What We’ve Found

Treetop has existed in Knoxville for close to three months now, but it’s been an underground existence. We’ve knocked out our permits, gotten familiar with the Knox Health Department, applied for and acquired more licenses than we know what to do with, and had more coffee than a human should (most likely) consume on a daily basis. Our truck is in the final stages of being built - In fact, we’ll head to Houston, Texas next week for a final (and emphatic) sign off. From there, it’ll be shipped to our storage facility in Knoxville, and then it’s serve baby serve.

You can imagine our excitement in knowing that things are in motion, and that we’re inching our way to being open for business on the streets of Knoxville. Just typing that sentence makes us want to do backflips. But as this time of preparation and paperwork comes to a close, we can’t help but look at the strides we’ve made in the important thing — the cause. These strides weren’t made without help. We’re still floored at how similar the heartbeat of many organizations in Knoxville is to our own. Allow us to explain.

We met a woman through our church named Kristin Miller. An adoptive mom with adopted siblings herself, Kristin met us with a smile and kindness to tell us about her ministry, KAFCAM (Knox Area Foster Care and Adoption Ministries). KAFCAM is a, “regional alliance composed of local churches, agencies, ministries, and community advocates. They encourage, equip, and connect for the purpose of serving foster and adoptive children and families in the Knoxville area.” Translation: they’re a bunch of rockstars. We’ve learned a ton about foster and adoption in the Knoxville area through them, and have had the privilege of attending a few of their events. Through KAFCAM we’ve met men and women that work in the Department of Child Services, parents looking into foster and adoption, leaders of organizations that advocate for children in the foster and adoption process, people interested in how to support and love on affected families — the list goes on. KAFCAM has showed us that an army of advocates exists and is fighting for kids and families affected by foster care and adoption in the Knoxville Area. Kristin invited us into their ranks, and we can’t wait to link arms and go to work.

In December, we went to a breakfast hosted by the East Tennessee Council on Children and Youth. There, we met Keith Bailey and Rachael Ellis, members of the leadership team for Harmony Family Center. Through programs like trauma counseling, family camps, and PAWS for kids, Harmony Family Center works to ensure that kids are loved and “living their best lives.” As they build awareness of the effects of trauma and increase the treatment of the children and families touched by it, they significantly impact the health of our communities across the state of Tennessee. Rachael told us the stories of children and families HFC has helped, and we listened with genuine amazement. Partnership with them has opened our eyes (yet again) to the unique ability a group of dedicated people has to make a difference in Knoxville and surrounding areas.

These are just two examples of like minded people that are eager to dig in and get to work. We could go on and on about people that have been interested in Treetop’s story and met us with encouragement when we tell it. We’d kill a significant amount of time telling you about the many families we’ve met that have eagerly given us advice about where to park the truck in town. Knoxville hasn’t just welcomed Treetop with open arms — it has shared a few secrets, spurred us on, and reminded us that there is work to be done. Let’s get to it.


Rachel's Why

Family has always been a big deal for me. My parents raised me and my sister in the era of play outside and entertain yourselves, so we had to become fast friends. My mom and dad have been a team for just shy of 30 years. Needless to say our family unit has always been tight knit and fairly compact. So, when three foster children were introduced to the family unit in 2017, we had to loosen up and make room at our table. Somewhere between child proofing and  re-introducing our household to Batman costumes and dollhouses, we found ourselves recognizing the sweetness of simple things like singing a prayer before dinner instead of speaking one.

I got to go home to visit my parents and the kids a while back, and they were hosting an adoption party for a couple in their foster-to-adopt group. A bunch of couples brought their kids - biological, fostered, and adopted - to our back yard to celebrate the adoption of two young boys that had previously been in the foster system.

That’s when I saw King David’s table.

