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Neighboring in an Unlikely Neighborhood

She walked in the store fully covered, her beautiful eyes peering out from her hijab. Ordering a chai latte and a vanilla muffin, she chatted with the cashier and confirmed it was okay for her to pay when her husband came in a few minutes to get her. She then walked through the store, perusing the bookshelves filled with Bibles and Inspirational Reading, making her way to the table in the rear. She quietly sipped her drink as she thumbed through a Spanish Bible she'd picked up. At closing, when her husband hadn't arrived, she walked to the front to pay her bill. The cashier told her it was fine, that she didn't need to pay, but she insisted. "I want to support your business," she said as she pulled out her wallet.

He was a young college student who, honestly, just came in to make use of the free wi-fi. He filled out job applications, enjoyed a cup of joe and savored the few moments of sitting still, inspirational music playing in the background.

He is the mall manager and makes his rounds every few hours to ensure everyone is safe and things are running smoothly. He walks past most stores, but always takes time to stop in one shop and take a few minutes to chat, the one with the friendly and encouraging staff and welcoming atmosphere. He can just sense something is different in this particular store.

You could almost describe it as a friendly "safe shelter" home in a diverse neighborhood. In the least likely of places. The local shopping mall.

Agape Books & Café is the newest venture for the Heiserman Family. A member of South Run Baptist Church, Jennifer was the manager of the LifeWay Bookstore in Springfield. When LifeWay closed last year, Jennifer and her staff were left jobless but more importantly, ministry-less.

After months of asking God what her next steps were, plans began to fall miraculously into place, and just before Christmas, Agape Books and Café Christian bookstore, located in the Springfield Town Center, became a reality.

From the crew working to update the space, to the mall manager, the neighboring stores, and those wandering the mall, everyone who stops in senses there is something that sets this store apart from the rest. This is a special place with hospitality and community intentionally at the forefront, far out in front of the workings of a business.

Fresh coffee and locally made pastries greet you at the front of the store. Ample space and a "seat at the table" in the back welcome local Bible study groups, women's and men's groups, and individuals a place to get away for a few minutes of quiet relaxation. Grandma Shirley has a reading time each week for the little ones in the specially designed children's area. A bookcase is dedicated to local authors and artists can display their treasures on tables in the front.

Agape supports several local ministries and during the day, the staff takes time to pray for the needs that have been written on the prayer wall behind the counter.

Oh, and did we mention the great selection of books and gifts, in several languages, and specializing in being a certified LifeWay distributor?

Truly a community welcoming all to come and rest, Agape is a store with a much greater purpose than the standard mall shop.

Jennifer and her staff are ready to welcome you into their little piece of the neighborhood as stores begin to reopen in the near future. Until then, she is happy to help you with your personal shopping.

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