The AllCreation Podcast

Called to CARE with SCOTT SABIN, ceo, Plant With Purpose. Solving Poverty with environmental care. Learning from "the Poor." Redefining "Inclusion." Choosing to grow a future we can all look forward to. Leaving things better than you find them. Creating abundance by caring for the living members of the creation... That's what this podcast is about. Hope you enjoy Called to CARE with Scott Sabin. 

"Right now we are directly serving about 500,000 people and having a measurable impact on just over 1,000,000 people." - SCOTT  

CARE: Curious. Appropriate. Responsive. Empathetic.

In this interview world-changing Christian leader, Scott Sabin, whose organization is currently helping more than 1,000,000 people in nine countries, shares some insights after 30 years of leading breakthrough sustainable development work. Scott is joined by legendary funk bassist, noted author, and care-centric pastor, Reverend Jimi Calhoun, as well as the co-founder/executive editor of, Chris Searles.

Plant With Purpose
is a nonprofit organization utilizing globally-strategic reforestation, regenerative agriculture, purpose groups, community-savings groups, church partners, and open-hearted, Christian-community values to lift roughly one million of the world's most isolated and under-resourced people out of poverty today. When Scott started with the organization as executive director, 30 years ago, they had one program and just 80 participants. 


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Rev. Jimi Calhoun is lead pastor at, an influential musician and a noted author ( who's just published his fifth book. Chris Searles is founder/director at BioIntegrity Partnerships (, an environmental solutions nonprofit which produces, and co-founder/executive editor at 


0:00 Welcome
5:45 SCOTT
39:25 “POVERTY”

0:00 Chris Searles, co-host/producer
0:45 Intro' Rev. Jimi Calhoun, co-host
2:15 Intro' Scott Sabin, special guest
5:45 Scott on PlantWithPurpose: “We stand on the shoulders of giants... Literally, everything we’re doing now, we learned from our local partners... It's so easy to approach things as if we have all the answers... They're planting the trees, not us, almost 62 million trees now... Managing over $12 million of their own money... making about an 18 to 20% return on their investments...

13:10  Jimi, story on Landi the landscaper and being a Christian missionary in Belize (Central America). "The first thing I learned (as a missionary) was to value people as you find them... When you're inserted into a different culture you have two choices,  try and convert them to what you're bringing, or allow yourself to be stretched a little bit... Sensitivity and humility, those are our bywords."
20:30 Scott, on the prejudices against subsistence farmers, “The people we work with are our Partners not our projects... We have as much to learn from them -- or more, than we have to offer and it’s in working together that anything’s accomplished.
22:25 Jimi, story on Castillo the part-maker, "Ingenuity doesn't come from regurgitating what came in, it comes from your observation and what you're able to do with what you see!"
24:50 Scott, "Most of us couldn't survive in these environments, so people we might look at as uneducated, or who might be discriminated against by their own governments, are incredibly resourceful and managing to survive in conditions that would kill us. They've got a lot to teach us."
26:00 Jimi, "I have a responsibility to love you as you are, to serve you when I can, and to love you whatever it is that you need. That's what I mean, and Bridging means, when we say the word, Christian."
27:20 Scott, "I've become convinced that part of our purpose is to serve others..." Scott talks about one of his first visits to the Congo and the freedom fighter turned peace-maker, “I realized I had gifts to offer...”

30:30 Chris, "We should take pride in our potential..."
31:30 Jimi, “In work and worship you find God." ... "You have to define work... I never think of any call I make or any conversation I have as work... It’s all geared towards improving the life of someone else in whatever way they need it..."
33:50 Scott, "I don't want to romanticize things… There’s a lot of places and a lot of people where work is drudgery or slavery, or serves no purpose, or is abusive, so I don’t want to romanticize that. But I do think that, at its best, in the Kingdom of God there’s an alignment between purpose and what we do, and that we were made to be co-creators… But again, I don't want to romanticize: being a subsistence farmer on a barren hillside somewhere in East Africa is HARD."
35:25 Jimi stories on the banana lady; Indentured-Irish "slaves" and African slaves
38:30 Scott, "Some of Plant With Purpose's work is to bring good news of Redemption and offer opportunities to redeem work."

39:40 Chris, "How do you define Poverty and relate it to caring for "the least of these"?"
40:00 Scott - “Poverty: “A state of hopelessness.” Western definitions tend to be a lot about a lack of material things. Those of the global south, talking about poverty, it tends to be much more: hopelessness, discouragement, embarrassment… My definition, a lack of agency or perceived agency and opportunity, which can be closely connected to hopelessness. If you’re hopeless you don’t exercise what agency you might have.”
41:25 Jimi - “What does poverty mean to you when you hear that word? … Poverty has more components to it than economics. . .”  … It took men a long time to realize that they were acting exactly as they should. You know, I thought I could come down and offer some pointers… And that’s NOT what they needed. They needed somebody to come along and say, I understand your attitude. I get why you see the world the way you do... there’s not a lot of good options on your horizon, you don’t see a way out of this.”
44:40 Scott: "Your comment about those who are economically wealthy, but spiritually-impoverished is important... We come in many ways impoverished as well.”

