Through this project, we would like to create a community space in Japan that has a café and Christian goods store with a theme, which is inspired by the Bible verse, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) We want the space to reflect a vibe which is very comfortable and cozy.
【The Community We Aim For】
While we quite often hear the word “community” everywhere, and it sounds nice, it is also very vague and unclear. As we have shared more deeply about our thoughts of the community we envision and its purpose, we have found that others were picturing something totally different.
It is not easy to match the image of vague and abstract words. But for everyone who is supporting us in this project, we want to communicate what we are aiming for as clearly as possible and unite our thoughts. In order to do this, we would like to share the image of the community that we want to realize through this project and the need for it, through three specific points.
What do you picture when you hear the word “community?” We believe that most people might have the image of a community of people with the same hobby, a school, a church, or a gathering of people who have something in common with each other. Of course, this is also correct.
However, we also think that it is not necessary that all people build a strong relationship and know each other’s names or personalities in order for it to be considered a community. We are saying that it is also a community when every single person has just the right amount of distance between each other which makes them feel comfortable, so they do not necessarily know each other well, but more importantly, they experience a sense of belonging. We believe that this is a very Japanese way of looking at things, and this is what we want to make in community. Since we were born and raised in Japan, it is kind of hard to explain about that distance in words, but we and most Japanese know what it's like and how we feel about it.
It may look like these people do not have anything at all in common, but they enjoy the same food and drinks and feel comfortable being in the same space – in the same cafe. Then they naturally become a part of the cafe community, even though they do not talk to each other. When we found out the reasons behind what makes people in Japan feel comfortable as a community, we thought "Oh we should make this happen in a cafe.” What we mean is that a cafe has a huge potential to create that kind of atmosphere and space. Japan has thousands of years of history so we have very unique and both traditional and blended cultures which are sometimes not easily understood by people who do not know Japan well. But we who grew up and work in Japan can put Christ-centered culture into Japanese culture naturally. We believe that is why God gave us this vision now (which He had already planned from before). And we hope that people who come to the cafe will come to know what (who) is at the center of our vision and concept for the cafe gradually and naturally through the warm and cozy atmosphere. These are the kinds of opportunities we hope to create.
We strongly think that Christians in Japan especially need more opportunities to connect with and encourage each other, because less than 1% of the population here are Christians. However, there are so many Christians who leave the church or who do not have a close connection to it. Moreover, as a typical Christian living and working in Japan, you can hardly find the opportunity to connect with other Christians at work or in daily life, even if you go to church every week. Christians here tend to feel isolated or lonely, so it is hard to maintain a strong faith as a Christian. We have experienced this ourselves.
On the other hand, these days we can easily access online worship services or information through a computer/smartphone screen. But you just can’t have a quality relationship with people just through connecting online. We really hope that we can create a community that fosters casual and natural connections, which lead to the birth of close Christian friendships for all who gather.
For this reason, when we open the cafe, we would not only run the café, but we would hold events for Christians so they can have fellowship, small groups, or share their testimonies. This means that Christians can get connected and build a strong relationship with each other in daily life, outside of church. This community is different from the community mentioned above(①), but it is to make strong and deep connections. We want to produce diversity and depth in this community through MESHRASH activities.
For the typical non-Christian person living in Japan, it would be rare to meet a Christian or see God’s word in their daily lives. But if you’ve ever been to a country where there are a lot of Christians and Christianity is rooted in the culture, you can easily imagine that you will be able to meet Christians at school, home, or out in the community, and that you can find products with God’s word at stores and so on. In such countries, you probably have lots of chances to meet Christians and encounter God’s word naturally in your daily life.
We are not saying that such an environment will always lead to strong faith. However, we believe that at least the more opportunities that people have to meet Christians or encounter God's word, the more choices they will have to become a Christian. We want non-Christians in Japan to become more familiar with Christians and God's word. We, MESHRASH, have been making products and having events for years, but we have fully realized that there is a limit to reaching out by just selling Christian goods online and having events from time to time.
So, we want to have a space at our cafe for Christian goods made by various Christian artisans who we have connected with through our activities over the years. Then people who come to our cafe can have a chance to encounter God's word and meet Christians like us. These artisans pour their heart and prayers into their products, and they have a passion to tell the good news to people who are longing to hear and to encourage other Christians through the story (testimony) behind their products.
God's word can speak to people's hearts directly at the right time and in many ways beyond our expectations. We really hope that these products will reach as many people as possible, and for those who do not have any Christian friends yet or have yet to step inside of a church, that they can come to our cafe and get a taste of what it is like to be a part of this community and sense what scripture is speaking to them in a natural way.
【The Store Concept】
Over the past few years, we have done lots of activities through MESHRASH, such as making products, having events, serving coffee, etc. This time, this scripture was given to us, “COME to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you REST.” (Matthew 11:28a). So, we decided to name the café, Café C&R. C is for Come, and R is for Rest. We want all customers, both Christian and non-Christian, to feel God’s love, and we want them to rest in that love. Christians may want to come to this café, because they can find Christian goods there. On the other hand, for non-Christians, they may just be coming because cafés are super popular in Japan, and it’s a place where they can spend time inside and relax. But they can also encounter God’s word through Christian goods, which they wouldn’t be able to anywhere else, since we rarely hear or see words from the Bible in our daily lives in Japan. And as far as we know, there are no other stores which sell mainly Christian goods which has a café space.
There are two main reasons why we chose to do crowdfunding.One: We simply do not have enough funds to open a café.
Two: To find supporters and more like-minded people.
Most importantly, we need such like-minded people and want them to be a part of this vision given to us by God. This is the biggest reason why we have started the crowdfunding.
We believe that the most important ingredient in building a community and carrying on the activities of MESHRASH, is the existence of people who stand up for and support each other. We are so grateful for every single person who listens to us and walks together with us. We may not be able to do much to encourage you right now, but we strongly hope that you guys would be encouraged by our existence and who we are.
Raising funds and finding supporters are essential to opening a cafe. These reasons made us decide to ask you for support through crowdfunding.
We chose the ALL-OR-NOTHING model this time, which means we keep nothing unless the goal is achieved (the 1st goal is ¥3,500,000). And all the funds are refunded if the goal is not achieved within the time frame we set up (Aug 28th - Sep 30th).
We are using one of the best-known crowdfunding platforms in Japan, Campfire. However, it works only in Japan, so that people living overseas cannot support us directly through it. So, we will contribute the funds given here to Campfire on your behalf. It would be great if you would pray for and support us in this vision.
Aug 30th - Sep 30th: Crowdfunding Implementation Period (Japan Time)
・Mid-Sept - End of Sept: Property Contract
・Mid-Oct - End of Oct: Additional Bank Financing
・Oct - Nov: Shipping rewards
・Dec - Jan: Pre-opening/Open
※The schedule might change a bit depending on our situation.