Randy Hollis on Poverty Dignified & a Self Funding Approach to Missions
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Today we’re talking with two people who can help us take a new look at missions work. Pastor Randy Hollis joins us today from Believer’s Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and Trip Critz joins us from Poverty Dignified in Charlotte, North Carolina.
About Believer’s Church
Pastor Randy has been with Believer’s Church for eighteen years and has been involved in missions work for a long time. His church of 500 members is made of contemporary worship and is a very immersive and involved church. Pastor Randy has been to China to spread the Word of God through laptops smuggled into the country, and has also done large crusades in Ethiopia, the Philippines, and other places across the world.
About Poverty Dignified
Pastor Randy found out about Poverty Dignified through a friend. Poverty Dignified created MyPower Solutions, which takes shipping containers all over Africa and completely converts them into solar powered charging units. People in Africa are walking long distances just to charge their cell phones and are dying from the paraffin fumes of lamps they’re using to light their homes. Poverty Dignified wants to change that. People in the community purchase small charging packages and come by every day to get their charging units fully charged along with LED lights and a tablet. Pastor Randy can then reach the people through these tablets while also helping to provide life saving electricity to people who need it in communities that struggle to maintain power.
Believer’s Church and Poverty Dignified have teamed together in order to change lives across the world. It’s easy for us in the United States to think that having electricity is simple and easy, but many communities in other parts of the world deal with constant blackouts. As you think about how your church could reach out to these people, think about ways you can change your view on missions work to see it as business rather than just a one time donation.
- Know where your missions are going. // Believer’s Church had been involved in missions partnering in the past, but like most churches, they found the downside was that they didn’t get a lot of follow up about what was being done with the donations. By becoming a part of the missions, they can follow the progress being made and know where the money is going and how it’s being used. What can your church do to know where your missions giving is going?
- End the welfare mentality in missions. // Most mission work relies on begging for money. By setting up a business-like mission that makes money and sustains itself, Poverty Dignified and Believer’s Church are helping put an end to the mission worker having to come back home every few years to beg for money to keep the mission going. The charging stations make their own money by selling charging packs to the people in the community, and that in turn keeps the mission work going. How can your church help people while creating a sustainable mission?
- Employ people in the community while creating sustainable missions. // In addition to creating a mission that sustains itself, these charging units also provide job opportunities for people in the community. The charging stations can be maintained and run by people in those communities who need work to provide for their families.
- Empower and raise people up out of poverty. // Poverty Dignified doesn’t want to just set up a mission in these poverty stricken areas, they want to raise people up out of their poverty. How can your church help raise people out of poverty? How can you give them the tools to change their lives and communities?
Visit MyPower-Solutions.com to learn more about Poverty Dignified and the MyPower Solutions micro-franchise opportunities. You can learn more about Believer’s Church by visiting TheBelieversChurch.com.
00:37: // Rich introduces Pastor Randy and Trip.
01:08 // Randy tells us a little bit about his background.
01:45 // Randy gives us a flavor of the weekend services at his church.
02:50 // Randy talks about some of the mission’s work he has been involved with.
03:57 // Randy gives an example of giving without accountability.
05:58 // Rich agrees with the importance of giving without accountability by offering an example of his own experience.
06:31 // Randy explains how he first connected with Poverty Dignified.
07:28 // Randy explains what Poverty Dignified does.
11:07 // Trip tells us how Poverty Dignified has opened up opportunities for volunteers.
13:32 // Randy explains how Poverty Dignified manages to sustain missionary work.
15:40 // Trip tells us the goal of Poverty Dignified is to empower people to raise out of poverty.
16:57 // Trip explains the franchise concept.
20:00 // Trip talks about the investment involved with purchasing a franchise.
22:23 // Randy talks about employing for the franchise and the impact on the community.
24:30 // Trip offers contact information for Poverty Dignified.
25:07 // Randy offers contact information for The Believers Church.
Rich – Well hey everybody welcome to the unSeminary podcast. Thank you so much for tuning in today. Happy Thursday, we know that you’re super busy as you head into this weekend at your church and we’re just honored that you would take some time out to put us in your earbuds, to listen in on today’s conversation.