46:20 Chris, "Biospherically, the system is designed to renew; we’re just sitting on top of potential all the time." 
48:20 Scott, “First we saw a vicious cycle between environmental degradation and the impoverishment of their farms… We had a vicious cycle, what I learned from them is there is a possibility in that of creating a virtuous cycle, and actually a win-win…  We often look at human need and environmental issues as a zero sum game... and I think there’s tremendous potential if we: 1) seek out the win win, 2) approach everything from a spirit of abundance rather than scarcity, 3) partner with those we serve... “Probably the greatest untapped resource in the world (is subsistence farmers), they have so much to offer, so much creativity, and THEY’RE THE ONES who planted 61 million trees, not us! ... Like I say, they're our partners not our projects.”
51:10 Chris, How to utilize and implement PlantWithPurpose's ideas locally?
52:06 Scott, "Looking for the win-win... We're intended to be good news for Creation... What does that look like in practice? We're supposed to be good news to All of Creation. Are we in our communities of Faith life-giving or death-dealing? ... We can be a living witness to the Kingdom of God, bringing good news to ALL of God’s creation."
53:30, Scott, "To your earlier question about Global Poverty... You can see the impacts. I’ve seen poverty dramatically reduced at the same time I’ve seen forests return, rivers begin to flow again, and fruitfulness return to the land, and I think that is scalable... Right now we are directly serving about 500,000 people and having a measurable impact on just over 1,000,000 people."
55:00, Scott "And forests and fertile soil sequester carbon and have an impact on climate change. I’ve seen local farmers get excited about the fact that they're having a positive impact on the climate... and they get excited not just that “we’re doing something for our community," but "I’m doing something for the planet.
56:25, Jimi, "Perception precedes perspective..."
58:05 Chris, "The inspiration that I get from each for you is profound... It's exciting... Look what Scott did in 30 years, where could we be in 30 more years?!”

1:00:10 Chris, What is the one thing you wished everyone was acting on?
1:00:50 Scott, “You don’t have to see this work as a zero sum game... I see good news every single day... (Thirty years ago) I remember thinking "This is futile. What are we doin' this for?" And, this Spring I walked through a forest with trees that were 40 feet high, the smell of pine needles,  the birds perching in the branches,  the farmer talking about the biodiversity that had returned, the stream that was flowing and the deer that had come back… If we see it as hopeless, we lose our agency. It’s not hopeless!"




Thanks for listening. 

Produced, recorded and edited by Chris Searles.

Presented by and

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Called to CARE with special guest Scott Sabin (ceo,
co-hosted by Chris Searles (exec. editor,
and Rev. Jimmi Calhoun (
Fall 2023


Chris Searles 0:10
Welcome to the all Creation podcast, everybody. I'm Chris Searles. I'm the co founder and executive editor of the all creation project. I am extremely excited to welcome both my co host, Reverend Jimmy Calhoun, and our special guests here today, Mr. Scott Saban, the pioneering leader of

Chris Searles 0:32
These are two great men, in my humble opinion and in my model of what greatness is, which is to say these guys are bridging the best aspects of our identities here on Earth, into a more equally cared for community. They are creating kinship, and regenerative relationships and moving us forward.

Chris Searles 0:52
Now a little bit about my co host, Jimmy or Reverend Calhoun, or Cal, as some of his friends call him. He and I live in the same town here in Texas. And he is a mentor to many of us. But Jimmy is unique as a mentor, in that he is constantly pursuing what I would call an egalitarian friendship with each of the people he encounters and interacts with whether or not they know that whether or not they reciprocate that he pursues true equality amongst all of us. And I think he does this because of his Christian beliefs about the creation and all creation.

Chris Searles 1:31
Reverend Calhoun also has an exceptional background. He's just completed his fifth book. It's due out before the end of the year, I believe. He's one of the most important musicians in pop music history. He played on numerous classic albums and songs in the 60s and 70s, and was a formative influencer in funk, and the related genres in his early life in his teens and 20s. And then in his 30s, he shifted into ministry about 40 years ago. And Jimmy has since worked with Brian McLaren, and ministered internationally, and pioneered efforts to bring worship to the disabled and the unseen, and read these books about the racializing, the church and so much more. So Jimmy, thank you for being here.

Chris Searles 2:18
Now, let me tell you a little bit about Scott Saban. Scott is leading an organization that's addressing some of the most complex social problems in the world. And he's doing it at large scale through multifaceted Empowerments. And I'll let Scott explain what that is from plant with purposes perspective, what empowerments are as a form of mission. When we started this call to care series about a year ago, I really hadn't thought whether or not there was a person who exemplified this idea of leading with care. And I came up with a sort of a quick pneumonic today for what I mean by care, curious, appropriate, responsive, empathetic, nurturing, relational, forward looking help for ourselves and each other and the other members of the creation, looking at our potential.

