by Roy Soto
Our community is rural, located in the foothills of the Poas Volcano in Costa Rica. In 2009 an earthquake devastated the region. Before the earthquake there were 12,000 employees in the area; today there are fewer than 1,000.
My church decided to help in two ways. Firstly, we created a recruitment service. People who needed employees sent us their requirements and we advertised them. This has resulted in hundreds of people finding work. We also decided to provide work for people ourselves. We started to grow and sell strawberries, lettuce and coriander, and now have 32,000 strawberry plants. We have also started a catering service, mini-market and cafeteria, and rent out equipment (chairs, tables etc) for parties and other activities. We currently provide employment to 35 people.
Three reasons we do business
First, my church is involved in business because we want to see the economy redeemed by the values of God’s kingdom. This means providing fair wages, good labour conditions, quality products that meet health and hygiene regulations, excellent services and fair prices to customers.
Second, we want to be sustainable as a church. We have several community projects, and cannot depend on the generosity of our members alone to finance them. For example, we run a day centre for the elderly, and a support and training centre for women who are survivors of domestic violence.
Third, we do business because we do not want people to feel manipulated into giving to the church. We strongly disagree with teaching people that giving is like a transaction and that they will receive something miraculous in return. We see this as a distortion of the Bible. Instead, we believe that all of our resources belong to God and that we should give generously out of gratitude.
All this motivates us to keep doing business as a church, generating income so that we can be salt and light in our community.
Roy Soto is the pastor of Shalom Church in Costa Rica and a graduate of Tearfund's Inspired Individuals Programme.