Years ago, I was a missionary kid gleefully translating for American mission teams however best I could (which to be honest, I’m not sure how much better my Romanian is now). I remember looking forward to each evening. After teams worked long and hard helping people and completing projects, we’d go to town and eat ice cream.
This evening ritual was a fun way to get to know the teams better and it was, as I noticed, a nice place for people whom we’d just met on the mission field to come talk more with the Americans. Sometimes they’d talk about football, sometimes it got spiritual.
So we’d all walk from the clinic to a cafe with a terrace that wicker chairs and tables set under a canopy Coca Cola umbrellas. I remember, even at young age, how noticeably American we were. We’d be a loud group (not intentionally, we were just a lot of people!), and we were ready for something to drink and eat.
Besides the obvious cheer for scoops of ice cream and awesome fellowship, there were also some annoyances: clouds of smoke wafting from the smoking patron’s tables both inside and outside the cafe/bar. And that was what it really was, half-bar, half-cafe. Sometimes we’d be enjoying ourselves and other times we’d have to cut our time short because there would be that local who had too many drinks. Not exactly a child-friendly environment all the time.
And that’s where the idea came from for The Bridge. My mom wanted a place that was safe—a place where you could enjoy a cup of coffee or eat an ice cream cone without the bar atmosphere and all that comes with it. If we could open it to create jobs for the community and use profits to help support REMM; even better!
In 2004, The Bridge coffee house opened. It was a completely new concept to people in Beiuș. A place where profits were used to help others? A place where you couldn’t smoke or order a beer? Even for a cafe these practices were very much against the norm. Of course, it came with mixed reviews as does anything revolutionary.
Indeed, The Bridge was very much ahead of its time. Only last spring did it become illegal in Romania to smoke in public places between four enclosed walls.
But it’s more than just a safe and comfortable atmosphere serving tasty desserts. The Bridge was built to be a “bridge” to connect people. A bridge is a raised pathway connecting to different locations. And that’s what I’d like to think The Bridge is—a “raised” ground on which people who wouldn’t have normally crossed paths can commune together. Even if it’s just over a piece of cake : )