Chris Searles 3:08
And so Scott's organization, under his leadership has been, in my opinion, rooted in care based strategies and philosophies and plans and beliefs and investments, essentially asking, I think, Scott all along in his career, how do we best help these people given the resources we have? And so it is my great pleasure to welcome Scott Saban. He like so many people who are listening to this and watching this, who are leading in the world every day and the things they do, Scott has really chosen to succeed through helping others. And in Scotts case, this means building teams and communities in multiple countries in the most isolated and impoverished regions of the world.

Chris Searles 3:51
He's been doing this for about 30 years now. So let me read you his official bio, and then I'll get out of the way.

Chris Searles 3:56
Scott is CEO of plant with purpose, an International Christian organization that empowers the poor in rural areas around the world, where poverty is caused by deforestation. Under Scott's leadership, the organization has grown from a single program in one country, to a staff of hundreds of care providers, foresters, agronomists, pastors and facilitators now in nine countries, who then empower regenerative farmers in hundreds of communities in developing countries. Plant with purpose has planted over 60 million trees now in its 40 years, mostly under Scott's leadership, and in so doing, they have dramatically reduced poverty and its effects where the resources are needed most for these people. Prior to working with plant with purpose, Scott served for seven years in the US Navy. He holds degrees in political science and international relations. His wife is a nurse practitioner who's also served internationally they have two children And thanks to everyone who is listening and watching. Thanks again to Jimmy and Scott for being here. I think all of us understand that we are in the midst of an era of extremely overwhelming as in too many at once complex social and personal problems. And part of the issue today is that people don't know how to act effectively.

Chris Searles 5:23
Scott is probably the best in the world at addressing poverty at large scale, through ecological solutions, that are rooted in a religious commitment to caring for the others in the creation. He's kind of the superstar of this idea of being called to care in terms of being globally impactful. So, Scott, thank you for being here.

Scott Sabin 5:50
Thank you, Chris. And thank you, Jimmy. And yeah, I, I wouldn't claim any of those titles. But if you add enough qualifiers on it, the best in the world of people doing all those things, who's in San Diego right now? Yeah, maybe if you qualify it down far enough. I might. But anyway, no, actually, we stand on the shoulders of giants. And when I say that, too, I'm thinking. It's easy to think of people I learned from who've been influences here in the United States. We mentioned Brian McLaren, earlier we mentioned, well, we haven't mentioned, but I think if Tony can polo, and John Perkins, and others, but the ones that I really want to call out are our partners in Haiti, or Mexico, or Dominican Republic, literally everything we're doing now, we learned from our local partners. At some point, our director in Tanzania taught us how to use savings groups. John Murray Deza, was we call him taught us how to work with people and work alongside people. So really, what I'm talking about giants, I'm talking about them.

Chris Searles 7:12
Yes, the people in these communities that that you're working with, I was gonna say, you know, sort of as a observer comment, and thinking of you each as bridging leaders, Jimmy's churches actually called Bridging Austin. But this idea of you going from the developed world to the undeveloped world to help is so important in a lot of the conversations Jimmy and I have had in terms of doing it well, from the perspective of the help the people who are receiving the help, but then also, you know, you're helping sort of show to people in the developed world what it is to learn from the undeveloped world people, the experts outside of our culture of academia, materialism, and so forth.

Chris Searles 7:58
I would love it if you could talk about that a little bit. But I think it's really important. I think it's important for people in the developed world to understand that we have so much to learn from everyone.

Scott Sabin 8:09
Well, yeah, it is. And it is so easy to approach things as if we had the answers. And I think that's been part of my learning experience in 30 years, is realizing first that we didn't have all the answers. You know, we saw and I got to give our founder, a lot of credit, saw this connection between environmental degradation and rural poverty. I personally was interested in you know, how can we help people living in, you know, places like the shanty towns outside of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, or Port au Prince, Haiti, and then realizing that so many of them, the vast majority are essentially refugees from the countryside, people who made their living as farmers for generations, and that they were actually coming to those shanty towns because they represented hope, represented a better opportunity.

Scott Sabin 9:10
And so going up upstream, literally and figuratively, you know, from an ecological perspective, you know, we're literally going upstream to the mountains, but also to the source of some of the problems realizing this connection between the degradation of the land and extreme poverty. Then along the way, realizing that we only had a very narrow piece of the story. And to really understand the story. It needed to be much more of an equal exchange, and much more dialogue. Just to give a, I guess, a sense of, of what we do after many years, we use something we call a purpose group, but it's based on savings. groups, which allow 20 to 30 families to gather together and mobilize their savings. And I can go into more detail on any of these things.

Scott Sabin 10:10
So we don't consider that we do relief, but we rather do development work.

