Young alum's nonprofit corporation aims to fulfill economic vision
Release Date: July 17, 2009
PLAINVIEW – It was one of those “light bulb” moments on his second trip to Kenya that began to hone Micah Evans’ call to mission service.
“We were building a wall for a church there and using the indigenous stone to the area,” said Evans, a May 2009 graduate of Wayland Baptist University. “It was heavy, bulky and uncut, and it took us almost two weeks to build that wall. I wondered out loud why they weren’t using cinder block, and folks didn’t know what I was talking about.”
That moment gave Evans an idea that has shaped his path to service. Already intent on blending his religion major, business minor and heart for missions into a career in economic development, Evans said the wall experience took his vision from a large, ethereal dream to a more concrete plan.
Evans wondered if cinder block – used extensively in the Western world for building projects of many kinds – could be introduced to Kenya and other developing nations to cut down building costs, construction time and stimulate economic development.
He returned from the January trip to begin formulating his plan, laying down a blueprint for how the project would work and securing help from others on campus. He sought assistance from Dr. David Schmidt, assistant professor of geology, to analyze a piece of the indigenous stone he brought back to determine whether it could be used to create a version of cinder blocks overseas. He involved business professor Dr. Gilbert Werema (a native of Kenya himself) for cultural input and business planning and WBU Mission Center director Dr. Rick Shaw with advice for the mission side of the endeavor.
With all these ideas and plans finally coming together, Evans took the next step shortly after graduation, forming a not-for-profit corporation he calls Leverage International, Inc., LLC., a name that came about with a conversation with his dad about his dream.
“I told him, ‘I want to provide the people with enough leverage to move past where they are,’ he said. “I can’t give them income but I can provide the tools and opportunities for them to help themselves. I just want them to get past simple survival.”
The next step, aside from gathering funding to build the business, is to purchase land in Kenya and build a factory to produce cinder blocks. Initially, Evans said, the factory may produce on a smaller scale, with room to grow production as needed.
The idea is that the corporation would build the factory, invest in the machinery, hire native Kenyans as employees and management and stimulate the economy by providing jobs and lower-cost building materials, making quality homes more affordable to build.
“In 3-5 years, we would then give the factory to the Kenyans, with Leverage retaining an advisory role on their board of directors, leaving them to grow the business and be self-sustaining,” Evans said. “Then we’ll move on to help another area.”
Aside from the economic impact, Evans said the primary goal is to create new opportunities for the gospel to be shared. A portion of the profits from the Leverage factories will support existing ministries in Kenya and any other nations in which they locate.
“To try and establish new ministries would be ridiculous. They don’t need a Westerner coming in there to do more ministry, they just need an opportunity to sustain what is going on and expand it,” he said, noting that in Kenya the Shade Ministry to HIV patients and the Miracle House orphanage would be key ministries supported.
While the building materials may be a good fit for Africa, other areas may find economic development in other indigenous materials or trade skills, and Evans said he is open to going wherever God leads him to make an impact. He said other WBU mission groups are creating ties and investigating possibilities for Leverage involvement as they work in other countries.
Evans spent part of his earlier trips visiting with principle players in Kenya, garnering support and feedback, and he did more of the same on his recent trip in July. He hopes to have enough financial support to purchase and import the machinery for the factory and move to Kenya with the coming year to stay temporarily and get the business up and running. December graduate Bonnie Jo Bagwell is serving as chief financial officer for the business, and WBU senior Jessie Else is secretary. The group is already working on a marketing strategy for the corporation, especially in the foreign nation, and they hope to have a Web site up soon for information and donations.
“We’ll be trying to convince people to build with something they’ve never used before,” he said. “There will be some skeptics, I’m sure.”
While the last few months have been exciting for Evans, he admits the whole thing feels sort of like a roller coaster – scary and fun and thrilling all at the same time. But he knows God is working and inspiring him and that alone gives him confidence to press on.
“I’m learning to trust my gut a lot. I feel like I know what I’m doing but then I don’t know what I’m doing,” he laughs. “But it’s exciting still.”
To invest in Leverage International or for more information, contact Evans at (505) 205-6288 or by email at micah.evans@Wayland.wbu.edu.