Looking Up and Living Thankful

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches here in the United States, we all tend to become a little more thankful. This is a great thing. The truth is we all need reminders of the blessings we have in our lives, no matter how big or small they happen to be. However, what if we could take the same approach everyday instead of just the fourth week in November? How would that impact our lives?

As I have considered the impact of being thankful, the image of a person either looking up or looking down comes to mind. When we are looking down, we can only see what is right in front of us. This causes us to focus on our present circumstances. Unable to see beyond them or around them, we can fall into a scarcity mindset, believing life is a zero-sum game. Living in a scarcity mindset, we only see what we do not have instead of what we do have. The reality is anyone can fall into this trap, no matter their socio-economic condition. We can all keep our eyes pointed to the ground, creating a sense of hopelessness and distrust.

How do we break the cycle? We lift our eyes up. Yes, I it is very simple act, but it can have a profound impact. When we are looking up we can still see our present circumstances. However, we can also see the possibility of a different future as well as our current blessings. This creates a sense of thankfulness, fighting the scarcity mindset that tries to drag us down. Yes, we could be facing challenging realities, but when we look up we can almost always find something for which to be thankful. This can change the way we look at life, producing hope and peace.

I do not think this is a happy accident. I believe it is by design. God created us in such a way that living thankful, as opposed to just being thankful on occasion, produces more life. I recently had the honor of being a part of someone’s funeral who had suffered with cancer for a number of years. While her journey was full of pain and challenges, she kept her head up, choosing to see the blessings she had in her life. Again and again, people shared how encouraged they were by the way she lived. Thanksgiving was not just a holiday for her, it was a way of life.

We are faced with the same choice this Thanksgiving. Will we live looking down, feeding a scarcity mentality and robbing ourselves of hope, or will we look up and choose thankfulness? The answer seems simple, but it is not always easy. I hope this Thanksgiving, you will choose to not just be thankful but to live thankful. Your life will be better for it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

James Belt

What Makes It a Real Opportunity?

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

What makes all-in hope “all-in” is the combined power of practical and spiritual hope. To say it another way, it is the existence of a real opportunity and a reframed identity. Most people would agree on the value of an opportunity, but what is it that makes it a real opportunity? Why this distinction?

In my recently released book, Hope Realized, I share a number of stories of people impacted by receiving a real opportunity, including myself. As I look at these stories, there are a number of factors that made these opportunities so impactful.

Situation Specific: For an opportunity to make a real difference, it needs to make sense in the context of the person receiving it. Often, we fail to take the time to actually understand the people and community we are trying to help. Typically this is done with the best intentions. We are excited and want to make a difference. However, without understanding a community, the assets that already exist with in it, and the resources that will allow someone to take a step forward, we minimize the impact and potentially do more harm than good. Conversely, when we take a step back to listen and evaluate the situation, we can provide the specific resource needed to create a real opportunity. This was the case with Sofia, a woman who lives in the impoverished community of El Canon in Nicaragua. By listening and understanding her situation, we were able to help her start a bean crop that is now allowing her and her family to take steps forward out of extreme poverty.

Real Investment: A real opportunity requires a real investment. In their book When Helping Hurts, authors Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett talk about the impact of bringing relief resources to a development situation. In other words, providing for short term needs such as food and clothing when the real need is long term development. This is not to say that providing relief resources is bad. In fact, they are incredibly important in the midst of a crisis such as a natural disaster or famine. The problem is we often fail to switch from relief to development when the immediate needs are addressed. This can create unhealthy dependence and even upset the economy of a community, taking away important revenue from small businesses.

Whereas misplaced relief resources can create issues, well placed development resources can create opportunity. Instead of providing for short term needs, real investment provides someone with the resources needed to create long term change. This could be helping someone start a business or investing in the expansion of an existing business. It could be providing education or training in a community lacking these critical resources. It could even be hiring someone who is often overlooked, opening up a door for them to move forward. Frutivera, the sweet corn agriculture development project launched by NicaWorks!. Josh Jaentschke, Field Director of NicaWorks!, saw an opportunity to fill a hole in the agriculture market in Nicaragua, opening up opportunities for employment, mentorship, and business development. He presented the opportunity to the NicaWorks! team, allowing them to bring the real investment necessary to make a difference. While it is still early, Frutivera is providing real opportunity to many people in Nicaragua.

