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October 11, 2017 | by Charis Saenz

J.J. and Brandi Hefley
J.J. and Brandi Hefley

Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) alumnus J.J. Hefley is using his church’s coffee shop, City Light Coffee , to fund missions and reach the community of Binghamton, New York .

City Light Coffee is completely volunteer-based and functions as a ministry of Binghamton First Assembly , where Hefley serves as the Outreach Pastor. “Everything we do is cause-related,” he says.

“Coffee with a cause” is what City Light provides to Binghamton with 100 percent of profits being donated to local and global missions. The coffee shop is working to feature monthly causes which include human trafficking prevention and ministries geared toward the homeless. City Light also highlights missionaries and local outreaches that First Assembly supports.

Even the coffee beans City Light uses plays a part in supporting missions. City Light purchases beans from Eurasia Coffee Company , an Assemblies of God coffee roaster based out of Springfield, MO , that gives a percentage of profits to ministry.

In addition to being globally-minded, City Light focuses on the local community; when students present an ID, they receive free, unlimited coffee.

“The heart of that is to connect with our students and our community,” says Hefley. “We also want to introduce them to what we do, the causes we are connected to and then if that happens, our hope is that we can connect them to Christ and to our faith community.”

The idea for City Light partially came from Hefley’s time in Lubbock, Texas , where he and his wife owned and operated a coffee shop across from Texas Tech University. “It was a business that ended up turning into a ministry for us,” he says. “We started to intentionally engage students with relationships.”

When Hefley and his wife moved to Binghamton First Assembly six years ago, they realized that their unique ministry at the Lubbock coffee shop could also be effective for City Light. At the time, City Light was already owned by the church and served as an extension site to host various congregational gatherings. Considering its proximity to Binghamton University, Hefley saw how the property’s location could provide the perfect opportunity to reach students.

After this realization, Hefley used an interesting tactic to draw attention from the university. Hefley recognized that Binghamton University needed more study space on campus, especially during finals week. He contacted the university’s dean and offered free space, coffee and wifi to students. City Light did this every finals week for several semesters. Eventually, this decision turned into a success as students expressed interest in the coffee shop to be open year-round.

Today, students from Binghamton University and Broome Community College have found a safe space at City Light. The coffee shop is now full-time and Hefley’s wife, Brandi, manages everyday operations. Operating expenses come directly from Binghamton First Assembly’s ministry budget. Hefley sees the effectiveness of City Light in terms of how many community connections they make and how much they raise for missions. “We just view it as a ministry department,” he says. “We’re not judging it like a business, we’re going to judge it as a ministry.”

As City Light volunteers share their testimonies with the community, customers respond with open hearts. “They begin to open their lives to us and begin to share their struggles, and are comforted,” Hefley says. “We’ve provided this place, this hub, where they can come and feel at home. They can be welcomed by friendly faces that they know.”

Hefley says that even student-athletes have invited him and other City Light volunteers to their games. “They’re just like everybody,” he says. “They want to feel loved, be supported and feel connected.”

Along with functioning as a relational space, City Light Coffee is a place where students and community members are free to ask questions about faith. Hefley, who graduated from SAGU with an M.A. in Bible and Theology this past summer, says that the northeast’s religious culture is primarily influenced by Catholicism. “We have a lot of discussions about the fundamentals of the faith, the difference between Catholicism and Protestantism and what it means to be AG and Pentecostal,” he says. “They haven’t been exposed to the power of Jesus, the truth of who He is.”

As Hefley looks toward the future of City Light Coffee, he says he’s excited to connect with new faces, have more opportunities to share the Gospel and witness the advance of the Kingdom. He says that SAGU has provided ministry-networks and training that are valuable to his current role in Binghamton First Assembly and City Light Coffee.

When asked what advice he would give students interested in ministry, Hefley encourages them to be spiritually prepared and to live as students of the word.

“Make sure that your source is the Holy Spirit, that you’re staying in personal prayer and study, and that you are keeping connected with a solid network of believers and pastors that are going to edify and encourage you.”

To find out more about City Light Coffee, you can visit its Facebook page:

Southwestern Assemblies of God University is a private, Christian university located 30 minutes south of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex in Waxahachie, Texas. The university was established in 1927, and now offers more than 70 associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees on campus or online. More information is available at or by calling 1-888-YES-SAGU.

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