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Wealth Building: A New Approach to the War on Poverty with Rev. Robert L. Davis, Jr.

A business founder, realtor, IT project leader, and ordained Christian minister, Robert L. Davis, Jr. believes in financial sustainable choices and wealth building. Because he thinks they should be available to everyone, he started Davis Asset Realty LLC, an Atlanta-based real estate brokerage aiming to help individuals and families build financial freedom and generational wealth by investing in Real Estate. Combining his vocation and occupation, Rev. Davis believes that he has a particular call to a "Market-Place Ministry" where he can help empower people of all ages with education, exposure, and opportunities that will enhance their future, their families, and their communities.

UM: Robert, you hosted the Spring 2022 Urban Cafe of UM as we met via Zoom to discuss the topic of poverty and what a global, multi-faceted, and relevant topic! How did you begin your journey toward educating people about financial sustainability?


RLD: Thank you for the opportunity to share something that I've been passionate about for a very long time. It started in my home city of Cleveland, OH, where I began buying rental properties, and I discovered my passion for real estate and making housing affordable. I wish that we could eradicate poverty for everyone forever. I see it in communities near me, where I live and work, and when I travel abroad. Most recently, during a vacation trip my wife and I took that included a visit to Honduras, I saw the hard-working efforts of some women who made a living by creating and selling decorative bracelets at the marketplace. As in the figure below, I see poverty's debilitating effects on the individual. I wish that everyone everywhere could always live in abundance. However, that does not appear to be life's design on this planet. So, we must have a plan to help those who need help and want help toward a more financially sustainable life. That's where the role of leadership comes in.





The figure is from “Walking with the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development”

June 15, 2011 – by Bryant L. Myers






UM: What do you mean by that?


RLD: During the Urban Café, I shared my approach, which includes an understanding of how each context, like the US, has historically addressed the issue and how poverty has affected the lifestyle of those it was meant to help. Outcomes and results are essential. This is crucial because it reminds us that eliminating poverty and building wealth goes beyond personal action: it's about supporting policies that promote access for all people. When it comes to overcoming generational poverty and building wealth, individuals, organizations, and communities have more power than they imagine.


UM: Yes, it's essential to understand how our various global settings and contexts address poverty. I appreciated the questions and issues raised by participants in the conversation. "What tools must I have to overcome poverty?" "How do we pull back the layers of poverty, so we don't sound superficial in our efforts to understand and act responsibly?" And "how do we package the discussion on overcoming poverty through wealth building in a way that might be different and pliable to all?"


RLD: Yes, these are essential questions. However, it is just as important as understanding our historical and national context and how they have framed the national discourse on wealth building and poverty is understanding how we approach the topic from the stance of faith. For instance, while most faith traditions include a passage such as Deuteronomy 16:1 (the poor will be with you always), it is essential to discuss the various interpretations of such passages within the larger societal contexts of greed, power, and selfishness. This approach allows us to see the issues of power and wealth and the corresponding social calling for justice and equality in an unjust world, in a world where the main objective is to make more and more money.


UM: The question then becomes, how can we, concerned communities, organizations, congregations, and individuals- help people to escape poverty?


RLD: We must first distinguish between addressing immediate needs and long-term needs. As much as we can, we can use collective resources to respond to immediate, basic necessities, i.e., food, shelter, utilities, etc. However, we don't want to leave people without long time solutions to their financial challenges. Is the need for a GED? Re-training for the changing workforce? Or, learning how to live within one's means? A community-based response is often required- one that considers the actual condition of the individual or family household and their potential resources. Why? Because as we acknowledged during the Urban Café, poverty is enormous, big business. Do you recall the book that one participant referenced? It was The Poverty Industry by Hacker. Another participant spoke of the book Toxic Charity and suggested that some of our mission methods are based on a racist approach to helping people.


UM: Yes, I was glad to hear that. Often, people assume that it must be good if it is Christian mission work. And that's not true! So much of our understanding of missionaries, missions, and mission work is a tangled mess of the four (4) C's- colonialization, civilization, commercialization (commerce in African enslavement), and Christianization. In the 21st century, it is crucial that we unpack this to recover the true meaning of Christian mission according to the Gospel of Jesus and become aware of the need to respond to poverty with dignity, wholistic, hope, and faithfulness.