I’m super excited to have Pastor Randy Hollis from Believers Church in Louisville, Kentucky and also Trip [Inaudible 00:00:42] from an organization that you probably haven’t heard of but I’m excited to get a bit of exposure to you today, it’s called Poverty Dignified and he’s calling in from Charlotte today. Pastor, welcome to the show today Randy.
Randy – It’s good to be here. I’m glad to have this opportunity Rich.
Rich – Yeah this is going to be great. I thought we could start by you giving us kind of a bit of a story, a bit of a background, give us a flavor for Believers Church there in Louisville.
Randy – Well Believers Church is a church of about 500 members, we’re not a really large church. I’ve been here 18 years. I came at the calling of the Lord 18 years ago and we are equipping and getting ready to start a second campus on the other side of Louisville.
Rich – Oh nice.
Randy – Yeah we’re just real excited about what’s going on here and we’ve been involved in missions for years.
Rich – Now if people want to come to Believers or they were to kind of come to your services on a weekend, give us a sense of kind of the flavor of your church, what would they experience when they come, besides stellar preaching from yourself?
Randy – Okay we are very involved in contemporary worship. We have an incredible band. We do about a 20 or 30 minute worship set. We have environmental worship, I’m not familiar with environmental worship but environment worship which is we’ve bought some really high end projectors and we project on most of the walls in the church. So it’s very involved in lights and you’re going to get a pretty good dose of lights and sound when you come.
Rich – Yeah very cool.
Randy – I dress, even though I’m getting up there, I’m 58 but I dress in blue jeans and wear a casual shirt and about 25 minutes teaching or preaching. So we’re very involved. It’s an immersive type atmosphere.
Rich – Very cool. It sounds like earlier you were saying you’ve done kind of a bunch on the missions or kind of international compassion front, which obviously is germane to today’s conversation. Give us a sense of the types of things over the history of your church that you’ve been involved in.
Randy – Okay let’s see. Well we’ve always been very involved in mission’s giving and I’d like to talk about that for a couple of minutes later on as we move along, but we’ve been very involved in mission’s giving and then also I’ve gone to China, Communist China and done some teaching over there in Shanghai, Nanjing regime, smuggled laptops in and then sent the word God on DVD. They don’t call it DVD over there but we send it on their format to them, send the word of God later, so we smuggled in a lot of laptops, I was involved there.
I’ve been to Ethiopia, we went to Ethiopia and did a huge crusade, spoke to about 400 thousand people at one time and made that trip and went to the crusade multiple times. I’ve been to the Philippines and done very large crusades over there. I’ve been to Norway, Europe, I’ve been to several places in the world to do mission’s work.
Rich – Now you were talking about mission’s giving, give us a sense of what that looks like as a part of your history as a church.
Randy – Well good, I’m glad you followed up with that. We’ve always been very involved in mission’s giving. A lot of denominations, we’re not a denomination but a lot of denominations do partners and missions and we, in the past, have been involved in partners and missions where a guy comes through on what you’d call deputation and puts his passion, his burden out there and then you give to that.
What we’ve found is that a lot of times you have no follow up. You give what you give and you really don’t know what the guy’s doing in his location unless he’s doing some kind of a blog or podcast or sending out multiple emails to you throughout the year to update you on what they’re doing. You don’t really have a good sense of what they’re doing.
So I’ll give you an example. We built for a missionary in Guatemala, we built the head church, the bible college and two of their main churches over there. When we did that and we gave sacrificially, the guy said, “You know we’re going to have your music group come and they’re going to open up the dedicatory service,” and on and on and on and this is kind of a nightmare story, but they needed a lot of money, built those three facilities and then they actually never followed up and that got us into the scenario.
So anyway, they never followed through. So even though we built the buildings and the bible college and the two other churches we never really had any follow through and so giving without accountability, for me as a pastor, is something in the past. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing with Poverty Dignified.
Rich – Yeah that’s great. You know unfortunately I wish that was a rare story but you know you’ve heard that from many church leaders, where they’re engaged in some sort of international giving and it falls through, it’s hard to track, it’s hard to understand where did all that money go. We had that happen at our church not that long ago, a couple of years ago and our partner, our US based partner eventually came back to us, you know, two years later and more or less, hat in hand and said… This was a significant donation that just basically went away and they apologized but they’re not entirely sure where it went and they’re trying to figure that out, so that’s unfortunate.
