Traveling East on I-64 south of Richmond, you pass dozens of road signs advertising fast food chains, but at one exit there’s a name you might not recognize – Safari Coffee.
Safari Coffee sits between Food Lion and Subway in a small shopping strip off New Kent Highway. It offers the usual choices: lattes, espressos and cappuccinos, but that’s not all. Manager Rachel Townsend says there’s free wifi, fresh pastries --- and, for those customers who need it -- a prayer.
“They don’t necessarily blurt out their problems," she explains, "but you can tell they’re having a bad day, and just asking them if there’s anything we can pray over them about or if they would like to talk, we’re here for them.”
The walls are decorated with scripture and photos of missionary work in Haiti, Kenya and the poorest parts of Richmond – work done by a church which founded the café.
“Safari Coffee started as a vision of our pastor, Greg Pulling and his wife when they opened up the church," Townsend recalls. "They wanted a better way to reach the community. You know, moms with kids love coffee. Teenagers love coffee. Families love to come and get frappes on the weekend.”
The name comes not from African coffee but from the country where profits helped build an orphanage.
“In Swahili, which is spoken in Kenya, Safari means journey, and that’s the name of our church – Journey Christian Fellowship.”
And if you need further proof that you’re not in a Kansas Starbucks anymore, cashier Josh Townsend might tell you:
“Somebody paid for it in advance, so your drink is paid for. Does that happen often? It happens a lot, yeah. And what’s the idea there? Just spreading the love.”