K-Mama Sauce: Ministry Through Hot Sauce
When KC Kye ’07 moved to Minnesota to pursue a pastorship at Church of All Nations, he did not imagine it would involve hot sauce.
With his heart set on missions in North Korea, Kye studied sociology at Wheaton and went on to obtain his master of divinity at Princeton Theological Seminary. While pastorate, he began seeking ways to fundraise for the church.
In March 2015, he founded K-Mama Sauce—“Seoul for your food”—a vegan spicy Korean hot sauce reminiscent of the flavors and tastes from his mother’s kitchen.
Starting out in farmer’s markets in Minnesota, the business has since picked up, and K-Mama Sauce is now sold in 450 stores across 22 states. K-Mama sauce has grown so quickly that Kye runs the business full-time.
For Kye, it has come full circle: “I still do ministry; I just do it in a very different way.” Thirty percent of profits are pledged to charity, and the majority of his employees are members of his church.
Why Korean hot sauce?
“I love Korean food. I am both North and South Korean. Growing up on the east coast, I had access to Korean food all the time,” says Kye. “It was harder to come by in the Midwest. Especially, coming to Minnesota, it was very inaccessible.”
Instead of opening a restaurant offering full dishes, Kye wanted a bit of Korean culture to be in everyone’s kitchen.
“If it was just Korean food, our reach would be limited. The more people feel comfortable, the more likely they are to try it,” says Kye. “I want to give a bit of Korean culture to everyone, and the sauce makes it easier to experience the flavors at home.”
As Sriracha has become a staple sauce in American food culture, Kye hopes K-Mama will have a similar impact.
“K-Mama enables you to add flavor to any dish. You can put it on eggs, sandwiches, pasta or your stir-fry,” says Kye.
As K-Mama continues to grow, Kye's passion for missions has not lost any fire.
“I still plan to make it to North Korea in the future, but for now my mission looks different,” says Kye. “I minister to my employees, I give back to the church, I sit on a board for my community. I may not be a pastor by title, but my ministry has not ended. K-Mama enables me to do business as mission.”
Endiro Coffee: Roasting to End Child Vulnerability
When Cody Lorance M.A. ’05 was approached to build coffee shops in Uganda, he was not a coffee drinker. In fact, he never liked coffee.
However, when Gloria Katusiime, a native Ugandan journalist, explained her mission for the shop, Lorance happily joined. The goal was to use the shop to raise money to end child vulnerability across the globe.
Gloria opened the first shop in Kampala, Uganda in 2011. Endiro Coffee now has five locations in Uganda and recently opened a U.S. location in Aurora, IL. Lorance, who received his M.A. in intercultural studies, currently serves as the Director of U.S. Operations.
Now, not only is Lorance passionate about coffee, he believes it to be his mission.
“We think of Endiro as mission—rethinking every aspect of our business to see how we can fulfill our mission through coffee,” says Lorance.
All proceeds go to organizations that support care for children in the community.
“About 200,000 kids suffer from HIV/AIDS and almost 3 million are orphaned in Uganda,” says Lorance. “We want to raise money to contribute to these communities. Not just to meet their basic needs, but to build the communities.”
In 2015, Endiro Coffee also began working with Ugandan small lot farmers to increase coffee bean harvests. As Lorance is not a farmer himself, he had to learn the system before teaching. He was reminded of advice he received from his advisor at Wheaton, Dr. Robert Gallagher.
“[Dr. Gallagher] would say that we need to understand the importance of learning how to learn,” says Lorance. “I’ve had to learn how to start a business, human resources, accounting, etc. But if I’m a lifetime learner it gives me the opportunity to use whatever is in front of me for the kingdom.”
Working directly with local Ugandan farmers, Endiro seeks to improve the fate of vulnerable children at the source: the family. By offering fair trade prices for the harvests, families have a chance to provide their children necessary resources.
“Child vulnerability begins with a story about poverty in the village. We wanted to find a way to increase farmers’ incomes to fight the root of the issue: lack of wealth,” says Lorance. “We work with the mother in the home because we want to give women a voice in family economics. It’s revolutionizing the family dynamic.”
Lorance plans to expand Endiro’s reach though roasted coffee sales, coffee farming, and production, and he anticipates having a real chance to end child vulnerability. Not only in Uganda, but around the world.
“Coffee is the tool we’ve been given,” says Lorance. “At Endiro, we believe that we can actually end child vulnerability. How can making a cappuccino be a way to do your mission? The closer we get to answering this question, the closer we get to ending global child vulnerability.”
Marmilu Farms: Farming as Mission
Before Caleb Curlin ’05 was deployed to Afghanistan several years ago, he and wife Betsy Curlin ’06 watched Food, Inc.