Long-Term Commitment: While there are exceptions to the rule, in order for an opportunity to create real change, there needs to be a willingness to be engaged for the long-haul. While the resource itself is important, a willingness to remain committed is a picture of the hope we have for the people we are helping. Moving beyond the lie of hopelessness is messy and challenging. When we decide to stay, we communicate that we believe in the person and their God-given potential.

Take the NicaBike Shop. While the resources need to start the pre-owned bike shop in Managua, Nicaragua were critical, the commitment to its long-term success has been just as important. Through mentorship, friendship, additional resources, and encouragement, NicaWorks! has made a long term commitment to the NicaBike Shop and its team members. The results? A business that has survived and thrived over the past 8 years, creating many real opportunities for people in Nicaragua.

In Hope Realized I talk about how real opportunities plus reframed identities create rewritten stories. I have experienced and seen the difference a real opportunity can make. In fact, I am the product of many real opportunities. I would imagine you are as well. The good news is we each have the ability to extend real opportunities to others. Unsure how you can play a role? I created a resource just for you! Click here to receive 5 Foundational Steps to Make a True Difference in Someone’s Life.

When you take a step to bring hope to someone else, you will find more hope for yourself.

James Belt

You Just Need to Take a Step

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

Recently, I have had quite a few opportunities to share about my time living and working in Nicaragua. When sharing about my three years living in Nicaragua, and the more than ten years working in community and economic development in Nicaragua with NicaWorks!, it can seem as if one day I was living my “normal life” only to wake up the next day living in Nicaragua. However, this is not at all the way the story went. It started with one step. Could the same be true for you?

Before I felt called to live and work in Nicaragua, I had taken the step to spend time listening and getting to know people and communities in Nicaragua. This took me to a coffee farm in the central region of Nicaragua and many communities around the capital city of Managua. It also took me on many walks around the community of El Canon, the first community I would come to know in Nicaragua and the home of the Puente de Amistad Orphanage.

Before I traveled to a coffee farm and spent extended time in Nicaragua, I took the step of going on a mission trip to Nicaragua with my church, Crossroads Church. Honestly, I did not really want to go and did it more to “check the box” than to begin a life-long journey. The trip was in partnership with an organization called ORPHANetwork to spend time at the Puente de Amistad Orphanage. This is also how I met Tim Adams, the co-founder of NicaWorks!, who happened to be the Executive Director of ORPHANetwork at the time. Really, I ended up in Nicaragua because my parents have always been committed to serving others.

Before I went on a mission trip to Nicaragua, I served locally with my friends and family. Often, I would be encouraged to go meal centers, or “soup kitchens” as we called them, to serve meals to people who were in a tough place in life. Often, this would be in Baltimore City and would allow to me see how many opportunities I had been afforded in my life. I can also remember traveling to the Helping Up Mission, a spiritual recovery program in Baltimore City, with my dad to serve in various ways. I am not sure how much help I was at the time, but it was another opportunity to build relationships and understand that, no matter our current circumstances, we are all created equal by a God who loves us. It was one step, one of my first, toward bringing hope to others.

There were many steps in between, some of which I talk about in my new book Hope Realized. From serving at the Cold Weather Shelter in Westminster, MD, to doing service projects at elderlypeople’s houses, to investing through KIVA, a crowdfunding platform for microfinancing, living and working in Nicaragua was the product of a lot of small steps.

What was the most important step? Probably the first one. Had I never taken the first small step to bring hope and make a difference in the life of someone else I never could have arrived at the step I took in Nicaragua. Did my first step make a big impact? Maybe not immediately, but without it the impact of the future steps never would have been possible. Was moving to Nicaragua a big step? Most certainly. However, the steps I had taken before it prepared me for that important moment. My journey to bring hope to other, and in turn find more hope for myself, is the product on many small steps.