Scott Sabin 10:15
And we used to do microfinance where we make loans. And again, it was our director in Tanzania. Edith, who was talking to me about the fact that she was having a hard time teaching agriculture, people didn't want to come to our seminars, and they didn't want to come to any Bible studies, because they all felt like they owed us money, because we were making these microfinance loans. So she researched and found the savings group model, which we didn't develop, but she found other organizations using it brought it to my attention.

Scott Sabin 10:54
She says, Scott, it's so beautiful, you know, we don't give them any money, these women will come and they'll bring 25 cents a week. And I have to admit, I was a total skeptic.

Scott Sabin 11:05
At that point. I said, Come on, Edith, 25 cents a week!? how's that ever going to amount to anything. But she ran a couple pilots. And it was absolutely amazing how that empowered people and how they gained a much greater sense of agency.

Scott Sabin 11:26
And today, we have about I think it's about 4000 of those groups worldwide, those savings groups, with a combined total of $12 million, that they're investing in their own communities, money that belongs to them. They raised themselves, they're investing it. And they're making about an 18 to 18 to 20% return on their investments in their own communities and their own businesses in their own neighbors. So that was that was sort of the one of the first building blocks, then that group we use to teach regenerative agriculture and agri forestry. So most of the trees that have been planted have been planted by farmers on their farms, because they make sense to restore soil to halt erosion to provide fruit, to provide other products, including firewood in timber, but they're planting the trees for their own use on their own farms.

Scott Sabin 12:28
And that's now I think we're almost 62 million trees have been planted by our participants. And then the third part is that those groups often become spiritual communities. And we offer assistance to the local churches, and we offer training around care of God's creation, and purpose and identity in Jesus, and reconciliation.

Scott Sabin 13:00
So that'sit in a nutshell.

Chris Searles 13:02
That's really beautiful. And maybe we can transition over to talking about this idea of inclusivity kind of inclusivity that Jimmy and I have been talking about meaning I've been listening and learning from Jimmy about his new book. And what he's been thinking about is far broader than the sort of current political conversation on this meeting. So Jimmy, could you maybe pick it up and, and talk about this idea? And?

Rev. Jimi Calhoun 13:31
Well, I think it's multipronged actually, and ironically, as we as we spoke earlier, and Scott and I shared a little connection through Central America. And he being in Guatemala and myself becoming an embedded Christian missionary to the country of Belize is where I sort of had my eyes open to two things. Poverty, as well as I hate this, but Western arrogance. I went down very sure and certain of myself, and I thought I was going to lift because that's what I had been taught and in seminary that you go down this redemption and lift you go down, and you bring something to them and you elevate and after about two or three years, I realized that I had more to learn from them and they had to learn from me. And the first thing that I learned was to actually value people as a as you find them.

Rev. Jimi Calhoun 14:46
And that's a hard thing to do.

Rev. Jimi Calhoun 14:49
And I can tell you one, one quick story. I was supposed to identify a national I think it was a recall when and then establish it. Church and identify this one person to take over for me and I would go ahead and move on to I think it was Jamaica at the time or something. So I found this maya guy. And I found out he was out doing lawn work one day, and I used to run and I'd run by him. And I noticed him. So every morning I was out running, he was out doing someone. And then and so I said, You out here every morning. It was yeah, he says, I said, Well, what's your name? He says, My name is Landy. I said, Oh, I heard Jimmy. So I said, Yeah, my name is Jimmy two. And you're the first guy I've ever met that had the same name as me. So we became famous friends. And in my living room, he was telling me he had this vision for out by the Guatemalan border in a place called IO. Close to Melcher, that he wanted to establish a Christian camp and bring on except he didn't have any education. So after three or four years, the the bosses, my bosses came down from Los Angeles to meet the guy had identified to take my, my place. And they came down.

Rev. Jimi Calhoun 16:16
And then we're sitting in my living room, and I introduced him to this guy, he's about five foot five. And he's not very sophisticated, and they just come from work and His clothes are. So they worked out. And they looked at me and he could the air left the room. And what they didn't realize that this guy was entrepreneurial is all get out. He just came in different packaging, and they were used to, and he had a use of different vocabulary. And right, then I realized that you need to learn to value. Not only give them dignity, ascribe dignity them but value every single human being that you come in contact with every single one, irrespective of gender, skin, color, height, vocabulary, national, yeah, all of those adjectives just need to go by the wayside.

Rev. Jimi Calhoun 17:14
And that changed everything for me.

Rev. Jimi Calhoun 17:17
And so that's been the mission of bridging. And typically, the response I get, or the pushback is that, well, you're naive. Or you're an old hippie, and you think we can, the world can just be full of love, and everybody sing Kumbaya or something like that. And I know you're really missing the point, there is so much for you to enjoy about every human being that you come in contact every day with, that you're actually missing. I'm trying to do your favor by my, by alerting you to something, I mean, there's just a beauty.

