As I walked down the hill out of the abject poverty of the Roma (Gypsy) district in a southern Bulgaria town, my stomach began to turn. The smell, the filth, and the despair were all overwhelming. While trying to keep my stomach content where it belonged, I prayed.
Noticeably, I sensed Jesus saying, “I am up there.”
My perspective changed. The powerful filth and smell suddenly dissipated. Jesus was present and his promises alive, even in the lowliest of places, to redeem and restore people who are precious in his sight. And He’s inviting laborers to bring His kingdom to these undesirable places.
This experience was at the tail end of a seminar on social enterprise sponsored by The Navigators’ Global Enterprise Network in Central and Eastern Europe. Over 50 Europeans sought input from Christian experts in social enterprise from around the US and Europe. Everyone was united on how to bring the hope of the Gospel and answers to address the desperate poverty.
Two themes emerged:
In post-Christian secularized Europe, the Bible has been discarded as old-hat. There is rampant mistrust toward the church. Pastors and missionaries have no respect in society. And generally the Gospel is seen as wishful thinking.
Everyday life is the greatest opportunity to share about Christ. But in order for this to happen, the messenger needs to be normal to the listener. A key means for the messenger to gain this heart access is through enterprise. When followers of Jesus own and run enterprises, they are afforded opportunities to be Jesus in everyday life to everyday people and bring real answers to things like poverty through work.
An added bonus: We’ve discovered that when you connect a secularized person with the needs of the poor or marginalized, that person starts asking questions about the meaning of life, purpose, and faith. Throwing open the doors for the answers found in the truths of the Gospel. Enterprises aiming to help people in need become a vehicle for the Gospel to be demonstrated.
Currently, the Global Enterprise Network in Europe is starting and supporting enterprises that serve handicapped children, provide jobs for the homeless and addicts, and promote education for Roma children. We long for greater impact as the movement grows. After all, Jesus is there among the desperately needy.
- GEN Consultant
GEN Desk Commentary –
What kind of enterprise do you feel would best help address poverty?