For me, a business trip to India didn’t hold much appeal. I had no interest in going to Bangalore or New Dehli; India just wasn’t on my bucket list.
But after a trip to Uganda this spring opened my eyes to the impact Movement can make in communities around the world, I wanted to learn more about what one of our partners is doing to impact the community in India.
Years ago, CEO Casey Crawford and I chose Flatworld, a faith-based outsourcing company, as a business partner because of their similar interest in reinvesting profit in the community around them. With our large volume of loan production, we needed to find a company who could work during off-hours to help support our team here in the U.S. But we wanted to be intentional about our decision.
“Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you.” ~ Deuteronomy 16:17
We chose to partner with Flatworld in Bangalore for several reasons. One, they provide us with an incredible value, which in turn allows us to serve American homeowners with a continued dedication to excellence. They also demonstrate care for their employees and concern for the well-being of their communities.
When the possibility of visiting India to get a closer look at how our partnership with Flatworld is impacting the communities there arose, I jumped at the chance. First impression: There are people everywhere, all the time. America’s population hovers around 300 million, while India sits at 1.1 billion – the second most populated country in the world. And you can feel it.
We got into India on a Wednesday morning, and immediately headed to Flatworld’s offices. They look much the same as the offices we work in here – cubicles, glass conference rooms, even Movement colors. I spoke to the 250 employees we work with there, to thank them for being a part of Movement’s work.
Then we headed out with Flatworld’s leadership to visit some of the organizations their profit supports. We started right there in Bangalore, with a man known as Auto Raja. His name is Raja but they call him Auto Raja because he used to drive an auto rickshaw to make some money on the side. After a brush with the law brought him to Christianity, Auto Raja began to use his rickshaw to serve others.
In India, several generations in the same family live together. But because of the poverty levels, when elders become ill or hard to care for, families are often forced to leave them on the street. Literally, they put them out with the trash.
Auto Raja dedicates his time to rescuing these elder members of society. He brings them home, cleans them, tends their wounds, feeds them and clothes them – gives them dignity until they die. In the 14 years since Auto Raja first took up his rickshaw, he has rescued 10,000 homeless people.
After Bangalore, we headed north to what’s known as the UP, which loosely translated means ‘Upper Peninsula.’ The group we visited is dedicated to introducing Christianity to 1 million people in the area in 10 years. In the larger cities, like Bangalore, many of the Indian natives speak English, so I was struck by how few people spoke English in the UP. It was hard to communicate with people. Granted, there are over 200 official languages in India, so I imagine it’s difficult for many people to communicate outside of their own dialect.
In addition, many Indians are wary of Westerners. We received strict instruction not to approach Indians in the Upper Peninsula unless we were approached first. We were given dress restrictions, and told not to hand anything to the locals.
One night while we were there, people from villages across the UP gathered to see us. One group was really late in getting there. It turned out that while the two vans were traveling, they were stopped by the police. The police saw that they were carrying Bibles and interrogated them for an hour. Then, they made each person pay a fine — really, it was a bribe. Each person had to pay 100 rupees (the equivalent of about $1.50). When I heard this story, I tried to pay them back for this bribe. But I couldn’t give it to them directly. I had to give it to a person who would give it to the head of the village, who would then give it to the people, because they’re afraid of being supported by Westerners.
I left India with a distinct sense of being a small part in a much larger mission. I think the thing that struck me most was how we as a company are reaching lives through our relationships. The trip underscored how critical it is to pick good business partners. Flatworld truly believes in uplifting the communities where they’re doing business. It was really humbling to get to see what they’re doing, and to know that Movement is a part of that.
Upon returning, I shared my story with our executive team. I’d been praying because I wanted to find a way to help some of the organizations we’d visited.
I was reminded of Luke 3:11: “And he would answer and say to them, ‘The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.’’’
Now, the Movement Foundation is coming alongside Flatworld to invest $100,000 in these organizations. We want to help Flatword pour back into their community with significant impact. It’s amazing to be part of a company that feels so strongly about serving people in need all over the world.