Rev. Jimi Calhoun 17:57
And so what we're trying to do is become more than a church that invites because that typically sounds like you're, you're sending him an invitation to an event. We're trying to welcome people. And the kind of welcome we mean is taking they're taking them as who they are, and, and taking their needs and wants into consideration. And we're there to serve in they're not to be plugged in to our church was, which was a lot of the vocabulary, you got to invite people and plug them in. Well, you know, I do that to my light switch and my guitar and my amp, but I'm never going to plug a human being and I'm going to welcome and welcome them in.

Rev. Jimi Calhoun 18:45
And so we developed this new model, which is, is this concerning for a lot of people here because they don't know how they don't know really what they're supposed to do. And they've never lived outside of the country where you're forced to, I mean, when you when you when you get into when you're inserted into a different culture, you have two things you have a two choices, and either try to convert them to what you are bringing to them, or allow yourself to be stressed a little bit and be converted to their way of living. And so that's been the thing for bridging Austin and I was struck by something that Scott said earlier, and and from from a straight mission context. It was really what he says. We had to learn when we were hurting people. More so than we were helping. And from my background, being a denominational missionary guy. Had I had those Had I had that sentence? And when what year did I go 1991 Just to alert people that there's a possibility when you go into, you're sending out all these missionary units, that you better reevaluate and be sensitive and, and humble.

Rev. Jimi Calhoun 20:17
So if I could say two things about bridging OS and its sensitivity, and humility, I mean, those who those who are by words. I love that.

Scott Sabin 20:32
Yeah, I think humility is probably one of the most important things. In many of the countries where we work, there's a real prejudice against subsistence farmers. You know, they were the ones who were not smart enough to go to school wouldn't, you know, couldn't get jobs stayed behind. A lot of times, they're, they're stigmatized by their own their own governments as backward. I mean, sometimes you see that here in the US as well. But, but there, it's to the degree that I think people almost take that on as an identity, you know. And so the, the idea that God gives everybody gifts, everybody talents, and we know that, and that they're created with purpose. And it one of the most gratifying things to me has seen is been seeing people come alive as they realize their talents, and realize what they have to offer. We use the phrase all the time, the people, we work with our partners, not our projects. And yeah, I think that's, that's probably one of our most important learnings. And one of our most important messages. Once we've realized that, like, like you said, Jimmy, we have as much to learn from them, or more than we have to offer. And it's in working together that anything's accomplished.

Rev. Jimi Calhoun 22:23
And that bias against Well, subsistence farmers or people who lack education, we, we went, there weren't very many cars. When we went to Belize. There, they just hadn't been the, you know, there, there weren't there. And so we took down a zoo zoo Trooper, which there were only four others in the country. And most, and most of the cars here didn't have duplicates. So you know, there wasn't a car parts store that was stalking, a lot of things on the shelves in the hopes of some customer future customer needing it. Our car broke one time, and there was a guy around the corner, he wore like a coolie hat this rig round. And he worked on cars. And I took it over to him. And he says, Well, I have to call Napa parts. And I'll take about six weeks. I said, Okay, well, you know, Belize City was small enough that we we had difficulty finding places to go to entertain ourselves, because only four miles square. So you know, there wasn't that. So about three days later, he comes over and he says your car's really. And I said, Well, I thought you needed to wait six weeks for the part. He says yeah, but then I looked at it again, I figured I just make one. So I made a part. I know that had I taken him and like we gotten on a plane and I brought him back to the states and introduced them to all my educated friends. They would have looked at Castillo and looked at him and said, What's up with this guy? Yeah. So that he had that he was used to living in an atmosphere where if you needed something you had to have you had to be resourceful enough to do it. And so the ingenuity doesn't come from what regurgitating what came in it comes from, from, from your observation and what you're able to do with what you see. So there's so it's, it's yeah, I'll just leave it there.

Scott Sabin 24:48
It's a great story. Yeah, it's true. I think, you know, a lot of times we have all of these advantages and And we tend to own those as if they were part of who we are, you know, the, the old story, the guy who is trying to remember how it goes, the guy who was born on third base and thought he did a triple or something, I don't remember exactly how that goes anyway. But know you're most of us couldn't survive in the environments that you know. So people who, you know, we might look at as uneducated or that might be discriminated against by their own governments are incredibly resourceful and in, you know, are managing to survive in, in conditions that would kill us. And, and they got a lot to teach us.

