Could You Be Putting Poverty in a Box?

Good morning from Managua, Nicaragua!

Have you ever thought you had the solution to a problem only to realize your viewpoint of the problem was unknowingly limited? It is like believing you had found the last piece to the puzzle until you took a step back and could see that you were only working on one small corner of a much larger picture. This has happened to me many times in life. It is not typically because I do not want to see or understand the entire picture, although I am sure I could think of a few moments that would fit into that category. In most cases, I had no idea that the small mental box I had put the problem in was obstructing my view until something came along and expanded my box. Can you relate?

Could this be the case for many of us with poverty? I know it has been for me. I used to believe I had a clear understanding of poverty, why it exists, and how to solve it. While I certainly believed environment played a role, it often boiled down to better decision making. In other words, I saw poverty as primarily an issue of personal choices. My thought process was their, or maybe their parents’, bad choices landed them in poverty. Had they made better decisions, they would not be in this situation. The solution? Make better choices. If the person in poverty wants to escape, they just need to make better choices.

Does this sound familiar? Maybe you even find yourself agreeing with the statements above. However, what if the box in which we put poverty is far smaller than the reality, obstructing our view and preventing us from truly understanding this issue? I found this to be true for myself.

When I started to become more curious about the poverty in Nicaragua and how I could make a difference, I was still viewing it through the small mental box I had unknowingly put it in. In my recently released book, Hope Realized, I tell a story about a trip I took to visit a coffee cooperative in Nicaragua and my “accidental promise” to solve their sales challenges. I believed I had the answers. While I am sure my ego played into it, it was my inability to see the entire picture that ultimately made me believe I could quickly solve a very nuanced and deep problem. This experience made me take a step back and begin to ask if there could be something I am missing. It was the moment I began to see that I had put poverty in far too small of a box.

This is the issue for most of us. It is not that we do not want to understand poverty, the reasons it exists and persists, and how to help people overcome it–all of us would vote “yes” to a world with less poverty and more universal flourishing. It is that we do not know we have put it in a box, limiting our perspective and leading us to make assumptions about why people are in poverty and the simple steps they need to take to escape.

It was when I moved to Nicaragua that my “box” and understanding of poverty began to change. As I developed relationships with people in impoverished communities and gained a better understanding of their story, I realized that they were a lot like me. This forced me to ask why someone with the same God-given potential and desire to thrive would live in such a different reality. My box now expanding, I realized that while everyone is born with incredible God-given potential, not everyone has the same opportunity to exercise it. I started to see that there was something much deeper perpetuating poverty than the symptoms to which we often point.

This journey led to me to the lie of hopelessness and its role in allowing poverty to persist despite the resources committed to overcoming it. It also revealed that overcoming a lie of hopelessness that is both spiritual and practical would require real hope that is both practical and spiritual. To say it another way, it is a reframed identity and a real opportunity that produces the all-in hope necessary to create real, sustainable change in impoverished communities.

One of the best byproducts of expanding my box and gaining a fuller picture of poverty is I am more hopeful than ever about our ability to create change. When we clearly understand a problem we can confidently take steps to move beyond it. While I am sure I still have a lot more to learn, I believe real change through real hope is possible.

Do you want to gain a better understanding of poverty, how to overcome it, and the role you can play? Check out my book, Hope Realized. You can also download a free resource I created called 5 Foundational Steps to Make a True Difference in Someone’s Life for a few practical steps you can take today. Click here to sign up to receive the guide.

Want to created a more hope-filled world? Move beyond your box.

James Belt

How Your Perception Impacts Reality

Good morning from Westminster, Maryland!

Are you familiar with the saying, “perception is reality”? As someone who works in the customer service industry it something I hear and talk about often. When working with a customer, their perception of a situation can be as important, or sometimes even more important, than what actually happened. In other words, while a person’s perception may or may not be the actual reality, it is their reality, impacting the way they approach the situation at hand. Could the same be true about people? Could our perception of someone impact the way we treat them?

