Hello friends. If we haven’t met, my name is Timothy Isaiah Cho, and I am the founder of Mosaic Coffee, a coffee roasting company here in Columbus, Ohio. One of the things that sets Mosaic apart is the fact that we are committed to working exclusively with artists and creatives of color who are local to the Columbus metropolitan area. Now, what that means is that every design and artwork—from our coffee bag labels to our merch—is designed by a local person of color, and we make sure to feature their logos and branding equally with our own. Every single one of our products are like a canvas in miniature for these artists. The people who buy our coffee—individuals, businesses, churches, and nonprofits—they become connected to these artists and the communities that they come from. They are invited into a story different from their own with an opportunity to learn about both the tears and the joys of communities different from their own. Now, the seeds of Mosaic started several years ago with a purchase of an air popcorn popper, green coffee beans, and brave family and friends who were willing to be my guinea pigs as I learned the art of roasting coffee. On February 1, 2022, Mosaic officially opened its doors to the public, and it’s been an adventure ever since.
Now, today, I wanna share with you something from God’s word that opened my mind up to the possibilities of starting something like Mosaic, with the hope that you might be inspired as well. In Colossians chapter 3, verse 2, Paul tells us to, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Now, at first read, it may sound like Paul’s saying, “Just ignore this world down here, and live up there in the clouds.” But that’s actually the complete opposite of what he’s saying. Paul wants to remind us that something happened in real time and space that has shaken the cosmos to its core. Over 2,000 years ago, our savior rose from the dead and ascended both body and soul into new creation, and because of this, the world has been changed forever. New possibilities of flourishing, new vistas of wholeness are now open for those who are willing to put their minds to it. Simply put, to set your mind on things above is to reimagine what Heaven might look like here on Earth.
Now, this passage made me rethink some things that I had simply assumed all of my life, and in doing so, opened up new possibilities. The first thing I began to reimagine was seeing flourishing as a collective effort. Now, this was really hard for me to grasp, and it still is today, because all of us have had the opposite idea ingrained in us from a young age. We’ve been told that our own flourishing is ours alone, and we can’t be dependent on anyone else. We don’t realize how ingrained this way of thinking has been until we see its effects over time. One thing that you can do right now is type in a search for the racial dot map based off of the 2020 US Census, and when you do this, you’ll be able to see the racial and ethnic demographic of your city. Here in Columbus, you can see trends that I’m sure are present in almost every major metropolitan area in the nation. You can literally see a map of the effects of redlining—racially restrictive covenants that prevented non-White people from living in certain neighborhoods—and the flight of white communities from increasingly black and brown neighborhoods. There are stark and clear demarcations of white suburbs that have closed themselves off from other communities. This is none other than an individualist understanding of flourishing writ large, where we faction ourselves off with our in-groups and live the lie that there isn’t enough flourishing to go around.
But that’s not the biblical understanding of flourishing. Flourishing, according to the Bible, is when the mountains are brought low and the valleys are lifted up. It’s when the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed receive special care, and when those who have power give it away in order to be close to the least of these. Jesus not only identifies with the least of these in Matthew 25, but he even left his church with a sacrament of collective flourishing in the Eucharist. This reimagination of flourishing as a collective effort is why Mosaic works to highlight local artists and creatives of color. Locally, we want to be rooted deeply while also creating bridges between communities so that we can grow toward flourishing together. Creating opportunities for proximity is a difficult but necessary way that hard but necessary things can happen that result in flourishing. It’s how we can make right, the wrongs that have been, and it’s how we can learn to let go of power for the sake of others.
The second assumption that got disrupted for me was my definition of profit. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that it’s often those of us who don’t think money affects us that are affected the most by the love of money. The Bible talks so much about the danger of the love of money because God knows the feebleness of our hearts; it’s very easy for us to point our fingers and be upset that the CEOS of corporations make billions of dollars while their workers are treated and paid abysmally, but how many of us question the ways in which we’ve commodified people and categorize them in our minds based off of their usefulness to us? How many of us have really thought about how we base our own lives off of the lie that we need to be ticking upward and to the right? How many of us define profit as simply accumulating more and more?
But Jesus completely shatters our understanding of profit in his redemptive work. Jesus didn’t die for us because he made a cost-benefit analysis to make sure that we would give the correct return on his investment. Rather, he knew exactly how much of a deficit we’d bring to him, even after we become his disciples. It was a huge loss of profit in the eyes of the world, and yet it was for the joy set before him that Jesus did all of this. The profit was all for us. This fundamentally changed my understanding of profit and made me ask different kinds of questions, such as, “Who is profiting? Who is being valued? Is it just the people who can eventually pay you back? Is it just the people who you can feel good about helping? Or is it the people that you have made a commitment to bless, through thick or thin?” By any stretch of the world’s imagination, Mosaic does not have a profitable business model. We could easily find designers and artists from anywhere in the world for very cheap off of a variety of sources. But instead, we’re committed to working with artists and creatives of color who are local, because we want to use our money locally and tangibly. Other coffee companies are really great at creating unique brands that can sell t-shirts, hats, mugs, to highlight themselves, and no shade on these companies. But the way we’ve done it is to make our brand a collective brand that features our partners as much as it does us. In fact, we want coffee drinkers who buy Mosaic to hire the artists who designed our labels and merch. We wanna see these artists highlighted throughout Columbus, and the stories of their community given the spotlight. These were two huge assumptions that got turned upside down when I began to set my mind on things above, and maybe these would be a good place for you to start as well.
And now to close, I want to be totally honest and tell you that I’m fully aware that Mosaic is not gonna change the world by itself. I also know that I’m not a finished product, but I’m a work in process who is always learning, always growing, always reimagining. And because of grace, you don’t need to carry the burden of feeling like you need to change the world or be perfect. But what I hope Mosaic does, and what I hope you do too, is inspire others to think outside the box, to reimagine what’s possible, and to upend some of the ways that things have always been to pave the way toward the things that could be. Set your mind on things above because that is how we can reimagine what Heaven might look like here on Earth. Thanks so much.