In an effort to refine and advance the impact of our holistic ministries, Servant Partners has developed Communities of Practice (CoP). Each CoP group forms around a specific topic and includes SP staff from multiple countries specializing in and engaging that issue. Cohort members connect from their sites around the world to cross-pollinate and mutually enrich each other's ministries.
One of the nine signs of a transforming community is increasing opportunities to achieve economic sufficiency among the poor. Equipped with the vision to see this facet of our holistic ministries mature, Shabrae, our CoP Coordinator, and Thomas, SP staff in Lincoln Heights, California, initiated an Economic Development Communities of Practice group where staff explore strategies for engaging and applying business or social enterprise in our diverse international contexts.
This Economic Development CoP is a mix of 1) learning from stories of SP staff who have engaged business in their ministry, 2) engaging useful readings and videos, 3) discussing as a group, and 4) gathering helpful tools and exercises for doing business well.
Thomas, the CoP facilitator of this cohort, shares how God is using business for transformation on the ground in Lincoln Heights:
Servant Partners’ mission is to plant churches that transform their urban poor communities. The church plant here in Lincoln Heights is doing just that. Our church is a vehicle of empowerment and blessing in the community. I have been involved in that by helping local people to learn business skills and to start small businesses to improve their economic prospects.
One of the businesses we helped create is a cleaning business. We worked with a local immigrant family that attends our church to help them start a business. Eventually, we were able to hand off business operations fully to them, and now they are running it themselves. It has been empowering for them. Not only have they learned how to run a business, but also the family is now able to earn more than double what they were earning in their previous jobs. For the first time, they are able to earn solidly more than their expenses. They worked hard and have overcome a lot to get to this point. It’s been a joy to be a part of this family’s life, and we are hoping that there are others in our church and in the community that we can guide through this process, too.
We also have a lot of youth who come to our church, and we are working on ways to get these youth into stable jobs and careers as part of their development as young leaders in the community. We are linking up interested youth in our church and our community to one-on-one mentors. I have mentored one of these guys from the community for the past six months. He was really struggling in his academics, especially in math. As I started helping him with his math, he also began asking spiritual questions and wondering what we in the church are about. He has a ‘side hustle’ as a loan shark. He finds folks in the hood who need cash and makes small loans at high interest rates. His dream is to be an entrepreneur and own his own business.
As we spent time together, he was curious about me using what I know not to get rich myself, but to help others. He asked me, ‘Why would you do that?’ My investment in him is making him curious, and God is turning his heart, helping him to see that God has a deeper calling for his life than just making as much money as possible. I see his heart changing. He recently told me, ‘Maybe God doesn’t want me to charge high interest rates to everyone I loan to since it doesn’t help them.’ He is wrestling with these questions and is getting more interested in our church. He was recently convicted from the sermon in church about his pride and his attitude before God. It was the first time he heard an explanation for why having a proud heart is bad and what that does to our soul. He knew that he needed to repent, and he has begun to talk about following Jesus. He is not committed to Jesus yet, but I am praying that he will take that step.
Join us in praising the Lord for the way that he is using our staff, churches, and ministries around to world to open up greater opportunities for economic sufficiency in urban poor communities and drawing people to himself through such a transformative work!