Rev. Jimi Calhoun 26:01
And I guess that, that runs on the same Rails is why we have a tendency to objectify everything, it's just, you know, we, like the planet we're living on and other human beings, they become objects to us and to produce and consume, and that, that ever in the cycle of almost like what's in it for me or us collectively in my own little bubble, and that doesn't seem to bode well for our a guy who believes that the created order with being a Christian is not a matter of receiving, but there's a level of responsibility that comes inherent with it attached. You know, as soon as I say that word, that means I'm putting people on notice that I have a responsibility to love you, as you are to serve you when I can, and to love you, whatever it is that you need. And that's, that's that that's what I'm in and bridging means. And we said the word Christian. And so

Scott Sabin 27:23
I become convinced that part of our purpose is to serve others that that's and one of the most exciting things to me is watching. Some of the people we work with discover their purpose as a story. From one of my first visits to to Congo, and it was 2017, I think 2016. And we were working in these three villages, located along this steep River Valley, up into the mountains, really steep. And so it's a three day walk up to the edge of the forest and back. And our local director, Barry tells me Scott, there have not been a lot of outsiders in this area and in decades because of the conflict. So we're going to draw a lot of curiosity and it's okay, it's a public road. And so there are gonna be a lot of people walking with us. Well, a public road was like a single track thing. But anyway, we had about 50 men follow us in camp with us on the edge of the forest on the last night. And Rory tells me says, you know, the guy who's been carrying you're helping you carry your backpack for last two days, used to be one of the guerrilla leaders. And so I asked him, I could interview him, so we sit down in his tent.

Scott Sabin 28:56
And he says, to me, you know, the, the men here, didn't do much, we'd sit around and play cards, while the women did all the work. And then your pastor came, and by our pastor, he was talking about a, a Congolese pastor, guy by the name of Cebu mana, who's like one of my heroes in the world. But then Subramanian came and started talking about work being a gift from God. And he says, I thought, maybe if I helped my wife on the farm, together, we could do something great. And, and he talked anything about disarming the militia, and I'm coming from a kind of an evangelical background, I said, so did you become a Christian? Is that what changed? No, I've always been a Christian. I just never realized it applied to the rest of my life. I thought it was just about Sunday, and kept up with him more or less in the years since and he's really discovered her purpose discovered purpose in restoring the watershed that, that he depends on and everybody downstream depends on. And being an agent for reconciliation and peace. He's obviously as a guerrilla leader, he's got some charisma. And he goes community to community preaching, ideas of reconciliation. And I just to me, it was like, the, the aha moment for him was, I realized, I have gifts to offer a wonderful story.

Chris Searles 30:34
It's beautiful. And I want to try to jump in and highlight one thing for you guys to kind of bounce around a little bit this this thing you said, Scott, that's so powerful. And, you know, Jimmy is a craftsman, right, and so on, and so forth. So this is one of the ways that ties together. This idea that work is a gift. And, and kind of the context Jimmy and I are coming out of is that the American culture is, is you know, sort of oriented towards not helping itself right now. And the work that you're doing is really setting a model. So, you know, there's shame around work for a lot of people, you shouldn't do labor, these kinds of things, that's for a lower class of person or something like that. And the reality is, you know, it's a gift, you can make the world as you wish, you can build relationships, it's not easy or anything, but we should we should get back into, I think, a culture that takes pride in potential.

Scott Sabin 31:29
Yeah, yeah. I'd be curious to hear your thoughts, Jimi.

Rev. Jimi Calhoun 31:36
Well, I, we have a saying in the ionic community, and work in worship, you find God, I guess, and as it relates to just being looking at the world holistically, and thinking about that everything, every everything you do does have a purpose. It doesn't necessarily have to be identified as a job. But with that responsibility, what you do even when you're off hours, there's there's a, there's a job to do then and there's work to be done. 24/7, I guess, is the way I would say that, and then you would have to, I guess you define really find the word work. Because I don't see serving another person is work any longer. I mean, I, early on, when I was getting a denominational paycheck, you know, they talked in terms of, well, you know, you got to put 60 hours in, but make sure you everything was quantified, and they had a bracket for this. And since I left that world, you know, I'm on 24/7. And I never think of anything, any call I make, or any conversation I am or anything like that as being work. And it's all geared towards improving the lives of somebody else, and whatever, in whatever way they need it. And Chris, and I have a lot of conversations about music, and the conversations we have, don't really ever pertain to us becoming better players, but it makes us better people, because we stretch. And then we're only using the conversation about Miles Davis or the ammonius month for a broader purpose, you know, they get something else done. And that's and that's how work can be as well.

Scott Sabin 33:43
I love it. I you know, the my thought is that, that, you know, I don't want to romanticize things, you know, if we look at the count in Genesis and the the the fall, there's also a curse that comes with it. Right. And so you can romanticize work. There's a lot there's a lot of places and a lot of people work is is drudgery or slavery or, or serves no purpose or is abusive. So I don't want to romanticize that. But I do think that at its best, and in the kingdom of God, there's an alignment between purpose and what we do, and that we are we were made to be co creators. And so that the point and I think for us, one of the exciting things about working with subsistence farmers is there is an opportunity for creativity in how you work with the land. So it it can be much more creative, per se than then you know, going to the City and trying to get a job in a garment factory. Again, I don't want to romanticize it's hard. Being a subsistence farmer on a barren hillside, you know, somewhere in, in East Africa is hard. And it's easy for me sitting here in a, in a nice, cool place to romanticize it. And I don't want to do that. But

