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

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