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Mid Valley pastor gives a different kind of service

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By Will Grandbois
Sopris Sun Staff Writer

Don’t worry; your coffee won’t come with a sermon just because Mid Valley Church pastor Lance Norton is brewing it for you — unless you want it to, of course.

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“I know it’s an odd combination, but I don’t want people to think of it as the Christian coffee shop,” Norton said. “A lot of pastors view their primary role as Bible study and preaching, and I just don’t see it that way. You have that bartender that people kind of talk to about everything, and I hope I can be there for people that way whether they’re a Christian or not.”

Located just inside the main entrance of the Third Street Center and open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays, Cilundu Coffee takes its name from the word for “mountain” in the Chitonga language. The Zambian title provides a perfect opportunity for Norton to talk about the New Day Orphanage, which the proceeds from those morning mochas will support.

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“I want people to come for the coffee and then feel good about it because it’s a great cause,” Norton said. “The orphanage has a very special place in our hearts. We’ve known these kids since they first came here and watching them grow up has been amazing.”

Originally from Oklahoma, Norton spent about a decade working in student ministry before moving to Wales with his wife, Staci, where they spent a couple years before the Mid Valley job offered an opportunity to repatriate somewhere with similar people, politics and landscapes.

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“It was probably easier for us moving here than it would have been going back to Oklahoma,” Norton noted.

As willing travelers, the couple didn’t hesitate when a friend suggested they visit the orphanage and meet the founders when it was getting started back in 2010.

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“We had a lot in common with them as far as our philosophy on helping and serving people,” Norton recalled. “They’re trying to raise the kids with a quality education but keep them in a Zambian culture.”

The orphanage has grown considerably, and is becoming more self sustaining with food fresh from the garden, fish pond or pasture.

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In brainstorming ideas on how to help fund the endeavor, Norton initially considered running a food truck, but that proved a nonstarter.

“Man, the startup costs were so high, and there’s so much more involved when you start serving food,” he said. “We wanted to create something that was sustainable in the long run and also beneficial to the Third Street Center and the community.”

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You’ll still find some prepackaged food to pair with your fresh, single-source cup ‘o joe. The no-blend philosophy is part of what Norton hopes will set the shop apart.

“It’s amazing how little we think about the origin of our coffee. When you’re buying it green it’s a little easier to track that… We want to embrace the inconsistency of a natural product and let people experience coffees from around the world,” he said. “We don’t have to buy 100 pounds at a time. It helps us be able to sort of help out the little guy.”

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And while that would usually result in at least a modest increase in price, the minimal overhead will help offset that. If the shop proves successful, there’s the potential to hire more staff or open for special events, but for now, Norton is content to run things on his own.

It’s been something of a learning curve, but with training at Atlas Coffee Importers in Seattle and extensive reading, he’s learning how to really appreciate the product.

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“I wasn’t a real big coffee drinker because I think I didn’t realize what it could be,” he said.

The next challenge will be streamlining the process and reducing wait times — though according to Norton everyone has been patient and supportive.

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“Carbondale always amazes me with the generosity and kindness of the people,” he said.

Published in The Sopris Sun on May 24, 2017.