Before spending significant time in Nicaragua, I had a certain perception of people living in impoverished communities and countries. It was not that I disliked them but rather that I unconsciously assumed people living in poverty were “less than” me. Does that sound harsh to you? Well, before you judge me, consider your reactions and assumptions about someone holding a sign on a street corner, or a child in a Catholic Charities commercial. Do you look at them as equals, or do you see them as lower on the social hierarchy than you? A great way to find out is to honestly ask yourself if you could see yourself in the same position if your circumstance were different. You could also flip it and ask yourself if you could imagine them in your position if their circumstances were different. In my book, Hope Realized, I suggest “being curious” by asking yourself these types of questions as a valuable step in getting engaged in bringing hope to others.

When I began to spend more time in Nicaragua, build relationships with people in the communities I was visiting, and become more curious about their circumstances, poverty went from a concept to a name. No longer was a person living in poverty something I viewed from the comfort of my car window or TV. It was now a friend with a name. As this transformation happened in my mind, I began to realize that people living in poverty had just as much God-given potential as I did, and our circumstances could have just as easily been reversed had our stories been different. This also forced me to ask hard questions about the way I had perceived people living in poverty to this point, and how I would view the world moving forward. Sometimes we avoid this step because it is uncomfortable and we are concerned about what it says about our character. However, I have found challenging these preconceptions to be freeing, not condemning. Realizing the God-given potential of people in poverty produced more hope in me for our broken world.

Now back to the question I asked at the beginning: Could our perception of someone impact the way we treat them? I have found the answer to this question to be yes. To say it another way, the way we treat someone is impacted by the way we perceive them. If we believe someone is full of God-given potential, we will treat them accordingly. However, if we believe they are hopeless, destined for a life of “less than”, we will treat them as such.

This plays a big role in the way we address poverty and whether or not we even believe there is hope for change. If we see someone as full of God-given potential waiting to be realized, even if their current reality says otherwise, we will be far more likely to create real opportunities through long-term investment. This speaks to the spiritual hope, or reframed identity, element of real, all-in hope. Creating real change starts with believing change is possible. This is far more likely if we believe the person we are investing in was created by a God who loves them on purpose and with a purpose, just like you.

Did you real that last line? Just like you. This reality does not apply only to people living in poverty. It applies to everyone we interact with, yourself included. You will treat them, and yourself, the way you perceive them (yourself). It is worth asking yourself this question. Your answer could be standing in the way of something beautiful.

Do you want to make a difference in the life of someone else? Get curious. Begin to ask yourself hard questions, starting with how you perceive them. Would you like more thoughts on this as well as other steps to begin making a difference in someone else’s life? Click here to sign up to receive the free resource I created, 5 Foundational Steps to Make a True Difference in Someone’s Life.

There is hope for this world. Do you perceive it that way?

James Belt

New Year, Rewritten Story

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

As the end of 2022 quickly approaches a time of both great hope and great disappointment quickly approaches: the New Year and New Year’s Resolution season. The hope we have for what is possible in the New Year reaches its peak right around now, a day or two before the New Year. We are in “dream mode”, resolute about the changes we will make but without the pressure to actually take the steps they will require. The disappointment reaches its max anywhere from a few days to a few weeks (or maybe even sooner in some cases) as we realize how hard it is to actually realize, or make good on, our resolutions. Disappointment turns into a low-level hopelessness of sorts about our resolution, convincing us change is not actually possible. Does this sound a little too familiar?

While this “failure” may or may not make a big difference in our lives, it is a small taste of what it looks like to be held captive by the lie of hopelessness. We can become defined by the belief that nothing can ever change. While acceptance can be healthy in many situations, it can also be damaging when it is based on a lie. Sadly, this is the experience for many people living in extreme poverty, as well as for those on the outside looking in. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we begin to believe people living in poverty are destined for a life of “less than”, which is only reinforced by the lack of resources available to create long-term change. Just like our failed resolutions, this allows the cycle to perpetuate. Unlike many of our resolutions, the consequences are dire.

However, what if it did not have to be this way? What if the cycle could be broken?

Recently, I wrote about the power of both a real opportunity and a reframed identity. Individually, they are both agents of change but when combined they create a force powerful enough to rewrite even the mostly seemingly hopeless story.

