Gretchen and I have decided to take a drastic step in a new direction.

To get right to the point, we’re planning to open a restaurant here in Roanoke where we can serve good food and also do on-the-job training for chronically unemployed and homeless folks in our community.

Our plan is to open a little place somewhere downtown that just serves breakfast and lunch. People who are looking for an opportunity to get back on their feet can come and work for us for 6 months or so and then move on to full time employment somewhere else. While with us they’ll learn about food preparation, sanitation, professionalism and a variety of other topics that will help prepare them for a career in food service. They’ll also get some training in financial planning and some other life skills in order to improve their quality of life and help equip them to keep a job long term. After 6 months they’ll receive a Food Handler’s Sanitation license and we’ll help them put together a resume and find a permanent job.

Now I realize that, to some of you, this might sound like a naive and incredibly stupid thing to do, and I imagine that some of our close friends and family might want to discourage us from pursuing it. We understand that it’s risky and has no guarantee of success, but we feel that it’s something worth trying. Below are some of the questions people have been asking me and how I’ve been answering them.

Q1. Doesn’t it take a lot of money to start a business? Do you have any money?
Yes, it does take a lot of money and no, we don’t have any. Our plan is to incorporate as a non-profit so that we can raise the capital we need to get started.

Q2. Running a restaurant is hard. Do you know what you’re doing?
No, not yet. I’ve worked in restaurants before, but not recently and definitely not in this capacity. I approached a local restaurant chain with my idea and they said that I could come work for them for a year and learn what I need to know to run my own place. Lord willing, when we try to get this off the ground next year I’ll have the knowledge and experience I need to make it work.

Q3. Aren’t homeless people usually pretty lazy and unreliable? What makes you think that you could get them to come work for you?
As many of you know already, we’ve been very active with the homeless in our community for a while now. We’ve had the privilege of getting to know quite a few of the folks in our community who are chronically without homes or jobs, and in a few cases we’ve really come to love them. Most of them are homeless because of some sort of mental illness or problem with chronic substance abuse, and many of them lack either the ability or the desire to re-enter the work force and become productive, self-supporting members of society. Those people wouldn’t be the ones we’re looking for.

Our program will be open to those men and women who are homeless because of other circumstances. There are a lot of individuals who end up on the street because of an accident that resulted in inability to work, or a move and a bad investment, or a divorce and a period of severe depression. When people find themselves in those situations it can be very difficult to get their lives back together. Our hope is to provide a way for them to get back on their feet. I’ve been talking to some of our homeless friends about this idea and the response has been very positive. I’ve even been getting some questions about when we’ll start and how soon they can apply.

Also, there are a few places across the country doing this already, including a couple restaurants in DC that have been open for almost 20 years. They’ve had a lot of success and hundreds of people have gone through their program and settled into full time jobs.

Q4. What’s the matter with you? Why would you lead your family into financial ruin just so a few homeless people can learn how to cook?
Gretchen and I believe very strongly that Jesus Christ is God, and that the things he said when he was here on earth were true. As a result, we believe that if we make sacrifices in order to obey him, he’ll look after us and make sure that we’re alright. We also believe that he wants rich people to be generous to poor people. So generous, in fact, that they don’t stay rich very long.

We want our kids to grow up seeing us live by this principle, even if it means that they won’t have every little thing they want. We want them to grow up knowing that selfishness is unacceptable, and that giving to the point of sacrifice is normal. The Bible says this about Jesus Christ: “though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you, through His poverty, might become rich.” We want our kids to grow up seeing us act like Jesus in this way. We hope that maybe one day they’ll be better people because of it.

For more about God’s feelings about the poor, read these passages in the Bible: Deuteronomy 15:7-11, Proverbs 14:21&31, 19:17, 21:13, 22:9, 28:8&27, 29:7, 31:30, Isaiah 58:6-12, Matthew 19:21, Matthew 25, Luke 6:20, and 2 Corinthians 8:9.

Q5. That’s a very interesting idea. How can I find more information about it?
We’ve had a lot of success with this blog as a medium for communicating with our family and friends about recent happenings in our lives. I’m planning to use my own little blog as a forum for discussion as we work towards making this dream a reality. Up until this point it’s just been politics and weird stuff I found on the internet peppered with the occasional blustery monologue, but going forward I’ll be using it to chronicle our experiences changing careers and opening a restaurant. If you’re interested, go to http://leftovers.tumblr.com/ and watch for updates.

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