Welcome to Our Family

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At FCS, we love working and collaborating with people of all ages and backgrounds. The diversity in our office brings new creativity and deepens empathy. This fall, we are pleased to have two interns from Georgia Tech, Savannah and Lanna. Savannah, a junior majoring in Computational Media, is joining our team as the development intern. Meanwhile, Lanna, a senior in Civil Engineering, is back with us for her second semester as the project management intern with the housing team. These internships are made possible through generous donors at the Georgia Tech Foundation's GlenTech Fund.

Prior to coming to FCS Savannah studied abroad in Hungary, where she learned about nonprofit management and social entrepreneurship at a coffee shop which employed people with disabilities. While she was there she wrote a grant application for the coffee. When a position opened up at FCS for the development intern, someone who would be writing grants, Savannah says, “I unknowingly became equipped for the job at FCS.”

Savannah was drawn to FCS because she believes in the power of being present with others and loving everyone where they are.. She says, “I experienced how nonprofits can be toxic and  hurt more than they help.” But she sees that FCS recognizes this and intentionally does things differently. She sees the great impact that being a neighbor has on the community

Lanna came to FCS in the spring of 2018 after seeing a job posting that piqued her interest. As it usually goes in construction, Lanna’s tasks at FCS vary greatly each day, which is one reason she’s enjoying her time here. You can find her doing anything from laying hardwood floors, to turning on utilities, to keeping track of the many homes FCS is renovating and building.

So far this semester, while working with the Construction Manager, Steve, Lanna has been learning how to work with subcontractors, how the bidding process works, and even designed the layout of a house!

These two young women are already making an impact on our office. Over the summer, Lanna learned more about the power of prayer, and now she and Savannah are hosting a weekly Prayer Meeting that’s open to all FCS, Community Grounds, and Carver Market staff!

This semester, Savannah is looking forward to the upcoming events - including the 40th Anniversary Block Party and the 5k. She’s been learning all about the history of FCS as she’s looked through old videos, pictures, and stories. Lanna is excited to have more time in the neighborhood. One of her favorite parts of the job is running into and meeting neighbors. She says in these interactions, residents, “always tell us they like what we’re doing, and it’s rewarding.”

Both interns agreed that they look forward to coming into the office. Savannah says, “The office is so fun, I love relationships I’ve made at FCS,” and Lanna agrees, saying, “I like how everyone feels like a family.” Welcome to the family, Savannah and Lanna. We’re glad you’re here!

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Risky Kingdom Business

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By Bob Lupton

Any business venture involves risk. Doing economic development among the poor is an even higher risk. We knew that going into Nicaragua – the second poorest country in the western hemisphere. What we did not (could not) accurately calculate was the risk of violent political upheaval.

When we made the decision a dozen years ago to partner with some committed Nicaraguans to attempt an innovative community economic development strategy, their government seemed reasonably stable. The country was war- weary from decades of revolutionary conflict. No matter that their elected president had personal ambitions – so long as the guns remained silent, the roads were getting paved, and store shelves were stocked. There was finally peace in the land. Now the war-ravaged economy could begin to grow once again.

And so it did. Our modest contribution to the recovering economy included: a food processing plant to enable farmers to get their crops to market, a hotel to stimulate tourism, and an entrepreneurial technical school to prepare a young generation of Nicaraguans for productive leadership in their communities. It was challenging but rewarding work. Our investments were yielding new prosperity for over a thousand farmers, international guests were coming to our hotel, and 300 eager students were preparing to enter the workforce or advance to college. All seemed to be going quite well. But then April 18, 2018 broke.

President Daniel Ortega made the unwise decision to raise taxes and cut seniors social security benefits. It was the final straw. The people had tolerated enough of his self-serving leadership. The country erupted. Long silent citizens poured into the streets by the hundreds of thousands calling for Ortega’s resignation. They were met by live gunfire. More than 300 died and thousands more were wounded or went missing. Blockades spontaneously appeared on virtually every road in the country, bringing traffic and the economy to an abrupt halt. Banks closed. Foreign investors withdrew. The US state department ordered the evacuation of embassy staff and warned Americans not to travel to Nicaragua. The impact sent shockwaves everywhere, including the 43 communities in the southern region where we were focused. A barricade manned by protestors appeared outside our processing plant, cutting off the flow of produce from farmers. Our school immediately closed to insure the safety of the children and faculty. Hotel reservations were cancelled as the airlines cancelled flights and the tourist business evaporated.  

