Cleveland faith leaders come together for economic, personal and community growth
LIFT (Leaders in Faith Together) is a new pilot program through BHITC centered around accelerating the work, effectiveness and overall growth of local leaders, nonprofit organizations, social enterprises and small businesses in Cleveland. The goal is to build and leverage relationships, establish meaningful connections and develop urban leaders to positively impact their communities.
Vatreisha Nyemba, the Director of Leader and Community Development at BHITC, leads the LIFT program. Hear what Vatreisha has to say about LIFT and why she has such a strong passion for this work God is doing in Cleveland.
Q: What is LIFT and who will be participating in the program this year?
A: LIFT stands for Leaders in Faith Together. We, as a BHITC team, are coming alongside Christian leaders who feel called to live out their faith by starting or growing an organization or business. We will walk with them and help them grow their entity and develop them personally. What makes LIFT different from other similar programs is that we have a relational and spiritual component.
Leaders invited into a LIFT co-hort will receive advising from BHITC on their growth plans for their organization or small business, experience trainings and continuing education and take part in helping shape a citywide strategy and network of people advancing God’s Kingdom.
Q: Why do you have a heart for developing urban leaders?
A: It started with looking at the urban landscape, the heart of the city, places that are often in margins, under-resourced and neglected. People find themselves there and not often by choice. When I saw the realities of what was common in the city, I had a question, “What is the Church supposed to be doing about this?” I can’t pass this on my way to church or on the way home and ignore it. Because of my faith, I believe the Church was set up to continue the work of Jesus on the earth, not just the institution of the Church, but the people of the Church, who are urban leaders with great potential.
Q: When you worked at Cuyahoga Land Bank, you built up connections across the city. How has this experience from the Land Bank prepared you for LIFT?
A: Working at the Land Bank and seeing so many vacant properties, I was able to get up close to what was happening in the city. When I was there, I was able to exercise and learn practical tools because of my interactions with the different organizations, government agencies, grassroots organizations, Christian Community Development Associations (CCDA) and churches. I hope to be a reliable source to people in my work at BHITC because I have a different perspective and can help them with what they want to do and how they want to grow.
Q: Why is it important to develop people who have small businesses or nonprofits?
A: CCDA says, “the people closest to the problem are often closest to the solution.” Those who start organically, they started as a seed with a calling and had passion in their heart. They didn’t necessarily go to business school. It was more like Moses and the burning bush. When Jesus speaks and says “go,” they go even if they feel illequipped. It is a commission from God, and they step out in faith. For BHITC to come alongside them through an initiative like LIFT is an honor.
Q: Why is it important for BHITC to give away what they have learned?
A: BHITC is known for teaching and equipping, and we want to “practice what we preach.’’ That looks like sharing our personal experiences and relationships with others. We always want to maintain a posture of humility, and we also want to receive from people through LIFT. This is a mutual exchange where they learn from us, but we also want to learn from them, their connections and their experiences.
Stay tuned for more about LIFT and its first cohort of participants this summer!