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The Gift of Work | by Melanie Dale

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The other day I was exactly where I usually am, behind the wheel of my minivan, driving my kids wherever they needed to be. Sometimes we jam out to music, and the Hamilton soundtrack is our current favorite.

 

“I’m lookin’ for a mind at work, work

I’m lookin’ for a mind at work, work

I’m lookin’ for a mind at work, work

Whoa-oa! Whoa-oa! Whoa-oa! Whoa-oa!

WORK!”

 

And sometimes in my smelly minivan, on those beautiful occasions when everyone is getting along relatively well and the decibel level is manageable, I try to talk with them about important things.

So the other day I opened up a conversation with them about the privilege of work. We talked about the opportunity to work a good job and how it’s a gift. I shared how much I love my job, well, jobs, as author, speaker, mother, and advocate for Children’s HopeChest. They listened and talked about what they might want to be. Video game designer. Dog groomer. Extremely famous singer actress celebrity.

We talked about how right now their job is school, and the work that they do there will lead them to their future careers. I encouraged them to work hard, to achieve their dreams.

And then we moved to the people in this world who don’t have the opportunity to work, or receive dignity and fair wages, because of oppression and injustice. Men and women who want to provide for their families but can’t because of broken systems.

Last year with a small group of my neighbors, we learned more about the roots, problems, and hope for people living in poverty through the PovertyCure DVDs. While sipping coffee in front of my TV in the suburban U.S., we peeked into another world.

“This is the first time I’ve heard anyone talk about poverty like this.”

My neighbor spoke up as we processed the first PovertyCure session. After years of working with Children’s HopeChest, I was passionate about poverty alleviation and community transformation, but now I was sitting in a room with my friends talking about it.

As my group worked through the entire 6-DVD set, we kept coming back to what can we do. We were learning so much about economics and injustice and lack of access to the global market, but we were not the heads of a government. We didn’t run our own global organization. We couldn’t create jobs. How could a group of friends support entrepreneurs in the developing world?

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Find out more about Melanie Dale’s latest book by clicking on the image above!

As we talked through what we were learning, we kept coming back to our buying power. We make purchases every day. We couldn’t approve small business loans or meet with government officials, but we are part of the global marketplace. We buy. As Americans, we buy a lot. So how could we adjust our buying to benefit entrepreneurs around the world?

A few years ago I started an endeavor to buy all my Christmas gifts from companies making a difference in the world. I called it the “Slave-Free Christmas Challenge,” because after I found out about people living in slavery making the goods we purchase I couldn’t bear celebrating Jesus’ birth with items made that way.

I had a blast, hunting for gifts and necessities that would support artisans trying to keep their kids in school and feed their families. I found ornaments from Ornaments4Orphans and jewelry from Trades of Hope and soap from B.A.R.E. soaps and so many other wonderful companies empowering local business owners around the world.

I’m just one regular person, but what if a bunch of regular persons used their buying power to give entrepreneurs around the world the gift of work for Christmas? Mitscoots socks packaged by the homeless here in America and Sole Rebels shoes made from upcycled materials in Ethiopia and the most gorgeous array of purses from Purse and Clutch. Every item with a soul and a story behind it. Work matters.

I’ve continued these conversations about work with my kids and friends. When I purchase or give something, I try to ask myself, “Am I creating a job or taking one away?”

I want to look for ways to support and encourage men and women around the world to find meaningful work that supports their families and provides stability and hope for their lives. I want everyone, not just my kids, to get to achieve their dreams.

Work is a gift, one I never want to take for granted…although my kids might disagree as they do their math homework. “Whoa-oa Whoa-oa WORK!”

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Melanie Dale is a minivan mama and total weirdo who stinks at small talk. Her laugh is a combination honk-snort, and it’s so bad that people have moved away from her in the movie theater. She adores sci-fi and superheroes and is terrified of Pinterest. Author of Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends and It’s Not Fair: Learning to Love the Life You Didn’t Choose, she’s also a contributor for Coffee+Crumbs and an advocate for Children’s HopeChest. Her writing has been featured on Parenting.com, Scary Mommy, Working Mother Magazine, Deadspin’s Adequate Man, Ann Voskamp’s A Holy Experience, and Today’s Christian Woman, and she’s a panelist for MomsEveryday TV. Living in the Atlanta area, she enjoys recording her podcast, Lighten Up with Melanie Dale, and blogging at Unexpected.org

Is Work a Dignified Moral Activity? | by Gerry Hartis

Picture of woman working her job.  Is work a dignified moral activity?

Current research indicates that in the United States the one thing people want most is “a good job.” What they mean is a job that pays well enough, aligns with their motivations and capabilities, and delivers outputs/outcomes that are generally considered beneficial to customers.

It’s no surprise then, that a major theme in the current campaign season is the “good job.” Whether promising to “bring them back” or to generate “jobs for the 21st Century”, candidates understand that there is something foundational in having the opportunity to work – to deliver products and services for tangible compensation. But even those among us who need not work for compensation still work. Why is that?

First of all, work for humanity is normal – it’s how we’re made. Work is fundamentally a moral activity – it fits and affirms the purposes of our Creator who is at work in his creation. We are a product of his workmanship designed for work. He works. We work.

