fbpx

An Update On Elijah Rising’s Social Enterprise

For the past several months we have been evaluating our programs. Through this evaluation we realized the need to refocus on the priority aspects of our mission. The 4 pillars of our mission are prayer, awareness, intervention and restoration. As a result, we decided to outsource the social enterprise portion of our program in order to increase bandwidth within our organization.

Since making this decision, we have been in contact with Mercy Goods, who have agreed to manufacture and promote our products under the Mercy Goods brand. Mercy Goods exists to create employment, job-training and mentorship opportunities for at-risk youth. Mercy Goods has been a long-time supporter of Elijah Rising.

As the brainchild of our former Social Enterprise Director, Sam Hernandez, Elijah Rising began making candles in our kitchen with survivors of trafficking about 4-5 years ago.  From there, the social enterprise grew from online shopping only to a store front and expanded to many different handmade goods. It’s been a labor of love that has offered the women in our restoration program an opportunity for economic empowerment and to make quality products that the Houston community has grown to love and request.

In our latest podcast we invited Zach Lambert, Director of Mercy Goods, to share more details about what this partnership looks like and we share the story about how this relationship began!

Video Version

Audio Version

Thank you for listening!

If you’d like to share your thoughts on this episode:

  • Leave a comment below this blog post.
  • Share your biggest takeaway on Instagram stories. Most importantly, be sure to tag @elijahrising so we can see them.

If you have found our podcast helpful, please take a minute to support this program by:

  • Leaving a review on iTunes—your reviews help us reach new audiences, and we love to read your responses.
  • Subscribe on iTunesSpotify, or YouTube.
  • Share this podcast on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

Transcription

John:
Hey, you guys welcome back to the Elijah Rising podcast I’m your host, John LaChapelle. And I have the privilege of being joined by two incredible guests. The first our case manager at Elijah Rising. Miss Jennifer Merrick welcome.

Jennifer:
Thank you for having me, John. Happy to be here.

John:
Glad to have you and our special guest this is Zach Lambert. He’s the director of Mercy Goods. Zach, welcome to the Elijah Rising podcast.

Zach:
Thanks for having me. I’m excited to sit and chat with you all.

John:
Awesome, man. Well, since this is your first time on the podcast, why don’t you just share with your listeners, our listeners, who you are? What is Mercy Goods? Just give us that whole backstory of how you guys started.

Zach:
Awesome, we’ll do. My name’s Zach Lambert moved to the Houston area a little over five years ago with the purpose of helping plant a new church in the Richmond area. Mercy Goods we came up with this idea and this concept when we lived in the Austin area. The idea was that we would help men become men again, take these men coming out of a drug treatment center and help them find employment. But also help them figure out how they can be dads again, how they can be husbands again, how they can get back into that normalcy of life. And so God gave us this vision while we lived in that area and so then we moved here to help start a church and God reignited that and said, okay, Mercy Goods you’re going to walk that out here in the Houston area.

Zach:
And so right now, what we have been doing up until today is bring in high school kids in. Once the school district has identified as at risk or potential dropping out, and we want to be able to provide them with hard job skills. So we have a wood shop and we have a metal shop and so we’re teaching these students how to design and build furniture.

Jennifer:
That’s amazing.

Zach:
So we’re taking these kids figuring out, okay, what do you want to go? How do you want to get here? What’s your plans and goals and what’s keeping you? And then, okay, let’s walk there together. Let’s do life, let’s have those conversations we need to have and also sometimes I get to have those. Okay. That was a poor choice you just made. What can we do better next time to make sure we’re getting there and all that.

John:
That’s amazing, man. What has partnership with Elijah Rising looked up until this point with Mercy Goods?

