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Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities.

Sip And Speak - Rockford Coffee Conversation Focuses on Myanmar, Asia This Month


A Rockford coffee shop continues to engage the community through monthly conversations.

Katie’s Cup facilitated these discussions even before the pandemic, but once COVID-19 surfaced, the shop started having them virtually.

Michael Thomas is the pastor of Zion Lutheran Church. He said these monthly conversations help the faith community stay intentional when dealing with the public. 

“And to make the faith in the world relevant and attentive to what the Spirit continues to do -- in regard to helping us grow and lead and heal from our past,” he stated. 

This month, the coffee store partnered with the Zion Lutheran Church to shed some light on the military coup taking place in the southeast Asian country of Myanmar.  Thomas explained the Rockford connection to Myanmar.  

“At Zion Lutheran Church, we've been involved in the Laotian community in the early 80s and helping with refugees moving to Rockford,” he said. “A lot of those same Laotian people, who have become citizens and involved at Zion and in the community, were very instrumental in about 2009 when there were many Burmese coming to the United States and to Rockford.”

Thomas said Zion has a Burmese community that worshipped in the chapel prior to the pandemic.

Nuam Zam is a part of that group. She came to the states in 2011 and has relatives in Myanmar. She explained that she hasn’t had any contact with them since April 1. She said that’s because they no longer have access to the internet due to the coup.

Zam said arrests are taking place for those who are speaking out, and that she understands that action.

“But being killed without reason, is so heartbreaking for us," she said. "So, we really want that to end."

Zam stated that the Burmese people need help and the only thing her family can do right now is send donations. She explained that the website for these has been shut down but Thomas said the church is accepting contributions that will be passed along.

Katie's Cup Conversations take place on the second Tuesday of every month. The public is welcome to join

  • Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.
Yvonne covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This could include how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities. Boose is a recent graduate of the Illinois Media School and returns to journalism after a career in the corporate world.