“Protest and Invest” and Other Marketplace Lessons for Youth Workers

UYWI friend and frequent co-conspirator Rudy Carrasco has championed market-oriented solutions to youth poverty and joblessness for years. He summarizes his call for holistic economic justice as “Protest and Invest,” where we broaden our call for justice beyond assigning blame about the causes of poverty to asset creation and control. He’s been writing and communicating his ideas for years, for example:

There is no shortage of protest across the political spectrum. Some promote fair trade over free trade and argue for turning the minimum wage into a living wage; they seek to strengthen immigrant rights and oppose racism. Others object to activist judges, family-hostile state laws and school curricula, and porous borders. But increasingly, all these concerns are framed in terms of concern for the most vulnerable members of society. These issues rouse people out of their living rooms, out of the pews, and into society to work for change.

While I celebrate this development, I worry that we are perilously weak at walking alongside the poor, at investing directly into the lives of individuals to give them what they truly need—not what we believe they need or what our policy statements tell us they need. I’ve found that it’s relatively easy to raise a voice in protest, but unfathomably hard to invest in a life.

After leading or co-leading Harambee Christian Family Center for almost twenty years, a youth-oriented community development corporation in Pasadena, California, in 2009 Rudy joined the staff of Partners Worldwide as U.S. regional facilitator.  In addition to speaking regularly at conferences, colleges, and churches, Rudy is a frequent lecturer for the Acton Institute think tank. Below is a recent talk he gave for Acton, “Business as Mission 2.0.”

I was reminded of Rudy’s advocacy this week after visiting Turkey Hill in Lancaster County, PA. Founded by a devoted Christian 75 years ago, Turkey Hill has grown into a major regional dairy, and their frozen yogurt is one of the country’s largest brands.

During my visit, Quintin Frey, the current president and the founder’s grandson, shared with me his father’s paraphrase of Romans 12:11-21. Romans 12 is the chapter that begins by exploring what it means to be living sacrifices transformed by the renewing of our minds, and ends with an exploration of love that is sincere. Mr. Frey’s paraphrase explores what sincere love looks like for business owners.

“Work hard at your business, but keep a proper balance between your fervor for it and the Lord’s business, which you are also doing.

The hope of success spurs you hopefully on, but watch out, there will be many times when you lose money, so pray continually.

This formula permits you to have money to give to people in need, and to entertain others in your home and in your church.

Bless those who levy taxes and controls, those who take your customers, your market, or your money. Don’t get angry about it.

Be happy when the other fellow is successful. Be sympathetic with those who are having a hard time of it.

Don’t get high-minded a stuck-up when you succeed, but act as though you had failed and were poor. Don’t think your success was all because of you.

Don’t try to beat the ‘sharpie’ salesman or businessman because he pulled a fast deal on you. Let your dealing have an honest ring to your employees, your customers, and your fellow businessmen.

Some customers you can never satisfy, and some inspectors you can never please, but keep trying without getting huffy.

Dear fellow businessmen and women, don’t think you must win every time. If you lose, don’t try to make it up on the next deal. The Lord will take care of those characters.

Instead, do him a good turn; that will really roast him out.

Don’t let evil cause you to fail; let good make you successful.”

Quintin Frey honors his father and grandfather by keeping this vision central to Turkey Hill’s business mission. Mr. Frey’s business remains a generous supporter of youth ministries throughout the region, not to mention a principal employer in Lancaster County.

Rural dairies. Business as mission. Urban youth ministry. Is there a connection? What say you?

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