In 2006 Mako Nagasawa, Gary VanderPol, and ten good friends started Lazarus at the Gate, a small group that focused on simplifying our lives financially in order to give to the poor around the globe. We shared our budgets openly with each other, at first hesitantly, but then with a greater sense of freedom and even relief. We acknowledged the complex feelings we had about money, feelings that came from our families and from various cultures, especially American culture. We talked about being shaped by Jesus instead. We encouraged each other to take the ‘next step’ in simplicity for the sake of generosity. At the end of twelve meetings, we gave just over $40,000 to poverty-focused programs and ministries in Haiti, Thailand, India, Boston, and Bolivia.
In 2007, Gary and Mako partnered with Rachel Anderson, founder of the Boston Faith & Justice Network, to promote and train leaders of Lazarus at the Gate groups throughout Greater Boston. We published an open source curriculum that could guide small groups of friends who wanted to explore economic discipleship. To our knowledge, more than sixty groups, including several around the country, have met for six to twelve sessions to explore biblical teachings on money, and participants have given more than $500,000 to the poor through organizations of their choice.
Since then, the Boston Faith & Justice Network, under its executive director Ryan Scott McDonnell, has continued to offer new Lazarus groups every year. Mako has been leading small groups for undergraduates at Boston College entitled Global Poverty Impact. Gary continues to regularly speak on economic discipleship and has recently led Lazarus groups in Costa Rica, California, and Colorado.
Through this blog, we hope to create a space for a wider community of followers of Jesus who are trying to grow in simple living for just giving!