How about you? Could you take one small step toward bringing real hope and making a difference in someone’s life? Do not get “stuck” believing you have to do something “big”. It is in the willingness to do something small that we find ourselves in the position to make an impact. You have something to offer and you are one small step away from using it to bring hope to someone else.

If you are unsure of where to start, your first step could even be to read a book to better understand issues such as poverty. You can check out my new book, Hope Realized, or any other number of great books. I have also created a free downloadable resource call 5 Foundational Steps to Make a True Difference in the Life of Someone Else. Click here to download it and sign up to receive my newsletter with more thoughts and insights on bringing hope to others.

You are a Hope Bringer. You just need to take a step.

James Belt

Better Together

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

When I felt the call to move to Nicaragua following a trip in January of 2011, I honestly was not sure what living and working in Nicaragua would look like. I felt like I was supposed to use my gifts and experiences in business and leadership to make a difference, but did not have a clear picture of how I would do it. I didn’t know if I should I go it alone or connect with someone else who was already doing work in Nicaragua. Have you ever had this experience? You believe you are supposed to serve someone and you believe you have something to offer, but you do not really know what to do next.

As I began to unpack these questions, and determine my next step, I liked the flexibility provided by “doing my own thing”, but also saw the advantage of getting connected to an organization with resources and relationships. While I think both options can make sense at times, in the end, I decided to get connected to NicaWorks!, which has proven to be the best choice for me. This is why in my recently released book, Hope Realized, I encourage someone who is interested in “getting in the game” of bringing hope to others to “Get Connected.” So why do I think this makes sense, especially when you are just getting started?

Relationships: Bringing all-in hope and creating real change typically requires some level of relationship with the community you are hoping to impact. While you can certainly start from scratch, often times there are people and organizations that have already done the hard work of earning the right to be heard. By partnering with community leaders and organizations who are already invested in the community, you can benefit from their investment and enhance the work they are already doing with the gifts and experiences you bring to the table. This was my experience with NicaWorks!. I had much more credibility as a member of the NicaWorks! team that I would have on my own.

Connection: The reality is fighting hopelessness and poverty can be discouraging at times. In addition to benefiting from relationships within the community, by joining a team you are connected to other people who believe in the work you are doing and can provide encouragement in particularly challenging moments. I have experienced many failure working in Nicaragua, but being connected to a team of likeminded people has reminded me that there is hope.

Resources: Creating real opportunities and reframed identities requires an investment. By partnering with an organization, you will have access to resources that will allow you to have a greater impact than if you went it alone. NicaBike Shop is a great example of this. From collecting bikes, to start-up capital, to ongoing training and support, the NicaBike Shop is the product of teamwork. By connecting, we have been able to maximize the resources we have to bring all-in hope to people in Nicaragua.

Experience: The reality is I had a lot to learn when I moved to Nicaragua. While I had my own gifts and experiences, the collective experience of the NicaWorks! team has proven to be invaluable. Instead of trying to figure it out on my own, I have been able to learn from people like Tim Adams, Co-Founder of NicaWorks! who has years of experience working in Nicaragua. This has allowed me to avoid making mistakes and wasting valuable resources.

Are you ready to “Get Connected”? Find out who might already be focused on providing practical and spiritual hope to the community in which you would like to serve. Ask if there is an opportunity for you to offer what you bring to the table to enhance the work they are doing. By working together, you will be able to make a much bigger difference than you would going it alone.

Would you like to learn more about bringing all-in hope and how to begin making a difference? Click here to visit my website to find out more about my book Hope Realized, and sign up to receive my newsletter and 5 Foundational Steps to Make a True Difference in Someone’s Life, a free resource I created to help you get started.

James Belt

What Exactly Do You Mean by Spiritual Hope?

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

A question I often get is, “what exactly do you mean by spiritual hope?” This is a great question as the meaning of this small, yet powerful phrase can vary a lot from person to person. So, what do I mean by “spiritual hope”? I am glad you asked.

When someone says spiritual hope our minds can go in a million directions. For some it may bring back memories of church from their childhood when they would sing songs such as, “Jesus Loves Me.” For others it might seem more mystical, relating to the universe and whether or not it is, “for you.” For others, spiritual hope sounds like something people believe in to, “make themselves feel better.” Still, for others, they would say it is what keeps them going despite the challenges around them.

