Where Faith Meets Fair Trade

“One soy-latte decaf Irish cream coming right up.” It’s my second time into Come Together Trading and already barista/owner Terry Marshall remembers my order. Easing into a comfortable chair, I sip coffee from the Ecotainer compostable cup and soak in my surroundings. Students cluster at one table; writers use free Wi-Fi at another. Piles of hand-woven beads and baskets and racks of colorful apparel line the shelves. It’s like some place out of Boulder, Colorado–not Canton, Texas.

The location isn’t the only surprise. Alongside health magazines are copies of Relevant magazine. Handmade merchandise is labeled with moving stories about those who made each item. This “hippie urban” boutique is a coffee house that acts like a ministry. “We are fueled by a desire to minister and educate about Fair Trade,” explain owners Tammy and Terry Marshall. “By building the market for anti-slavery and anti-child labor goods, we help people help themselves and the environment also.”

The Marshalls still marvel at the miracle their lives have become. Their transformational journey began in 2004 when the sponsored their first child through Compassion international (they now sponsor 12 children). “Our hearts were truly broken for the poor in 2005 after the words of Jesus were made more clear through our discovery and reading of Shane Claiborne’s book The Irresistible Revolution,” recalls Tammy. In 2006, they met Shane Claiborne at the PAPA Festival, who offered a fresh perspective on the Christian’s role in alleviating human suffering. An interview they heard with Matthew Sleeth and Rob Bell was also pivotal. Changed, but still unsure of what else to do, the Marshalls continued searching.

“In 2009, we took our first trip out of this country with Compassion International. We traveled to Kenya and visited Kibera, the world’s second largest slum. There is no infrastructure, water, electricity or plumbing,” explains Tammy. “But in the midst of heartbreaking conditions, sights and smells, the people were so joyful. God revealed that these are our brothers and sisters. They may be resource poor, but they are spiritually rich. We have never seen a faith like that.” Upon returning home, they knew they had to do something. “We felt God revealing more to us each day. Kenya changed everything for us; there was no going back.“

“We prayed and prayed,” explain the Marshalls. “Then, on a short trip to Estes Park, Colorado, we walked into a fair trade store. Immediately we saw things we had seen in Kenya. We looked at each other and said, ‘This is it.’”

Wanting to do a Christ-centered version of the store, the Marshalls considered moving to Colorado, believing this couldn’t be done in a Texas town of 5,000 people. “We fought this all the way,” recalls Tammy. “I didn’t know I had God in a box. It’s like he was telling me, ‘Don’t limit me. Don’t limit the people of Canton.’” Within two months they sold their RV business (in tough economic times a miracle in itself) and bought $5,000 in inventory. Then a storefront in the historic district that had been occupied for years suddenly came up for rent. “When I walked in, this was the space I knew I had seen in dreams,” recalls Tammy. They took possession of the building in October 2010. “God has made this possible. We’ll be here as long as He wants us to be.”

The upper room is a prayer and community room, available for free. They’ve even held a send-off party for a young lady leaving for Thailand to teach jewelry-making to women who have been rescued from sex trafficking. “Church youth groups have also begun to meet here,” says Tammy. “With less money available, churches wondered how to pay for a youth minister, but they realize that by sharing one and holding the meetings here, everyone wins.”

“Every day God humbles us more,” says Tammy. “The people here have such a heart for helping others. Canton people, Colorado people, all people – different denominations, backgrounds, and journeys. We’re all God’s people. The common denominator here is love.”

Anna Clark is the author of Green, American Style. She lives in Dallas in one of the first houses to earn a Platinum LEED rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. For more on all things green, visit www.annamclark.com.

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