A Camel's Milk Expedition

Saturday was an exciting day for Envision Atlanta’s site coordinator Pete Brokopp.

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With every community he interacts with he is always searching to meet what he calls the felt needs of the people. A felt need is the need that will reach the heart of the person you are trying to serve. When he lived and worked with his family in Burkina Faso the felt need was water. Pete drafted a plan to drill wells so that people would not have to walk all day for water. So far that project has brought water to nearly 500,000 people.

In Clarkston the felt need tends to be friendship with an American. In most cases refugees have left family and friends behind fleeing from wars, famine, or persecution and are lonely. While friendship is always high on the list of felt needs sometimes to get there we have to be creative, sometimes ESL is our way in, meeting another felt need int he process. Another way to build a friendship is through providing them with something they miss from back home. This is where camel’s milk comes in.

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Somalia produces and consumes more camels milk than any other country in the world. When Somalian refugees come to America camel’s milk is one of the many things that they leave behind. Small comforts form home can become an incredible bridge to friendship and so Pete decided he wanted to bring camel’s milk to Somalis in Clarkston. If you’ve spent anytime with Pete you’ve heard him talk about his dream. West Ridge Church heard Pete’s dream and also wanted to make the Somali’s feel welcomed and at home in Clarkston so that’s exactly what they did. Saturday morning they arrived in Clarkston with camels milk and teamed up with Pete and our Envision Atlanta staff and passed out the milk to many residents of Clarkston. It was well received and the seeds of friendship have been planted.

"Two Years Later" by Brian Baldwin

It's hard to believe it's been two years already, well for me, the site will be two years old in June. January 1st of this year was my two-year anniversary with Envision Atlanta. Back then it was just me and Pete, the site coordinator. There were other team members who had moved to the Atlanta area, but they wouldn't officially start till later that year. We had no buildings we were using, no church partners and no money, just some dreams and some hopes for what could be.

At the start, my main responsibility was to book as many appointments as I could for Pete. Pete was still living in Pennsylvania in those days and would come down to Atlanta once a month for a weekend. We would go from meeting to meeting, grab some food on the run and plot and plan for what could be. Even though our dreams were big, I'm not sure either of us really knew what would unfold in the next two years.

Staff growth:
In the last two years, we have seen our staff grow from Pete, his wife Alice, and myself to 19 staff members. My wife will officially be joining the team later this year (although she's already been working with us), as well as four former interns who enjoyed their time so much they are coming back for more! Speaking of interns, year one we had two interns, last year we had nine! This year we already know of eight that have committed.

Teams:
Our site was constructed with division of labor in mind. We would be set up in three teams that would work toward the same goals; (1) Church planting, (2) Trips and Events (or as I like to call it the "teams team"), and (3) the Business team. As you might be guessing that too has changed. This year we are excited to add a fourth team, the "City Team", as well as our Kid's/Families Initiative that launched in late 2018.

Trips:
I had a conversation in the early months with a friend about hosting teams. He confidently told me that we wouldn't be hosting any teams that first year. "Game on," I thought. That first year we had 7 teams come through our site, we had 22 teams last years and are looking at another 20 teams this year.

Neighborhood influence:
One of our values is "incarnational ministry", put a little more simply, we go into the apartment complexes and we work there, rather than having a building we function out of. Our first year we started renting an apartment in English Oaks. The owners also rent us the basement of the building our unit is in. We have since expanded to three other complexes where we rent apartments. We have staff or families from partner churches who live in them. One of these complexes is giving us an apartment unit to use for free for homework help!

It’s been an incredible journey and I don’t think we are slowing down any time soon!

This post originally published on brianvalois.com.

What is the Business Development Team?

Here is a brief description of what the Business Development Team is and what we are trying to create.

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“Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men…” – Colossians 3:23 HCSB (EA Business Development theme verse).

The Business Development Team exists to help Envision Atlanta reach it’s goal of becoming more sustainable.  We do this by creating work spaces that not only help fund the mission but also:

  1. Provide a livable wage,
  2. Function as discipleship platforms,
  3. And allow leaders to rise and be developed.

We believe that every person who follows Christ is called to be a missionary regardless of where they work or the vocation that they serve.  This means that those who are called to the Clergy and to Missions have no higher call than those of the Congregation.  Every believer in Jesus is responsible for the missions field that they are in! This attitude allows every job to be dedicated to God and therefore Holy calling.

As I’ve mentioned in past blog posts (Proud to be a Window Cleaner), our first work space we’ve created is a window cleaning company:  EA Development and Services, LLC.   A large portion of my time with Envision Atlanta has been spent building this company and growing the customer base.  By the end of summer 2018 we hope to bring our first employee on to the EA Dev and Serve team.

In December of 2017 Amanda Peters joined Envision Atlanta as part of the Business Development Team.  She is heading up our Thrift Store initiative and is doing an amazing job.  The thrift store has already started taking donations and we are excited to be releasing more details in the near future.  It has been a privilege getting to advise and oversee this project and I can’t wait to see its potential turn into reality.

This post originally was posted on www.brianvalois.com.