So obviously you’re predisposed to helping internationally, you’ve done a lot internationally and you got connected with Poverty Dignified. How did you get connected with this organization? What happened there?
Randy – Well I’ve got a lifelong friend who’s been in ministry about as many years as I’ve been in ministry, which is about 35 years and we’ve actually travelled, some internationally. So he called me and told me that his brother, Lloyd which pastors a church out of Charlotte, North Carolina, was involved with this team, actually members of his church had developed Poverty Dignified and had a really cool plan for missions.
So that’s how I got involved just through a friend and then I flew to Charlotte and actually walked through the franchise that I am now purchasing the first franchise for Africa. I walked through the franchise and just said, “This is what I’ve always been looking for.”
Rich – Interesting. So why don’t you explain to us? Let’s pretend for a moment that we’re a member of your church and you went out to explain what is Poverty Dignified, what is this solution that we’re talking about, how do you explain that to the people at your church pastor?
Randy – Okay, first of all we had slides and everything. Trip actually came to my church and helped with things like that.
Rich – Good.
Randy – What Poverty Dignified is, is you have a storage unit, a shipping container that you completely convert into a charge unit. It has solar panels on the top, it has 500 charger units that we give out in the community. As these people come in and purchase a small charging package and I’ll let Trip talk about that later, but they come day in day out. 72 million people in Africa have cellphones. The average African walks a day and a half to charge their phone.
Rich – Oh my goodness.
Randy – Okay, Johannesburg, a beautiful city, has three brownouts every day, it’s almost chaotic. So to have consistent electricity, especially out in the bush, they don’t at all, okay?
So we set this charging station, if you please, up in a community that can support it and they come and get their charger every morning, it will be full and they leave off their empty one, they get two chargers, so they live off their empty one, they go off with that, they get two LED lights which brings light to their home. Trip help me if I mess up on this. 40% of all the children under the age of 17 that die, die from paraffin poisoning. They literally sit next to a kerosene lamp and try to study and they inhale all of these fumes and they pass away from it. Now did I lose you or not?
Rich – No that makes sense. I guess the disconnect for me so far is, if I’m a person sitting in your pews like, “So why are we doing this? Why would we get involved in…?” Like I understand what you’re saying, okay so there’s solar power, “We’re going to do some sort of charging thing, we’re helping provide, help people keep their cellphones on, we’re helping provide electricity for light in their homes,” that makes sense to me, but why as a church would I get involved in that?
Randy – Okay the reason I asked if I lost you is because my screen went black.
Rich – Oh great.
Randy – Okay so I’ll finish. In the process of bringing electricity and charging to their home they’re also getting a small tablet. On that small tablet I’m able to put the gospel on the tablet that everyone that picks up their package and they’ll be 500 packages, they all get a tablet and they all get a direct connect from me as a pastor and I’m able to reach, I’m going to say a minimum of 25 hundred people with the gospel. I’m going to have my little podcast, my little blog out there and I’m going to be reaching them. They’re going to be able to go onto my website, they’re going to be getting… I’m actually starting an internet radio service that will be 24/7 that they’ll be able to listen to in their homes that will come through this.
So they’re all going to have a direct connect with me and I’ve got accountability okay? I know how much business I’m doing over there. I know how many people I’m reaching. They’re going to be able to give me instant feedback. It’s an amazing breakthrough in technology and that’s what I’m excited about.
Rich – So Trip how did he do? So Trip from Poverty Dignified, give him a little feedback, what pieces did we miss there, how is he doing there?
Trip – Oh Pastor Randy did great that was a very good explanation of Poverty Dignified thank you. I’m as excited as Pastor Randy is about what we’re doing down there.
