world,” Buege said, adding that in a tainted world, God has called us to live holy lives, to embody the mission of God and to bring the gospel to our communities.

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