Work & Cultural Renewal: Amilee Watkins Joins CFW Team

February 2010

“Coffee girl.” Once upon a time, I resented the phrase. I started working for Starbucks Coffee Company part-time while completing my degree in Instrumental Performance. I wanted to supplement my musician’s life with stability—pay, benefits, free coffee. Not being able to see seven years into the future, I had no idea that the Lord was about to use the world of coffee to re-define me. 

The mission of Starbucks attracted me: “To create uplifting experiences that enrich people’s daily lives.” I loved that my work added value to both the community and the lives of my customers and co-workers. So I continued growing within a company that invested in my professional development and maintained a commitment to its people first. Soon, I was managing stores and taking on the development of others.  
 
“Coffee girl” no longer aggravates me. The high-volume service work, while exhausting, tiresome, and crisis-laden, was physically pushing the gospel outward into the city as I saw lives renewed and relationships restored. My role took on more than just profit making as I counseled a young employee through changing her decision to abort an unwanted child. Another employee had been forced to leave her young son in Indonesia for nearly 3 years while seeking asylum here in the United States. She now runs a Starbucks in Singapore where her entire family resides in safety. The Lord’s restoration process was evident and, by his grace, I participated. He deepened my reliance on him through times of burnout, and developed within me a firm understanding of the value of work itself.
 
I read about the inaugural Gotham Fellowship in the bright yellow insert during a West Side AM service. Interested applicants must be “young professionals in their mid 20’s who are currently employed full-time in NYC and have at least two years of working experience.” I was excited to engage in cultural renewal within a community of others likewise committed to the city. The amount of course-work and depth therein inevitably spilled out into late night conversations with my husband and strengthened our theological foundation. The Fellowship provided close interactions with professionals in a wide range of fields much different than my own. As we grew in our understanding of the gospel as a community, we learned how God was using each of us in the renewal process of our respective industries.  
 
As my Gotham year came to a close, I continued mulling over what the city could look like if we, as Christians, all saw ourselves in our current vocations as agents of restoration for the common good. In October I accepted a position with Redeemer’s Center for Faith & Work to bring my leadership development experience from Starbucks to our vocation-based groups and help others better understand how our work becomes a subset of God’s. So in that sense, my work hasn’t changed all that much. I just do it without wearing an apron.


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