Pastor Randy was talking about and you asked Pastor Randy what were some of the reasons why your church wanted to get involved in that and some of the things that Pastor Randy and the congregation and I spoke about was, the ability now for a church to be able to start their own mission’s work, to be able to say, “Hey we put these phone charge units in place, we not only employ people out of the community but we also now have a mission’s work that is there that’s established and the big part is, it’s sustainable.” We don’t have to continue every single month now, or year, to write a check and support our missionaries down there and our mission’s work because it’s sustainable. We have revenue coming in now and so not only is all of the budget met but every day we directly control the content that’s put on each one of those mini tablets. We speak every day to 25 hundred people and we share with them the gospel. They’re an extension of our church, it’s almost like having a satellite church and it’s just exciting.
So now also Pastor Randy and his congregation, let’s say that there’s a person there who’s in education and she’s been a teacher for years and she’s always wanted to volunteer her time to help people on the mission field but couldn’t go on the mission field, now because we have Wi-Fi we create hotspots right there around our franchise units, she can literally Rich pick up an iPad and she can login and then actually tutor people that are there, kids that need help with a certain subject. So she can be on the mission field helping and being a part of changing people’s lives right from the comfort of her own home.
So what it does is opens up a new opportunity for people to be involved where they couldn’t before and instead of taking a passive approach to missions they can take an active approach to missions.
Rich – Fascinating. Now you’re using language that might be losing people a little bit. You’re talking about franchise and you’re talking about making a profit.
Trip – Okay.
Rich – Are we talking here, is this like a donation that the church is making, they’re dropping all of this into the field and how is this any different than just kind of a more typical kind of international compassion work?
Randy – I’d like to answer that if you don’t mind.
Trip – Go right ahead.
Randy – I may not do a good job so Trip may need to jump back in. We’re trying to end the welfare mentality in missions. There’s nothing wrong with putting a business on the ground that is making a profit that is sustaining a missionary and keeping him in the field, he does not have to come back every four years to go around the country and beg for money, he’s not dependent upon the whims of somebody giving their $25 partner mission pledge every month, but he’s out there, this is sustainable.
This business is going to go somewhere between 75 and 150 thousand a year in profits after everybody’s paid and not only that but we’re lifting the community. When we go in with this we hire a manager and then we hire ten other representatives that go around to the homes with their iPads and show them what’s downloadable for the week and what’s available, what’s free from The Believers Church for the week, on and on and on.
So we’re tapping into funds that they’re already spending locally. They’re either walking a day and half to get their phones charged or they’re paying somebody to get in a taxi and ride to the nearest town to get it done, paying 25 cents per charge is what the average is. So we’re helping them by letting them do this in their own home and we’re bringing the gospel to them and we’re bringing electricity to them.
We’re also tackling the mountain of influence here. We’re in the industry and we’re actually taking the lead in video, in music, in all of these and kind of controlling what they’re seeing and what they’re hearing over the internet. Not that we want to be control freaks here but we’re steering that vehicle, we’re going into areas which are like the 1800s, they don’t have any of this stuff. So we’re bringing it to them and the first message that they’re hearing is the gospel message with it.
Rich – Very cool. Trip how does leveraging kind of market dynamics help with helping people on the ground ultimately? You talk about Poverty Dignified, the name of your organization, how is that helping to raise people up rather than maybe taking advantage of folks on the field?
Trip – Great question Rich. The way we approach that is that Poverty Dignified, what we’re interested in doing is empowering, not only the individual but also the community and the local economy.
So what we did was we took a look, because we’re business men, we’re entrepreneurs, we love the Lord, we want to see the gospel go forth, but we want to see people empowered and raised up out of that poverty condition into a dignified condition and there’s a way that that can happen.
The people we found in Africa primarily are not looking for more handouts, they don’t want that dependency any more, they want to be empowered to rise up out of these conditions that they’re in and to be able to learn what’s necessary so that they can now become what they believe God’s called them to become.
So what we’ve done is taken that approach Rich, where we want to raise up entrepreneurs there. We want to give them the tools that they need to be successful, not only to change their lives but to impact their community and their local economy. So that’s the thrust of Poverty Dignified.
So when we go into an area, what we say is, “How can we help these people? How can we train them? How can we give them the tools that are necessary for them to change the condition that they’re in?”
So we looked at, you mentioned a second ago, about how is this franchising, you might be losing… Let me explain that real quick.
So we took a look in these rural areas in Africa and we said, “Look there’s basic needs that are there, we’ve got people that are walking three days to charge their cellphone. We’ve got people that are breathing in these paraffin fumes from just light for two hours a night to study by and it’s killing them.”