The creation narrative tells the story of work. In the beginning God works – creates something of great value. And he gives to his human creation the responsibility of drawing out of that creation more and greater value – exploring, making evident the potential embodied in both human and non-human creation. This was work as it ought to have continued – deeply satisfying and abundantly fruitful – producing every kind of good thing tangible and intangible.

But our shared story took us deep into rebellion against our Creator and loss of close alignment with his purposes even as we continued in the necessity to work. Among the things we lost was joy at work – the abiding sense that in doing our work we were participating in God’s work. Work in collaboration with him was no longer an opportunity to know him and ourselves ever more deeply. Instead, work for most people today is not satisfying and not especially fruitful in either tangible or intangible outcomes.

Now, our shared story includes a direct intervention. Jesus, God-Man identifies a new kingdom a new order for all things – including work. And Holy Spirit forming a new people of God, reclaims work as a strong and full expression of love acting in faith toward hope of a new creation. So now work can be, and often is, work that anticipates the kingdom of God because it recognizes God is always at work and dignifies all honorable work.

The next chapter of our shared story will be one in which we recover work as deeply satisfying and abundantly fruitful – done in freedom and as a full expression of God’s love of humanity and humanity’s love for all that is God’s.

So how does what this view of work, as it ought to have been, as it is, as  it can be, as it will be inform our thinking about work – whether in the form of a “job” or in the execution of business strategy?

Given the power of work in our lives, we can understand why “jobs” are territory that governmental institutions want to own. And we can see why work is a key element of any pathway out of poverty. The truly impoverished are those who have little opportunity or resource to engage in a fundamental dimension of life – work.

Work brings dignity. It has a moral quality because it is expressive of the foundational character of life – the way things are. Leaving aside that kind of work that is debatably (or even obviously) self-serving and destructive to others, work is to be valued as a fundamental element of human freedom and vitality of human community.

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Gerry Hartis, PovertyCure Senior Advisor of Strategy and Partnerships, is an experienced professional working with commercial and non-profit organizations engaged at the intersection of business, higher education, and policy. Immediately prior to joining the PovertyCure team, Gerry served as the Director of Business & Leadership Studies at the American Studies Program of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (Washington, DC). In that role he was among the first to actively explore the application of market principles to the global development enterprise through partnerships with players in the NGO and business communities.

Surprised By a Prayer of Blessing |Isaac Barnes

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Inside a simply finished home overlooking Burundi’s capital city, Bujumbura, I listened. With my voice recorder between us, I listened to Uvita and Zenon recount their previous struggle to meet their family’s needs. Blessing, the youngest of their six children, played nearby, stopping every few minutes to beam a smile in our direction, clearly aware of his charm. Captivated by this family, an earnest prayer welled up inside me:

Father, would you continue to bless this family. Provide for them above and beyond their wildest dreams. As they flourish, may they be like a river, bringing refreshment to all they meet!

To be honest, this sudden, emotional prayer caught me off guard. Where did THAT come from? Having never faced scarcity, I couldn’t relate to Zenon’s feelings of helplessness as he worked so his family could get by—but the loneliness he described sounded familiar. I remembered a past season when my work and life felt meaningless. And with little hope for change, I had felt trapped and alone. I was getting by, but I wasn’t thriving. So as I reflected further, my prayer began to make sense.

 

Created for good work

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At our core, we all share a common yearning—the inherent desire to not just get by, but to fully exercise our God-given skills and talents as we were created to. And as Christians, we want this flourishing—this state of thriving—not just for ourselves and our families, but for all people.

In Ephesians 2:10, we’re reminded, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” Covered in His fingerprints, we most reflect our Creator when we heed His invitation to work alongside Him. But we’re constantly held back by brokenness—poverty, pride, idolatry, greed—that keeps us from fully participating in the good work God has for us. But we’re never alone as the Holy Spirit guides us, encouraging us to reflect our Creator and seek the peace and prosperity of our communities (Jeremiah 29:7).

Becoming a blessing to others

“We were known as poor people,” Zenon told me. But as I listened to their future plans, I saw a family no longer defining themselves by their loneliness or poverty. Through the support and opportunity in their savings group—organized by their church in partnership with HOPE International—both Uvita and Zenon are putting their gifts and talents to good work. Zenon used a loan from his savings group to expand his tailoring business with additional sewing machines, renting them out for more stable income. And Uvita used a loan and savings to invest in their farm, cultivating enough to feed their family and profit from the surplus! The house we sat in was built from their savings. Able to welcome guests and bring an offering to church, Zenon said, “Now I serve God well.”

 

Seeing Uvita and Zenon grow into the people God has called them to be is what I—and my co-workers at HOPE—get excited about. Because when families experience the dignity of putting their God-given skills and creativity to work, they not only provide for their needs—they thrive. Believing work is an integral part of God’s design for us, we invest in families in undeserved communities through discipleship, training, savings, and small loans that restore dignity and help families flourish.

As we work for the Kingdom, I hope we listen as the Holy Spirit prompts our prayers toward the flourishing of others, just as He instructed the priests to pray for the nation of Israel:

“The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;

the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

Numbers 6:24-26

Isaac Barnes joined HOPE‘s writing team in 2013. Since then, he’s enjoyed telling the incredible stories of HOPE-network clients and creatively communicating about Christ-centered microenterprise development.