Monday, October 3, 2011

Feed the Poor and House the Rodents!

I often find that I write a lot about fluffy things. Sometimes that works, but this time I wanted to give you a run down on some of the specific things that are happening with us and our ministry here in Cusco.

A few weeks ago, we started planning the design of a guinea pig cage. This is not just any guinea pig cage, but a cage designed as a responsibility project which is being offered to the youth at Project CORASON. The program is offered to those that have successfully completed an in depth discipleship program. As the youth finish up with their discipleship training, they are given an opportunity to learn about responsibility and business.

The program looks like this: We help the kids build their own cage. The kids are taught how to care for their animals. It is nothing more than a responsibility lesson and also teaches them how to make something larger out of a smaller investment. This is one thing that most kids in Cusco will never learn. As many of you know, business is my passion. To share this passion and get these kids excited about taking on a business venture is great fun for me as well.

The Meeting Place has donated all of the materials for the cages from the profits of the business. In addition, each week, we work together with the kids, showing them how to mark the cuts, cut the lumber, and then put it all together.

Once the cages are completed, Project CORASON will give a male and female guinea pig to the students to begin their operations. The students then take the operation to their homes, feed and care for the animals , play some nice romantic music, and voila…A lot of guinea pigs. These little critters are easy to sell as there is a large market for them. Individuals as well as large farming operations can bring their guinea pigs to the same market. It is a simple business that will allow the kids to develop some responsibility for their own well being. They are involved from step one to the finish line. They invest time and energy which can result in a good return. It is simple business, but a concept that is often hard to find in such a socialistic type of culture.

As we continue to work out the bugs in the program, please commit to praying for these young people and this project.

This is what happens when you give…

One thing that is often overlooked by missionaries is that they fail to let people know what is happening to the resources that are entrusted to them. For many of you, it was explained in the beginning. However, I want to give you all a brief refresher on the flow of funds through our mission organization(Commission to Every Nation-CTEN) to our family on the field, to the ministries with which we support.

To begin, we are what are called faith based missionaries. We are 100% supported by individuals that believe in us or our mission or both. Funds are sent to CTEN, a 501 non profit, then they are sent to us to use for living and ministry expenses. It is a pretty simple process, but what is more important is how your support helps us in our work here.

We are not allowed to earn a wage in Peru. We are volunteers on a missionary visa…However, we can and do, run businesses that make money, that we can then use for the purpose of supporting local church projects, social projects and anything else that needs some help. There are quite a few negative connotations out there about doing business in the mission field. I can understand and appreciate some of the issues, but there are some that are actually working the way they are intended to work. For example, our café is sustainable. We do not need any more cash poured into it. It is going to continue. Many other types of missions have been started in other parts of the world that are entirely supported by donations. In my opinion, that has nothing to do with business. That is an outreach that is a liability. If it cannot sustain itself, one cannot call it a business.

We are in business! When resources are given to our family, it allows us to live here legally and not have to take a wage and also operate the businesses. We use as much volunteer labor as we can as it allows us to be more profitable which allows us to give that much more away.

To begin businesses, we have a couple of options; borrow or raise money through donations. A loan is not the best option as it creates an unacceptable amount of debt and risk. The other option is to raise capital through partners. We find willing partners that would like to participate in our mission and vision. A businessman can understand that, if he donates one time, it will allow the business to be profitable from day one. No loans to pay back, just going forward from that point. I have an opportunity to help bring people into ministry with their blessings that God has given them. I think it is sound stewardship to participate in this manner. It is all Gods! However, I want to make sure that what God has entrusted to me gets the biggest bang for the buck.

As we continue in our plans to begin operations on different businesses, know that it is a long term investment into the kingdom. It will be a café that will provide funds for an Easter program at Huilkarpay, where dozens are introduced to the gospel. It will be a language school that helps provide food and shelter for an orphanage in San Jeronimo. It will be the guest house that provides some funds to support the grand opening of a new orphanage in Santiago.

One of the key benefits of the cafe is its location. Situated in the heart of Cusco, it provides a place for the church to gather and fellowship together. It also provides a meeting place for outreach programs that teach the bible to the local children and for a weekly cultural/biblical discussion group.

When taking over the Meeting Place, we discussed changing the name to something that reminded people of the kind of food we serve, but after much discussion, we realized that it already has a great name. The Meeting Place is more than a place that sells coffee and waffles. It is place that is involved in ministry. Some ministry is deeply rooted and others are still being developed but the "soul" purpose of the Meeting Place is just that, to bring people to Christ through the support of local projects.

In the future it will be any number of other types of businesses that will be operated to support local projects…That is our mission and call.

Just because it comes in the package that is labeled business, don’t discard the positive long term effects that it will have on the kingdom of God.

To this point, I have not even mentioned the people aspect of our ministries. This is the one area that most people are interested in anyways. What is happening to reach people in these ministries? Know that the mission purpose is business, but the end result is touched people. When people come to our cafe, they are reached. We do not put a hard evangelism message in front of them, but there are no punches pulled. When we get an opportunity, we tell our customers about the reason for the Hope that we have in Christ. There is no doubt that our business is Kingdom business. Some walk away without a change, but many others are refreshed by the fact that the Christians are not just preaching and talking about it, but living it. Our volunteers invite clients to our church outreach on Sunday nights!

You can call it business, ministry, business as mission, BAM, or anything else. What we are involved in is people. We are called to reach people through missional business. Know that when you support our family and ministry, it is an investment that will continue to pay off for years to come. As for our business model, we are using donations for start-up capital. As the businesses begin and/or continue to operate, they will reap rewards into the future by reaching people and providing indefinite resources to key projects with which we are partnered. And that my friends are what we are all about.