Economics 101.

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Economics 101.

Economic Development. What a complicated, large, catch-all phrase. It’s what we want for the developing world, but do we know how to get it? How can one harness the economy and bring it down to size, using it as a means for growth, rather than being a pawn in its scheme? The only answer, creatively.

I won’t bore you with a lecture on economics, let’s make it real, applicable, attainable. Economics is a force outside of us, but smart business people use it to their advantage daily. What if we did the same? You don’t have to be a business buff, you simply have to see the value of business methods. What if we used these same business methods toward a different bottom line? Rather than an end-goal of business growth and profit, what if used those same methods with end-goals of community growth and social justice for those without? We can.

Social Entrepreneurship.

I declared a major in Social Entrepreneurship, then I spent my entire first year in school trying to nail down what it means. Here’s what I’ve learned.

It’s a creative approach to solutions- taking business practices and methods and applying them in a non-traditional setting, to bring about social justice for a people group, for a cause, for a purpose. It’s the passion of a social mission which drives the business, a greater aim for the company or organization. To funnel resources into a sustainable business whose underlying goal is more important than the profit and return (though these are still important), a goal for impact, for change in a social sector. Now, as the Social Enterprise Manager for Mission Lazarus, I see the immense value of this proposition. I have seen the impact this business model has on communities in the developing world, so daily, I fight to push this organization forward, towards growth, because here, business growth means growth of impact for God’s Kingdom.

How does it really work?

Well, just like any other business, but the mindset is different. The focus is systemic change, long-term impact. A social entrepreneur sees a person in need and doesn’t simply handover pocket change for their next meal. A social entrepreneur creatively uses resources at hand toward impact that breaks the cycle. It's that same philosophy of education: if you give a hungry man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.

Let’s say they create an opportunity for work which leads to consistent pay over a long period of time. This means there will be food on the table, and when that food is purchased at the market, the family who owns the market is impacted, and every person who works at the market is impacted. That’s an economic impact on the local community. This means their kids are in school instead of leaving school to work to earn more money to support the family, which means the next generation has access to education, which means a future filled with brilliant minds to continue lifting the community and driving the local economy. That’s an economic impact directly on that family, and who knows how many others that family might impact along the way!

In the developing world, social enterprise is the most effective way to attain economic development. It’s a jumpstart for the local economy.

Mission Lazarus, through a social enterprise model, has impacted 200+ families which now earn a livable wage. That’s 200+ families lifted out of the cycle of poverty, that’s 200+ families with food on the table, spending their wages and stirring their local economy, educating their children, and growing their future opportunities. That is impact, that is change in the social sector.

That’s great! But I live so far away… What can I do to help?

You might be closer than you realize! Every day you can impact others around the world from the comfort of your couch, at your favorite retailers, at the grocery store. Each time you purchase a product, that sale generates a demand for that good. Ready for your economics lesson for the day?

Let’s say you buy 6 avocados from Mexico. That’s 6 avocados taken off the market, that’s a decrease in the quantity left- when supply goes down, if demand stays the same, the prices will increase. If the avocado company earns more money, that means they can buy more land to plant more avocado trees, which means they will hire more workers, which means more people are employed, which means more people earning money, which means more people spending money at their local grocery store. The moral of the story is not to buy more avocados, although 10/10 recommend avocados. Your purchase impacts a community of farmers in another country. The lesson here: what you buy MATTERS. So, make sure it’s the right kind of impact, one towards economic development, toward economic empowerment and prosperity of others. 

When you purchase leather goods from our Social Enterprise Store, you are generating a demand for the products made by our artisans in Honduras and Haiti, you are providing opportunity for work and education through our vocational schools. The more we sell, the greater the demand for their craft, the more work for the artisans, the better earning opportunity for their families. Yes, it’s business, but it's more than that- it’s change, it’s impact, it’s for God’s glory and His Kingdom.

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Change of Plans.

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Change of Plans.

Like many college entrants, I had no idea what I wanted to do when I started at Abilene Christian University. I was interested in languages and history, though not Academia, so I majored in International Studies. My parents convinced me to minor in Business Administration because “it will be useful,” no matter what field I entered. 

Throughout my freshman and sophomore years, I went through several phases of career aspirations. By the time I started my junior year, I decided that my love for travel and people would fit well in the tourism industry. With general yet growing knowledge in business and languages, I thought I had decided my future. 

But God had other plans.

In the spring of my junior year, I took a “Poverty and Development” class taught by one of the many fabulous and wise business professors. Every Monday night, I was shown pictures, videos, statistics, and breaking news about the developing world. To say I was moved would be an understatement. To complement lectures and class discussions, some guest speakers discussed the problem of poverty and how to solve it.  One of those speakers was Jarrod Brown of Mission Lazarus.

