Last year, CooterFest was on Mother’s Day weekend, but this year it was on my birthday weekend. Lucky me!
You can learn the basics about this annual event on the CooterFest website. But for the color commentary from our perspective, you’ll want to keep reading.
It is hard to believe that the school year is almost over. Since I started working in Allendale last year, my jobs (and our families schedules) have gone through a variety of changes and adjustments, as follows:
- From the after school program (January – May 2011),
- To the related summer camp (June – August 2011),
- Back to after school programming (September – December 2011),
- And then up to four jobs (January – May 2012).
Even now, things are under transition. Football spring practice will start next week, and that commitment will ramp up through the summer. And I am working on what other employment I will have in the fall (I turned down an offer to remain at Patrick Henry Academy, knowing that our hearts are in Allendale).
In The Essence of Skin Tone, I mentioned that we received some unsolicited magazines, and I sorta’ promised I would write about what happened. Because I got a certain offer letter last week (the picture above is a snippet of it), I figured it’s the perfect time to follow-up.
First off, notice the humor in this letter from Essence magazine, with their special offer of $1 per issue:
- “Dear Joey Espinosa, We know you. You’re the kind of woman who . . .” [emphasis added]
- “Because you’re an ESSENCE kind of woman, . . .” [emphasis added]
Thanks, Essence, for knowing me so well that you think I’m a black woman.
Dear Financial Support Team –
It has been almost exactly a year since we started receiving donations from generous supporters like you. Almost 30 families and individuals have each contributed between $20 and $250 each month, and almost 30 others have also contributed at least once.
Each month, we get a list of everyone who donated more on our behalf that month (through any of the means given on our Financial Support page), along with the total amount. Because of your support, our family has never lacked any need in Allendale. Because even with my multiple jobs, we have needed the financial assistance in order to do the ministry that God has graciously led us to.
My wife and I were especially amazed and encouraged to seen an especially large list of donors and total donations at the end of 2011. With upcoming job transitions (since I knew that some were only temporary), you have allowed us the freedom to dream and take advantage of opportunities that we feel God is calling us to be involved with.
Before we moved here, an elderly man from Allendale asked us if we think there is hope for change. We said, “Yes.” And some of you have asked the same question over the months since we started ministering here, and we still say, “Yes.”
We see the evidences of God’s hand here. We see how things are getting on the right track. People are being exposed to and challenged by their faith, children are receiving love and support, business leaders are being stirred up to get involved.
Not that things are always easy. We have to remind ourselves of Our Ultimate Purpose here — to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, through our words and our actions. And when we feel despair, we know that God has used your many encouragements to refresh our souls.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to be here. We hope you feel like you have been a part of this adventure, because in our hearts we know that you are a part of this. We know that our Lord will reward you for your faithfulness to His work in Allendale.
And for those of you who will continue to support us through this next year as well, we also say “thank you.” And if you are interested in giving (or in giving more regularly), please see our Financial Support page.
Yours in Christ,
Joey, Joanna, Hannah, Elijah, & Sender
Sometimes it’s the big things that make all the difference. And sometimes it’s the little things. But here are some recent events that we got to be a part of, and which can give you an insight into how you may serve and pray for this town.
Little Thing: Mural at the Pink Garden
It’s not really fair or accurate to describe the service of artists Freedom & Nancy Rodriquez as “little.” After all, they packed up three children and drove from Atlanta to stay in Allendale for two nights. Not exactly the typical family vacation.
They joined a friend (read about her perspective of Engaging Through Art) from Grace Church in putting a wonderful finishing touch on the Pink Garden, a project by City Councilwoman and community activist Lottie Lewis.
The reason I count this as little is because they made this mural look so easy. They had a pre-made sketch (via some fancy-shmancy Mac software, I’m sure), a tape measure, and some spray paint. And voila. Project done in about 3-4 hours.
We loved getting to connect with this family, as our kids matched up well in personalities, and we just so happen to use the same homeschool curriculum. Plus, Freedom (yes, that’s his name) and their two boys came by the after school program. I was most excited for him to meet and encourage a particularly talented young artist that we have at the Club. (Edit: He also worked on graphics for Operation We Care.)
Big Thing: Donation to People in the Schools
Again, It’s not really fair to call what another guy did as a “big thing.” You and I think it is, but the guy who made this donation would think nothing of it. It started a few months ago, when I asked two friends to donate their time and resources — one guy did the graphics design, one guy produced the finished product. (I’m withholding details for the sake of anonymity.)
I was sheepish in asking even for the $300 worth of stuff, but both guys thanked me for asking. And by the time it was done, the donated items were probably worth at least $4000 retail. I was overwhelmed, as were the recipients.
Now, will a $300 (or $4000) donation change Allendale forever? Absolutely not. But my hope was that it would provide an encouragement to some leaders who are pouring themselves out for the next generation.