Take the story of Oscar. Oscar lives in Nueva Guinea, a small, rural town on the road from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua. Similar to many communities in Nicaragua, poverty is pervasive in Nueva Guinea and so is hopelessness. This was Oscar’s story. He worked as a laborer on various farms in the area, making just enough to keep his family alive. Like most of us, Oscar grew up with hopes and dreams, but most of them had been stolen by the lie of hopelessness over the years. Unable to see the possibility for change, Oscar bought into the belief that he and his family were destined by a life of less than. This was continually reinforced by the lack of access to the practical resources necessary to actually move beyond their current circumstances.

Oscar identified with the hopelessness surrounding him, making choices that only dug the hole deeper. All hope appeared to be lost until he had an encounter with real all-in hope. It started with a “chance” meeting with Josh Jaentschke, Field Director for NicaWorks!, and Josh’s dad Ed, a Pastor in the town of Bluefields on the Atlantic coast. Josh and Ed happened to be in town and were introduced to Oscar and his wife Febe by another local pastor. The pastor told Josh and Ed that Oscar and Febe were in desperate need of some hope. Josh and Ed had once be in the same place in their lives so they shared their stories and the real, spiritual hope they encountered in the form of Jesus. The explained that there was a God who loved them and created them on purpose and for a purpose. While Oscar and Febe had heard a similar story before something was different this time. This time it seemed like there might actually be some hope. In that moment, Oscar and Febe saw the possibility of real spiritual hope and a reframed identity through Jesus.

Now with a different perspective on why he was created, Oscar jumped at the real opportunity when it was presented. You see, a month or so after his first encounter with Josh, NicaWorks! was in need of someone to run a new agriculture project in Nueva Guinea. In the past, Oscar might not have seen this as more than another way to keep his family alive. However, with his new, reframed identity, he saw it as the opportunity to thrive. After accepting the role with NicaWorks!, Oscar turned what was a property in disrepair into a project full of much promise for him, his family, and the community. Much like Oscar, the Nueva Guinea property’s story was beginning to be rewritten.

While life is not easy and perfect for Oscar, Febe, and their family, their reframed identities has combined with the real opportunity to begin to write a new story. A story of real, all-in hope that could impact generations to come. This is the combined power of a reframed identity and a real opportunity, or spiritual and practical hope. It turns into all-in hope, which has the power to rewrite even the most hopeless stories. You can read more about Oscar’s story and the power of all-in hope in my recently released book, Hope Realized.

Circling back around, all-in hope has the power to rewrite your story as well. While is a not a quick, self-help solution to your struggles with New Year’s Resolutions, it can change the way you view yourself, your potential, and the world. It has for me. I would say a new story is even better than a New Year’s Resolution.

As we kick-off 2023 in a couple of days, I hope you will the power all-in hope has to create real change, in your life and the world!

Happy New Year!

James Belt

Rediscover the Wonder

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

Over the past two articles, we have looked at the power of a real opportunity and a reframed identity. Next time we will focus in on the rewritten story they produce, but this week I want to focus on another story. A story of great hope in the midst of great hopelessness. A story that changed everything. The story of Christmas.

The story of Christmas is a familiar one to most. Even if only from Linus’ famous reading of the Christmas story (“…and they were sore afraid.”), the majority of people could give you give you a rundown of the basic storyline and characters. Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem, look for a place to stay, but there is no room in the inn. Ending up in a stable with animals, Jesus is born and laid in a manager. Angels announce his arrival to lowly shepherds (this is where the “sore afraid” part comes in) who end up being the first visitors to the promised Savior. Does this sound familiar?

You might think my description of the birth of Jesus was a little flippant, and that is because it was. The truth is, we often think of it this way in our heads. Our familiarity with the story of Jesus’ arrival has robbed us of the wonder it should produce in our hearts and minds.

In the Gospel, or good news, as recorded by John, one of Jesus’ disciples, he describes the arrival of Jesus with these words: “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” (John 1:9, NIV) Instead of describing the events of that world-changing evening, John spells out the purpose and the result, and that should produce wonder.

