I love ideas. People come to me with theirs all the time, and I get a real kick out of hearing them. Several good ideas of my own knock around in my head and poke holes in my sanity on any given day.
But ideas are a dime a dozen. Actually, most of them aren’t worth a thin dime. Not until someone decides to act on them.
Before they beg action, ideas beg questions. What is the first step to make it happen? Are you willing to take that step… and the next 500 steps between today and the day your idea becomes a reality? Will you do the hard work and take the scary risks?
I love ideas, but the questions rise up and make me cynical about them, too. I am grateful for the many kind people who framed these hard questions for me along the way as the idea of Refuge Coffee Co. unfolded into something real. I remember a difficult night last fall being grilled by our sons, the night I realized I was nowhere near as far along as I thought I was. One of our daughters-in-law said, “You know they were hard on you only because they take you seriously, right?”
I’m grateful for people who have taken what’s felt like an insane idea seriously. People who ask those hard questions. This is a gift. You see, the ideas—the dreams—surrounding Refuge, they keep coming. This is not a static dream. We think up new ideas, question them, and rethink them all the time.
This morning I read about one really good idea in Mark Batterson’s Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge. In 2009, Mark Moore launched MANA (Mother Administered Nutritive Aid). MANA now produces and distributes over one million RUTF packets (Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food, a product with peanut paste as its base) every month. CNN called RUTF “the most important advance to ever cure and treat malnutrition.”
Mark says the dream of MANA was birthed and grew during “meeting after meeting” in Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse, a shop National Community Church opened several years before MANA was even an idea in anyone’s mind. Mark Batterson, pastor of NCC, remembers the day a group of people placed their hands on the walls of that coffeehouse before it opened and dedicated it to the Lord. One staff member specifically asked God to make Ebenezer a dream factory. MANA is just one of many dreams that have come to life in that factory.
A dream factory.
That resonated with me, so this morning I prayed for our truck and our one-day dream of a shop: “God, would you turn us into a dream factory? Would you help us facilitate dreams right here in Clarkston?”
To be honest, I pictured more people like us spinning their dreams to help the poor, specifically our refugee neighbors who are, by most measures, poor. And then I closed the book about prayer, and I read these words in an actual prayer in Psalm 14:
“You would shame the plans of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge.” (Verse 6)
This made me think of my refugee friends who, although poor, resourceless, and ill-equipped, have plans. Big plans. Zeinab wants to open a school in her homeland of South Sudan. Bernard wants to go to college, even though he is years behind in high school because there was no school in the Ugandan refugee camp where he fled from civil war in the Congo. His brother, Samuel, wants to be a pastor or a pilot or both. Bosombo wants to write a book. I’ve lost count of the number of our neighbors who have said to me, “I want to establish a non-profit organization.”
These ideas have begged more than the average number of questions in my mind. So many pressing questions, that I’ve often dismissed them outright. In doing so, I believe I have shamed them, the ideas and perhaps even the people who have them.
But today the prevailing idea in my mind is a set of questions I’m posing to God in prayer. Questions I’d love others to ask along with me:
Lord, what if Refuge Coffee Co. became a dream factory for refugees?
What if the feet under our tables and the elbows on them accurately represented this global community? What if good ideas came to life at those tables?
What if our job training created concrete pathways to dream realization?
What if, instead of shaming the plans of the poor, instead of handing out free bandaids to cover that shame along with a short supply of dignity, what if we took a few strategic steps forward with our dreamer-neighbors?
What if this was what refuge looked like?