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Support RighTrak’s effort to end poverty and homelessness one x one. Donate to the cause by clicking the button above.

In record time RighTrak received its 501(c)(3) public charity determination from the IRS! RighTrak originally was a project and sub-fund of the Iota Development Foundation, but it has since spun off into its own freestanding nonprofit. We filed for determination in February and received our determination letter from the IRS in late July. If you’ve ever dealt with the IRS and determination letters you know that’s unprecedented speed. I think someone is looking out for us.  🙂

 
 

Introduction by David LeFevre

When you hear RighTrakers talk about relationship building, they often speak in terms of “investing” in people. It’s an appropriate metaphor. It requires intentionality, attention and patience, and whether we like to admit it, we expect some sort of return. (Just think of the one-sided, one-way “friendships” you’ve had and consider for a moment whether they were really relationships.) Relationships are mutual exchanges, but exchanges of what? In telling his own RighTrak story, Matthew begins to answer that question.

My Story by Matthew Norris

Let me just say that this past year with Willie and the other members of this community we call RighTrak has been incredible.

I decided to get involved and invest in Willie because I wanted to help him improve his life. However, it would be quite misleading if I made it sound like only he benefitted from me. In fact, I believe Willie has taught me more than I could ever teach him.

IMG_1277Over the course of this past year Willie and I have developed a relationship in which I encourage him to persevere in his work and continue to lead a fulfilling life. This typically occurs while we’re experiencing life together. For example, we’ve played nearly weekly chess games, where Willie has schooled me and the two of us have enjoyed conversations that run the gamut—what God is saying to us, how he is speaking into our lives, where we are struggling and how we can pray for each other. Through these experiences, we’ve forged a friendship that I treasure greatly.

Having a friend who consistently asks about such things, I believe, has encouraged Willie to not slip back into bad habits characteristic of his old life. Meanwhile, through this time spent with Willie, I have gained an incredible friend and learned so much about perseverance in trials and living out God’s will for your life. Willie is a true man of God and genuinely cares about his family, which now includes the RighTrakers.

Willie has let God use his experiences—good and bad—to encourage me and help me through my own struggle with sin. Willie is never afraid to share his own experiences, so that I can see how far he has come with Christ’s help. I know that God has spoken into my life through Willie, and it has been a blessing.

The best way I can put it is Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Willie has sharpened me, and I him—this I never expected when I decided to “help” Willie.

 
 

People who know me know that I dream big, grandiose even. RighTrak was no exception. Originally I wanted to be the next Mark Junkans, founder and executive director of LINC, a man I have a lot of respect for as a faith-based entrepreneur. I wanted RighTrak to be the next up-and-coming nonprofit agency, maybe even a United Way agency with a half-million dollar budget, a handful of staff, office space, the works. But that wasn’t His plan, at least not right now.

As the work of the RighTrak pilot project unfolded two things became readily apparent. First, no matter how much structure I built into the project plan, the structure never accomplished anything; rather, it was relationships that transformed Willie’s life. The “table” became an extended family, and the slightly larger network of table members, supporters and come-and-go-as-needed utility players became a community. We knew from the very beginning that relationships were important, but here we were writing a “plan” to create a “program” and “structure” for a “project.” The relationships did develop, but it was probably in spite of the structure not because of it. To paraphrase Brad Bandy, co-director of the Spero Project, “Poverty and homelessness are not problems to be solved. They are people to be known.” Individuals and groups take on projects. Communities support and encourage their members. The difference is absolutely fundamental, and facilitation of the latter is RighTrak’s mission.

This brings me to the second realization. RighTrak, as an organization, cannot and should not follow the prototypical charity startup model. It must be as minimalist as possible, and here’s why. Somehow most Americans have come to accept the notion that it’s perfectly acceptable to outsource love and kindness to social welfare agencies and non-governmental organizations. I’m not diminishing the important relief role those organizations play, but that model is the opposite of community. So if communities and relationships are the special sauce, then we have to fundamentally rethink the way social service is performed, and we cannot fall into the same trap, no matter how good our intentions are.

The result of these two kairos moments was the transformation and solidification of RighTrak’s mission:

To promote and facilitate communities focused on ending poverty one x one.

RighTrak isn’t just another human care nonprofit. In fact, it isn’t a human care agency at all. It doesn’t do social welfare or mission work itself, and its one staff member doesn’t do social welfare or mission work. Rather, it is ordinary people —volunteers—who live missionally and love others by serving them. RighTrak’s job is to show people what it looks like when ordinary people, in community with others, help the least of these. Because ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they are part of a community. RighTrak helps facilitate that by telling the stories of the community and the brother and sister members it helps. It supports the community’s work by providing training, funding (when needed) and other resources.

Funny thing is, this isn’t revolutionary. Jesus had the idea 2,000 years ago. He didn’t say, “Go find a charity that loves other people and give money to it.” No, He said, “[You] love them as I have loved you.” John 13:34. He showed His disciples the way, and then told them to go do it.

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