And the guy who did the bulk of the donation sent me a note that included these encouraging words for me:
“Take this stuff and go bless these folks. This gift is from God . . and you are the face of it . . . go leverage this for relational equity and Gospel purpose.”
Little Thing: Joanna Working as a Poll Worker
The “little thing” in this case is the paycheck I’m looking at right now. My wife was paid a whopping $60 to work at a polling place for over 13 hours (6 AM – 7:30 PM), not including the preparatory training.
But she was at the larger of the two voting locations in Fairfax, and had about 400 people come through. She saw people she knew (including through church and the after school program), and met many other folks. It was a great opportunity to be culturally-engaged.
Side note: the election was for the mayor of Fairfax (the incumbent was ousted, by a 2:1 margin) and three positions on the City Council.
Big Thing: Referendum for a New City Hall
This was the negative item on my list, and I debated including it, since the other three were so positive. But I needed to include it to give you a clue into some common local mindsets.
In Allendale, there was a referendum to allow the city to raise taxes (less then $50 per person) in order to build a new City Hall close to the retail district (as much as we have one) in town. I was in favor of this idea because:
- The current one is a mile outside of the center of town;
- Revitalizing the town will be crucial to attracting new businesses;
- The old City Hall would be taken over by the Allendale Police Department, which currently resides in a double-wide trailer jacked up on blocks. I’m serious.
Having proudly participated in my first Allendale election, I wore my “I Voted” sticker all day. When I was eating breakfast at Hardee’s (where else?), one of the employees told me that she hoped the referendum didn’t pass, since “we don’t need taxes raised; we need jobs.”
I let the comment pass, but I believe her logic was wrong. The fact is that activity breeds activity. Fifteen or so years ago, I was dead set against efforts to revitalize downtown Greenville (SC). I thought it was a waste of effort, money, and time. As you may know, I could not have been more wrong. The city invested in the future, and this investment of time and money has paid itself off many times over.
It’s just part of the often-shortsighted mindset of this area. Few people in Allendale have a long-term, investment-minded perspective. After all, I was 1 of 105 people who voted in favor of this referendum.
Compare this with the middle class, where we more easily sacrifice short-term comfort for long-term rewards. (Do you have 401k deductions straight from your paycheck?) As one friend (and long-time Allendale resident) told me,
“If they said it would cost each person a penny, it would still be voted down.”
So that’s what we’re dealing with in Allendale: for a place where so many resources have been invested from the outside, few people from within this community want to make the same time of investments and sacrifices.
You need to watch this great video from PovertyCure. As I’ve written before, I am not against government assistance, but we cannot think that free handouts can solve the problem of poverty. Rather, aid tends to create dependency, leading to economic bondage.
Instead of thinking about ending poverty, we need to focus on production and creating wealth. Like with My Coin Laundry Experience, we don’t need to find a way to give everyone a washing machine. We need to work to change the mindset that aid is the only answer, and help people work to provide for their own families.
“Good intentions don’t end poverty. Enterprise and freedom end poverty.”
That’s why I’m thankful for the ministry of Nasha. The mission of Nasha is to provide small loans for entrepreneurs, which are paid back with no interest. About a half-dozen entrepreneurs have been assisted so far in the Upstate of South Carolina, and the leaders are in the process of making a loan to an entrepreneur here in Allendale.
I’ve made some providential connections with others that might be candidates for Nasha. Being able to make these contacts has been a benefit of Living in the Community. With a scarcity of jobs and production (less than half of those who live in this county are employed), we need job creation through the growth of small businesses.
You can help. Follow Nasha, and when you see entrepreneurs from Allendale, you can make a donation of any size.
Where do you do laundry? I bet most of my readers have a decent (at least) washer and dryer at home. When was the last time you used a public washer and dryer? College? (I believe my alma mater now does laundry services for its students. Though I call those students lazy now, I wish they had that perk when I was there!)
Earlier this year, I used a laundromat to wash some of my clothes, and the experience was definitely eye-opening.
For 13 weeks in 2011, from January to April, I commuted to work in Allendale. A couple of different places were my Homes Away From Home. Usually I would drive down from Greenville early Monday morning, and return late on Friday night. The weekend was a time to be with family, to rest, and to get chores done (like washing clothes).
But one weekend in March, a group of college students would be coming for a mission trip over Spring Break. Joanna and I knew that this would be a good weekend for our family to be in Allendale, to connect with the students and to facilitate ministry opportunities. But it also meant that I would be away from home for 11 days. I had to adjust my usual routine, which included needing to get some of my laundry done down here.
There is a coin laundromat in Fairfax, the 2nd largest town in Allendale County. (Actually, the sign is missing an “i” so it reads “Con Laundry” – which is pretty funny considering over 10% of Allendale’s population is incarcerated.) That’s where I washed my dirty clothes.
I washed a load of whites and a load of colors (see, I know what I’m doing); I was surprised that each load cost about $3. To save money and time, I dried them in one load, at a cost of about $2. As I watched some other individuals washing their clothes, I started doing the math about what it would cost my family if we had to use public laundromats each week.