RLD: Yes, it is vital as we talk about strategies to help people overcome poverty and build wealth, to recognize the different types and causes of poverty, and which tools are required to overcome each type.


UM: Thank you so much for this stimulating conversation. As we prepare to join you and participate in Part 2: An Urban Conversation, Summer 2022, on Saturday, August 20th, at 10:00 a.m. EST, what is the takeaway from this Urban Café conversation? And how do we prepare for the next discussion?


RLD: Know first that we have the power to change the language and thus our perspectives and take a personal inventory. Instead of speaking of the "War on Poverty," let us talk of "Building Wealth." It involves the dynamism of accentuating the power of the positive and the ability to believe that we can build a better future. Then, get five (5) people to care about poverty and wealth building. Encourage them to define wealth, what it is, our role in it, and the importance of intergenerational wealth. Yes, get five people to care about building wealth in our communities.


UM: Wow! That's quite a challenge, but I think it is very doable.


RLD: Then, give some time to think about the notions of sustainable financial ability and economic and social inclusion. What are your positive or negative experiences with poverty, money, and wealth? Then reflect on these two questions:

  1. What is poverty? Many people define poverty as, not having enough money to meet basic needs, including food, clothing, and shelter. However, poverty is more than just not having enough money.

  2. The World Bank Organization describes poverty in this way: "Poverty is hunger. Poverty is a lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty does not have a job; it is fear for the future, living one day at a time. Poverty has many faces, changing from place to place and across time, and has been described in many ways. Most often, poverty is a situation people want to escape. So, poverty is a call to action -- for the poor and the wealthy alike -- a call to change the world so that many more may have enough to eat, adequate shelter, access to education and health, protection from violence, and a voice in what happens in their communities."

  3. In addition to a lack of money, poverty is about not being able to participate in recreational activities; not being able to send children on a day trip with their schoolmates or to a birthday party; not being able to pay for medications for an illness. These are all costs of being poor. Those who can barely afford food and shelter can't consider these other expenses. When people are excluded within a society, when they are not well educated and when they have a higher incidence of illness, there are negative consequences for society. We all pay the price for poverty. The increased cost on the health system, the justice system, and other systems that support those living in poverty impact our economy.

  4. Source: https://www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/departments/esic/overview/content/what_is_poverty.html

  5. What Is Wealth? Wealth is the sum total of assets (things that you own) that give you financial security. The word wealth carries the idea of abundance and security.

  6. Building Wealth vs. Getting Rich - there's an important distinction to make here. Becoming rich happens when you experience a financial windfall or a sudden influx of money. A tech company having an IPO, receiving an inheritance, or a pro athlete signing a deal are all examples of financial windfalls.

  7. Sadly, though, you can blow through lots of money in the blink of an eye! That's because the good habits that allow people to build wealth (generosity, planning, discipline, and consistency) are the same habits that help people stay wealthy. No one becomes rich by accident. You must set a goal to work hard, grow your money, and show up daily to make that dream a reality.

  8. Source: Ramsey Solutions (Dave Ramsey), https://www.ramseysolutions.com/retirement/how-do-you-define-wealth

UM: Thank you for providing these thought-provoking questions as we prepare to meet with you on Saturday, August 20th at 10:00 am (EST). Everyone is invited to attend this free event: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89821086952


RLD: The only other thing I would add is this: I measure wealth, not by the number of material things one has but by how long the benefits of one's management of abundance last. I like to use the analogy of a bucket versus a stream. If you fill a bucket with water, that water will only last until the last cup is drawn. However, if your water source is a river or even a stream, then the water could potentially flow for the unforeseeable future. Being rich is like water in a bucket. Being wealthy is like having a source of never-ending water that one manages for the benefit of many for an extended period.


RLD: Remember, everyone is invited to join us on Saturday, August 20, 2022, at 10:00 a.m.

The Zoom link is: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89821086952

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