In 1999, 24-year-old James Wessel, a volunteer firefighter with the Brindlee Mountain Volunteer Fire Department in Union Grove, Alabama, proudly drove the department’s newly purchased used fire truck to its first alarm.
En route, the engine lost power and shut down. Nothing could be done to restart it.
After receiving a repair estimate, fire department volunteers contacted the dealer, expecting that the warranty would be honored but discovering that legal counsel was their only recourse.
A Christian, Wessel prayed and sensed God leading him to launch a used fire truck business, Brindlee Mountain Fire Apparatus, and he purchased his first used fire truck with a $10,000 loan from his mother.
Since then, Wessel has made it his mission to serve fire departments throughout the nation and world by selling used fire trucks, with warranties. Christian principles guide him and his company.
During a recent seminar, Wessel credited investors with providing necessary capital for him to fulfill his mission, which has expanded into gathering firefighters to respond to wildfires and seeking ways to take the gospel to 1.2 million firefighters in the nation.
Wessel’s story was one of many shared at the Oak City Redemptive Institutional Investing Retreat in Asheville, North Carolina — an event sponsored by The Baptist Foundation of Alabama.
Baptist Foundation connection
John Ashworth, president of TBFA, said, “The retreat offered a time for ministry partners of Baptist Foundations in Alabama, Florida, Missouri and South Carolina to learn how their funds can and should be used as a tool to redeem the world for Christ, not just from the returns they generate but through the way the money is invested.
“The discussions revolved around how the gospel should affect the way Christian ministries and churches shepherd the capital God has entrusted to them. Participants learned how God is using faith-driven investments for His glory.
“At the Baptist Foundation, we help churches and ministries use their cash reserves to do ministry, even before they spend it on missions or programs,” Ashworth explained. “This is possible through the faith-driven investments we offer that seek to produce a financial and a spiritual return.”
Oak City Consulting, founded in 2012 and based in Wake Forest, North Carolina, works with Christian organizations to develop investment processes that align with their beliefs and serve stakeholders.
For Christians “the gospel should affect every piece of our lives, including the way that we invest the capital that God has entrusted to us,” said Brett Danforth, Oak City’s director of client development.
While not a new idea, the concept of faith-driven investments has “gained some momentum” in the past several years, he noted. Today, faith-driven investments focus not only on certain industries to avoid, known as “negative screening,” but also on “Christians pursuing redemptive impact with their capital,” Danforth explained.
Such investments include real estate, biotechnology, healthcare, education, banking, responding to human trafficking and child labor, and more.
Real people with real stories
Christie Baucom, Oak City’s director of compliance, was drawn to faith-driven investments when her youngest son was diagnosed with cancer at 13 months old. The treatment was “intense, quick and brutal,” she said. He survived but will have lingering side effects that can be “life-altering.”
“None of us left that time unscathed,” Baucom related.
When she discovered that some investment firms focus specifically on researching medical treatment options and breakthroughs that don’t conflict with Christian values, she found herself “weeping in the kitchen.”
“Real people with real stories are impacted by the work we’re doing,” she said.
Elisabeth Armstrong, director of healthcare initiatives for Eventide Asset Management in Elkhorn, Nebraska, reflected Baucom’s passion.
“Our healthcare system is broken,” the bioethicist said, adding investors can “leverage their power” to speak to today’s pressing healthcare challenges such as gene therapy, neural data and drug pricing.
“Everyone can and ought to engage in bioethics, take a seat at the table,” Armstrong declared. “This is a pivotal time. How we do it today will impact tomorrow.”
For the past few years Next Door Photos has been taking pictures and video of real estate, responding to a specific need in a niche market. Yet beyond the business of serving realtors and making money, Next Door Photos is creating worldwide impact.
When Taylor Blom launched Front Door Photos in 2012 (later acquired by Next Door, which he co-founded in 2015), he had a dream but few financial resources. As Blom secured a loan, he knew he wanted his budding business to make a difference. He wanted to “create a business that created freedom.”
Today, Next Door Photos has hundreds of team members, with many representing vulnerable, rescued and at-risk populations throughout the world, including the Philippines, Kenya and Nepal.
Employing these individuals with fair wages and safe work environments has freed many from the bondage of human trafficking.
“The Holy Spirit wants to move in your investments,” Blom asserted. “The work of the Holy Spirit can always be measured in freedom.”
Touching everything in the world
From selling used fire trucks, to addressing healthcare challenges, to hiring individuals rescued from human trafficking, money matters.
In Mexico, investments that provide banking services for the poor helped a woman launch a successful company to inflate soccer balls.
Across America, investments provide temporary housing for refugees and opportunity to succeed in a new homeland.
Throughout the world, investments that make education widely accessible help individuals reach their God-given potential.
Many “systems” in the world are “broken by sin,” Danforth said, but he believes investing in solutions that “bless people” helps improve those systems.
“All investing is impact investing,” agreed John Coleman, managing partner with Sovereign’s Capital in Raleigh, North Carolina. “Asset management touches almost everything in the world.”
Numerous financial management companies, in addition to Eventide and Sovereign’s Capital, help direct such investing, including Callis Capital, Courage Capital Management, Veriti Management and Creation Investments Capital Management.
“I hope that the momentum we are seeing in redemptive investing is driven by Christians seeking to glorify God,” Danforth said.