Rev. Jimi Calhoun 35:23
there is that tension. I know exactly what you're saying. It's, it's this one lady in buoys that we call it the banana lady, and he, the bananas you bought, there were five, either five or 10. I don't know if I remember, but in the US, and probably three cents. And she sat in this open market with what you can imagine flies and excrement dogs, and he just, and she sat there every day, every single day. And Julian and I would go by, and we would be the only people that stop after we purchased our bananas and talk to her. And she looked forward to are coming here. Because we'd spend 20 or 30 minutes whether and talking, nobody ever saw her as a person, they just saw her as somebody sitting there that had a commodity they needed. And her work wasn't very satisfying. But her work was very needed by the people there because otherwise they wouldn't eat. So I get this. My whole concept of what of the import, and even, I guess the definition of work, I know what you mean by not wanting to romanticize. But we have a tendency to, we're very comparative by nature, I guess, in the West. And the last book, and my forthcoming book I, I talked about how the indentured Irish came in early America. And they were doing basically the same jobs that the enslaved Africans were doing in close proximity to each other. But even in that they had to, they had to make a distinction. So that one felt elevated above me. And I just, I found, besides the sadness that we would do that, I saw the humor in ourselves that we would even think to do that as as a culture as a society. So you know, work around the world is, is what you said, Scott is serving a purpose. The banana lady in Belize is serving the same purpose as IBM exec here in Austin over here making the computer the iPhone that I use, I guess they attributed, I should have said apple and gotten to

Chris Searles 38:09
Yeah, now we're gonna get blocked!,

Rev. Jimi Calhoun 38:13
I don't want to get sued for misappropriating or copyright infringement!

Scott Sabin 38:18
Ha! ... I think some of our work, to use work and adherence, some of our work is to is to bring good news of redemption and to offer redemptive opportunities. And we were, again, it's, you know, I don't want to set ourselves up in as, as the Redeemers. We're not, but we can bring good good news of redemption, and offer opportunities, I think, to redeem work.

Chris Searles 38:55
Yes, I appreciate all of that, you know, I got to go to Kenya in May, with the salmon and melody from Africa exchange. Yeah. And it was my first time to see colonization, from the real insight of it. Because they have a similar model, they go to these isolated communities. And so to your point about work, being, you know, extremely oppressive in places, you know, I do appreciate you guys both sort of bringing that out. And then also, I think, you know, maybe we can shift over to talk a little bit more about poverty. Jimmy, is this, this really good question, you know, how Scott do you define poverty in the in the question that we are in the conversation he and I were having ahead of time, and then also in light of that, sort of, you know, so in the Christian model, caring for the least of these can mean a lot of different things. So how you look at the scatter or house plant with purpose looks at this. Yeah,

Scott Sabin 40:04
yeah. Well, I'm Jimmy, I, I see that you talk about poverty is a state of hopelessness.

Rev. Jimi Calhoun 40:15
I have used that Yes.

Scott Sabin 40:19
I think that's, that resonates with me. I trying to remember whose literature I was reading, but comparing Western definitions of poverty, which tend to be a lot about lack of material things. And, and those of the global south talking about poverty, and it tends to be much more adults, you know, hopelessness, discouragement, embarrassment, ability, all of those things. So, to me, one of the things I think is, is, in this, my definition now is a lack of agency, or perceived agency and opportunity. Which can can be closely connected to hopelessness. If you're hopeless, you don't. You don't exercise what agency you might have.

Rev. Jimi Calhoun 41:27
Recognized? Yeah, yeah, one of the things that we do in our small groups is the very first question. When the missional impulse hit the states about the early 2000s, most of the churches here were into going out and serving, you know, and serve serve in the funnel on the website in serving team serving opportunities. And we were there as well. But the first very first question I would ask our people is, what do you think about poverty? What does poverty mean to you when you hear that word? And for some reason, every time that word was wrote, it would come back in economic terms. And like, we're economic beings. Well, poverty has more components to it than economics. And so that agency you're talking about and that hopelessness, and there are people I know, from my recording industry, days that they were hopeless and impoverished solely inside of their soul and empty, even though they had everything at their disposal, economically different at their fingertips. And it's hard for people to realize that it is possible to be impoverished even while you even in the midst of what seems to be a lot, you can be impoverished.

Rev. Jimi Calhoun 43:00
But conversely, that hopelessness carries over and seems to anticipate, intensify excuse me, when there's the monetary component is, is at factored in. And how that plays out is attitudinally. I mean, my first year in ministry I spent at the Union Rescue Mission down in LA, and every week, I would go down and hang out with the guys all and it took me a long time to realize that they were acting just as they should. They were was everything they were so far off the grid, you know, I thought I could come down and offer some pointers and how they can improve this and touch this up and do this. And that's not what they needed.

