Part One: Mexico
We talk of Christ, we hope in Christ, but do we do business with Christ? Do we do laundry with Christ, pay bills, exercise, or work with Christ? For some, faith is acted out on Sundays or in formal ministering. For others, faith is in every footstep of pioneering an exit from poverty for themselves and their families. The Academy for Creating Enterprise helps people all over the world put their faith into practice to become self-reliant by learning business principles to start small family businesses.Our five-part series will cover stories of faithful entrepreneurs from Mexico, the Philippines, Peru, Venezuela, and Brazil.
The Academy started in 1999 in the Philippines, and expanded programming to Mexico in 2010. That first year in Mexico, 80 students participated in training. In just nine years, participation grew to over 1700 individuals in 2019, resulting in over 1100 new businesses.
Elder Bednar quoted President Benson in the April 2020 General Conference, “The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.” Countries across the world battle poor economies and generational poverty. The Academy not only teaches business principles but leverages the common faith of members of the Church to illustrate how their faith can impact their temporal well being in addition to the spiritual. In the following stories, business owners partner with Christ to overcome every obstacle they face.
It’s easy to assume our leaders experience fewer trials. Javier’s story shows that faith doesn’t immunize us from struggles, but it can help us find our way to a solution.
“Brothers and sisters, you all know that I am a stake president. I am sure you all assume that because I live the gospel and I am a church leader I am automatically successful in business. However, let me tell you I am in the worst financial situation I have ever been in my life. I am in debt and I have not known how to make my small business grow. The Area Seventy over my stake, knowing my horrible financial condition and knowing it has impacted my self-esteem, my happiness, and my ability to lift others, called me three weeks ago and said, ‘President, I have been praying earnestly about your situation. I have thought long and hard about this and taken my feelings to the Lord. Please, President, I promise you in the name of the Lord that if you and your wife fast this weekend and offer a generous fast offering, the Lord will give you a miracle.’ When I told my wife Elder Lyons’ message, she said, ‘How in the world are we going to do this? We barely have enough to survive but, if it comes from the Seventy then it must come from the Lord. Let’s do it.’ So, we did.”
With tears in his eyes President Javier said,
“When I heard about the focus of the Academy, the Lord confirmed to my soul that the Academy for Creating Enterprise is the miracle that Elder Lyons was inspired to tell me would occur. Each day I am here, I know more and more this is exactly the miracle the Lord had in mind for me. I am thankful I listened to the voice of the Lord and that I am here. I know my stake will be fine and my family will be safe while I learn the culture of economic success. I know I will be more complete as a person and as a son of God.”
President Russell M. Nelson said, “During times of deep distress…the most natural things for us to do is to call upon our Heavenly Father and His Son, the master healer, to show forth their marvelous power to bless the people of the earth.” As we reel from the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, we can learn rich lessons from the deep faith lived moment by moment in the lives of small business owners in Mexico as they call on the Lord on behalf of their livelihood.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught, “Like two sides of a coin, the temporal and spiritual are inseparable.” Just as we are instructed to “cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks,” members of the Academy in Mexico involve Heavenly Father in their daily businesses decisions.
Rosario had already taken major steps toward financial independence. After participating in the Academy’s programs, she transformed the front of her home into an interior design shop, complete with sample booklets and staged examples of design in her shop. She values her customers’ experience and makes sure they get royal treatment every visit. If you were to visit with Rosario, she may share one of thousands of stories painting the way she relies on the Lord daily.
For example, one day a woman stopped by Rosario’s shop to commission an interior design project. Rosario assured her she could accomplish the project, but she needed fabric neither she nor her regular supplier had access to. She prayed and asked God. She felt prompted to call a friend of hers. The friend didn’t have the fabric but offered to connect her to his supplier—a boon in and of itself! Rosario contacted the supplier, who said they had the fabric in question. She zipped across Mexico City on the subway to pick up the fabric, but they would only sell her the entire bolt, not the length she needed. She exited the warehouse lugging a massive bolt of cloth. She started toward the subway stairs. The guard refused entrance to her and her heavy purchase, and she found herself stranded at the side of a busy road, with no money to take a taxi. Again, Rosario prayed. A thought came into her mind to try the subway entrance across the street. The guard let her pass and she rode home with her bulky purchase. Exhausted, she exited the subway at her stop and looked up the steep hill to her home. One more time she poured her heart out to the Lord, and He sent a neighbor with a truck to drive her the rest of the way. From getting a new supplier to hauling a hefty bolt of cloth home, Rosario involves Heavenly Father every step of the way.
Jose and Alejandro
After the friends returned from their missions in 1998, they decided to bake bread to earn money for a temple trip. Years later, they found themselves and their families dependent on an incredibly small bakery. At the time they enrolled in the Academy, both men admitted their marriages were stressed because of the strained financial situation. Through the principles they learned in the Academy, the brothers began to expand their business by buying vehicles to transport their bread to stores, opening their own store, and expanding their bakery. Their greatest goal is to industrialize their business.
When the brothers’ wives saw the effort that their husbands put forth they decided to support the bakery. All four signed a contract that stated that they promised to go through with the plan regardless of what happened, and that they would not abandon it at the first sign of trouble. Currently both families are working in the bakery.
When asked how their business applies to their faith, Jose said,
In order to serve God better, one must have the resources to be able to move about freely, to be able to go to interviews, go to meetings, activities, and to be able to visit with others. When I don’t have money, I can’t serve. Now, we have been asked to participate in the stake self-reliance center. Whatever our bishop needs, our vehicles are there for him. We have gone to the temple more because we have the resources to get there and renew our covenants with the Father. The Academy made it possible for what was in my head to change in a good way our way of living.
Academy participants in Mexico illustrate the myriad of ways we can invite God into our lives and our businesses. In all three stories, Academy participants approached challenges in partnership with the Lord. His help reflected the need each participant had. This is a testimony to believing that Christ isn’t just our Savior, but believing Christ when He says He will help us in any situation. Do you believe Him when He says “the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do”? How about when He claims “It is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine.” Do you believe He is in the step by step construction of your temporal well-being? He was for Nephi: “And the Lord did show me from time to time after what manner I should work.”
Your temporal salvation is as important to Our Heavenly Parents and our Brother Jesus Christ as is our spiritual salvation. For more faith-filled stories about work and business from around the world, follow us on social media at The Academy for Creating Enterprise (Facebook), @academyforcreatingenterprise (Instagram), @AceAcademyUtah (Twitter). If you feel inclined to support positive changes in the lives of entrepreneurs around the world, click here to donate!