Up until COVID precautions created international travel restrictions to Colombia, South America, Bebe Beans, a ministry which sells coffee to support housing and helping pregnant women from the streets of Medlin, distributed its product through missionary teams that would leave with suitcases full of coffee to disperse to their communities upon returning. It wasn’t until November 2020 that Bebe Beans coined its products name and branding, with some help from an organizational change and development class at Charleston Southern University, however the story of how the company first discovered its mission started years earlier.
It was 1996, when Brian Miller, founder of Bebe beans and missionary through Global Transformations alongside his wife and family, first moved to Colombia to pursue working with the growing issue of homelessness and hunger in the city.
“It was so dynamic, I was driving down the road and I feel like God's voice said I want you to start a church in the upper class so that they will reach out to the least of these, and I said Lord if that's really you, you've got to give me a sign. I’m coming around a blind turn and the area that he was telling me to go to was encapsulated by a double rainbow. So I said okay, I'll follow that direction. So I have been a full time missionary for 16 years in Colombia since then,” Miller said.
Miller planned to pursue church planting in an effort to form leaders from these churches that would begin working with the homeless children residing in their community. It started by helping provide food and water several nights a week. Miller says it all stemmed from a desire to demonstrate the outpouring of the love he experienced in his own relationship with Christ.
“God comes into your heart and now how do you express his love to the community?,” Miller said.
Over time, the ministry developed more and more as Miller discovered a large need in the area: a safe place for pregnant women on the streets to live.
Miller began selling coffee as a way to fund the purchase of a home, which would soon become Casa Esther, named after the biblical figure. The ambition was that the home would become that safe space for pregnant women eventually, with the resources to prepare them for the world they would soon re enter after the 9 month program was complete. On December 9, 2019, the home was complete.
“It was remodeled and there were new facilities on the back side of it. We turned a 1,500 square foot home into a 6,000 square foot home. And on that day we opened up our home, since then we have rescued 15 girls that were pregnant on the street,” Miller said.
Between the ages of 17 to 25, many of the woman are coming into Casa Esther with no other safe housing option or safe career option. Casa Esther aims to assist the woman as they process both emotional and spiritual healing. While at Casa Esther, the expecting mothers are also given the opportunity to take courses on sewing and cosmetology. When each of the girls are ready to leave the home, members of the staff and church come together to prepare them for returning on their own.
“People donate refrigerators and washers. So every girl that leaves, leaves with their whole entire apartment furnished, a month's worth of rent in her pocket, a month's worth of groceries in her pocket and with her baby,” Miller said.
So far, each of the fifteen women to leave Casa Esther have found jobs immediately, Miller said.
But it wasn't until November 2020 that Bebe Beans developed its official name and branding. Fast forward to fall of 2020, a Charleston Southern Professor and former colleague of Miller, Dr. Darin Gerdes, reached out to Miller with an offer. Dr. Gerdes’s organizational change and development course would take on many of the business aspects of the company from marketing and advertising to production in the form of a very tangible and very real world project. Anna Admamian, management major at CSU, is part of the team that has made efforts to establish a larger consumer network for Bebe Beans.
“The class deals with a lot of organizing and strategizing that really help you learn the materials but make a difference in the world as well,” Admamian said.
With help from students in this course at CSU, strides have been made to assure sales can continue amidst the seemingly relentless pandemic. Bebe Beans is now able to be purchased through its new online platform as well as at third Sunday, an event that takes place every third Sunday of the month in Hutchinson Square in Summerville, South Carolina.