This is what I like to refer to as "Ecto 1". It reminds me of the Ghostbusters rig in the movie except rather than keeping the spirit containment unit in the basement of the building, we just mounted it on our truck. It's also my SECOND pickup truck. I don't know how this happened. I grew up two blocks from the Pacific Ocean in surfing country. And while I was born in Virginia, I was not born in pickup country. Some people have called it "Dorothy" from the movie Twister. Others say it looks like a Portland food cart version of a Breaking Bad episode. To me, Ecto 1 is a sign of everything that is awesome about social enterprise and the church. It is a symbol of friendship, fellowship, and shared passions.
Ecto 1 is simply a watering truck on a converted F-250 pickup truck.
About 9 months ago our Downtown Business Association recruited Mowtown to water their downtown flower baskets. They hang them every year in the downtown area in order to beautify the local business district. They had a truck, with a built in watering apparatus, and all we needed to do was supply the workers and a bid. They had also worked with teens and young adults to water the baskets previously. So, we leapt at the opportunity. But, that's when things got a bit more complicated.
For various reasons, our local city didn't want Mowtown to rent the truck. They also didn't want to sell us their old 1970's Dodge Pickup. And this is where things got awesome.
Several of my team members stepped in. First, they went out and looked for pickup trucks. They went to local auctions and online. Eventually they found a truck they liked and when they told the owner what we were up to he knocked the price down substantially. But, that is where the real work began.
These guys spent hours thinking about the best designs. They purchased a tank and mounted on an aluminum reinforced palate so that when the watering season is over we can pull the tank right out of the truck. I consulted with friends who are engineers about pickup size, and water shifting, and baffles. Next they put in a pump, mounted a light on top, consulted with the city about stripping the old truck for watering tools. They fixed up the actual truck which needed some significant work. It had holes in the pickup bed and needed a new bumper.
All along I had to proceed in faith in this because I know nothing about cars. I can change oil, tires, spark plugs, batteries, and filters, but I don't. Ever. I loathe working on cars. I know how to do some things, but I don't really "get" cars. But, because these guys on my team care about students and about this idea that we all have been working on they laid out for this idea in terms of money, time, and passion.
A few weeks ago I went over to one of their houses to borrow their dump truck (yes they have one at home) and there was Ecto-1. I couldn't believe it. I honestly felt like crying the next day in worship because I was so thankful for friends like these. I know they enjoyed doing it, but I don't like when people help me out usually. I am pretty independent. It was humbling to say the least.
My point in all of this is simply to say the social enterprise requires a bunch of risk and trust. It also requires community. As much as I have wanted to test a model that proves to someone else that they could do this on their own too, I have had to realize that this is a group process. It takes way more than just my passion to get something like this off the ground. It takes the gifts of others too. I continue to learn that lesson in spades.
But, this is why the church matters. The church is a bucket of ages, stages of life, gifts, talents, treasures, and passion like no other that I know. It has a built in ethic to lay one's life down for the sake of the world. As I continue to argue and believe, it is one of the best vehicles I know to engage social enterprise.
This morning at 4 a.m. an 18 year old student and a hard working American who emigrated from Central America are out watering baskets in our downtown. We are helping them economically, they are forging unusual community together, our downtown is being beautified, we are making some profit, and my church community is more engaged than it was a year ago. It's the best missional idea I have ever had.
If Christian Social Enterprise is wrong, I don't want to be right.