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

Bringing Hope to Appalachia

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

Often when we think of poverty and hopelessness, our minds go to developing nations such as Nicaragua or to communities in cities such as Baltimore and Detroit. However, that is only part of the story.

Once a thriving region in the United States due to its abundance of coal and lumber, Appalachia, which includes parts of Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, has been in a state of poverty since the mid-1960s. While there are a number of factors that contributed to the poverty that exists, including the evaporation of jobs, corruption, and an opioid epidemic, it is the lie of hopelessness that allows poverty to continue to persist. With rampant drug use, unemployment and underemployment, and many other byproducts of poverty, hopelessness has ravaged many of the communities in the area. Written off or unnoticed by most of the United States, Appalachia is a stark example of the consequences of allowing the lie of hopelessness to fester.

This is part of the power of the lie of hopelessness. Not only does it convince those in the grip of poverty that they are hopeless, it does the same to those who are on the outside looking in. This only continues the cycle of poverty and hopelessness as we resort to sticking temporary Band-Aids on the short-term byproducts of poverty instead of addressing the long-term wound of hopelessness that gives it life.

The community of War, West Virginia is sad picture of this reality in Appalachia. Located in McDowell County, once one of the wealthiest counties in the United States, War has become one of the poorest communities in all of Appalachia. With an estimated 85% of the adult population addicted to opioids or methamphetamines according organizations addressing addiction in the area, death from drug-involved overdose is common place. It is easy to see why people would believe they are destined for a life of “less than” in a place like War, WV.

A New Beginning Community Center

Despite the incredible hold the lie of hopelessness has on War, WV, Rick and Mary Smith have a very different perspective. Rick, a home builder from Central Ohio, and his wife, Mary, decided hopelessness did not have to be the end of the story. Around 2015, the Smiths decided to pack up there stuff to move to War, WV to bring all-in spiritual and practical hope. Committed to long-term change in the community, Rick and Mary started A New Beginning Recovery Ministry and purchased an old Catholic Church in the town to turn into a community center. Undeterred by the challenges they face, A New Beginning Recovery Ministry now has a weekly kids ministry focused on breaking the intergenerational cycle of addiction and poverty by reaching out to the youth. The also host weekly recovery meetings, a weekly Bible Study, and a weekly church service on Sunday afternoons, the best time to reach the community. Additionally, the partner with the West Virginia Food Bank to distribute food to the community.

Food Distribution

In a confirmation of their call to War, shortly after Rick and Mary took the step of faith to move there, The State of West Virginia announced the Hatfield & McCoy Trail System, a popular destination for ATV enthusiasts, would run through War, WV. As a home builder this opened up an incredible opportunity for Rick, who started to purchase rundown houses to renovates and turn into rental properties for tourists coming through on the Hatfield & McCoy Trail. This has allowed him to provide significant funding to their ministry though the rental income generated by the properties, a great example of bring what you have to the table.

Through A New Beginning Recovery Ministry, Rick and Mary are creating opportunities for reframed identities through the power of spiritual hope, showing people they were created on purpose and for a purpose by a God who loves them. They also come alongside people to provide the practical hope they need to escape addiction, a real opportunity to exercise their reframed identities. While the journey is hard and messy, they are beginning to see the power all-in hope has to change lives and overcome the power of hopelessness.

Take a man we will call John. After meeting John, a drug addict living in War, John and Mary were able to connect him with Justin’s Place, a Christ-centered residential recovery and transition program and affiliate of Crossroads Church in Westminster, MD. After completing the program, returned to West Virginia, has been clean from drugs for 5 years, and has started his own business.

Another beautiful picture of the power of all-in hope to create change in War is a twentysomething named Chris. Paralyzed from his work in the mines, Chris was not sure what the future held. While he avoided drug addiction, his disability left feeling confused and a bit hopeless despite his relationship with Jesus. After meeting Chris, Rick and Mary developed a relationship with him and began to disciple him. Realizing he had a gift to teach, they offer him a practical hope opportunity to teach on Sundays at church. Despite his challenges, Chris is now a beacon of all-in hope in War.

War, West Virginia once was a clear picture of the power the lie of hopelessness has to trap people in poverty and its byproducts. While there is still a long road ahead, Rick, Mary, the A New Beginning Recovery Ministry team and their partners are beginning to breakdown the walls through the powerful light of all-in hope.

As we celebrate Independence Day on the United States of America this 4th of July Weekend, the hope Rick and Mary Smith have for War, WV speaks to the ideals laid out in the Declaration of Independence, which says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” While most certainly still a work in progress, the United States of America was founded on a belief that their is real hope for everyone. Like Rick and Mary, let’s continue to fight for a world in which hope wins the day.

