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'Strangely Warmed' coffee unites church services

SEBRING — What started as a few Methodist church members complaining about the taste of their church service coffee has turned into a way to fund missions.

Now First Sebring Church imports and sells its own brand of coffee — “Strangely Warmed” — as a way not only to fund local and international missions, but also to help support workers throughout the process through a single source of free-trade coffee.

“It’s a dream within a dream,” Lead Pastor David Juliano said, “because [we] got tired of Dan [Andrews] griping about the poor church coffee.”

Like most institutional coffee service, the coffee served between the traditional and contemporary was a “big name” brand served from a stainless steel brewer/urn. Members like Dan Andrews didn’t like it.

“I told him, if you don’t like it, do something about it,” Juliano said.

With that permission, in the fall of 2018, Andrews and other church members took a small dining room off the main area of the Family Life Center and turned what Andrews called a “white, sterile environment” into a warm-toned coffee café with stuffed chairs and couches and two coffee bars.

Then, Andrews said, they “started rotating the flavor profiles” by trying out every variety of coffee at the grocery stores.

“You name it, we tried it,” Andrews said.

Then, in January 2019, a family going through a tough time came in to talk with Juliano. The wife, Shannon Salazar, now works in the main office.

The husband, Jerson Salazar, is a fellow Methodist from Peru who works for PeruFresh, an import company bringing in “superfoods” like ginger root and maca root, from places like Junín and Chanchamayo, Peru. He also imports arabica coffee from Peru, which has low acidity, bold aroma and a sweet aftertaste.

Salazar told Juliano he had direct connections to farmers who are members of the church and who grow coffee in Villa Rica, Peru, approximately 1,430-1,500 meters (4,600-5,200 feet) above sea level in the Amazon basin, Salazar said.

“It’s the land of the finest coffee in the world,” Salazar said.

The coffee is freshly picked, sun-dried and certified as both organic and free-trade, which means every worker throughout the process gets a fair wage for their work, he said.

Ironically, Salazar said, he’s not a big coffee drinker, but connoisseurs of coffee love the taste, which he attributes in part to taking the time to remove the skins, which add bitterness to coffee.

Andrews and Juliano bear that out. People have loved “Strangely Warmed” so much, they said, that their slogan is “Tastes good, Feels good, Does good,” in reference to the free-trade practices and the fact that all profits from sales go to missions.

One of the missions in the works for Peru, Salazar said, is an orphanage. Juliano and the bishop of the Peruvian Methodist Church are working on what trips to arrange.

Juliano admits he didn’t know before this that Methodists had churches in Peru, but took it as a sign from God and a direction from on high when he learned the farmers’ cooperative there was named “La Florida.”

“It wasn’t a good idea. It was a God idea,” Juliano said. “God just put it in our laps.”

All that was left was to roast and grind the beans when they arrived.

“I knew a guy,” Andrews said: The owner of the former Brewster’s Coffee House used to use Ricky Hayes’ coffee roaster and he was willing to lend it to the church.

After running 200 pounds of beans through it, Andrews said they were happy with the quality, but they needed a grinder.

The one they had “burned up” after every two pounds or so, Andrews said. The church looked for a used won, Juliano said, and it happened they found one owned by the pastor of Bayside Community Church, an out-of-county congregation that forged a partnership with them after Hurricane Irma.

He brought it to them on his next trip to visit family in Frostproof, “and we’re off,” Juliano said.

The church used to serve 40 cups of coffee each Sunday, Andrews said. Now it’s more than 200.

Andrews said First Sebring Church has taken the coffee to serve to teachers on Friday mornings at four Sebring schools, have sold it to local restaurants and have had interest from other churches.

It all started from marrying two services with a common thread over coffee in a café, Andrews said.

And the name? Juliano said that comes from John Wesley, the Anglican priest in the 1700s who started the Methodist revival movement within the Church of England. On the night of May 24, 1738, while struggling with his faith, he attended a prayer meeting in Aldersgate, a ward of London.