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He communicated to us his vision that God-backed, Bible-inspired social entrepreneurship is the best means for alleviating poverty.

Knowing from observation that throwing aid - monetary or otherwise - at poverty does little to solve the problem, Jarrod’s testimonials convinced me that while it may not completely eradicate poverty, social entrepreneurship rooted in the Gospel can accomplish much more than aid ever will. 

Jarrod’s passion—and the purpose of Mission Lazarus—has become my own. The more I see of the world, the more I witness first-hand the material depravity caused by spiritual lack. The “problem of poverty” is one of the reasons I’m in business school in London—to become better equipped with knowledge and experience to help others out of that vicious cycle. More than that, I pray that others who see the success of Gospel-based social enterprises will recognize that God is the only solution to all of humanity’s ills, both material and spiritual.  

Dana is currently studying in London for a Master's in International Business. She feels a strong call to use her God-given knowledge and skills to help other people thrive. She plans to work in the non-profit sector for a Christ-centered social enterprise or an international organization.

Dana is currently studying in London for a Master's in International Business. She feels a strong call to use her God-given knowledge and skills to help other people thrive. She plans to work in the non-profit sector for a Christ-centered social enterprise or an international organization.

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What we say we want.

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What we say we want.

Sim·plic·i·ty. /simˈplisədē/  noun  1.  the quality or condition of being easy to understand or do.

This is not new, and not at all profound, but, none of us lives a simple life, do we?  In a 21st century world, whether you live in a New York City penthouse or in a hut along the banks of the Zambezi river, life is not simple.  Whether your survival depends on landing a business deal or crossing a river full of crocodiles, simple doesn't really enter into the equation.  

So whether or not you order your groceries thru the latest app on your smartphone, or you grind corn on a rock to dine on "tortillas con sal" (that's tortillas with salt, folks, and it's my son's favorite) no one can escape that life presents challenges, requires work-arounds, and demands payment of our physical and emotional energies.  

Haiti is a tough place to live.  There just aren't that many jobs, for men or women.  The construction of our school in Gras has afforded a few permanent jobs - school director, teachers, cooks, and security - but it's really a small team.  The unemployed of the village have no false expectations that this school is a source of permanent job security for their families.    

It really opens your eyes to see that "simply struggling to survive" isn't "simple" at all, and how the opportunity for employment - even temporary employment - is nearly impossible to secure when there are so few jobs, and so many men and women vying for them.   As we have been adding classrooms to our school in anticipation of next year, we have again recruited construction workers from the church and village surrounding the school.  We hire about twenty men, but have to turn away at least forty, every time.  

Because opportunity is so scarce, we try to share the opportunity by rotating workers in and out. We have a a core team of 7-8 who are permanent, but the rest work two weeks on, then two off, to give opportunity for income to every willing and capable man in the village.  

Even that, isn't enough.  When the man who worked beside you last week is now gathering wood to make and sell charcoal this week simply asks you if he could work another week because his family has nothing to eat, it isn't enough.

It isn't enough. And it isn't simple.

Not-simple problems do not have simple solutions, nor do they have quick ones.  Charity is never a solution to a long-term problem.  It's great for momentary problems or large scale calamities, but it just doesn't work for what "isn't simple."  And that is most of life.  

So where do I put Jesus?  He is that one solution that is not like any other.  Is Jesus simple? Yes!  Is Jesus complex? Yes!  He is both, and.  He is Alpha and Omega.  He is beginning and end.  I struggle to convey what I believe is good and true -- that economic development goes hand in hand with spiritual development.  How can we, as rich as we are, offer Jesus to someone with nothing, without also offering them an opportunity to obtain skills and secure employment so that God's promise of abundant life is real? 

Discipleship offered by the rich "first world" Christian, without economic development, with people in "third world" nations like Honduras and Haiti -- and many others around the world -- is the epitome of a plank in the eye.  But, maybe the solution is simple, after all -- just take that plank out, and see, unimpaired.     

Teaching vocational skills and creating jobs in a market that is devoid of opportunity takes innovation, expertise, partnership, and most of all, God's blessing.  Help us support economic development because it is a conduit for discipleship relationships.  If you are a Christian, you are an ambassador equipped to serve others - to help people who do not know God to derive meaning in a fallen world and to discover the depth of God's love for them.  

Santos Espinoza, Spiritual Director of Mission Lazarus Honduras, baptizing new believers in Haiti.  

Santos Espinoza, Spiritual Director of Mission Lazarus Honduras, baptizing new believers in Haiti.  

 

 

 

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Get Your Dander Up.

