Editor's Note: We will occasionally publish reflections from our work across the world. In these articles, you'll see Servant Partners mission in action. The publications of Servant Partners Press reflect that mission.
Los Angeles, California - The Year of Responsibility
From Ryan Ku-Borden, staff in East Los Angeles:
Half of the five weeks of my first slum experience was spent in bed sweating, coughing, feeling lousy, and lying in bed dreaming. It was 2006 and I was a brand new staff member going through Servant Partner's new staff training in Manila, Philippines.
Fortunately, I only had the flu, and instead of being upset by the limitations of sickness, it became one of the sweeter, more intimate times with Jesus I have had. Lying sick in the slum, hearing the trains going by outside, it felt like Jesus began dreaming with me about what it would look like to create jobs in communities similar to that one. Even then, I realized that job creation would be much more than helping people have income - albeit a worthy goal - but also a source of dignity, hope, and the ability to provide for one's family.
After serving as field staff for four years working with youth in East Los Angeles, I felt led more fully into the realm of business. A year ago, I finished an international MBA, and my role in East Los Angeles with SP is now business creation.
My heart for ministry hasn't changed, but I feel like my new arena is ministry through business. The long-term goal is to create a movement of small-to-medium businesses that are centered in developing people and in the values of the Kingdom. Our model focuses on leadership growth of our employees from our neighborhood, "up skilling," and disciplining in life skills, as well as creating much-needed jobs.
Currently, we are at the very beginning stages of pursuing this. Things are much more difficult and slow-developing than what it "looked like" in those dreaming times with Jesus. While we have a couple of businesses in the pipeline, our first business is fully operational: Mariella's Cleaning Services. Even in a short time, it is evident that God can inspire more dreaming through this simple business endeavor.
We hope this business is just the first of many in East LA, and will eventually spread to our sites around the world. Personally, long term, my heart is zeroed in on Sub-Saharan Africa!
Melvin, one of the founders of Mariella's Cleaning Services, recently shared at church how starting and running this business is changing his life: "A year ago, I was here every Sunday listening to the Word, learning to lead worship on Sundays. A year ago I was an assistant football coach at my alma mater, I was a friend to many. But a year ago, I was also very lost, and confused about the purpose of my life. I was stuck.
Those words describe what life has felt like for me since I graduated high school. I graduated high school without any plans for my life really, just ideas, or thoughts like: 'i guess I’m going to community college', or 'what if I joined the military?' Yeah that thought has been in my head for a very long time. And not because it's what I’ve longed for, but, it's been my escape route. A route to escape from what God is really trying to invite me into. A life of faith and humility.
When the idea of starting a business was suggested to me, I freaked out! My immediate thoughts were: 'No way!' 'I can’t do that.' 'Business is not for me.' But I also cried. I wept in joy, and thankfulness. I had realized in that moment that God has been taking care of me. See, God knew that I’ve been longing to hope for a future for myself. I just didn’t have the eyes and faith to see it. But God, being the merciful and loving God that he is, answered my small, faint prayers that I would be able to dream and hope for my future. 2015 has been the year of 'Responsibility.' Starting Mariella’s has been a real challenge! Three or four months ago I was freaking out over typing an e-mail to a stranger and having to check my email everyday. I’ve been learning how communicate with customers, how to manage and lead a team into cleaning homes.
I’m learning how to see beyond myself and not only hope for a future for myself, but to take part in Ryan’s dream to bring God’s kingdom in this world through business. I’d like to thank Thomas for being an amazing friend, and mentor. He has led me well and is someone I really look up to. In July, I ended my job with LAZ Parking that lasted two years and I’m now a full-time Field Manager at Mariella’s Cleaning Services. Now I am beginning to hope for a better life through God’s love and mercy."