Zach:
Yeah, I think so when I first learned about Elijah Rising, I was like, okay, I want to come alongside them in somewhat, some way and all that. So I was okay, we have a store, let’s buy candles. So I’m like, let me support Elijah Rising by buying the candles that we can sell in our store. When I first learned about Elijah Rising it’s whenever the location was off 59 near all those import car places. And I set a meeting up saying, okay, I’m going to go meet them. I just want to see what they do. I want to walk through this museum of modern day slavery and see what that’s like. And so as I was getting the address and pulling it up on my phone, I saw a Facebook post or Instagram post or someone from Elijah Rising that said we just had a John self visit the museum looking for services.

Zach:
And at first, so I was pulling up into the parking lot when I saw that and so I’m like, “Oh, well, shoot.” I had a little freak out moment because I’ll be like, I don’t want them to think that I’m here for these services like I walking up to the door. So at first I was like, oh, my gosh. I don’t want them… Then I immediately something inside of me, God, the Holy Spirit said, okay, don’t be freaking out about that. You should be angry about this. Angry that sin has taken over in this person’s life. And then God threw something else at me. I was like, okay, now it gave me more of a desire and a passion to walk alongside Elijah Rising. It’s like, okay, we’re here on mission how can we support and come alongside? But yeah, we love the candles, we sell them in our store. We have people in Fort Bend County that will come to our store at Mercy Goods to buy the candles and all that.

John:
That’s incredible.

Zach:
Yeah.

John:
Yeah. What love even about what you shared, the Elijah Rising mandate really, we see it in Malachi: 4, 5 and 6, that the spirit of Elijah would turn the heart to the fathers to the children, children to the fathers. And just to hear how you take in some of these young men who coming from fatherless homes or coming from unstructured homes. And just to hear that discipleship, I think that even more emphasizes this really sweet partnership that the Lord has brought together.

Zach:
Yeah. Little backstory is like I was that church kid. I grew up at the church and everything with the church, mission trips, soup kitchens, all that kind of stuff. So growing up, I found my identity in doing the right thing. Doing what’s good. Oh, that’s a good thing that’s what I’m going to be known for and all that. Titus 3:5, He saved me not because of the righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy. So God really got a hold of me like that said, yeah, you’re doing all these good things, but that’s not why I saved you. But I saved you because of my mercy. So that’s where that mercy part of Mercy Goods come in that because God’s mercy is so huge and so massive for us that that’s why he saves us. That’s why he loves us. That’s why we brought us into that.

Zach:
And so with Mercy Goods, we want to teach that to our students because a lot of our students in our situation or people in Americans today is like they want wrath and they want vengeance and all that kind of stuff. And God say, okay, be merciful because I am merciful and all that.

Jennifer:
That’s so [inaudible].

Zach:
Yeah.

John:
That’s so special, man. Thank you. Well, I mean the ministry, the work that you’re doing, it’s incredible, but it’s not totally the reason why we brought you on today. We actually have a special announcement and I would love for Jennifer to announce that for us.

Jennifer:
I am so excited to announce that Elijah Rising we’ll be collaborating with Zach and Mercy Goods to take over the making and selling of all of our handmade goods with the social enterprise goods that empower stores, so yay. So excited about that. You know, many of our listeners may know this, but if they don’t social enterprise was the brainchild of our former social enterprise director, Sam Hernandez when Elijah Rising began making candles in our kitchen with survivors about four or five years ago. And from there it’s just grown. You know, it went from being an online store to having a storefront. We have expanded from candles to soaps and lip balm and everything else and so it’s really just been a labor of love for our organization. And what we’ve seen is that it’s brought an element of economic empowerment to the women in our program and just them to be able to make these quality goods that like you say, Fort Bend County and other places is within Houston, have grown to love and specially request our candles.

Jennifer:
And so this has just been like a really special project for us but over the past several months we’ve been in much prayer and the Lord has just been leading us to be more focused on those four pillars on really the main aspects of our mission, which are prayer, awareness, intervention, and restoration. And so for that restoration piece with the economic empowerment, we just feel like the Lord wants us to outsource that. And to come alongside these business partners that are like-minded, that are trusted in our community wanting to do good, already some of these are donors or supporters of us just like Mercy Goods and just giving them an outlet to give back too to our women. And we’re just excited to see what this turns into because they’ll be able to expand their networks and their communities, and just grow in a way that just having the connection to Elijah Rising wouldn’t have done for them. And so we’re super ecstatic to partner with you guys and to see what is to come of this and just to see it grow.