Understanding spiritual hope often starts with understanding what it looks like when it is missing. When I started working in Nicaragua, I met people who were as intelligent and capable as me. Despite their natural abilities and talents they seemed to be “stuck”, believing nothing could ever change. Part of the problem was the lack of a real opportunity to move forward. However, there seemed to be something more. Beyond the lack of opportunity, there was a belief that they were destined for a life of less than. In other words, nothing would ever change and believing it would is an exercise in futility. The had accepted hopelessness as their permanent state.

The truth is this can happen to any of us, whether we are living in poverty or abundance. We can begin to believe that life is hopeless and nothing will ever change. Sadly, this belief can impact the way we live and our ability to take full advantage of the opportunities presented to us. This is what it looks like when spiritual hope is missing. The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way. Hopelessness is a lie, not a permanent state.

The remedy to the lie of hopelessness is the truth—real, all-in hope. While all-in hope is both practical and spiritual, it is spiritual hope that changes the way you see yourself. Instead of destined for a life of less than, spiritual hope is grounded in the belief that you were created on purpose for a purpose by a God who loves you. It is understanding as the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 139 of the Old Testament of the Bible that you are, “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

True spiritual hope is not a wishy washy desire for, “things to go my way.” Instead it is a belief that I was created for more in the midst of the challenges I face in life. This is why real spiritual hope allows someone to persist despite their present circumstances. Instead of being defined by their current reality, they see beyond it, living into their God-given potential. This is what I mean by spiritual hope.

Ultimately, I have found true spiritual hope in the person of Jesus Christ. There is no clearer picture of how much God loves us and is for us. I believe everyone is on a journey and my journey has led me here. Maybe your journey will as well.

What is spiritual hope? It is a powerful, life-changing force—for you, me, and the world. If you would like to read more about spiritual hope and how I have seen it create change, check out my recently released book, Hope Realized.

May you be filled with real, all-in hope today!

James Belt

Bring More Hope. Find More Hope.

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

As I prepared for the launch of my new book, Hope Realized, I brainstormed a small phrase I could put on bookmarks we planned to give away at the book launch party. The goal was to come up with something short yet meaningful and encouraging. The phrase I landed on is, “Bring more hope. Find more hope.” During the panel discussion at the Hope Realized Book Launch Party, the truth of this phrase was reinforced as the panelists shared their experiences with bringing hope to people impacted by poverty and hopelessness. So what exactly does it mean? I am glad you asked.

Over the course of my time working in Nicaragua, and other communities impacted by poverty, I have come to the conclusion that bringing real practical and spiritual hope is the key to moving beyond the lie of hopelessness that perpetuates poverty. The methods of getting there might vary, but the end result, all-in hope, is what really matters. While the life-changing power of real hope derived from a real opportunity and a reframed identity is remarkable in its own right, the impact it has on the hope bringer is noteworthy as well.

I, and many others I have talked to, have found that when you are engaged in bringing hope to others you find more hope for yourself. It becomes a cycle of sorts. You give your life away in the form of time, gifts, and/or resources, and that investment ends up producing hope inside of you. I believe this is by design. We are created to gain hope when we give hope. Does this mean bring hope to others is easy? Of course not. However, it does mean it is worth it, not only for the impact it will have on others but also for the impact it will have on ourselves.

Are you in need of a little more hope these days? Maybe it is in bringing hope to others that you will discover more hope for yourself. Do you need some help getting started? In addition to my book Hope Realized, I have a created a free resource to help you take your next step. Click here to sign up to receive 5 Foundational Steps to Make a True Difference in Someone’s Life.

Remember, “Bring more hope. Find more hope.”

James Belt

Article in the NicaWorks! Newsletter: A Message from James Belt, the author of “Hope Realized” about the motivation behind his new book

Good afternoon from Westminster, MD!

I had the opportunity to write a guest newsletter article for NicaWorks!, the organization I worked with while living in Nicaragua and continue to work with today. In the article, I share how I started working with NicaWorks! and how that led to writing Hope Realized, my book that releases on August 30th. Check out the article!