Would you like to “get in the game” like Rick and Mary Smith, but you are not sure where to start? Click here for a free resource I created called 5 Foundational Steps to Make a True Difference in Someone’s Life. You will also be signed up to receive my newsletter and stay up to date on my upcoming book, Hope Realized.

Happy 4th of July and remember, no one is truly hopeless.

James Belt

What Visiting a Volcano Taught Me about Hope

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

Have you ever thought you understood something only to realize what you thought you knew was only a limited picture of a bigger reality? This was my experience with volcanoes. I have always found volcanoes to be cool. Like many kids, I built my own “volcano” with baking soda and vinegar, and waited with great anticipation to experience its “eruption”. I would see them on TV, in movies and books, and learn about the in school. I thought I understood volcanoes, until, I realized I didn’t.

On one of my early trips to Nicaragua, I had the chance to visit the Masaya Volcano with the rest of the mission team from Crossroads Church in Westminster, MD. Given my childhood love for volcanoes, I was pretty excited. However, nothing could prepare me for the real experience.

Driving up the winding road to the top of the crater– yes, I said the top of the volcano — you almost feel as if you are in another world due to the stunted vegetation and lava rock rubble in every direction. Arriving at the top, there are signs instructing you to back into the parking spots for a quick exit in case of a volcanic eruption. This made sense since all that separated the parking spots from the crater was a small wall.

Exiting our brightly painted school bus, we took in the view of this powerful natural wonder. While no lava was visible from the top of the crater, the sheer size and potential of the volcano was breathtaking. Staring into the crater, realizing the hole was created by an explosion from the depths of the earth, the power of a volcano goes from an interesting fact you read in a book to something real and perspective-changing.

This has been my experience with the word “hope” as well. I did not truly grasp its power until my eyes were open to a different, more significant picture of it. I needed to reimagine hope. Could the same be true for you?

The word “hope” can mean different things to different people, depending on the context and their life experiences. For some, it brings a certain level of joy and excitement for what is to come. For others, it is a reminder of failed dreams and disappointment. This is apparent from the many famous quotes about hope.

Desmond Tutu said that, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” Conversely, Benjamin Franklin said, “He that lives upon hope will die fasting.” Why the difference in perspective? Is it possible they were talking about two different kinds of hope?

There is a difference between hoping and hope. Hoping, or to hope, is a verb that doesn’t come with a ton of confidence. It is the, “I hope I pass this test”, kind of hope we feel when we aren’t sure we studied enough. Hope, on the other hand, is a noun. It is something with which we can be filled that is often fueled by confidence in something or someone, not a passing feeling. For example, I am full of hope because I know who created me. It is an all-in hope that has the power to create real change.

What is this all-in hope? It is a hope that comes from a reframed identity that says I was created on purpose and with a purpose. It is a hope that is fueled by a real opportunity to take advantage this belief that I was created for something more. When combined, this reframed identity and real opportunity, a powerful form of all-in hope is born that can overcome the lie of hopelessness that holds many captive. How do I know this? Because I have experienced it in my life and seen it in the life of others.

Consider Sofia, a relatively quite woman from the community of El Canon in Nicaragua who had little to offer beyond her willingness to work when the NicaWorks! staff met her when we started the El Canon Community Gardening Project. Honestly, I would not have picked her to be its most successful member. Living in a makeshift plastic wrapped house, Sofia did not let her small beginnings prevent her from making the most of the opportunity.

Seeing the possibility for a different future in her work with the community garden, Sofia asked if NicaWorks! would assist her in starting her own bean project. Believing in her potential, we enthusiastically agreed. Through hard wok and a willingness to reinvest in her own future, what started as a few hundred dollars investment in beans grew into a sustainable enterprise of beans, corn, chickens, and even turkeys. Sofia is now well on her way to changing the future of her family.

This is the power all-in hope has to create change in impoverished communities. All-in hope is both practical and spiritual in nature. Why are they both so important and are they both required? I will explore these questions in future posts.

Do you want to dig even deeper into the power of all-in hope, stories of change that have come from it, and the role you can play in bringing it to others? Be sure to check out my upcoming book, Hope Realized. If you would like to stay up to date on the book, receive more thoughts on these topics, sign up click here to sign up for my newsletter. You will also receive 5 Foundational Steps to Make a True Difference in Someone’s Life, a free resource I created to help you jump into bringing hope to others.

Remember, no one is truly hopeless.

James Belt