Economic development among the poor is indeed a high risk venture. As our Opportunity Nicaragua board convened to consider our course of action, we were prepared to shift our energies and resources from development to emergency assistance. But as the meeting progressed an entirely different tone emerged. We learned that in the midst of the crisis, our indigenous staff had rallied, not run. The school faculty had immediately set up a cloud-based network of communication so that students could continue their studies online in their villages. The processing plant employees found creative ways to circumvent the blockades so that production could continue. Our farmers continued planting their crops in spite of the shortage of agriculture loans and technical assistance. The hotel staff shifted from guest services to maintenance upgrades and improved the training curriculum in anticipation of a revived tourism market. Our team was tightening their belts, skirting the violence, sharing resources, and becoming remarkably resourceful. They were clearly putting into practice the entrepreneurial spirit they had been teaching.  

Though the country remains in political chaos with no clear resolution in sight, there is a surprising amount of courage and commitment – even optimism – among our Nicaraguan staff. The crisis has ignited creativity that no one could have predicted. Staff are envisioning an online learning system that could enable the school to dramatically (and affordably) expand the curriculum to a much broader student population, even college courses and adult learning well beyond our campus. Local crop production can be redirected to address local food needs and also sustain an agricultural economy when international corporations have shuttered their plants. The hotel can serve as a venue for weddings, business meetings, and other local events even though the international tourism market may take considerable time to recover. In the face of severe crisis and insecurity, the resiliency of this dedicated team is both inspired and inspiring.  

Community economic development may be a high risk venture. But we are discovering that risk can be significantly mitigated, even in the midst of political turmoil, when relationships are strong, commitment is high, and an entrepreneurial spirit is alive. Our board adjourned with renewed enthusiasm to continue investing in the development of our Nicaraguan sisters and brothers, inspired by their faith and steadfast hope, even as they endure the uncertainties of a government in disarray.  

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“Leaders Lab is Helping Make the Change.”

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By The Lupton Center

When Sean Howe became the Executive Director of 3e McKinney in April 2018, he was stepping into an organization on the brink of change.

3e McKinney came to the understanding that their charity paradigm of transactional giving wasn’t working for their community. With a new leader in place, they were ready to take a leap and make a change, but the question was… how?

One month into his new role, Sean joined The Lupton Center’s Leaders Lab to learn how to face the challenges that came with his new job of collaborating with local churches and restoring relationships in the community.

The staff and board members at 3e McKinney are leading the paradigm shift around what charity looks like in their community. They are working together to make this transition internally, while also sharing what they learn with their partners. 3e McKinney is hoping to move toward more dignifying, relational engagements with their community.

“Leaders Lab, at its core, is influencing a city and county,” Sean says. “If this change is done right, if it’s done methodically, and if we use these principles in the Lab, the challenges we face will be ones that I think we can conquer together. I think we’ve got the formula. Between what the Lab is teaching us and the Holy Spirit at work we can follow these biblical practices.”

Leaders Lab cohort is helping Sean and 3e McKinney create a road map toward meaningful change, and Sean has valued his time learning and working in community. The content from the Lab facilitator, the peer-to-peer support, and the personalized coaching he’s receiving from the Lupton Center team have made this an incredible experience. He calls Leaders Lab a “tremendous resource and great blessing.” Sean says, “I leave my conversations with those from Leaders Lab feeling heard, challenged, affirmed, and encouraged.”

The work being done in McKinney, Texas is a huge challenge, but Sean says, “Leaders Lab is helping make the change.”

If you would like to join the next Leaders Lab, applications are open until Sept 17th. Only a few spots remain. Apply today

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