Beyond the Doors of the World Cup Cafe

by racheliliadis

In the midst of crime and a high poverty rate, a light of hope and love shines through the community of North Waco. From the moment customers walk through the doors of the World Cup Café they realize it’s no ordinary place. From the Fair Trade products to the eclectic artwork and design, the café offers more than a nice cup of Joe. It offers a warm and friendly environment where people in the community can live, learn, and grow together.

Shannon Williams, the assistant to the director of the World Cup Café, has seen firsthand the impact of the World Cup Café on the community and its ability to empower people to regain control of their lives. When the World Cup Café was first opened in 2005, she witnessed Hurricane Katrina victims and single moms come off the streets and into Mission Waco training facilities to work for the World Cup Café. Through their employment they were able to go on to great jobs and live great lives.

For almost three years the World Cup Café, located on N. 15th and Colcord, has strived to fight poverty and revitalize the community through breaking the socioeconomic barriers of the area.

“It’s really cool to see people from Woodway, who have never been here, drive down,” Williams said. “[World Cup Café] is funky and eclectic, and so people get to come together and see really cool things about Waco and North Waco. They feel comfortable here, and then they decide to volunteer. It’s impacted people by bringing them together.”

World Cup Café, funded through Mission Waco, was started with the purpose to help mobilize the middle class and provide training and job opportunities for those in the community. Through working at the World Cup Café, employees are able to gain the experience and relationships necessary to continue improving their economic situation.

“It’s a gateway to other programs that Mission Waco offers. It’s a big mobilizer. You can eat, volunteer, contribute money, and it’s a really cool jumping off place,” Williams said. “It’s a good place to gain the skills for out in the work place.”

According to Williams nearly 75 percent of people that work at the World Cup Café live in the community, many on 15th Street.

“It’s wonderful for people to come from the outside and work, but if you live in the community, and live with the people, and live life daily with the community, it has a big impact on what you do and what you feel,” Williams said. “If you know that this is your community and you want your community to grow you have a new investment and you want to empower the people around you.”

The community is already changing and growing economically as a result of the World Cup Café. Several more local restaurants have begun to flourish and the area is seeing some good progress.

“People feel like they can come here because it will be a safe place to eat. It’s affiliated with Mission Waco and has a good reputation in the community. People that normally would be afraid to be in the part of town feel Mission Waco’s name protection if they go out in the community,” Williams said.

Doug and Carly Fischer have lived in Waco for three years and are regulars at the World Cup Café. Through working at the café for six months, Carly was able to build strong relationships with people in the community, both the customers and the employees.

“The people are so different from everyone else. You feel like you are among friends,” Carly said. “It has character.”

“It is a community hub,” Doug said. “I think that Baylor students would come here more frequently if they knew about it.”

There are many ways to get involved with Mission Waco and volunteering at the World Cup Café is a great way for someone to serve with a purpose. Lee Ann Marcel, a senior journalism major at Baylor, became a volunteer because of her passion and dedication to social justice and fair trade.

“The best part of working at the café is realizing that I am making a difference with each item I sell at the market. With each item that is sold, some where out in the world a mother is getting enough money to feed her child,” Marcel said.
When employees, volunteers, and customers are asked what the best part of being apart of the World Cup Café community is the answer is unanimous: the people.

“I’ve built relationships with the people that work here and the people that come in. Every day, I know certain people will come in and sit a certain place. My regular people, I know about their lives. They aren’t just customers, they are my friends,” Williams said. “A lot of people have become my friends. I am very relationship oriented myself and Mission Waco gives me an opportunity to do that.”

Through working at the café, Williams has had the privilege of going through he ups and downs of life side by side with the people in the community.

“People are hurting a lot of times. One lady came in and had lost both of her kids. When she got her kids back we were able to rejoice with her. We were able to share with her and help her get out of that lifestyle. She was able to get her life back, ” Williams said.

A few weeks ago, Williams’s mom was in a major car accident. Some of the customers inside of the café heard about the accident and were able to sit down with Williams and pray with her. Clearly, the relationships built at the World Cup Café are more than just working relationships. The people genuinely care about how you are.

“It’s not just a job, it’s a ministry. It’s not my ministry, but it’s ministry. It’s living life together. It’s bringing people together. People want to be a part of this. They come not only for the food quality, but for you,” Williams said. “You get invested in their life and they get invested in your life.”

Unlike other businesses, the World Cup Café is neither about getting ahead financially nor having an individualistic mindset. It is about sharing what they have in order to help those in need. It’s about getting past socioeconomic and racial boundaries and living life interdependently.

“Whenever you get past that, that’s when community happens, and you are able to live in true community as Jesus would have it,” Williams said. “We aren’t out to be the director and individualists, we ask what we can bring to the table to share with the people. That’s what people see and they see Jesus. We have the opportunity to tell people what Jesus has done in our life.”

Through love and mercy the World Cup Café has reached out to a hurting community and has been able to rejuvenate and bring hope into people’s lives. The simple neighborhood café has become a place of security and growth where people can truly eat with a purpose.

Whether people are craving the highly recommended World Cup Burger or just need someone to talk to, they are bound to find what they are looking for beyond the doors of the World Cup Café.