Zach:
And whenever we first started talking about this, I got excited because when God gave us the vision for Mercy Goods, He also gave us that word goods because it’s so generic. And so like we had a desire to see people become whole. See people become healed and it started out with students right now but as God has opened up new mission opportunities, new service opportunities in our community, we want to be able to take that word goods and find something that somebody can make and they can be a business owner or be empowered and be able to be creative and make something. So we knew that there will be multiple demographics that we’re serving and that in those different demographics like we can come in alongside you all with the ladies coming out of these situations and they can do Mercy Candles and Elijah Rising Candles. We knew there was something inside, there was God was like, okay, this is going to happen at some point be prepared and all that.

John:
That’s so special and I just want to highlight too it’s a beautiful thing for a nonprofit to go, Hey, we’ve been doing this and it’s worked really well. It is fulfilled the assignment of what we feel like God gave us it for. And now we get to transition that to someone who’s doing it full force and can do it with excellence because we have to focus on some things that God is saying, hey, strengthen what remains here and let this grow. So do you all want to speak to that? Just this it’s almost this John 17 like be one, like who’s doing it well, let’s let them do it and let’s do it we do well.

Jennifer:
Absolutely. Just unity in the body of Christ and when we think about the body and all of its parts, like each person has its function, each business, each organization has its function. And if we are walking in our purpose and doing that, well, why not link up with someone who’s doing their purpose well and still accomplish the same goal? And so I really feel like that’s what we’re doing here with this collaboration.

Zach:
Yeah. And Mercy Goods we fall underneath another nonprofit called Attack Poverty. So whenever we first moved here, we saw there was opportunities to serve and all that. And I saw this other nonprofit named Attack Poverty that was already serving. And part of the things that God really spoke to me about is like for people to come out of poverty they need jobs. And so this is just another thing that’s fallen in line. And it’s like, we as believers we tend to see something that needs to be done and we think that we have to do it, whenever God has empowered somebody else. And so we end up losing point of the mission I think whenever we try to do everything ourselves. And so what I see here now like I mean, this is a beautiful picture of God’s people coming together and then I’m not an expertise in sex trafficking. I don’t know.

Zach:
I want to learn and what we can to help stop and bring awareness and all that, but you all are. And so it’s beautiful to be able to come alongside and say, you know what? I will support you in this mission. I will come alongside you. I will do those things so that you can speak life into these ladies.

John:
Yeah. I love that. That is so special. It’s really breaking down some of those taboo nuances of nonprofit world and what it means to have a vision, stick to that vision. Now, we get to be pliable and moldable and really follow the Lord and not a structure. So I just really appreciate you both highlighting that. Zach, just from your perspective, what does this collaboration mean for Mercy Goods? Partner with Elijah Rising and just seeing a little bit of an expanse happen with candles and different things speak to that a little bit?

Zach:
Yeah. I think for me with this I see growth. I see a lot of times there are some people that don’t like growth. Growth sometimes is not comfortable, so growth is beautiful. I see this as you know, like we look at it, think about an orange. We can count the seeds inside of an orange, but I can’t count the oranges that are inside of that orange because all those seeds have the potential to do something and be oranges and all that kind of stuff. So I see here as like an opportunity for us to grow and multiply, I see opportunities for life. I see opportunities for healing and restoration. So the more stories and people that I can walk alongside and be that glimpse in a view of someone being healed through Jesus.

Zach:
Healed emotionally, physically, spiritually, see families become families again. For me it’s just like, I see potential for… We can talk about seeking the welfare and prosperity and that word prosperity sometimes has that taboo word. And it has been taken out of context and used out of context but prosperity I see the ladies that we’re able to walk alongside you with, get into some normalcy.

