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Discovering Innovation in the Story

Sometimes we can get overwhelmed by the wide array of out-there innovative possibilities and miss the potential right in front of us. In today’s post, Chandler Carriker shares the story of how Lutheran World Relief discovered a new way to drive mission by reorganizing work it already supported. In fact, it’s become so essential to my life that I give thanks for it every single morning (and sometimes afternoons too). How might you lean into the possibilities near at hand?

Yours truly,

Adam Copeland,

Center for Stewardship Leaders   


Discovering Innovation in the Story        

Chandler R. Carriker

Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength… - Isaiah 40:30-31

Innovative renewal is an important responsibility for all of us entrusted by God with resources to make a difference in the world. And just like the “youth” and the “young” in Isaiah’s vision, we can grow faint and weary chasing every shiny new thing just out of our reach. What if innovative renewal is less about chasing something outside ourselves and our communities, and more about waiting? What if innovative renewal can be discovered amongst the relationships, the resources, and the narratives which already exist around us?

For over 20 years Lutheran World Relief has been engaging Lutherans in the exploration of how not only their charitable gifts but also their consumer dollars have an impact in the lives of the global poor through decisions like how they purchase their coffee. Now more Lutherans than before are asking the important question of how that delicious cup of coffee they are about to drink impacts the lives of farmers.

At the same time, we pursued our mission around the world to break the cycle of poverty by regularly working with coffee farmers, their families, and their communities. From Nicaragua to Uganda to Indonesia, we were learning that to make a sustainable difference in the lives of the poor, coffee was one of the most important resources.

What renewal could happen amongst U.S. Lutherans, our donors and those we serve around the world when we found an innovative way to bring these stories together in a deeper way?  In stewardship when you can tie two stories together that’s where magic happens: the magic of innovative renewal.

Last year, with our partner Thrive Farmers we began to dream about what could happen if we made available to Lutherans in the U.S. a delicious roast of the very coffee that was being grown by the farmers, families and communities who have benefited from their financial support of LWR. What deeper level of renewal could we create around the world and in the lives of our donors by bringing these stories together in an even deeper way?

LWR Farmers Market Coffee is the result of this practice of waiting, observing and discovering innovative renewal hiding in plain sight amongst the resources God had given us. These two stories we had lived with for so long were brought together, creating something new. Lutherans who love coffee and coffee farmers whose families have benefited from the generous giving of Lutherans now giving to one another in a deeper circle of generosity

And the story is what is important here. It’s the story of farmers like Gustavo Herrera, who desires to provide a better future for his children. It’s the story of his granddaughter, Maryering, who is thriving in school and planning for a future made possible by a sustainable family business. These are the same stories you’d hear at your own local farmers market, now brought from around the world with the hope and promise of being a part of this deeper circle of generosity.

So what resources within the reach of your ministry, your community, can you move around and look at in a new way? What stories can you bind together in new and compelling ways? How can you stop chasing the new shiny thing, “wait for the LORD,” and discover innovative renewal in the ways you steward all God has given you?

For More Information

Chandler Carriker is a deacon in the ELCA who serves as the associate director for outreach and engagement at Lutheran World Relief.

Rethinking Stewardship: Join us on July 25-27 for three days of conversation and exploration at Luther Seminary's Rethinking Stewardship: From Solemn Obligation to Inspired Choice. More information here.

Author information was updated as of the article's post date. Author profiles may not reflect author's current employment or location.

"Haru Picking" image by counterculturecoffee. Creative Commons licensing via Flickr.

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