by Evan Keller
What brings a stone carver and a mechanic together? Although they‘ve never even met, this story connects two (of my favorite) people who revel in lavishing generosity on others. Both Josue and Don beautifully embody the joy of giving that my new book explores. They are master craftsmen who love blessing people through their handiwork: Josue’s hands work in stone and Don’s hands master mechanics. Their Haiti-Florida bond was born in February of 2012 as we at Creating Jobs Inc mentored Josue Jean-Gilles in his business of creating plaques and gifts carved from stone.
At the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake, Josue suffered damage to his Léogâne home and workshop while fellow church members lost their very lives. Important foundations of his life continued to crumble as his mother died of a likely curable illness and his wife abandoned him and their children. After we heard Josue preach with passion one Sunday morning, his divorce forced a year-long furlough from teaching and leading at his church, which shook him further. So, you can see that his youthful face masks more heartache than a young man should have to bear. Yet his soul has not shrunk in self-protection but keeps giving, hoping and investing in others. It would have been natural to closely guard what remained, including a regional monopoly on his type of artisanal stone carving. Instead, he spread his skills far and wide by sharing his well-honed techniques with not only employees, but many orphans, and several new competitors he helped to raise up. Now that’s a mindset of abundance!
In the course of mentoring him in business, we learned of a major bottleneck in his production: each piece of stone was being cut by hand (see below) with a hacksaw! But what choice did he have with limited funds and intermittent electricity? How could we help him overcome this to multiply his production capacity?
Nine hundred miles away in small-town Florida, Don Rilea’s loud laugh and hearty slaps on the back echo in each gathering he attends. Don possesses the endearing trait of always noticing and pointing out people’s strengths. His genuine love and generosity have made him a father figure to me, and we’ve made some hilarious and harrowing outdoor memories together. He excitedly tells adventure (and fishing) stories – his own and those he’s read about. Recounting impossible feats reveal his admiration for mental toughness and physical talent, of which he has a surplus. In fact, he’ll not hesitate to tell you how to solve a practical problem – or he’ll do it for you. He can fix or build anything – and does so for anyone! Although he’s always fixing a car or remodeling a kitchen for his kids and grandkids, he’s built several things for me as well. His big-hearted generosity is much like Josue’s; they both steadily invest their talent, treasure, and time in people.
Moments after I shared about Josue’s need for a pedal-powered stone grinder at church using the above slide, Don bounded up to me and said: “I’m going to build that for you to bring to Haiti! When can we get together to draw up the plans?” With his characteristic wholeheartedness and ingenuity, Don poured all sorts of hours and dollars into engineering a bicycle grinder complete with table and guide rail to make a straight cut. Best yet, he made it so it could be disassembled to fit within a suitcase! Don obsessed at perfecting this masterpiece and giving me detailed reassembly and operation instructions for his labor of love that was a complete surprise for a long-distance neighbor he’d never met.
Josue’s smile shows what joy was sparked by the love of a faraway brother who was no longer a stranger. It blessed him that Don went to so much trouble to lighten an unknown brother’s burden. The sense of not being alone helped Josue through his darkest years. The grinder was a blessing as well. He found it could polish as well as cut, becoming a primary tool in his workshop. He promptly employed it to create gifts for Don and several of his family members.
As he improved the efficiency of his business over the next several years, he grew into a local mentor for 12 other entrepreneurs! When I asked him if that was too much, if he would burn out, he quickly quipped: “No, I love this stuff!” Watching him mentor others (below) was quite a sight – his joy, their gratitude, strong friendships, and profitable synergy.
Through their others-centered lives, Josue and Don show us how to create value that serves people. Instead of hoarding their resources, they use their hands and hearts to bless. They take materials and talents that come from God’s hand and become spreaders of his abundant grace. All they have and are is available for God’s use. As their generosity continues to expand, Josue and Don are having a blast, always gaining bigger doses of life as they become clearer reflections of the Jesus they follow. Their bridge into each other’s lives across multiple gulfs testifies to the oneness of the global church, the good it can do together, and the resulting joy. Such cascades of kindness spark much gratitude to God for his overflowing life and love.
Excerpted from Evan’s new book
The Heart of Wealth: Spreading God’s Joy
Available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions.
Evan Keller has been married to his beloved wife Karen of 25 years – a former nurse who’s a creative cook and baker. In addition to escaping to the mountains, they enjoy life in DeLand, Florida which is near to their 14 nieces and nephews. Evan is a University of Central Florida graduate, an ordained minister, a member of: Rotary, NAACP, and Christ Community Church in Daytona Beach. Evan is addicted to playing basketball, and dabbles in off-road biking, paddling, and mountain backpacking to experience God in the splendor of His Creation. At work, Evan co-leads talented teams at two ventures he founded to leverage business for good: the nonprofit Creating Jobs Inc and the for-profit Tree Work Now Inc. Creating Jobs Inc equips global nonprofits to develop entrepreneurs using its two step-by-step 350-page business training books entitled StartBook and GrowBook. Evan is the lead author of these resources which are printed in many languages and used in several countries, and has more recently authored The Heart of Wealth: Spreading God’s Joy. Tree Work Now Inc develops its 25 employees both personally and professionally and creates exceptional value for 1,000 customers every year while increasing the health, safety, and beauty of their trees.
To enquire about Creating Jobs, StartBook, GrowBook or to connect with Evan, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.