Zach:
And then maybe go get a full-time job somewhere where they are being prosperous and growing and then finding ways that they can serve and tithe and give back and volunteer at different things. So with us being underneath a nonprofit Attack Poverty, they have multiple occasions throughout Houston. And so if we see these ladies come to this area where they’ve gone through the process of healing and restoration, and then they can come to a point where you’re like, you know what I can serve and I can love somebody else in this situation. They can serve that situation in a way that I can’t because I have not been there. But so I see opportunities for ministry and life and salvation and just ways that we can touch souls that we would never be able to do by myself and so, yeah.

John:
And that’s so special, and we have this conversation all the time when it comes to the sex trafficking demographic, what can we offer them that is going to supplement or exceed the income that they’re making now? I think that’s kind of the trade off. People don’t want to leave the life because they leave some of the comforts or they leave some of the securities that their abuser is giving them. And so to have these opportunities where they can actually learn a trade and learn how to be valuable and even bring something to the table that they might not have known was within them to develop is so key. And I think it goes back again, just to that fathering, mothering piece, we have this opportunity to nurture, equip and mature a demographic that never had that opportunity. And so can you speak to that just from a case manager’s perspective like you encounter women on a daily basis and the situations that they’re in?

Jennifer:
Oh, I think that’s great. A lot of it is also just life skills like people willing to give up their time of their resources to mentor and to show these life skills and things that we take for granted every day. And just for example, just knowing how to budget and to do those things and realize that I can do that. And I might not make the same amount of money, but I also have more security now. I also have safety now. I also have a community of village of support and knowledge that I didn’t have before, where I was totally dependent on other people before now. I’m more independent even though it came at maybe a cost of less income, but it’s a balance. And just explaining that to them, to where they can appreciate what they’re gaining over what they’ve lost.

John:
Yeah. That’s really, really good. Yeah. And for those who have sowed into the social enterprise at Elijah Rising, those who have been with us on the journey and with that being said, we want give a shout out to Sam Hernandez, this was her baby that she birthed. It has been such a gift to the women that we’ve served and continue to serve opportunities to develop and grow in skillset. What’s the development plan for this collaboration? How will this partnership still impact the women that we serve?

Jennifer:
I think that’s a great question. So the handing over the social enterprise, because that empower production of the products is one piece of what this collaboration looks like. But the other part is called the workforce development program that we are partnering, not just with Mercy Goods, but with other trusted business partners in the Houston area to provide not only a job, but also a development plan. So what are those skills that they should leave their first job with? So not just making candles, but do they have the customer service skills? Do they know how to do the presentations or to be able to speak in public and different things of that nature? So we’ve developed this development plan that each of these different business partners will have and they will walk alongside the women that are employed by them, they’ll give them a fair wage.

Jennifer:
There will be opportunities for them to have a mentor and just really learn the things, not just specific to that job, but just in the workplace and corporate America, just knowing how is it going to be different for me and having that partnership and mentorship by someone to ask the questions that they may not feel comfortable asking in a regular workplace.

Jennifer:
And so this is just kind of an exciting project to me because we’ll not just have a Mercy Goods which I’m ecstatic about, but we’ll also have other companies that do other things. So having restaurants and floral shops and even customer service companies that can teach them all manner of different skills and they can find what’s a good fit for me and not just feel like they’re forced to do the only thing that we were able to provide. And so I’m just excited about what’s to come and just a shameless plug for anyone out there who wants to partner with us. We are open and still taking business partners for this workforce development program so that we can work with as many companies within the Houston area to provide jobs for the women in our restoration program. So reach out to Elijah Rising. You can ask for the case manager or anyone else, we will get you involved.