After feeling the call in January of 2011 to spend three years of my life working and living in Nicaragua, I began to think and pray about what it might look like. Would I start my own non-profit and go it alone? Would I connect with a large organization and sign on as a staff member? Was there another option? I knew just the person to call to help me discern the right option for my situation: Tim Adams.

Click here for the rest of the article!

James Belt

The NicaBike Shop Story: From a Seed to a Tree of All-In Hope

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

The NicaBike Shop is today one of, if not, the largest retailer of preowned bicycles in Nicaragua. However, it did not start out that way. Like a tree, the NicaBike Shop started as a seed, sprouted through the ground into a seedling, and, in time, became a tree of all-in hope.

The NicaBike Shop Storefront

Initially, the NicaBike Shop was not actually the NicaBike Shop. Starting as a dream in the head of Cal, a NicaWorks! board member, and other NicaWorks! team members as they thought about ways to provide practical home to the teenagers at the Casa Bernabe Orphanage in Veracruz, what eventually became the NicaBike Shop started as a small vocational training program. Realizing bikes were a relatively inexpensive mode of transportation and a great starting point for someone who wanted to learn repair skills, Cal and his friends wondered what it would look like to send used bikes to Nicaragua. Exploring their options, they found out that the local police department had an inventory of recovered, unclaimed bikes that they needed to donate. Cal and his team knew just the place and, just like that, the seed was planted to create the bicycle repair vocational training program at Veracurz.

After working through the logistics of sending the bikes to Nicaragua in shipping container, and collecting a few more bikes, the first bicycles for the bike repair vocational training program took the long journey from northern Virginia to Veracruz, Nicaragua. After receiving the bikes, the staff from Casa Bernabe, with the support of Cal and the NicaWorks! team, began to train teenagers to repair bikes. After repairing them and cleaning them up, the bikes would either be given away or sold to help support the program and the orphanage. This cycle continued, as did the bike collections in the United States, which Cal had expanded to bike drives at churches. The seed of practical hope was breaking through the soil.

The vocational training program continued to grow, but they began to run into a problem: what to do with all of the bikes they were repairing. While they were able to donate and sell some of them, they were not equipped to sell and properly manage the marketing sales piece of the puzzle.

Around the same time, Josh Jaentschke, the eventual, Field Director of NicaWorks!, his brother Andrew, and their friend William were working at the Casa Bernabe orphanage. Josh, the son of a pastor, while still on a spiritual journey, had a foundation of spiritual hope. He believed he was created on purpose and for a purpose, which had been reinforced by others throughout his life. Josh also had an entrepreneurial spirit and an interest in business, which he used to run the team center at the Veracruz Farm on which the Casa Bernabe Orphanage is located. Little did Josh know, this would be preparation for something more.

As Cal continued to collect bikes and the vocational training program continued to repair bikes, it became apparent that there was a real opportunity to do something more. During this time Josh, Andrew, and William began to sense that it might be time for them to do something new as well. This led to an idea early in 2014: what if we launched a bike shop? What started as a conversation, quickly turned into a real discussion about the possibility moving what had started as a small scales vocational program in Veracruz to Managua to become a true preowned bike sales and repair business. The seedling of al-in hope was growing.

In what can only be providential, Tim Adams, the Co-Founder of NicaWorks!, had recently reconnected with a friend who happened to be interested in investing in small business development in Nicaragua. Tim knew just the opportunity: the launch of a bike shop. Traveling to Nicaragua with Tim, the friend met Josh, Andrew, and William, and encouraged them to put together a business plan. The question of supply came up, but Cal had an answer: he would expand the bike drives to other churches and bike stores to ensure he could ship at least 400 used bikes a quarter. This would allow the soon to be formed bike shop to purchase the bikes at a favorable price, funding other work in Nicaragua through the purchase.

With the plan developed, the bike supply chain arranged, funding available, and excitement building, Josh, William, and Andrew, in partnership with NicaWorks! launched the NicaBike Shop in June 2014. The seed of all-in hope had become a growing seedling spurred on by the practical hope from a real opportunity and the spiritual hope from a reframed identity.

