As a former inmate, I will never forget when I walked back into the jail that I was once incarcerated in; not as a prisoner, but as a chaplain. I had recently graduated from Bible college and was in search for a job away from the Rochester area but the Lord had different plans. Over a period of six years, hundreds of inmates and staff gave their lives over to the Lord. My life was a living testimony and I often compared myself to Saint Patrick.
Saint Patrick wasn't born in Ireland as some suppose. He was a British missionary to Ireland. Patrick was kidnapped at the age of 16 by an Irish chieftain and spent at least six years as a slave in Ireland, which was then a spiritually desolate Celtic land. He gave his life to Christ while a slave tending his master's livestock on an Irish hillside. After those six years, Patrick escaped to Britain and then attended a monastic school in France, where he studied for about 12 years. About the year 432, when he was about 43 years old, Patrick reportedly saw a vision of the spiritual need in Ireland, and felt a call from God to return to the place of his slavery.
Patrick was no stranger to taking risks. In his autobiographical, Confessions, the only remaining writing of Patrick, he wrote, "I must take this decision disregarding risks involved and make known the gifts of God and his everlasting consolation." He did return to Ireland and spent the rest of his life there as a missionary. His preaching was powerful. He even used the Shamrock (three leaf clover) in sermon illustrations to explain the relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (the Trinity). His ministry was so successful that the Irish now claim him as their own. Saint Patrick had brought hope to Ireland.
At Hope Initiatives, we bring hope to people who are marginalized economically and spiritually by providing jobs, biblical instruction, skills training, and courage. Former offenders find it very difficult to secure employment; the homeless lack the funds and skills to secure and maintain housing, and we might as well admit that the conventional way in which we assist the poor isn’t working. The Lord brought hope to scores of prisoners and staff during my tenure as a sheriff’s chaplain. Today, I am asking the Lord to do the same with society’s ostracized now that I am president of Hope Initiatives. God asked the prophet Jeremiah, “Is there anything too hard for me? (Jeremiah 33:27). With your prayers and financial support, we can also have a lasting effect on people as they become self-supporting members of society. Would you help us take the risk to hire more ex-offenders and the poor? We appreciate your support in any way whether you are a customer or a social equity investor. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.
Let’s face it. Society is marred by crime and poverty of every sort. Various methods have been deployed to circumvent the consequences of human weakness or even to prevent additional vice. Approaches include public housing to address living conditions or half-way houses and rehabs to engage the realities of drug abuse. It may be safe to say that most crime and poverty involves being busy in the wrong areas. Criminals are both rational and creative. Drug abusers find money to feed a habit. Therefore, they are responsible for the decisions they make in life whether it leads to poverty or prosperity. At Hope Initiatives, our goal is to help individuals redirect their “busyness” to achieve better solutions. Business is a fundamental activity in our society. Organizations seeking to serve dilapidated communities to advance the kingdom of God will have little to show for their efforts as far as relieving the targeted people groups of their fiscal lack if business opportunities are overlooked.
All throughout America’s history, social welfare programs were handled through religious and other social groups rather than through government redistribution programs. Historically, faith-based communities directly confronted poverty by involving the poor in the solution. In fact, James Madison, the fourth President of the United States, and a key figure in the construction of the US Constitution declared: “Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.” If we are to see lives changed we must assist the poor in altering their environment rather than providing excuses as to why the environment altered them. The role of enterprise and wealth creation has been given far too little attention in the fight against poverty and crime.
When Christ miraculously fed five thousand people it became one of the most talked about economic activities to date. With two fish and five loaves of bread, Christ, along with his disciples, distributed a wholesome meal that satisfied the appetites of those who were hungered (see Matthew 13:13-21). Subsequently, the people recognized that Christ was no ordinary man. He had met their physical need by multiplying the available resources. What does this tell us about this event? What lessons can we glean from the phenomenon? First, Christ met an authentic need. The people were hungry.
At a time when tithes and offerings were enforced (it was also at the time of the Passover), it would seem legitimate to assume that there were high levels of activity surrounding the temple and the priests, none of which enters this particular picture. In spite of well-robed religious leaders roaming the communities while adoring the beautiful temples and synagogues throughout the land, there was a large population of people who were hungry. Such a predicament reflects the contemporary practice of “church construction” or “planting” without the spiritual and economic parallel impact so needed within the community. Poverty is worse, and the world sees little need for another modern-day synagogue that asks for more of hard-earned resources to build bigger temples.
Before we send people away, we must ask ourselves if we are hearing from the Lord to see if he is willing to take our available resources and confront a social ill. If such an event (feeding the 5,000) deserves mention throughout history (it's mentioned in all four gospels), and the Messiah Himself used tangible resources to relieve the social pain prevalent among the people, how can a person use their business to multiply resources to confront hunger, homelessness, and hopelessness?
The two fishes and five loaves of bread were the results of someone’s labor. The businessperson played a role somehow in the effecting of Christ’s ministry. The entrepreneur may not be able to perform miracles, but the Lord still uses our available resources to advance His kingdom here on earth (Matthew 6:10). Would you become a social equity investor by donating to this ministry? With your “fish” and “loaves of bread” your resources will be multiplied and put to good use for kingdom impact.
About the Author
Tommy Davis, a former sheriff's (jail) chaplain, and a Western New York division commander chaplain for CFMI, was elected as president/CEO of Hope Initiatives in August of 2016. Mr. Davis performed exercises with the state police, the US Marshal's Services and other law enforcement and corrections agencies. He received his BA in Theology and MA in Ministry at Apex School of Theology and Tennessee Temple University respectively. He is currently studying to receive his Ph.D. in Leadership and Organizational Management at Piedmont International University. Tommy and his wife Raymona reside in Rochester with their children. Email him at email@example.com