While someone read scripture describing the change that God works in the heart through faith, Wesley later wrote, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation.”

Juliano said First Sebring Church’s “mission from God” through coffee came upon them in much the same way.

Those interested in “Strangely Warmed” coffee may visit StrangelyWarmed.com to order it or may visit First Sebring Church any Sunday morning at 126 S. Pine St. in Sebring to have some between the services.

“Strangely Warmed” coffee is also available to sample during weekly business hours in the church’s main office.


Highlands_news-sun
Senate so far split neatly along party lines on impeachment

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate is so far cleaving neatly along party lines in advance of Wednesday’s virtually certain votes to acquit President Donald Trump on two impeachment charges, with just two or three undecided members even considering breaking with their party.

The chamber’s top Republican, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, again slammed the impeachment drive of House Democrats as “the most rushed, least fair and least thorough” in history and confirmed that he will vote to acquit Trump.

The trial is cruising to impeachment tallies that will fall short of even a majority of the GOP-held Senate, much less the two-thirds required to remove Trump from office and install Vice President Mike Pence.

McConnell said the two charges against Trump — that he abused his power and obstructed Congress’ ensuing investigation — are “constitutionally incoherent” and don’t “even approach a case for the first presidential removal in American history.”

The Kentucky Republican opened the Senate with a scathing assessment of the case presented by House Democrats, but he did not address whether Trump’s actions were inappropriate or wrong, as some Senate Republicans have conceded.

McConnell has dodged question about whether Trump’s actions — pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to announce an investigation into Trump’s political rival Joe Biden — were inappropriate. He led an effort last week to deny Democrats any opportunity to call witnesses before the Senate, and he has worked closely with the Trump White House in shepherding the case through the Senate.

The final days of the trial have focused attention on a handful of senators in both parties who were viewed as potential votes to break with their party. GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska called the president’s actions “shameful and wrong” in a powerful speech late Monday, but she also derided the highly partisan process. “I cannot vote to convict,” she said, though she also sees blame within the Senate.

“We are part of the problem, as an institution that cannot see beyond the blind political polarization,’’ Murkowski told reporters after her speech.

Other Republicans, such as Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Marco Rubio of Florida and Rob Portman of Ohio, also say Trump’s actions to withhold military aid from Ukraine while pressing Zelenskiy to announce an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter were inappropriate, but fell short of warranting his removal from office, especially in an election year.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, one of the very few remaining moderates in a chamber where partisanship has ground much routine business to a halt, is expected to announce her position later Tuesday.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, perhaps the only Democrat seen as a likely vote to acquit Trump, has floated the idea of censuring Trump instead, though the idea doesn’t seem to be gaining much traction. Sen. Doug Jones, a former federal prosecutor and Democrat seeking reelection in strongly pro-Trump Alabama, told reporters he’s likely to announce his vote Wednesday morning.

No member of either party has indicated yet that they will break with their party colleagues. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York weighed in immediately after McConnell’s remarks, accusing the Republican leader and his GOP colleagues of sweeping Trump’s misconduct under the rug.

”The administration, its top people and Senate Republicans are all hiding the truth,” Schumer said. The charges are extremely serious. To interfere in an election, to blackmail a foreign country, to interfere in our elections gets at the very core of what our democracy is about.”

The Senate is scheduled to vote on the two impeachment articles Wednesday afternoon. Trump is delivering his State of the Union address Tuesday night, a platform in which he appears before Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the powerful House speaker who orchestrated last year’s House impeachment drive.

Also Tuesday on the Senate floor, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., repeated a question that Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, refused to read last week. Roberts’ staff communicated to McConnell’s staff that he did not want to read the whistleblower’s name, according to a Republican familiar with the situation who wasn’t authorized to speak on the record.