Let me explain. There’s this story in 2 Samuel about the estranged and disabled son of Jonathan, son of Saul. David and Jonathan were best buds to the point that they made a covenant before God to watch out for one another’s descendants forever. After he’s been king for a while, David seeks out any descendant of Jonathan’s to whom he can show kindness to. Enter Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan. This guy has basically been living in hiding because (a) he’s lame in both feet and (b) since Saul and Jonathan’s death, he’s feared that David was out to kill him. So you can imagine Mephibosheth’s fear when King David summons him to the palace. You can also imagine his surprise when David invites him to eat at his table.

This is the point of the story that gets me. Mephibosheth is the grandson of the former king of Israel, a man that hunted David for years. He’s led his life as a fearful outcast. And here King David is, not just inviting him to dinner this once, but telling him that there will always be a seat as the King’s table for him.

“So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the King’s sons.”

That’s my hope for Treetop. That we’d make space at the King’s table for the fostered, orphaned and lost.


Courtney's Why

I can honestly say that I never thought I would be here. God is funny how he writes and weaves our stories together to create something more beautiful than we ever could’ve thought of. So here I am starting a business with one of my best friends. Why? That’s the big question, huh?

In 2014 I visited El Salvador with a local nonprofit ministry in Bryan/College Station called Shelter the Homeless International Projects (SHIP). This organization started out in 2004 making houses for people and has expanded to also sponsoring kids in the community so that they can attend school. They pour into these kids. They lead numerous bible studies, throw quince parties, and are in the process of starting a school of their own. (Check them out at shipinternational.org to see more of what they do.) What I thought would only be a week long trip turned into a bunch of trips and a summer living there in 2016. This past week I came back from my 10th visit. El Salvador has been so much more than just going to a country and serving. In fact, the Lord has done more in my own heart than I could’ve ever done for the people there. Ultimately, these trips gave me a family...just a much tanner and Spanish speaking family.

El Salvador is really the reason I feel like the Lord has placed Treetop into my lap. God broke my heart there for kids who just didn’t have people to love on them. I became really close to two girls who lived in the orphanage next door. Most of the kids that lived here knew their families and many still visited them. The first time I met these girls they were so stinking quiet and closed off. They had so many walls up to protect themselves and their emotions and kept everybody at arm's length. And these walls were justified. They had experienced more hurt in their lives than any teen should--and mostly from family members or people close to them. But the more I kept going back I developed a deeper and deeper relationship with these two. They became more like younger sisters (and sometimes like daughters) to me than just friends. Not to mention, they teased me like they were my younger sisters too. And the more our friendships grew the more I saw those walls break down. They really just needed someone to believe in them and remind them that they’re loved. I have seen them grow up so much over the past couple of years. I’ve seen them make mistakes, have successes, cry, laugh until they couldn’t breathe, have teenage angsty moments, graduate high school, and last week I even got to see one of them get married.

God taught me so much and continues to teach me through these two girls and the kids that live in SHIP’s neighborhood. I think one of the biggest things he has showed me is his heart for his kids and how much he loves us and how much his heart breaks when we can’t see that. And I think for kids who don’t have parents that reinforce the idea that they are loved makes it so hard for them to believe that a God in heaven could really love them too. But oh man have I seen God make incredible victories in the midst of chaos and seen His spirit move immensely despite our circumstances.

So, yes. Rach and I are going into the coffee business. But more than that, we are going into the business of helping kids come to know a God that cares so much about them. A God that knows them, that sees them, and that wants more for their lives than they could dream of. Let’s do this thing.

The Tug

We'll be brief and candid. Before (and mostly during) living in Austin, we thought we'd be working tidy desk jobs that quaintly utilize our degrees and we were happy with that thought. Then the Holy Spirit tugged at a loose thread and that plan unraveled into this new plan. A messy plan. But that's okay, too, because we've learned what it would look like to follow God and walk in His provision for us. This time, it takes the shape of a coffee truck in Knoxville, Tennessee. We're continuing to follow the thread and we'd love it if you'd join us. Here's to Treetop Coffee Shop, folks!