We saw that their education was non-existent and when it was existent it was so just crude, it was so sub-standard and we thought there’s got to be a way that we can provide better solutions to the problems that these people have in rural areas. Even in South Africa Rich, which is one of the most industrialized, Johannesburg is, the most industrialized cities in all of Africa. The company there Eskom, told us they would be ten years in getting power out to the rural areas and yet here are these people out there crying for some kind of simple solution to their basic daily need for power.
So we just took simple products. We took LED lights. We took a battery that you could charge. We took a mini tablet, the size of your iPhone with a 4 inch screen and we put them together in a kit and we said, “If we could deliver these out to the people we could start to change their lives but how are we going to deliver that to them?”
Then we thought, “Well there’s 40 foot shipping containers all over the place on the ground in Africa, why don’t we take these shipping containers and turn them into a business, a franchise concept?” So we put solar panels all across the top. We have a solar panel inside that provides the charge or the power necessary to charge the 500 batteries that Pastor Randy was talking about.
So now, every day, we’re a simple battery exchange business where they have a battery that provides them the charge that they need for these basic devices for seven hours a day, on one battery. Then they simply come and exchange that battery the next day, we give them a fully charged batter and plug that one in so it’s ready for them the next day. So we said that would be our delivery vehicle.
Then we said, “Well how do we get churches involved in that? How can we start to make this a business opportunity?” So we set the franchise structure in place, did a full franchise disclosure document [Inaudible 00:19:13] franchise our organization, just like McDonald’s or Wendy’s or anything like that.
So now churches like Pastor Randy’s can come and they can say, “You know what, if I buy one of these franchises I can set it down in a rural area, it can be an extension of my church. I can change people’s lives on a daily basis as well as generate the revenue necessary to cover all of my expenses and now whatever’s left over then the missionary down there can send it back to the church?” What a paradigm shift that is, the missionary is supporting the church instead of the church supporting the missionary.
Rich – Interesting.
Trip – So that’s where the franchise concept came from Rich.
Rich – Interesting. So what kind of investment does a church need to make to even be thinking about getting involved in something like this?
Trip – Well the franchise costs $105 thousand. Now you might think, “Wow that’s a lot of money for a church,” but most churches are spending somewhere between $50 and $100 thousand a year supporting their missions anyway. So if a church decides, “This is part of our mission’s plan, this is what we feel like is a great strategy for us,” then they can purchase a franchise and then they engage with the management company that’s down on the ground in Africa, who literally sets up the franchise, does the site selection for them, recruits and hires the employees and also works with the missionary that will be overseeing that franchise.
Then what happens is, the 500 kits Rich that each of the customer will have, we can support 500 customers, they purchase those kits.
Rich – Okay.
Trip – Then that revenue that comes from the purchase of those kits then is what is used therefore to cover the budget and things of that nature.
So we’ve worked with the banks. The banks wanted to expand their footprint out into the rural areas. So their providing was called Micro Finance Loans to the people in the area, so they don’t have to come up with the full amount for the kit right out of the bag, they can spend monthly what they’re already spending on products that are sub-standard and we give them world class education on the tablets. They can have anywhere from 12th grade to a college degree on a mini tablet and it’s world class.
So that’s kind of the revenue stream without getting too much into the details, but the first year revenue comes in at about $120 thousand, that’s 53% EBITDA and people will go, “What’s EBITDA?” Just cash flow, after you’ve paid everything you have $120 thousand. So first year, you really can projected make your investment back and then every year after that, if you do nothing but service those 500 customers that you already have, you’ll have something that sits there at about $75 thousand a year cash flow and just continues to speak into the people’s lives every year thereafter.
Rich – Interesting, fascinating. So on the ground you answered a question I was going to go and ask, on the ground the actual end users, it’s like a subscription based kind of system where every month they’re paying for the right to be able to exchange batteries?
Trip – Yes.
Randy – Can I jump in real quick?
Trip – Absolutely.
Randy – They’re paying anyway. They’re already paying for the kerosene, they’re already paying for… We’ve already figured those numbers out. I hope that suffices, if it doesn’t Trip you can jump back in but I do want to add one thing.
