Serving Hope is the product of Cynthia Hart, a 40+ year restaurant industry veteran. She was inspired to shift her focus away from management and ownership toward instruction, with the goal of investing in the underserved communities of Madison County to bring growth to each individual student and their family structures. The Serving Hope goal is simple: To love well, instill hope and teach a new work skill set for lasting employment in Huntsville’s fast growing food and hospitality industry.
When you dine at Cyn Shea’s or book a catering, you are supporting men and women who are gaining ‘hands-on’ experience in our kitchen while they establish a foundation to overcome financial, emotional, and spiritual obstacles.
The Serving Hope Story
by Cynthia Shea Hart
There is NOTHING that compares to when His Spirit speaks directly to mine. I long to be in His presence constantly. I certainly could not have planned or imagined that a last minute business trip to Wisconsin would lead to three separate trips to Nashville and in turn reveal a completely new direction for a 22-year old company.
Setting the Stage
It began while on a road trip to Wisconsin; As I traveled through Nashville, I caught a live interview between a K-Love DJ and a missionary who had recently returned home to Columbia, TN from Turkey, having served for 15 years.
What made this interview so intriguing was the snippets of her story, the familiar words of the Bible I continued to recognize and the gift of song as she sang the Book of Revelation by memory! I remember thinking “Are you serious, Lord? Really? You gave someone the gift of memory and the gift of memorizing a WHOLE book of the Bible and, let alone, Revelation?!” Amazing.
You see, I have trouble memorizing one verse, let alone a whole book of the Bible! I was fired up!!! Just simply in awe. The subsequent conversation I had with Jesus as I continued to drive towards Wisconsin kept me focused and I couldn’t help but feel that He was revealing Himself in unimaginable ways.
A Trip to Nashville
As a member of the Downtown Huntsville, Inc. board, I had the opportunity to return to Nashville just three weeks later. The purpose of our trip was to observe and access community growth. During our travels I passed by a small café that ‘caught my eye’ due to the name, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was a part of a company I had worked with years prior. Once I was done with work for the day I was drawn to drive by that little café again en route to the hotel. This second time I took note of its name, The Cookery, a Division of Lambscroft Ministries.
After checking in I went straight to the room, began to flip through a particularly delicious magazine called Edible only to see an article featuring the same café, The Cookery! Out of a million people and nearly that many restaurants and places I could have seen, there was NO DOUBT the Lord had designed this discovery. I hadn’t had any real Jesus-time that day, so I grabbed by Bible and headed to The Cookery.
I knew then, as I know now: my experience was ordained. I recognized the Spirit was drawing me to Himself, the moment I drove onto the gravel parking lot. I was near trembling with joy and excitement. Jesus had gone before me and prepared the place as if we were to have met there all along. They kept a soup kettle for the homeless as well; warm and welcoming, and their prayer wall was covered with well-worn notes, prayers and praises. It was my kind of place, a place filled with warmth and centered around community.
In the hallway, there were articles of The Cookery’s story and its Mission. I remember my road trip with reverence. During my visit to The Cookery I enjoyed a latte, an Australian dessert, and the Aussie accent of Brett Swayn, The Cookery’s founder. This whole experience clearly left an impression on my heart and I would be forever changed by it.
Another Trip to Nashville
I could not shake the experience of The Cookery, and after my return to Huntsville I recounted with joy His works in Nashville to several people. I felt called to return to Nashville with others in tow to witness this café and its mission. On this visit I was introduced to Merari Swayn (Co-Founder of the Cookery, and Brett’s loving wife) and spoke with her at length about The Cookery’s ministry, its foundation, and the path it has taken the two of them down. My mind was a buzz and questions led to other questions and then to even more questions. More than 3 hours later, the answer was clear… Jesus was the answer. He had arranged the meeting, He was orchestrating these new friendships, although neither party knew what he had in store.
After being prayed over prior to our departure Merari looked at me and said, “I feel I must be obedient to the Spirit” as she asked what I was doing on Tuesday evening?”
(My husband and I were scheduled to attend a C4 Cornerstone Initiative on the same day, an all-day conference, in Huntsville.)
“I feel I am supposed to invite you to attend a special event we are hosting. We have invited a friend who has recently returned from Turkey as a missionary. She will be singing the Book of Revelation by memory.”
My Return to Nashville
Having accepted Merari’s invitation, My husband and I met and heard, missionary-artist-vocalist, Carolyn Parr that Tuesday night. I must say, my life has not been the same since! Recalling that moment, it was as if every emotion rushed over me all at once. From fear and trepidation at the unknown to indescribable JOY when my Spirit was aligned with the Holy Spirit, for the Lord had confirmed the path I was to follow.
I had been praying, begging for Christ to reveal himself, and His Purpose for me in my service to Him. The restructuring of Cyn Shea’s Café and Catering into a non-profit 501(c)3 called Serving Hope, Inc. has been its own journey and a complete leap of faith. Thus the work began, and as we continue to forge boldly down this road our Master has set for us, our mission is clearer than ever: to serve Him with His message of Hope.