by Joyce Gabiola
photo by Yvonne Feece
Whether you believe in Jesus or just free Wi-Fi, the charming 100-year-old two-story house located at 819 Richmond Avenue (next to the beloved Chapultepec restaurant) could be your new Montrose hangout for chai or chat. The previous tenant closed the doors on a rustic furniture business, and two community-minded married couples with a vision immediately moved in.
Living Mosaic is a café and coffeehouse that is open to everyone, no matter if you live with caffeine in your veins or Christ in your heart. This new venture has been brought to light by the personal investment, spirituality, and sweat of Denise Lippy, vice president of M.D. Anderson’s Proton Cancer Therapy Center, her wife Nichole Mai, Jason Wood, and his husband Enrico Sangel, general manager of Urban Retreat. The couples met at another community church, and after a dinner party one evening they became fast friends. “And they became our husbands,” says Mai, 39, poking fun at the male couple. Unbeknownst to them, a different kind of partnership would eventually develop.
In June 2009, the couples attended a conference in San Antonio held by Renovaré, an international Christian organization that advocates intentional living and spiritual formation. The organization’s founder, Richard J. Foster, emphasizes the holistic integration of one’s spirituality into every aspect of daily living. The four walked away from the conference with a shared goal—to further extend God’s love in their own everyday lives and in the lives of others.
Living Mosaic grew out of this commitment, and exists not only for individuals who simply want to study, work, enjoy live music, or socialize, but also for those who wish to openly build community around their beliefs. Everyone who frequents the café will be supporting this non-denominational Christian venue with their purchases. Living Mosaic also supports outreach by offering their facilities and equipment to organizations that are working to improve and educate the larger community.
In addition to coffee, other items on the menu are tea, frozen coffee, strawberry drinks, juices, paninis, banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches), cakes, pastries, and much more. Each coffee purchase comes with a sweet Filipino eggroll filled with fruit or chocolate. (Does that mean they’ll also be serving lumpia?)
Guests have the option of lounging downstairs in the main café area, in the game room or open meeting room on the second floor, outside on the balcony overlooking Richmond, on the patio, or on the porch facing Chapultepec.
Living Mosaic offers coffee, community, and connection Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on Sundays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. A Sunday “come as you are” worship service at 11 a.m. is led by 37-year-old Jason Wood. The son of United Methodist ministers, Wood began full-time ministry at the age of 17 and has assisted in the opening of three churches in Rosenberg, Sugar Land, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. He studied at Oral Roberts University and the Houston Graduate School of Theology. For years, Wood worked as the general manager of Danny Dang’s Hollywood Corporation, and says that Dang “is probably one of the greatest inspirations in my entire life.” Working in all of the Hollywood venues in Montrose, Wood witnessed the gay community’s lack of understanding and acceptance of certain sub-communities such as the deaf, the blind, transgenders, and senior citizens. “What really opened my eyes, and is an inspiration for our café, was one of my most precious memories of a group of older transvestites who were trying to figure out if they were male or female. Where could a 50-year-old man go who couldn’t put on makeup or pantyhose very well, and not be made fun of?”
With his pastoral care background and profound compassion for Houston’s diverse communities, Wood wanted to create a safe environment similar to Dang’s venues, but as a not-for-profit venture.
At Living Mosaic, there is only room for pride, not prejudice.
Lippy continues: “Anyone can come here after work, have a cup of coffee with any of the people [Wood] talked about, and their mind will be opened, their heart will be opened to the struggles of the good and the bad and all the differences in all of us. That’s why we love the name Living Mosaic. When all of us come here together, that’s what it creates.”
“The broken are transformed into a whole,” adds Sangel, 34.
“Everyone who has a dream, go for it,” encourages Lippy, who invested her life savings into this venture. “What we want this coffeehouse to be is a place of peace and relaxation and fun and healing.”
Living Mosaic is another opportunity to keep us thriving, lifting up the community with one hand and holding a warm cup o’ joe with the other.