On a visit to a medical mission in the mountains of Boquete, Panama, Carmel resident Peter Beering was impassioned by the poorest of the poor, farmers laboring from sun up to sun down cultivating their crops to provide for their families. According to the United Nations, the Guaymi Indians live in extreme poverty making less than two dollars a day.
“I was stunned by the epic poverty,” said Beering. “If you kept an animal in the conditions here that people live in there, you’d be arrested.” Families cram into block buildings with corrugated metal roofs, dirt floors and no running water. According to Beering, there is a lot of respiratory illness, parasites, pneumonia, and dysentery as well as a lack of formal education for the children.
Introduced to the farm by retired Zionsville physician and long-time missionary, Alan Handt, he was enamored by Handt’s desire to serve, moved by the extremely harsh conditions and inclined to help the generations enslaved by agriculture. Thus, he became determined to find a way to help support the mission.
Then it dawned on him. “Most people start their day with a fresh cup of coffee.” The Guaymi people were diligent in tending to their crops of hard bean Arabica and the creation of a non-profit organization allowed Beering to export the coffee beans to the United States.
Handt, who is in his seventies, purchased the mission property several years ago and now spends a majority of his time working there assisted by his wife, Debbie. According to Beering, the 100-acre farm is located in a rainforest on the tallest peak in Panama at the side of an inactive volcano. “It’s the perfect coffee growing environment,” said Beering. “It’s sunny and 70-degrees almost every day, the fields are lush & green, rains total 10 to 15 inches a day which is really good for the coffee and the soil is rich and dark. Coffee is one of those things – life’s cheapest luxury.”
From that realization, an idea percolated into Mission Coffee, LLC. “Not only does the fresh brew taste good, it does good by benefiting indigent Panamanian families thousands of miles away living in rural farmlands with no access to modern comforts.” Thus, Mission Coffee was born with the vocation to help, heal and provide hope, one cup at a time.
Mission Coffee filters into the specialty java market and so far has proved to be a losing business model with a tasty future. “I buy coffee at retail and have it shipped to the United States where I sell it with the sole purpose of supporting the mission,” said Beering. The company was formed to help break the cycle of agricultural enslavement and extreme poverty. The proceeds, less costs, are returned to the mission in materials, medicine, and money.
Once the coffee is harvested, sorted, washed, and dried, Mission Coffee makes a purchase. Mission Coffee pays retail prices to the farm, then pays Cafe Ruiz, an indigenous company, to roast, box, and truck the coffee to Panama City. This allows the coffee company to beat the fair trade price, support the employment of the people the mission serves, and maintain a tightly integrated supply chain.
Not only does Beering have a calling to help the poor, he has been called to protect Americans. Beering is an internationally known expert in anti-terrorism, public safety, and emergency preparedness in addition to president of the mission board.
Beering grew up influenced by the family mantra, a clear public service mission statement – “do for others”. Taking that motto to heart, he has grown into a man on a mission helping people on American soil as well as those who live in South America and around the globe.
“When I was younger, I pledged to the fire department instead of a fraternity,” said Beering. “I found fire service interesting and I was fortunate to have inherited my father’s skills.” His father, Steven Beering, who retired as president of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana after 17 years, encouraged Peter and his two younger brothers to be generous to others and participate in public service. In his role as an expert in terrorism and emergency preparedness, Beering faced incredible challenges and in some cases, dire life threatening circumstances.
According to Beering, he has been so involved in understanding terrorists and their mindsets that he can feel something occurring in his gut. “The morning of September 11, 2001, my sister-in-law, who is a captain for United, was prepared to fly; I told her to park the plane, flush the keys down the toilet, and get off the plane. Her husband, who is my brother, got a call from a computer engineer and was scheduled to be flying; Dad was at Purdue. I told them to stay put.” All along his focus has been on preparedness and response to difficult problems. He delivers strategic risk management, threat assessment, emergency response planning, crisis communications, and training services.
Beering recalls several surreal moments throughout his life and career as he recalls that fateful September morning. “I received a call while questioning someone at the city-county building to figure out what the city and the state would do in response,” said Beering. “Later that morning, I sobbed as I watched the towers fall due to the heat from the fuel. The collapse killed friends.”
And that heartfelt desire to protect has spilled over the border into Panama. Beering welcomes teens, organizations and individuals to join him on a mission trip. “All I ask is that you bring a bag filled with supplies for the mission,” said Beering.
While Mission Coffee administrators admit there is no illusion about huge growth and no notion of a national franchise, they are looking to help this mission with a source of support and to raise awareness of need while bringing a terrific product to Indiana.
For more information visit www.missioncoffee.org
Contact Mission Coffee: P.O. Box 68475, Indianapolis, IN 46268