Jesus’ arrival was no accident. It was the next step in God’s perfectly planned mission to redeem and restore the world. Without Jesus, the world was hopeless. With Jesus hopelessness became a lie. This is why Jesus is described as the “true light”. The true light of Jesus could not be put out by the brokenness and darkness of the world. Jesus’ arrival was God’s confirmation that he loves us and created us on purpose and for a purpose. Think about it: God loves you so much that sent Jesus to be born as a baby so that he could live and die to give you life. Is their a clearer picture of how valuable you are to God? In Jesus, real hope arrived for you and me.

While many plans start out with great intention only to fall short, this one could not be stopped. The hope that arrived that Christmas night was fully realized. The result of Jesus’ arrival is that hopelessness, both for today and for eternity, no longer has to have a hold on us. Do you know that about yourself? In Jesus you can wake up every day knowing there is real hope for you, even if your present circumstances are trying to convince you otherwise. You can live holding onto a hope that changes everything. Because of Christmas, you can be filled with true light.

Jesus may have arrived in relative obscurity from a human standpoint, but the impact of that moment could not be more clear to the angels who visited the shepherds that night: everything had changed. Their reaction? Great wonder. We should do the same.

As you reflect on the Christmas Story this year, rediscover the wonder produced by this world-changing moment. Let the wonder then produce life-changing hope in you. Christmas changed everything. Allow its wonder to change you.

Merry Christmas!

James Belt

Identity Reframed

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

In a recent post I wrote about the power of a real opportunity, or practical hope, to create change. However, it is only one-half of the all-in hope equation. True, all-in hope becomes a reality when a real opportunity is combined with a reframed identity, or spiritual hope.

As I thought about how to describe this critical piece of the hope puzzle a number of words surrounding the concept of identity came to mind. The word “true” came to mind, which would be accurate. Certainly an identity based in truth is important and powerful. However, it was just missing something. “Clear” was another word that seemed to make sense. Being clear on who you are makes a difference in the way you live. However, how do you get clarity around your identity? I felt like the word needed to have an element of action. This is how I landed on the word “reframed”.

What does it mean to have your identity reframed? Before we can answer that question, we have to be clear on the concept of identity.

Identity, as I describe it, is a person’s belief about who they are and how they got here. It speaks to their self-worth and can be influenced by the voices we listen to and the experiences we have. As I share in my recently released book, Hope Realized, my life was impacted by the voice of a teacher who told me I was not very smart. Whether intentionally or not, she influenced the way I saw myself and my future as a learner for a period of my life. Thankfully, me story did not stop there. Despite my lack of self-worth as a preteen boy, Grandpa, one of my grandfathers, wrote me letters to remind me I was not destined for a life of “less than” but rather created by a God who had a plan for my life.

This speaks to the impact our belief about how we got here has on our identity. Do we believe we were born into a particular station in life with little hope to change it? Do we believe the reality in which we were born into is permanent, or, do we believe there is hope for something more? Do we believe we were created by a God who loves us and created us on purpose and with a purpose? What we believe about ourselves starts with how much innate potential we believe we contain. If you believe your existence is meaningless with little hope for change, you will live accordingly. Conversely, if you believe you were created with potential and purpose, you will see life through that lens.

In Hope Realized I talk about my friend, Leyla, who spent a large portion of her childhood living in the Puente de Amistad orphanage in the impoverished community of El Canon, Nicaragua. It would have been easy for Leyla to believe her life lacked meaning and hope. Sadly, this was the case for many young people in El Canon. However, her identity was not defined by her present reality but rather by her created value. Leyla believed she was full of God given potential, which filled her with hope, changing the way she saw life and influencing her decisions.

It is stories like Leyla’s and mine, and many others, that led me to the word reframed. The act of reframing is taking what is there, stripping it down, and rebuilding it from a different perspective. Reframing your identity means changing the way you see yourself and your innate potential. Instead of allowing your past and present reality and voices to define you, you rebuild your identity through the lens of your God-given potential and value. In other words, you reframe your identity around the truth that you were created on purpose and for a purpose by a God who loves you. This act of reframing creates real hope, producing a spark that starts the engine of real change.

When this is combined with a real opportunity the possibility of a rewritten story emerges, but more on this next time. Check out my recently released book Hope Realized to dive deeper into the power of a reframed identity and how it has sparked change. You can also go to www.jameshbelt.com to receive more thoughts on how to be a part of bringing hope to others.

James Belt

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