(PHOTO: Facebook via The Christian Post)
Imagine a coffee shop where the drinks are free and the tabs are always paid for regardless of the time, day, or season.
Now add a few TVs, computers, couches, and some college kids, and you get the picture behind the new coffee house near Oklahoma State University started by two former alumni who desired to spread God's love in the community.
Friends Matt Brown and Matt Ball decided to open up their own cafe in downtown Bristow, where for seven days a week, everything – tutoring included – is free as part of their nonprofit organization Firehouse Ministries,
"Our aim in running the shop is simply to provide a place for people to come and experience the Lord's presence," Ball shared with The Christian Post via email. "They can come in, sit down and relax with a cup of coffee. Students can come in after school, do some homework, get a snack or just hang out with friends."
Many of the customers who frequent the place are believers who desire Christian fellowship or need prayer and an encouraging word, the co-owner described.
"We are praying with people every day, and many adults ask us about our faith to step out and trust the Lord to sustain us and this ministry."
From 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., dozens of patrons come and go throughout the day, supplied with anything they might need, physically, emotionally, and spiritually as well.
"We never figured on charging anyone for anything," Ball said. "If God wanted us to give a student a snack after school or give someone a cup of coffee, He would make sure we have it to give away."
Most of the costs, including the food and the coffee, are accounted for through ongoing donations from the people of Bristow or the surrounding areas who have responded positively to the new cafe, which was "God's idea."
"After a year-and-a-half of praying together, Matt and I knew that The Firehouse was God's idea and He was recruiting us," Ball revealed.
The name of the coffeehouse and the affiliate ministry was created during a road trip to Cushing, Okla. Both friends had been praying and talking about the ministry in the car when Ball noticed several grassfires spread out over the countryside, leading to The Firehouse. (Firehouse Ministry, Inc. is their official ministry name.)
"As soon as [the name] came out of my mouth, we knew it was from the Lord," Ball told CP. "The Firehouse is all about the Lord's presence in our lives."
Soon after they had decided on the name, they began to look for a building near OSU, which they settled on after an evening of prayer.
Encouraged and confirmed by the Holy Spirit, Ball and Brown, a former OSU wrestler, began The Firehouse coffee shop just a few blocks away from their alma mater, with full confidence that the ministry "would never want for anything that God wanted us to do."
While Brown owns his own business, MDB Marketing, LLC, Ball is a full-time employee of Firehouse Ministry, Inc., whose donations pay for the monthly expenses of the coffee shop.
"Every day we walk in here there's another miracle that truly happens," Brown told Newson6.com. "It shouldn't function at all in a town this small; it should function in a town the size of Tulsa. But yet it's thriving."
"[It's] kind of like a home away from home," Ball added.
Firehouse Ministry, Inc. is a registered not-for-profit organization that helps pay for teenagers to go on short-term mission trips among other things, like running the coffee shop.
The Firehouse is located at 216 North Main Street in downtown Bristow. Visit their Facebook page for more information.