“The film, and the featured farmer, Joel Salatin, exposed the many issues with the industrial food system, and the terrible food options we’re faced with as consumers,” says Caleb.
Caleb was so intrigued by the documentary that he purchased several books about food production to read during his deployment.
“In the evenings while we weren’t on patrol, I was reading more and more about issues with food. At one point, I called back to Betsy and said, ‘I think we should farm,’” says Caleb.
After Caleb left the service, the Curlins moved out to California to take a job with General Electric. But the conviction to farm weighed heavily on his conscience.
“We kept feeling the pull to learn how to farm,” says Caleb. “So in 2012, we sold our big house, left the well-paid job, and moved into a 200-year-old cabin in Virginia to work with Joel Salatin and his family at Polyface Farms.”
Neither Caleb nor Betsy had experience farming prior to their big move. While at Wheaton, Caleb participated in Army ROTC and studied communications, and Betsy studied interdisciplinary studies and theology.
After spending time at Polyface Farms, the Curlins decided it was time to start their own farm. In 2014, they moved back to Caleb’s home state of Tennessee to open Marmilu Farms.
Marmilu Farms is a pasture-based farm sitting on 425 acres. The Curlins believe that natural methods are the only way to optimize the health benefits of meats and eggs. This includes taking drugs, chemicals, and GMO feed out of the equation, and ensuring all livestock are grass-fed.
The Curlins tend to 110 cattle, 5,000 broiler chickens, 1,000 laying hens, and 50 pigs every day. Most days begin at 3:30 a.m., before the sun rises.
“We had a bit of a flowery perspective of what farming was going to look like,” says Betsy. “Initially we thought of this as a way to get out on our own, and do this as a family. It’s been harder and more demanding than we envisioned, but we’re on the right path to improvement.”
The Curlins believe the hard work is worth it, as they provide their community with healthy natural meat and eggs. They also make an effort to help the other farms around them, and those who are interested in getting into the field, especially young adults.
“There is this major push from young people interested in farming and getting involved, but there are so many hurdles to jump over. We’ve been networking with other farms even if they’re doing things differently,” says Caleb.
While farming was not a planned course of action for the Curlins, they see it as a means to live out their mission. They minister to their community through relationships with customers and other farmers.
The Curlins believe their impact on the community around them is vital to the future of healthier foods, healthier communities, and ultimately a healthier American food system.
SAGA Hacks: The Power of Food and Experiences
“I could talk about food for hours,” says Natalie Tanner ’17. Originally a recurring feature in The Wheaton Record, Natalie started Saga Hacks (sagahacks.com), a website that shares recipes created from the ingredients and food available at Anderson Commons (affectionately known by students as Saga).
“I was blown away by the quality of the campus food on my first visit to Wheaton,” says Tanner. “But as time went on, I wanted to integrate options from the different food lines. I had so much fun with it. Anytime I ate with friends, I would share my creations.”
From yogurt peanut butter dip, chocolate lava cake waffles, Moroccan spiced orange ice cream and even parmesan tuna melts, Tanner shared a variety of creations for others to easily remake.
Tanner's culinary skills didn’t begin with Saga Hacks, however. Her passion for food creation grew from her childhood memories of family dinners.
“Food has always been a central part of my family,” says Tanner. “That was a really important time for us and where my true education happened. We would discuss anything and everything around the table, over food.”
As she ventured to Wheaton, Tanner intentionally sought out ways to share meals with others. She sees food not just as a means of nutrition, but as a force to build community.
“Food has the power to create experiences,” says Tanner. “I can create a meal, and it’s like I’ve cracked the code to time traveling. I can serve a meal to someone and immediately transport them back to forgotten memories or treasured experiences.”
Throughout her time at Wheaton, Tanner sought to reconcile the power of food with her calling within the church. As the last week of classes neared, Tanner says her Christian Thought class provided her with the insight she desired.
“It was the last day of class with Dr. George Kalantzis, and I’m thinking about this upcoming transition after Wheaton,” says Tanner. “We were discussing communion and what it means to participate in Christian community. He then says, ‘Eating together is one of the most important things we do as Christians.’ That was so inspiring for me.”
For Tanner, food is a gift to be shared with the community around her, and it’s her ministry.
“Food is my ministry in the body of Christ. There is nothing like creating experiences through food, and it’s how I contribute to the community around me,” says Tanner. “Communion to me isn’t just the bread and wine we have on Sunday; communion is something we do whenever we eat with people. It’s a gift we can give to everyone around us.”
Although Tanner graduated this past spring, Saga Hacks lives on, managed by current students.
While food is not on her current career path, Tanner says, “I don’t need it to be my career to continue to use it for ministry and benefit from it. I’m carrying my passion for food with me.”