For more than 14 years I’ve had the privilege of living out life with women who have been given the choice of freedom.
It seems this freedom business thing does work. It provides hope where there was hopelessness, a choice when there was no choice at all – the chance of a new life that leads to freedom.
A life journeying with women discovering freedom, what can I say? There’s nothing else like it in all the world and, to be honest, I’ve discovered my freedom is tied up with theirs too.
However, there have moments in my life when I’ve realised I’m a bit slow to pick things up.
For a number of years I thought the way to more freedom was growing one business as big as it could get, until I ran a few numbers around in my head.
Sonagacchi, our neighbourhood, potentially home to 10,000 women trapped in prostitution would simply not be transformed by Freeset, and the other amazing freedom businesses in the area, growing as big as they could.
Between us we employ around 3% of the total women there which means there’s a big number to go – around 9,700 at least.
You see, I still believe in a God who wants justice. The one who came to set the oppressed free. I still believe he wants to do this today and that this massive problem is not too big for him. I believe he weeps for the women of our community as he weeps for many communities like ours around the world. I believe he calls those of us claiming to be his followers to be involved in his kind of justice in his world.
There’s this idea that runs around in my head all the time. If God can bring freedom for 300, why can’t there be freedom for 3000 and even more? Getting carried away now, why couldn’t he transform our community; change it from the inside out, a Kingdom coming here on earth if you like.
I still believe.
With this belief we move forward with two key fundamentals as part of our strategy:
The first one has been part of our thinking from the beginning. It’s not a new idea because we’re just trying to follow the one who called us.
I love the bit in John’s first chapter (the Message version),
The word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood.
Being neighbours for us is extremely important.
Okay, so that means living and working in a red light area. I figure since Jesus left his father’s side and moved in so can we. It seems to me that the gospel is about transformation of communities from the inside out rather than living on the outside and venturing in every now and again – after several rounds of prayer to make sure we’re protected enough and don’t get tainted.
And then there’s the privilege of, in some way, being able to live in solidarity with our neighbours. And what a privilege that really is. I can’t describe it. You have to be in the neighbourhood to really understand.
So, if you want to find out, you know what to do.
I can hear people saying it’s not as simple as that, which may be fair enough. But… sometimes I think we use logic to talk ourselves out of things. So much so we miss an amazing opportunity to follow Jesus into the neighbourhood.
Our second strategy is multiplication. Transformation of our neighbourhood means we need to move from growing one business to growing many. It’s true, I was a bit slow to get this, even though it seems so logical now.
We need lots of freedom businesses bringing choice to many women. Simply put, we have a God-given mandate to multiply. It’s what he wants to do in his neighbourhood.
This is where the Business Incubator kicks in.
Having learnt a thing or two (although still lots to learn), we’re putting energy into anyone who wants to establish or be part of a freedom business in this part of the world.
If you have started any new business you know how hard it is. But, when the selection process for new employees is based on giving them the choice of freedom rather than the skill or ability they bring, that brings added challenges – lots of them.
So then, how can we bring expertise around people and organisations to give them the best possible start and continue to journey with them to sustainability and growth? That’s what we are working on. Not for Freeset businesses but for freedom business because freedom is the bottom line, not the growth of any one organisation.
Today, at long last, the idea of freedom business is being taken more seriously. For years, it’s been perceived as ministry masquerading as business. Organisations trying help through employment. Things are made, carried home by foreigners who sell to their friends, but it’s really just a donation.
Sound harsh? Maybe.
But if we really want to see God’s kind of justice and freedom then the business needs to be sustainable, it needs to be the best it can be.
For some reason we have this tendency to be far more professional when we are looking to maximize profit, yet when it comes to maximizing freedom it’s doesn’t seem as important.
I just don’t get that.
Part of the problem is the way we, as leaders, approach freedom business. Although we’ve progressed, some of us still think being involved is a commitment for a few years before we can get on with our real lives. Very few have seen leading, or being part of, a freedom business as a career option or a life choice.
It’s something we do for a while before moving on.
Yet, we’re happy to tell the world how much God loves our neighbours, the ones he calls us to – well, for a little while at least. Still harsh? If God loves these people so much then surely we can give our lives for them.
The Freeset Business Incubator is here to put as many resources around people and organisations as we are able. Product development, marketing, sales, accounts, administration, training. The list goes on. There is even space to get started at the Gateway Building.
But, when it comes to leadership, what we can’t do is move into the neighbourhood on behalf of others. We’re here and hope you come join us in this community or another.
We can’t stick around, love people and live out life with them for you. You’re going to have to do that. But I promise you, it’ll be worth it. Being part of and seeing freedom in action every day, that’s pretty hard to beat.
This multiplication thing only works if the right people interested in his kind of justice and freedom put their hands up and say, “Yes, we’re in for as long as it takes. We’re going to move into the neighbourhood, live life in solidarity, work hard and together establish and grow the best freedom business possible, because our neighbours are worth it.”
And. If your heart is in that kind of place or even heading in that general direction, wow, we would love to help.
Kerry is the founder of Freeset, a freedom business in India and has been working freedom in their community for over 14 years.
Photo credits: A.Rane via Flickr