Paul denies trying to out the whistleblower and notes his question didn’t use the word. He questions whether the whistleblower may have conspired with House staff aides in writing the August complaint that triggered impeachment.

U.S. whistleblower laws exist to protect the identity and careers of people who bring forward accusations of wrongdoing by government officials. Lawmakers in both parties have historically backed those protections.

The Associated Press typically does not reveal the identity of whistleblowers.

Separately, Trump’s approval rating, which has generally languished in the mid- to low-40s, hit a new high of 49% in the latest Gallup polling, which was conducted as the Senate trial was drawing to a close. The poll found that 51% of the public views the Republican Party favorably, the first time the GOP’s number has exceeded 50% since 2005.


Highlands_news-sun
Hit and run driver in court today

SEBRING — Ryan Jamal Nowell, 28, of Avon Park has an arraignment today at 1 p.m. in front of Circuit Court Judge Anthony Ritenour.

He faces charges under traffic citations for leaving the scene of a recent Avon Park crash without giving information and for driving without a license. His arrest reports from the Highlands County Clerk of Courts, however, do not state he just got out of prison after 10 years of a 20-year sentence for vehicular manslaughter.

That wreck was on July 9, 2010, in/around Destin. News reports at the time stated that at 1:15 a.m. that day, Nowell was eastbound on U.S. 98 when his car rear-ended another car, causing a four-car chain-reaction wreck.

Nowell then threw his car in reverse and hit a fifth car, and then fled the scene through an adjacent parking lot.

An Okaloosa County deputy saw the damaged car and tried to pull him over, but Nowell accelerated through a red light, and then ran another light, hitting a pickup. Nowell’s car rolled over the median into oncoming traffic, where an SUV T-boned the car.

The wreck killed Nowell’s passenger, 19-year-old Travis James Bowers.

Highlands News-Sun reports in 2010 indicate the teens were both residents of Sebring at the time of the crash, but were in the Panhandle helping with an oil cleanup.

Nowell currently resides in Avon Park.

Travis Bowers mother, Deborah Bowers-Drummond, is livid and distraught to find out Nowell wrecked again, so soon after parole, and that he made bail instead of being sent immediately back to prison.

“I allowed the State Attorney’s Office to split his sentence,” Bowers-Drummond said. “I thought he would make amends after 10 years.”

Bowers-Drummond, who gets alerts on changes in his status from the Florida state victim’s alert system, said he was paroled on Dec. 27. This most recent wreck took place at 3:33 a.m. Jan 20, less than a month later, on County Road 64, south of County Road 17A.

Highlands County deputies found a Ford Escape with front-end damage facing southeast at that spot with no driver present and an Ford F150 pickup with left-side damage facing west on the south shoulder.

Deputies learned the SUV driver had run, but they found, detained and identified him as Nowell.

Wauchula resident Bruce Edward Eaton, 49, told deputies his F150 was eastbound on CR 64 when the southbound SUV, without headlights on, ran a stop sign and hit him. Eaton also said the driver of the Escape looked nervous, saying he didn’t have a licence and that “he couldn’t go back to jail,” reports said.

Allegedly, Eaton saw the other driver pour out a can of Busch beer, and deputies did find an empty Busch beer can at the scene. Deputies smelled alcohol inside the Escape and saw blood on the deployed airbag.

When deputies asked him about injuries, Nowell allegedly said he was walking down the road and a dog bit him.

He told a Highlands County deputy sheriff he had drunk three or four Busch beers that night, but when they tested him he passed a field sobriety test, reports said.

He was arrested on the above traffic violations, but bonded out of jail. Bowers-Drummond doesn’t understand how Nowell was let out instead of having his parole violated on the spot.

“This has slipped through the cracks,” Bowers-Drummond said. “There is no closure when you have to put a child in the ground.”

She said she feels no more closure after his sentencing than she feels now.

“I will not sit by and let this monster walk the streets and be a menace,” she said.