I wish I could help you step into my world. I wish you could bike to work with me. I wish you could smell pork cooking over the grill every morning. I wish you could hear the sound of the donut lady’s bell as she pushes her cart of freshly fried dough. I wish you could feel the sun on your back. I wish you could feel the rhythm of this life in Mae Sot, Thailand.
And I wish you could pull up to one of my favorite places with me. I wish you could take a big whiff of freshly baked bagels and banana chocolate chip muffins. I wish you could hear the coffee grinder and the milk frother. I wish you could see Paw Wah’s smile and hear Hser Ku Paw’s soft voice singing in the background. I wish you could walk into Braverly with me and experience the beauty of this place for yourself.
I am convinced that no matter where life takes me, this place, this little coffee shop on the border of Thailand and Burma will always remain in my top 10 favorite places in this world. Isn’t it true, though, that some of the best places, some of the most meaningful places, are beautiful and wonderful because of the stories they foster, the passion they carry, the purpose they hold?
This is the beauty of Braverly.
On the surface, Braverly looks similar to the other cafés in Mae Sot. We are a coffee shop and sewing center, serving amazing food and drinks and making incredible handmade bags, purses, clutches, and more. We serve freshly made bagels and muffins and the most amazing smoothie bowls. Our women are incredible at designing and sewing bags that rival what you might find in an American store. Our women make delicious coffee and chai and a whole list of espresso-based drinks. Customers love our couches and the swing that hangs in our cafe. Yes, you read that right. We have a swing, and it’s as amazing as it sounds. But once you hold your coffee and find yourself swinging in Braverly, you just might realize that there is so much more to the story.
Braverly was birthed out of a dream to see women around the world live past their fears and walk in the confidence and truth found in Jesus, empowered to grow and develop in their God-given gifts and abilities. It took years to see this dream become a reality, but today, we are seeing the incredible things that can happen when we pursue the audacious, scary, larger-than-life dreams the Father plants in our souls.
Today, five women work at Braverly, all of whom are from Myanmar (formally Burma). This beautiful country has an incredibly complicated and sometimes rather violent history, especially violence toward specific tribal groups. Although a lot of the fighting has ceased, there are still many reports of genocide and oppression, particularly toward minority groups.* The United States has received thousands of refugees fleeing violence and oppression over the years, but many people also find themselves in countries closer to home like Thailand. Some people find themselves in refugee camps along the border. Others are fortunate enough to have the right ID cards to build a life for themselves outside of these camps in border towns like Mae Sot.
These are the kinds of people we have the opportunity to work with at Braverly– women who long to build a better life for themselves and for their families and for future generations. These are women who long to build a life free from oppression and violence. These are women with hopes and dreams and visions of building a better world. These are women who long to be seen and known deeply. These are Braverly women.
Painted in big, bold letters above the counter at Braverly is the core of our heartbeat.
Live brave. Dream bravely. Influence bravery. Be Braverly.
Our women embody this message every day. They are women who live brave. They are women who dream bravely. They are women who influence bravery in the lives of those around them, and every day, we, a small handful of American staff, have the opportunity to embody this same message alongside them. Our women don’t always get it right, but neither do we.
That’s the beauty of Braverly.
We are on this journey together.
We are on a journey to live past our fears together. We are on a journey to walk in confidence and truth together. We are on a journey to live empowered lives together. We are on a journey to seek the love and life and truth of Jesus together. We are on a journey to live brave, dream bravely, and influence bravery together.
We are more than a coffee shop. We are more than a sewing center.
We are a group of women seeking to live whole and brave and daring lives in Jesus.
This is Braverly, our beautiful Braverly.
*For information about the reality in Myanmar, check out reports by BBC like this, or check out reports from Free Burma Rangers, “a multi-ethnic humanitarian service movement working to bring help, hope and love to people in the conflict zones of Burma, Iraq, and Sudan.”