Rich – Yeah.
Randy – We give 10% back to the community leaders, this is set, we have to, 10% every year. Then for the ten employees that we have involved as well, the ten employees that I will be employing, we’re paying them an average of $300, is it $300 a month, isn’t that right Trip?
Trip – That’s correct yes.
Randy – They have never seen that kind of money. One of the chief waiters at one of the top five star hotels in Johannesburg, he’s been there 18 years, he’s making $300 or $400 a month. We’re taking ten of the top people in the community there and giving them a job that they would never get any other way. We’re lifting the community.
With the profits that come back it’s at our discretion. If we want to put a well in the community, we want to put a little clinic in the community, we’re able to do those things but that’s at our discretion. We’re lifting the whole community as we go and that’s something that’s never been done in mission, well not to this degree.
Rich – Right that’s fascinating. Anything you want to add there Trip?
Trip – No Pastor Randy covered it, he’s covered it great. Your question, if I answered it critically and completely is the batteries that they’re paying for each month. Yes when they purchase a kit that includes the battery charging for that whole year as well as monthly downloads of content onto the mini tablets. So it’s all inclusive.
Rich – Well this is a fascinating solution. I think it’s an interesting approach. I think it’s obviously very innovative and I’m excited to see as it rolls out, as you have more churches come online, as you see impact happen on the ground.
Just as we wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to say in conclusion, anything you want to make sure here Trip, as we close up?
Trip – Well Rich I would just like to invite anyone that’s interested in finding out more information about what we do, they can go to our website which is mypower-solution.com. That is the name of the franchise concept, My Power Solutions and it’s at mypower-solutions.com. There they can register and they can actually go in and see the full-blown franchise presentation as well as get information about what we do, how we do it and if they’re interested in a franchise they can contact us for more information.
Rich – Very cool. What about you Pastor Randy, if people want to get in touch with you or is there anything else you’d like to share in conclusion?
Randy – Yeah I would. Many of you will probably recognize the name Wesley Korir. Wesley won the Boston Marathon about four or five years ago. Wesley affectionately calls me dad. Wesley’s story is a beautiful one. He comes to America, runs races so he can go back and help his people.
We fly a young man from Kenya by the name of [Inaudible 00:25:30] he came here this last month, ran a race and set a world record with another young man, they both set new records in half marathon and he claimed to run to make money so he could go home and educate his children, education is not free over there.
So the revolutionary thing that’s happening here is, I think the average cost over there is around $50 a month to educate a child. We’re lowering that to $10 a month with these tablets. Education systems, through the roof excited.
I just think it’s a great opportunity for us to change. I’m more excited about changing the paradigm on missions and how we move across the world with missions. We need to not only give them the gospel, we need to give them hope. They need to see a way out of their situation, we’re taking an [Inaudible 00:26:23] setting and tweaking it a little bit to where they can go someplace in their own community to find employment, help and that kind of thing. I think a lot of things, we’re just touching the iceberg here today, there’s a lot more that’s going into this than just a charging station. We’ve stepped two, three, four, five, six but that’s it on my end.
You get hold of us by going to thebelieverschurch.com and we’ll try to reach out in any way we can to help people and I’m just thankful for the opportunity to talk to you today Rich. Good meeting you even it’s on video, so that’s all I’m going to say.
Rich – Yeah thank you so much for being on today guys. I’m excited to echo what you’re saying there Randy. The part I find intriguing about this is I think it is one of those ideas that has the opportunity to spring other ideas and really ultimately I think impact the way we do international compassionate mission work. So I’m super excited to have you guys on the show today, thank you so much for your time.
Trip – Thank you.
Randy – Thank you very much.
You lost me on this one. I don’t know these folks, but their talk of profits and missionaries funding the church seemed a bit backwards to me. I would have filtered this message before airtime. I’ll check back another time but I fear you lost me.
thanks so much for expressing your concern. I can understand why you might be hesitant about this approach to funding missions. its going to take us all to come up with innovative new approaches to face the real world realities that we have of reaching the world around us. I do think this might present some early innovation that we should be thinking about. However, I understand that this approach might make some people very comfortable. Thanks for your honesty!