I visited a friend in Detroit, and I went to her church for the first time. As we walked in, I couldn’t help but notice duct tape holding the cracked stairs together. It seemed odd that a church wouldn’t invest money into the stairs — one of the first things people see.
Then I noticed a banner on one side showing their support for global missions and holistic development. That made me smile. I looked around in anticipation of what else I might see. They were a community of people from many ethnicities and many walks of life. They greeted each other and asked questions that made it obvious they cared about one another. As we worshipped, the leaders led us in prayer for people in their congregation, in the Detroit area and around the world.
How did this congregation become so globally focused? Its leaders clearly focused on reaching out, and they gave tangible ways their whole congregation could also reach out. The prayers, the banner and the questions they asked were all signs of a church full of life and love for their neighbor as themselves.
Our best churches do the same. We reach out and connect with the world. We support missionaries. We sponsor children through International Child Care Ministries. We grow in awareness and join the fight against trafficking with the Set Free Movement. We host fair trade events and support SEED Capital projects.
SEED Livelihood Network is a tangible way to connect around the world. In 2011, we adjusted our name from SEED to SEED Livelihood Network with the vision to become a network of people, connecting through fair trade relationships and small business development for the good of our churches. Over the years, some of our sweetest memories have been taking gifts from various livelihood groups to other groups around the world. The groups know they are not alone in their struggle for sustainable livelihood. Fellow artisans pray for the person who created the gift they receive, and, in turn, they pray for the people who will receive the products they make.
In Japan, a group of women has started selling SEED products. Instead of buying everything from SEED and, therefore, having everything shipped from here in the United States, they are connecting directly with livelihood groups in Cambodia, India and a creative access country. They are networking for livelihoods!
Your church can help empower these small business ministries around the world. SEED helps two kinds of groups: artisan groups and SEED Capital projects. You can help empower the artisan groups by hosting SEED tables at your church or conference, by hosting a trunk show in your home or small group, or by buying their products online.
Time and time again, as people touch, hold and buy SEED products, I have seen them think about where it came from and who made it. It is a tangible way to connect our minds, hearts and prayers with people around the world.
Your church can help SEED Capital projects. These are groups that come up with a business plan that makes sense in their communities. SEED helps them with their business plan if they need it and then gives investors in the United States the opportunity to invest in these projects. These projects run the gamut from raising animals in India, to a cleaning business group in Colombia, to helping launch a micro-enterprise network in Kenya.
The Kenyan Free Methodist Church started Tumaini Women Kenya to promote micro-enterprises in its churches. SEED was honored to help support the Tumaini Women Kenya director’s salary as the program launched and then to help it hire an accountant to handle the earnings and savings of its 20-plus groups around Kenya. This is micro-enterprise that makes sense in their communities, and SEED is honored to help support them.
Sustainability for our conferences and national churches is always a concern, and it’s growing in some areas of the world. The Free Methodist Church in India especially is looking for ways like an Agape Farm to financially sustain its ministry. Many of our pastors around the world receive a can of rice or something similar as people’s tithe. Few pastors are supported solely by their church salary. Because Free Methodists share God’s heart for the poor around the world, our churches (and the communities we are in) are wonderfully full of people who are materially poor. We’re part of a global community that is incredibly beautiful and that reflects God’s heart.
SEED is honored to be a way you can connect in tangible ways with our churches around the world. Just like that church in Detroit, our best churches have global connections that bring life and a growing love into our congregations.
Rose Brewer is the director of the SEED Livelihood Network and a Free Methodist elder.
Ways to connect globally through SEED:
Shop SEED’s new website for products: shopseedmarket.org
Donate for SEED Capital: seedlivelihood.org/invest
Donate for SEED’s travel to work directly with groups: seedlivelihood.org/donate
Sign up for the newsletter on SEED’s webpage: seedlivelihood.org