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Get Your Dander Up.

My thanks to the Dutch for this weird phrase, that literally means “to burst into a sudden rage.”  The world makes me crazy sometimes, like when I’m raging against it and then suddenly gratitude finds its way in, and the two feelings feel so weird together - so paradoxical.  But if we’re paying attention to realities near and far from home, we might notice that we get a lot of exposure to this strange feeling combo.  It’s uncomfortable, but I think it’s uncomfortable on purpose, in order to get us to take meaningful action.  

So what’s the point of noticing when gratitude and outrage come as a package deal?  I think it’s so we can take a fresh look at the fallen world around us, because we have the eyes, hands, and heart to observe and grieve the gap between what is and what should be.  We grieve because we don’t have the power to fix the world.  

So I’m gonna scream my dickens.  (This is how I used to announce my impending temper tantrums to my family when I was a little girl.)  Let’s see, I could scream about terrorists, or refugees, or nuclear armament, but it’s doubtful that even raising our collective moral hackles will result in finding a peaceful and just solution to these situations.

Enter strange feelings number three and four - helplessness and/or hopelessness. We usually have only a fleeting glimpse of these in our neat and orderly lives, because we have things like status, and retirement, and insurance, and routine, and a justice system, and emergency services, and education, and employment, and credit cards and on and on. The people we serve in Honduras and Haiti usually have NONE of these things.  

We are unaccustomed to feelings of vulnerability, unlike many people in other parts of the world. While we are well insulated from helplessness and hopelessness, our neighbors suffer from overexposure to these elements practically every single minute of every waking hour of their lives.

Awareness can be a disturbing thing, especially when it highlights contrasts that signify unacceptable differences in quality of life among human beings.  What do we do with it? — Lots of us bury the awareness.  “Out of sight, out of mind” is so true.  Or deny it, or better yet, blame people.  If people deserve what they are getting, there is no injustice between these contrasting realities. Or you can internalize it and become depressed and disillusioned because you can’t fix the world.   

We shouldn’t delude ourselves that we can take down entire broken systems.  End poverty, hmm, probably not — there are those who make these claims, but, I don’t really think that can be done.  But it’s not about what we can’t do. (What we can’t do is always irrelevant.) It’s about what we can do; and there is opportunity for meaningful contribution.

Whenever you are able, do good to people who need help
— Proverbs 3:27

So this is my thought. We aren’t asked to save the world or solve the problem of evil.  We are asked by God to respond when we have both the opportunity and ability to make a meaningful impact.  What is the best “good” that we can do?  This is what I like about economic development.  Let’s equip people with skills and opportunities for gainful employment, in the name of Jesus, so that they have financial security to provide for their family’s needs as well as contribute to their church, for its further development.  This is a real outcome.  We focus on economic development because it is the best “good” that we can do, in the name of Jesus.

So be outraged.  Be grateful.  Be intentional.  Act.  Near home.  And Far.  

   

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"Not Alone"

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"Not Alone"

Connection is critical to life.  Being "not alone" is protective, it's nutritive.  From the first moment that you came into existence, you were tied to someone else.  Once you arrived in the world, you were part of a family, and part of a community, and part of a larger world.  But at the core of it all, is your world - your inner world.  

In Honduras and Haiti, we work with individuals, families and communities commonly affected by violence, shame, loss, trauma, grief, guilt, neglect, injustice, abuse, apathy, anxiety, depression, and poverty.  While some of these effects are visible and obvious, many of the most significant harms occur internally.  We may never know about them if the person does not feel safe enough to choose to reveal them.  

Our pastors and directors spend lots of time discipling others in our churches, clinics, schools, offices, and in the Refuge because connection is that important. We invest in people because people are that important.  God's prescription for healing calls for increased connectedness. 

That is why one of our greatest joys is witnessing a decision to trust Jesus, who redeems the pain of the past to enrich the present and future, and uses each one of us, if we're willing, to be a connector.

Everyone born of God overcomes the world.
— I John 5:4

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                                                                         "Porque me nace"

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"Porque me nace"

This has been going on for well over a year, as in, not a whim, or a fad, or a ploy for credit.  Every afternoon after school she goes to the hacienda to assist the Refuge staff - to make copies, do data entry, file documents, clean the bathrooms; you name it, she’ll do it.  

She” is Greysi, the oldest sibling of five who’ve been at the Refuge for eight years.  

Greysi is somewhat shy and quiet, yet orchestrated her own sort of unpaid internship when she told the Refuge director she “wanted to give back.”  She suggested the role of office assistant and set the hours, committing to volunteer her time daily.  