Granted, I did not have full loads in the machines, so my cost of $8 was a little inflated. Joanna does an average of 8 or 9 loads of laundry per week (for our family of 5). Let’s say that we could wash and dry each load for about $4, so our family would need to spend about $30 per week for laundry machine usage. Over a month (and let’s reduce the cost to factor in slightly larger loads) we would spend $100 (minimum) at the laundromat.
Want to reduce costs further, like by really stuffing the machines and drying the clothes on a clothesline (unless it’s raining)? OK, I’ll hack that cost down to $70 per month.
In a year, we’d have spent over $800 just to use machines. We could easily have bought a washer and dryer for that amount. Over 5 years, even including utility costs, we could have paid for the appliances several times over.
And that’s just the monetary cost. What about the time that it would cost our family? How many hours per week/month/year does a person use just sitting in the laundromat? Sure, you could maximize that time reading or such. But how much more convenient is it to throw a load of laundry in while you are cooking dinner, watching TV, or playing with your children?
You young moms think laundry is a burden, and you’re right. But think about what it would be like to drag all that work down the road for a 3 hours each week. Where would you fit that in your schedule?
The Problem With Handouts
Is the answer to provide a washer and dryer for every family in Allendale? No way! In a previous post about government and entitlements, I quoted from an article from Steve Saint (who, I just figured out, is the son of Nate Saint, who was killed in 1956 by Aucas). Here’s another snippet from Projecting Poverty Where It Doesn’t Exist:
“Often charity to help the poor attracts more people into poverty. One example I have noticed takes place when North Americans try to care for the needs of orphans in cultures different from our own. If you build really nice orphanages and provide good food and a great education, lots more children in those places become orphans. I see this happen all over. When we attempt to eradicate poverty through charity, we often attract more people into “needing” charity. It is possible to create need where it did not exist by projecting our standards, values and perception of need onto others. Giving handouts creates more problems than it solves. It is like casting out demons with long leases.”
We don’t need to just buy someone a washer. We need a more sustainable and long-term goal. The cure for poverty is not just more aid.
Challenge (and Change) the Mindset
In cultures of generational poverty, the typical mindset is to do what is needed for the short-term. A family cannot afford to spend $300 on a washing machine, but they can scrape up $20 per week to use the laundromat. I’m not saying that this thinking is right or wrong; it’s just the way it is.
But since handouts do not help in the long-term, we do have to challenge and change the mindset. We have to challenge the mindset that says:
- what satisfies now is better than what will satisfy later
- the struggles of the now are so great that we can’t move past them
- the solutions to the struggles should be easy
Mindsets and perspectives must be changed, and this happens best in the context of loving and committed relationships.
That’s why I love the vision of Culturally Engaged, where serving opportunities are intended to create and strengthen relationships, to positively impact the culture. Handouts are not inherently wrong, but outside the context of true understanding and community, they won’t help sustainability, and they probably hurt in the long-term.
- What’s Our Ultimate Purpose in Allendale?
- Pouring in Good, Clear Water
- Love Them Into the Middle Class
- Toxic Charity
**image courtesy of FrenchByte via sxc.hu
Here’s an excerpt:
“No matter what social status you are in, everyone has the common bond of wanting a chance. For some of us, it’s the opportunity to buy more and better stuff. For others, it’s the opportunity for a more fulfilling job, or a way to better use their gifts. And for many people in the world (including the USA), they merely want opportunities to obtain basic needs for their families, like food, shelter, and health care.”
Go over to the blog and read the full article, and let me know what you think.
Recently, I’ve commented on several charities and non-profits that we support or think are worth supporting. These include:
Osborn Mission (Papua New Guinea)
This got me wondering: How much of your gross (not net) income do you donate to charity? Please take the poll to the right.
Additionally, we ourselves are looking for a few more financial supporters.We have been blessed by a number of folks who have given one-time, monthly, or something in between. But a few of our monthly supporters will soon come to the end of their generous commitments. Any amount would be helpful, but I am looking to add about $200 in monthly support. This can be accomplished with about 4-10 more people who could each donate $20, $30, or $50 per month.
If you haven’t noticed, I recently updated the tabs on the blog. Besides the regular Home tab, you can check out the others: Contact, Financial Support, Mission:Allendale, etc.
The Financial Support page is the newest, and was a suggestion from a friend of mine, who knew that we needed to communicate our financial needs, as we live and serve in Allendale, SC.
In particular, I’m thankful for another friend who made the image for the blog, that shows how many supporters we need versus how many supporters we already have on the team. Here’s a hint: You can find out about his mission in Brazil.
We are thankful for the two dozen families and individuals who are supporting us with monthly support, and the many others who have also donated to the cause. If you want to learn more about financially supporting us, be sure the see the Financial Support page on this blog.