I would love to tell you the journey toward a thriving business was a straight line, but the reality is it has been full of ups and downs. This should come as no surprise as this is to be expected when launching a small business, especially in a developing country such as Nicaragua where the lie of hopelessness has a strong hold. However, through the ups and downs, the power of all-in hope has pushed the NicaBike Team forward. This has come in many forms, including Cal’s relentless effort to provide practical hope through the collection of bikes as well as Josh and Andrew’s spiritual hope, which has only grown since the launch of NicaBike shop 8 years ago. In fact, they now see the NicaBike Shop as a platform to provide spiritual and practical hope to others such as their employees, customers, and distributors.

NicaBike Shop Team Members

Now having received and sold well over 10,000 bikes, the NicaBike Shop has grown into an oak tree of all-in hope, reaching others through continued growth. No one imagined the small vocational program would becoming a thriving business and platform for sharing hope, but that is the power of all-in hope–it overcomes the lie of hopelessness and creates ever expanding opportunities for real change. The NicaBike Shop is a beautiful picture of this reality.

The story does not end there. Did you notice the role people played in writing this story of all-in hope? This is great news for each of us. Like Cal, Tim, and others, we can bring what we have to the table to make a difference in the life of someone else. We may only have a small part, but together we can take what starts as a seed and turn it into a tree of all-in hope. You have what it takes to make a difference!

If you need a little help getting started, feel free to reach out to me as well as click here to sign up to receive a free resource I created called, 5 Foundational Steps to Make a True Difference in Someone’s Life. You can also check out my book, Hope Realized, which shares more stories of hope and thoughts on how you can get engaged in bringing hope to others. Click here for more on Hope Realized.

Remember, no one is truly hopeless!

James Belt

Mining Your Story to Understand All-In Hope

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

Sometimes mining your own story is the best way to truly understand something. I have found this to be the case with all-in hope.

Earlier this year, I wrote an article about how understanding my own story gave me more hope for others (click here to check it out). This was reinforced while writing my upcoming book, Hope Realized. As I examined my own life in the writing process, I began to better understand the role hope has played in my life and how that translates to bringing hope to others. As I revisited important moments from my past, it also provided me with a much clearer picture of what all-in hope is and the impact it has on a person. Why? Because of the impact it has had on me.

When I was making the transition from elementary school to middle school, my family was also making the transition from one town to another. This meant moving school districts and making new friends, both of which come with their challenges for an awkward preteen boy. Complicating this was the fact that the school district I came from was significantly behind the school district I was entering on a number of subjects. After sending me to testing, my parents decided I would benefit from tutoring in reading and writing, and they knew just the person, my grandmother.

Betty Jean Belt, or Grandmom to me, had been an English teacher for many years, and a was strong woman, up to the task of coaching the preteen punk I was at the time. As you can imagine, I was not excited about spending my afternoons flipping through workbooks and flashcards. That did not discourage my grandmother. She believed in me and my ability to learn and was committed to showing me I should believe in myself. Little did I know at the time, Grandmom has providing me with a large dose of practical hope.

Around the same time, I began to receive drops of spiritual hope in the form of hand-written letters from my grandfather, Don Smith. Grandpa, as I called him, was my mom’s father and had spent many years as a Methodist pastor. He believed in a spiritual hope from a God who loves us and created us on purpose and for a purpose. As I moved closer to adulthood, he made it his mission to ensure I understood this life-changing truth. The letters varied greatly as I grew up, and were occasionally a follow up to a less than intelligent decision I made, but they all had the same aim–to help me understand I was created for something more. This infusion of spiritual hope has played a critical role in my life.

The practical hope provided by my grandmother combined with the spiritual hope provided by the actions of my grandfather has had a profound impact on my life. How do I know? Well, among other things, I, someone who struggled with writing and self-worth, wrote a book about the power of hope to create real change. That is all-in hope. It has the power to rewrite stories and overcome the lie of hopelessness that perpetuates poverty in all of its forms.

