RighTrak Makeover: The Mission


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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