Mannheim chapel's coffeehouse offers Soldiers, families place for fun, fellowship
September 11, 2009
- Jacob's Well is a weekly coffeehouse offered at the Coleman Barracks chapel in Mannheim
MANNHEIM, Germany -- Tucked away in the basement of the Coleman Barracks Chapel in Mannheim, you'll find a weekly gathering of pool players, musicians, singers and everyday folks gathered for fellowship on the last day of the work week.
This is "Jacob's Well," and this is where men and women from all walks of life - both military and civilian - come to break bread, talk, listen and learn. This is the place where conversations range from religious faith and Christianity to the rigors of the past week and plans for the weekend.
One of these visitors is 19-year-old Talisha Bush. Talisha and her husband, Pfc. Tyler Bush, come to Jacob's Well every Friday. The Farmington, N.M., native describes herself as a "science geek" and is planning to study forensic science. She's also a new convert to Christianity and is using the Jacob's Well coffeehouse as a place to learn more about her faith.
"It's helping me, because I am still learning the Bible," Talisha said. "If I have a question, I can ask or just get other people's point of view and then go home and read for myself. Not to mention you get to meet people. We watch movies, play video games, and just hang out and not get in trouble."
Talisha's husband is one of the many musicians who come to Jacob's Well. He plays guitar and often leads musical worship for the coffeehouse. Tyler is a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter mechanic with Company D, 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment. He and his wife have been married for a little over nine months, and they arrived in Germany late last year.
"I get so much out of this," he said. "I bring my guitar every week, and it just helps me to open up with the people here and my wife. It brings up things we can talk about at home for our home devotion, and it's a real friendly environment."
Talisha agrees that being here has helped benefit their marriage.
"Being a military spouse is hard, but then it's not at the same time," she said. "It's hard because he is in the military and I'm thinking about him all the time, but there are people here that understand and that I can talk to about it."
The Jacob's Well coffeehouse opened in October at the Coleman Barracks Chapel. The name of the coffeehouse is taken from the story in the Bible depicting the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman he encountered at the well in the fourth chapter of the book of John.
"This is a place where people can encounter Christ in a non-threatening environment ... they can come here and be themselves," said Chaplain (Capt.) Barron Wester, battalion chaplain for the 1-214th, who is responsible for helping oversee the weekly coffeehouse.
"They don't have to pretend to be somebody, else and that's basically what happened with the woman at the well," the chaplain said. "She didn't try to impress anybody and that's what we want this place to be. I guess you could call (me) very loosely the pastor ... this is one of the functions I perform for the battalion."
Jacob's Well offers an opportunity every week for the Soldiers to get together and have a Bible study, hang out with each other, and grow closer to God, Wester said. "For some this may be the only worship opportunity they may have access to on Coleman Barracks. Some of the Soldiers don't have cars and others have to rely on the van."
But the chaplain is also quick to point out that Jacob's Well is not just for those who identify with Christianity or with any particular religion at all.
"There is a wide array of people, and most of the people that come here are Christian, but we also have Buddhists, Latter Day Saints and a lot of different people who come here. We have a Bible study where I generally open up the floor and let people have their opinions, and we'll try to discuss things and give people answers," Wester added.
"We also have people who are on the total opposite of the spectrum ... (some) who come here are atheists who are not religious at all, and it just gives them a place to hang out and engage them in really meaningful conversations on life issues and things like that. Everyone is welcome here."
Wester is not alone in his coffeehouse duties. His 8-year-old daughter, Erin, is a constant companion who is always armed with a friendly smile, cold sodas and plenty of conversation and jokes to share with the weekly guests who walk through the doors.
"I think it's important to help my dad," Erin said. "I like to talk to the Soldiers, and sometimes I help in the kitchen and do simple jobs." One of her jobs is making some of the desserts for the weekly gatherings; in fact, Erin is the resident "dessert maker" for the coffeehouse.
First timers may also notice that the overall atmosphere at Jacob's Well is light and festive especially for a Friday night when most people are heading to the local bars and nightclubs to unwind after the long work week.
"This is a great alternative for me," Tyler said. "My father was a really bad alcoholic. I know the damage it can do, and I know that I could become the same way - and I want to avoid all that."
"Sometimes you need that nudge to push you in the right direction, and sometimes it takes completely messing up to find out what's not right," his wife added. "So being in the right environment is important, and being around positive people can inspire you to do the right thing and turn your life around."
(Editor's Note: Staff Sgt. Dijon Rolle volunteers for the USAG Mannheim Public Affairs Office.)