Guatemalan Reflections: Thinking Theologically About Economic Realities

This originally appeared on Jame Bold’s blog on pastoring faith, work, and economics. Posted with permission. 

Why a Mission’s Trip

This summer another pastor and I were asked to visit one of the missionaries sponsored by our church (Victory Church in Virginia). The missionary we visited, Gabby, serves at Living Water Teaching in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Two of our ministers in residence journey to Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, every Christmas for their shoebox ministry and encouraged us to come. If all goes well we’ll start doing annual church wide mission trips. 

Theology and Economics Collide

At dinner a few nights before we left I asked my children, “Babies, do you know what poverty smells like?” My children looked at me with the strangest look.  

A few days later they understood what I was saying as we stood in a “basurero”. A basurero is city dump.  And it is here where Gabby’s ministry happens as she cares for colony of 100 families (300 people) that call this place home. As we stood there in the basurero I was put in conflict with myself. The pastor trained in theology and the executive trained in economics seems to be at odds.

My heart was torn because I know that God will always side with the poor and oppressed (Psalm 12:5) and these people need to be loved and comforted for they truly are the least of these. Conversely, I can see there is a vicious cycle of declining rate of foreign investment, scarcity in production increase and that combination negatively decreases incomes. At bottom, it’s a lack of productivity growth from domestically created capital and the inablity to be part of the larger global marketplace. (World Bank, 2014). 

I could see it and it wasn’t simply data on a spread sheet it was a live in flesh and blood. Pain. Despair. Lack of Hope. That’s what I saw.

Applying Economics to Faith

After a few days of thinking prayer, we had a conversation with Gabby about applied economics and a sustainable development model to fund her ministry. We started thinking about raising our own “foreign investment” from American churches to create some working capital. Our thought was to buy two buildings: one for ministry and the other for investment. Renting out one building to local businesses for passive income and using that income to house a preschool and tuition for the basurero children.

We are still in that process so pray for us.

Merging the disciplines could be completed. Though as long as the focus is on real people I’m positive the Spirit will lead, guide and direct this journey of pastoring faith, work and economics.

Topics: Reframing Missional Strategy