By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
How do you take your coffee? Instead of milk and two sugars, how about a prayer with your cup of Joe?
A group of evangelical Christians in Bay Ridge is starting a coffee klatch with a higher purpose. The new Mission Café will be a series of meetings at the First Evangelical Free Church at 6501 Sixth Ave. in which participants will enjoy coffee and cake, listen to live music and hear from representatives of charities about the work they do.
The Mission Café sessions will take place once every couple of months, according to church member Arlene Rutuelo, who said the first get-together is set for Saturday, Nov. 9, at the church, starting at 7 p.m.
“It’s not going to be a sermon. We’re not hitting anybody over the head with a Bible. It’s going to be coffee, cake and fellowship. We want people to come and enjoy each other’s company in a relaxing atmosphere,” Rutuelo told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
“We want to highlight the ministries that are out there doing good work. It won’t be just religious groups. There are a lot of secular organizations that are doing wonderful work in our community,” she said.
The first meeting of the Mission Café will feature a performance by Ingrid Olsson Feingold, singer specializing in music from Norway and Sweden. “She has a beautiful voice,” Rutuelo said. Olsson Feingold has performed Scandinavian folk songs at parades and festivals all over the tri-state area.
The First Evangelical Free Church was founded by Norwegian immigrants who settled in Brooklyn in 1897.
Church member Shirley Olsen is making the cake for the meeting.
“You don’t have to be a member of our church to come. We want everyone to come,” Rutuelo said.
Rutuelo has invited representatives of the Dina Foundation to come to the Mission Café to talk about their organization and what it does.
The Dina Foundation was started by Rune Edvardsen, a Norwegian missionary who in 2002 rescued a two-year-old girl in the Congo who had been raped. Her name was Dina. Edvardsen vowed to help children in Africa who were the victims of sexual assault and to work to prevent other children from becoming victims. There are thousands of children who are brutalized in the Congo and in other war-torn countries in Africa, according to the foundation’s website
Edvardsen launched the Dina Foundation to provide safe surroundings, education, medical assistance and trauma counseling to children. Dozens of safe houses have been built all over the continent.
Members of the First Evangelical Free Church heard about the foundation’s work and decided to become a part of the mission, Rutuelo said. “We joined the effort to build supportive housing. So far, we have raised $6,000 toward a goal of $30,000,” she said.
Rutuelo, who is the chairman of the Greater New York 17th of May Parade Committee, invited Edvardsen to be the guest speaker at the parade held in Bay Ridge in May. The annual parade celebrates the signing of the Norwegian constitution.
“The Dina Foundation does great work. From that one little girl, they started a huge movement. Rape and sex trafficking are issues that are a big concern. It’s not just happening in Africa. It’s happening here too, in America. It’s right in our backyard,” Rutuelo said.
"Through the Mission Café sessions, we’re trying to bring awareness to the human condition,” she said.
The café is just the latest community service project in which the church is involved. The church sponsors a food pantry, a youth basketball program, serves lunch to senior citizens, and is starting an after-school program to be directed by Victoria Hofmo, a Bay Ridge resident who is working to establish the Scandinavian East Coast Museum. The museum, which does not yet have a permanent location, would house artifacts from immigrants who came to Brooklyn in the 19th and 20th Centuries.
To learn more about the Dina Foundation, visit its website, www.dinafoundation.com. For more information about the Mission Café, call the First Evangelical Free Church at 718-745-7775.