Zach:
That’s awesome Jennifer. I’m having a lot of conversations with other employers about being intentional with their hiring. And so like they may be a for-profit business and so I’m like using words like for-purpose business like how can you… You have to hire someone. And so let’s be intentional with that. Let’s put our “money where our mouth is.” We say we want to build up this community, we say we want our neighbors to do well and I’m like, well, let’s hire from our neighborhood. Let’s hire from people that grew up and that could benefit from having a livable wage and all that. So from even just talking about this on the down low until now with some other employee and talking to them like, “Hey, there’s opportunity for this that we’re about to step into.” They’re like, “Okay, when they’re ready, let me know I’ll hire them.” So there’s some good. It’s bringing that awareness of like as an employer, as a baker you can go in there and fight these injustices as a baker.

Jennifer:
I love that.

Zach:
Yeah. And just empowering and motivating and putting them on mission as a baker that they can fight these things.

Jennifer:
Yes. Especially because one of the largest issues with the women of this population finding long term employment is they may have a criminal history, they may have something in their backstory that if these partners know, hey, they’ve been through a restoration program, they’ve been through our curriculum, they’ve shown that they’re willing to do the work, why not give them a job? Why not like you said put your money where your mouth is and show that this is a way that you can give back?

John:
Right on. Guys, that is huge and I think so many of our listeners are encouraged and even stirred by an opportunity to actually create a new beginning for someone who in society’s eyes is just thrown out or they have this record it’s still there. It’s not been expunged. So we really don’t want that in our business or our organization. But to see that there are people who are extracting the gold and really finding the beauty in their stories and helping them find a new beginning is so, so huge and so thank you both.

John:
Zach, I’d love for you to cast some vision for our listeners where is Mercy Goods headed? If you could speak into the next five years, the next 10 years that I think many people probably don’t know about you, but you’re on the school board, you’re impacting communities, like you’re not just building your kingdom, you are actually looking for regional transformation. How can people get involved and sow into what you’re doing?

Zach:
I will start first by saying, there’s this thought that I’ve been meditating on a lot lately and it’s not my fault, but it is my responsibility. So like there are some things that happen in our community. We’ve had floods after flood, after flood then we had this thing called Harvey come alongside, not our fault. Then we had COVID come along, not our fault, but how we respond to that. And so with all those things through Mercy Goods, then me being on school board just trying to be a community leader, I want to help motivate our community to say, there are these things in people’s lives that are not my fault and it’s not their fault, but as a believer, as someone who wants to seek the welfare of our community, I’m going to take on that ownership and that responsibility to make sure these people are healthy, happy, and whole.

Zach:
So five, 10 years from now, I would love to see a happy, healthy, and whole community. I would love to see a neighborhood that takes ownership and responsibility of elementary school. Where we know of that poverty and reading levels go right in hand with each other. So if a kid doesn’t learn to read by third grade, their chances of ending up in poverty drastically increase, which means if they end up in poverty then sex trafficking and prostitution and all that plays into a role. So what I’d like to see, I’d like to see happy and healthy elementary schools so that those students can come and give and learn. But that means we have volunteers in our community serving and loving.

Zach:
For Mercy Goods I would love to see that word goods that different demographics of pockets of people serving and loving and helping people figure out how to be creative. How they can make something, how they can earn a living. I also like to say, people are either going to make a living or take a living. And so we want to see that prosperity of people making a living and earning income, but also contributing to that community development part of that. I can keep going on [crosstalk] there’s a lot I see and I see God is leading us through it. And I also see me trying to get out of His way, let Him work too.

John:
Yeah. No, that’s… And you even talking is stirring me up and so is there any ways that people listening that they can come be a part as a volunteer or they’re like, “Hey, I want to sow financially into what you’re doing.” Can you just give us some channels or some opportunities to jump on board?

Zach:
Yeah, absolutely. For volunteers and you know, this being non-profit with Elijah Rising we just want, and I think God desires people to be present and just showing up and doing life. Having like a Paul-Timothy type of relationship with these people we’re like, “Hey, this is how you balance a checkbook, but then this is also how you fill out a job application. This is how you sew on a button.” So just all these tasks that we take for granted, somebody doesn’t know and that’s an opportunity for people to come up, show up and serve for the love. So for volunteers, whether it’s through Elijah Rising or Mercy Goods come be present with our participants, I think.