What is extraordinary about this is that it isn’t for show, it isn’t for compensation, it isn’t to gain special favor or status.  She is a young woman with an unusually strong conviction to pay it forward, starting NOW.  

Of course, that is our vision for the Refuge - that we raise up Christians who love God and use their talents to better their community.  But to see it being realized already NOW, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised but it blows me away. 

“Porque me nace” is a phrase that conveys action prompted by an internal desire but it more literally means, “because it is born in me” — I can’t help but see how Jesus brings new life, and cherish the privilege I have to see presently, that the buds and blooms of now are sure to mature and grow into the fruit that God has promised Greysi through His Spirit. 

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
— Psalm 37:4-5

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I. Am. Made. New.

You're 15 years old and dirt poor. There are sixteen people living in your small adobe house.  You're isolated, you can't go to school, and you don't have a skill to get work.  Also, you're a girl.  The man in the village who's been staring at you for several weeks now approaches you.  He says he'll give you $75 to sleep with him.  How could this man know that you daydream about buying a piece of land to build a house and take care of your mother and siblings?

You shake your head, to clear it.  "No." you say.

"Esta bien, $100," he says, as he looks you up and down.

"No.  Go away."  You get home and think of Sister Naomi and Brother Josept who have been teaching you about Jesus and the life that God wants you to live - a life with hope and a future.   

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
— Romans 12:2

This is not the story of just one young woman in our sewing school; this is the reality of many young women who live in a constant state of vulnerability because they are stuck without choices.  Our vocational sewing program is not only developing skilled seamstresses but is developing their spiritual capacity to choose freedom and hope and to leave behind helplessness and dependence.  

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Their secret - contentment

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Their secret - contentment

It's hard to SEE contentment.  It's not a feeling, but you can experience its presence or absence. There's a place you can experience it, sitting in an open-air porch in a little village called Las Pitas, visiting with Don Chalo and Doña Julia at their house.   

Given that they have always been the living embodiment of hospitality, it's no surprise that they host weekly Bible study at their home.  They have always been influential in the community.  In 2003, they gave us their home to see patients while the clinic was being built.  For over a year, we claimed their bedroom as an exam room and their porch as our pharmacy.  They hosted our medical team and 40+ patients daily with energy and enthusiasm.  And at the end of each day, they thanked us.  

Over the years, Julia made a decision to follow Christ.  It took Chalo a few more years, but when he was ready, he became a believer.  At that time, there was a subtle, but significant, internal shift.  The entire reason for their engagement with their community took on a different purpose.  They want to give to others what they have freely received.  Sometimes decisions for Christ demand a radical shift in lifestyle, habits, ethics.  But sometimes, shifts are internal, subtle, harder to see.  Whether Christ activates radical internal or external change in you, all change is significant, for our good, and for His glory.     

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One on One.

Joselina Ortiz, during a home visit with Lazarus Clinic.  

Joselina Ortiz, during a home visit with Lazarus Clinic.  

Dr. Nelsy Alvarado doesn't always use her prescription pad to provide women what they need. She sees more than just physical symptoms, and often it is a healing word, rather than a pill, that remedies contaminants like fear, hopelessness, and powerlessness.   

In Mark 5, a woman touches Jesus -- a woman who is "unclean" and therefore not allowed to touch anyone or even enter a house. She has been lonely, impoverished, and frustrated for twelve years.  In an instant, the woman's physical problem is healed; verse 29 says that the source of her blood dried up.  

Jesus didn't get on to her for touching him.  He didn't condemn her for "contaminating" him with her uncleanliness. Instead, he saw that there was still more pain to heal - isolation, rejection, anger, depression, hopelessness - he saw everything that was there. So he spoke to her, and restored the woman's dignity and place in the community, with a word, "Daughter, go in peace."  

Jesus is admirably efficient; he has divine ability to see exactly what pain is hidden inside.  We can not see what others choose to hide from us, especially when we contentedly choose to remain on the fringes of people's lives.  But as we delve into relationship, invest in people, we can begin to see what is hidden there -- just as Nelsy manages the intimate vulnerabilities of her patients, and the barriers come down, she sees what was hidden before.  And she can practice Jesus' example of holistic care.  And so can you and I.  

People often ask what is different about the Lazarus Clinic, about Mission Lazarus as a whole.  It's only, and exactly, this:  Leadership as Jesus' practiced, means going deep.  Jesus is not satisfied with a band-aid, he desires complete healing, of each and every one, even if it takes a lifetime of words and touch to achieve.  

Coming to the clinic was really important because they told me what was wrong and I feel that this is the work of Jesus here, in no other place exists an opportunity for help like this.
— - Alexi Pastrana, surgical patient in Women's Health Program

 

 

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