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  • Writer's picturePaul Cho

The Taste of Common Grace in Creation Over a Cup of Kona Coffee

Visiting Oahu Island in Hawaii was truly a breathtaking experience that I will never forget. The ocean, the forest, the mountains, nature, and the beautiful sunset made me feel as if I were entering a heavenly place. The next morning, after our fine dining experience at a restaurant called House Without a Key, Esther woke me up around 5 am, even before sunrise, and she told me again, “Hurry, Paul, we got to move and go to Hanauma Bay.” When we arrived at the entrance of the Bay around 7 am, there were already long lines of people from all over the world trying to get in. I found myself wondering, "What's so special about this bay, this beach, that so many people have gathered here?"

But, as I descended the cliff stairs and saw the ocean view of the bay, I was astounded. It was absolutely gorgeous. The Hawaiian Islands have risen over many years due to the Earth's volcanic activity, and Hanauma Bay was one of them. The bay was truly magnificent in the sense that you could literally see the power of the volcanoes that erupted the rocks and mountains to create this curved bay. It was also breathtakingly beautiful. The rocks, corals, and marine life, including fish and turtles, all testified to the true beauty of God’s creation.

In front of the gigantic and beautiful, the place of glory and beauty, I fell in awe of God's creation. While Esther was taking photos, I opened up the book called “Creation Regained” and started reading it. I felt as if God was drawing me into the story of creation and inviting me to see how all things were meant to be when God created the world, the place of true glory and true beauty.

That afternoon, we boarded a sailboat, swept away by the gentle, warm breeze of Waikiki's ocean wind. It took us miles into the sea. There, gazing at Diamond Head Mountain from a distance, in the midst of a vast and seemingly infinite expanse, where we felt so tiny, we were again speechless as we were seeing and deeply appreciating every beauty of creation.

The following day, we went on a deep dive into the ocean, delighting in the view of the incredible and beautiful sea creatures, and swimming with the turtles. At the end of the day, tired yet joyful, we stood on the beach, looking at the ocean during sunset. As the sun made its way down over the beautiful horizon of Waikiki Beach, I couldn't help but see all of this as God's handiwork.

I said to Esther, "Esther, I believe God is an artist. He is the truest artist who has brought forth the true beauty in our world. He is truly the creator and the sustainer of beauty, and the redeemer of all things. I can't wait to see what the truest beauty of all beauties will look like when He comes to redeem all things in the new world to come."

On the last day of our trip, we went to the Honolulu Coffee Experience Center for breakfast as we were preparing for the day. Esther told me, "Paul, I heard the coffee here is amazing. Wait here, I will go get something." At that moment, I thought to myself, "Coffee is just coffee. I drink it every day in Vancouver." Then, as I was waiting and pondering upon the meaning of everything we saw - the turtles, the stunning fishes, the ocean view, the sunset, truly the beauty of God’s creation - I saw on the walls of the Coffee Experience Center information telling the story of Kona coffee.

First, the coffee shop's motto caught my eye: "We are the world's premier farm-to-cup coffee company." I read deeper and found out that Honolulu Coffee deeply cares about the quality of coffee they bring to their customers. They actually own and operate the coffee farms to ensure every process, from seeding and planting to cultivating, is done under their care. This is to bring the best of the best, the world's premier coffee, to the customers, so they can taste the unique flavor that is truly unique to the island. Intrigued, I began reading more about Honolulu Coffee's coffee farm. I soon learned that their Kona coffee farm is located along the western slopes of the Mauna Loa area on the island, and that their plants grow in a unique tropical environment and volcanic soil, giving the coffee a taste that is one of the rarest on earth.

After finishing my reading, Esther brought the coffee and acai bowls. I first tasted the coffee and was truly amazed by its flavor. It was fresh, smooth, well-balanced, and somewhat nutty - a unique taste that lingered in my mouth for a few seconds after each sip. Then, I tasted the acai bowls, a flavor I had never found anywhere in North America. The coffee, fruits, and honey, all unique to the island's environment and cultivated by caring human hands, came together to create a delicious and healthy meal that was one of a kind. These were not just another coffee and another acai bowl, they were truly a taste of heaven, signposts of what coffee and meals may look and taste like in the Supper to come in the new world.

At this moment, the light bulb went off in my head. This is it. This is our calling in God’s beautiful creation. In the creation account of the story, God made us to be His image bearers, to walk with Him and to work with Him in cultivating and caring for God’s creation, bringing forth the best of creation in a way that glorifies God and blesses the world. This calling is to be reflected and breathed out in our vocation. The staff at Honolulu Coffee was exactly doing that. They were carefully cultivating and curating the land, the soil of creation, to bring out the true taste of coffee, the taste of coffee in the way it is meant to be tasted. This taste, nurtured and crafted by the work of human hands, truly reflected God’s good and beautiful work of creation, blessing the people and hinting at the finest coffee in the new world to come.

This is the calling that God invites us all to join: to be stewards of common grace, reflecting God's good work of creation in bringing life and creating beauty, and His redemptive work of restoring life and renewing beauty in the world. We get to participate in such meaningful and beautiful works when we engage in our work through our vocations in ways that show what the world is meant to be and what the world will be. Through tasting Kona coffee, the product of human vocations, farmers and baristas, I had a heavenly moment of sacrament. I experienced what the taste of coffee was intended to be in the world that was meant to be at creation, and also envisioned what the finest taste of coffee might be like in the world that will be on the day of full redemption.

On our last stop during our visit to Hawaii, we visited a beach called Lanikai, which in the local language means 'heavenly sea.' Once again, as we gazed at the beauty of creation, which literally looked like heaven, we couldn't help but pause and marvel at God’s handiwork.

There, we took a brief pause. This time we closed our eyes, and prayed that the narratives of our lives would reflect and point to the truest beauty of all, which is to be here, where we are, on the day when heaven makes its home right here, where our feet are.

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