Zach:
Our workshop and our store is located in Richmond, Texas so we’re at 501 Morton St in Richmond. Website is mercygoods.co, Attack Poverty’s website is attackpoverty.org and there’s tons of opportunities to get involved and to financially donate and support. And so there are some people that are like, “Hey, I can’t volunteer or I’m out of town or out of state, but I love what all these ministries are doing together.” Get that donated out on all of our websites.

John:
So we’ve got the restorative care arm that is seeing practical holistic rehabilitation for these women, getting therapy, getting counseling, going through education programs. And then we have this to other arm of equipping them in job skills, training them, furthering them, seeing opportunities that are even beyond. I love that you’re like goods is so subjective, it can mean anything. What do you have in you that you want to pioneer? We want to be a resource for you. And so I think this collaboration has more potential than maybe we see at this grassroots space, but Zach, we just really appreciate you coming onto the podcast and being with us to pioneer in our region this collaborative work. And we’re believing God for beyond what we’ve put our little hands too, so Jennifer, thank you for coming on as well and thank you guys for listening.

John:
We hope that you feel stirred to sow in whatever that looks like to you, that’s not just monetary to sow into the collaborative work of Church, the people of God unifying together to tackle something that’s way bigger than us. And so I’m reminded of Micah 6:8 Micah, the prophet is saying, “He has shown you, oh, man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” And so we just want to leave you with that verse that He’s shown us and so it’s now on us to respond to Him. So thank you guys for joining us on the Elijah Rising podcast, until next time.

Related Posts

Engaging The Church To Impact Communities – Interview w/ Tre9, Eyes On Me Inc. – Ep. 57

In this interview with Tre9, Founder of Eyes on Me Inc, we talked about how to engage the church to impact communities. Eyes on Me, Inc has a number of different outreach programs for communities that are typically low income, high crime, and under-served. For years they have done after-school mentoring, prison ministry, church partnerships, and so much more to...

Why Does The Sex Industry Target Children?

We ask you to engage with this content so that you can become informed and equipped to stand for righteousness in this age. Sex trafficking is an epidemic today, and one of the major contributors is the increased exposure to pornography at younger ages. Most people know this, but many are uninformed about the intentional targeting of youth by the...

How Can SANE Nurses Combat Human Trafficking? – Interview w/ Andrea Cressy – Ep. 56

Andrea Cressy is the Forensic Nursing Program Director at Houston Methodist. She is also a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) nurse with both national and international certifications to conduct forensic exams. Andrea talked to us about the importance of training SANE nurses to identify women in trafficking situations, resources Methodist provides women they suspect are being trafficked, and challenges they...

Relying On Holy Spirit – Interview w/ Frankie Mazzapica of Celebration Church of The Woodlands – Ep. 55

We were thrilled to interview Pastor Frankie Mazzapica, founding and lead pastor of Celebration Church of The Woodlands, Texas. Celebration Church is a source of strength for many families and ministries including Elijah Rising. In 2018, Elijah Rising’s Executive Director, Micah Gamboa, was speaking at Celebration Church when she experienced sudden cardiac death and miraculous resuscitation two days later. Since that moment healing and...

Working With Youth Survivors of Trafficking – Interview w/ Amber Sharp of Home of Hope – Ep. 54

A study done by the University of Texas at Austin states there are more than 300,000 victims of human trafficking in Texas, including almost 79,000 minors and youth victims of sex trafficking. In our experience of doing outreach and intervention we also come across teens being trafficked on the street and even in strip clubs. In this episode, we are...

Gen-Z & Social Justice – Ep. 53

A major focus of Gen-Z is getting behind causes especially in the realm of social justice. In this podcast we interview two Elijah Rising Staff Members, Sage and Janae, they work in our Restorative Care Program and they are passionate about anti-trafficking work and sharing the Gospel. We talk about social justice, ministry, and the hyper-sexualized culture which targets this...

Leave a Reply