Now it is time to look at your story. Where has the combined power of practical and spiritual hope played a role in your life? By discovering the all-in hope in your story, you will gain a better understanding of what it is and why it matters. You may also discover where it has been missing in your life, or the lives of people you care about, providing you with an opportunity to take a step forward.

Would you like a resource to help you take a step forward in making an impact in the lives of others? Click here to sign up to receive 5 Foundational Steps to Make a True Difference in Someone’s Life. When you sign up, you will also receive my newsletter with information on my upcoming book Hope Realized, as well as other resources to help you be a hope bringer.

Remember, no one is truly hopeless.

James Belt

Sweet Corn Cobs of Hope

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

Growing up in central Maryland sweet corn has always been a part of my life. There is almost nothing better than a piece of corn on the cob with just the right amount of butter and salt on a hot summer day, unless of course you add some steamed crabs with Old Bay. If you are not sure what I am talking about, it might just be time to take a visit to Maryland. As much as sweet corn has been a part of my life, I never imagined it extending beyond my dinner plate. I was about to be in for a surprise.

In Nicaragua, corn is a staple of most people’s diet. However, different from my experience in Maryland, it is typically field corn used to make products such as corn tortillas. The exception to this rule is elote loco. Translated “crazy corn” in English, elote loco is a piece of corn on the cob covered in sauces and spices, sold by local vendors as a food of convenience. Think of your local hot dog vendor. While not the corn on the cob I am used to, it is pretty good. Despite the popularity of this treat, sweet corn is not a readily available crop in Nicaragua. While there are some local growers, they are few and far between. Josh and the NicaWorks! team saw an opportunity.

Recently Germinated Sweet Corn Plants

Beginning with a test plot, Josh and the NicaWorks! agriculture team began to grow sweet corn. While it does require more attention and water than the field corn typically grown in Nicaragua, the plants thrived in the rich soil at the Veracruz farm. Once harvest time came around, Josh explored selling options and connected with the supplier to many of the elote loco vendors in Managua. While there were ups and downs, it did appear that there was a real opportunity to create a sweet corn operation that could create practical hope in the form of real employment and business opportunities for people in Nicaragua. There was also an opportunity to introduce other ways to prepare sweet to the Nicaraguan market, expanding the possible impact of this new business.

Josh and Michael at the Veracruz Farm

Frutivera, the official name of the business, was off and running. Not only were they able to create job opportunities in the field, they also put together teams to process, pack, market, and sell the corn. This expanded the impact of Frutivera, creating practical hope opportunities for even more people in Nicaragua. However, it did not stop there.

In addition to creating opportunities for people to experience practical hope, Josh, Flavia, and Michael, the leadership team of Frutivera, see the business as catalyst for spiritual hope. By investing in their team beyond the day-to-day operations, they are able to tell them about a God how loves them and desires a real relationship with them through Jesus. This has allowed them to create a community of people who believe God created them on purpose and with a purpose, and have a desire for others to experience the same thing. Through reframed identities and real opportunities, the power of all-in practical and spiritual hope is changing lives through Frutivera.

The Frutivera Processing and Packing Team

The journey is not a straight line, creating real change rarely is, but Josh, Flavia, and Michael are excited for the future and the force for all-in hope Frutivera can continue to become. Currently, they are working on expanding the production operations to provide more opportunities for practical and spiritual development. In the future, there could even be the possibility of partnering with other small farmers to help them grow and sell sweet corn, and understand their God-given potential.

Do you see how powerful practical and spiritual hope can be when combined? The lie of hopelessness is hard to overcome, but with all-in hope it stands no chance. This is true in Nicaragua as well as anywhere else in the world where hopelessness and poverty exist.

What about your community? Is there somewhere or someone in need of the life-changing power of all-in hope? You might just be the right person to open the door to spiritual and practical hope for someone who desperately needs it. If you are not sure how to get started, check out this free resource I created called 5 Foundational Steps to Make a True Difference in the Someone’s Life. When you sign up here, you will also receive other thoughts on poverty and hope as well as news on my upcoming book, Hope Realized.

Remember, no one is truly hopeless.

James Belt