Rev. Jimi Calhoun 43:55
They needed to somebody they come along and and say, I understand your attitude. I get why you see the world away. Because you're hopeless. And there's not a lot of good options out there in your horizon. You don't see a way out of this. Right? If I can get to that. I pull back to that level where I can say I identify with it. At least we can what was the baseball analogy? We can start the way to first base not heck with third base and start going to no like the first base together. But it's always that together. That has to happen. Yeah.

Scott Sabin 44:43
Your comment about the those who were who were economically wealthy but spiritually impoverished, is important. I think one of the things that we have learned and and is actually a part of our our theory of change is that well, we took we mentioned earlier we have stuff to learn, but that we don't come. You know, we come in many ways impoverished as well. Yeah, yeah. I really interested I don't like what it takes us off topic big time Union Rescue Mission.

Rev. Jimi Calhoun 45:26
Yeah, Andy.

Scott Sabin 45:27
No. Did you ever cross paths with Ken McGill or Leslie Saban?

Rev. Jimi Calhoun 45:33
Leslie sounds familiar.

Scott Sabin 45:36
Leslie is my sister Ken is her husband now. So they're kind of up and down and down. And what direction is Dallas from y'all anyway? In North Dallas. Anyway. They actually met working there at the rescue is down in Los Angeles.

Chris Searles 45:55
Yeah, yeah.

Rev. Jimi Calhoun 45:56
Oh, wonderful. That's yeah. So

Scott Sabin 46:00
I don't know what that would have. I don't know if you would have overlapped, then was Chaplin there for a while?

Rev. Jimi Calhoun 46:07
I think I was here in 80.... Well, I'm gonna date myself 87 or 86.

Scott Sabin 46:18
Okay, might have. I'll have to check with them. Sorry. I'm sorry, crazy. You're editing? We're challenging. But anyway,

Chris Searles 46:28
it's all staying in there!

Chris Searles 46:35
Well, speaking of third base and stuff, it's about time to shift into the third segment the homestretch. Does that sound good?

Rev. Jimi Calhoun 46:43

Scott Sabin 46:44

Chris Searles 46:45
Okay, I want to open this topic of the future we choose, which is a book title I like and again, back to empowerment. And the brighter side of work, when you are like me in a position of economic privilege, where you can really choose your work. This, this idea of potential is currently very lacking in the way so many of the conversations we're having about solving problems seems to be discussed, it's more often a fear, you know, what do we How the heck are we going to handle this difficult thing. And Scott, your book, your first book, you, you may be pretty close to finishing the second one. But your first first book, which I recommend to everyone Jimmy mentioned earlier, is called tending to Eden, environmental stewardship for God's people.

Chris Searles 47:38
And, to me as a ecologist, I mean, this is like the best title in the world, because I really understand that biosphere CLI. The planetary systems are designed to renew, we're just sitting on top of potential all the time. And I'm wondering if you can tell us in this context of choosing a good future, and so forth, what you sort of mean, in a nutshell about tending to eat? And can we can we make the future better through environmental care? We've talked very broadly about stuff, but you know, you're, you're affecting communities, you're affecting society in positive ways, you know, by most metrics, but anyway, I just love to hear from you about that area.

Scott Sabin 48:22
Yeah. Well, you know, first, this is a lesson that I learned from farmers in the Dominican Republic. But first, we saw a vicious cycle between environmental degradation and the impoverishment of their farms, they were the land where the soil was eroded the water, you know, ran off, and didn't infiltrate the soil, and so they weren't able to grow what they needed.

Scott Sabin 48:52
So we had a vicious cycle.

Scott Sabin 48:53
What I learned from them is that there's a possibility in that in creating a virtuous cycle and actually a win win. And I think too, oftentimes, when we look at human need and environmental issues, we see it as a very much as a zero sum game.

Scott Sabin 49:14
If people benefit the environment is heard if the environment is helped, people are hurt. And I think that there is there's tremendous potential if we seek it. Well, I want three things. If we seek out the win win, if we approach it from a spirit of abundance rather than scarcity, I think scarcity leads us to hoard and leads us to strip the land and, you know, book breeding sweet grass white Robin wall Kimmerer talks about the principle of reciprocation. Easy for you to say Yeah, reciprocity, thank you. I'm going to say that all again so that you can, Robin, while giver talks about the principle of reciprocity. And you have to have a sense of abundance before you can give back. Otherwise you want to keep and hold it all for yourself. And so I think that that spirit of abundance is important. And then I think the last thing, which is particular to us, is those we serve. And there's nearly a billion people who make their living as subsistence farmers growing their own food, and living off what they can grow is probably the greatest untapped resource in the world, they have so much to offer creativity, and, and they are the ones who are plagued planted 61 million trees, not us. I mean, we've been the catalyst, but in some ways, they're the ones who planted the trees. And they're, like I say, our partners, not our projects. So yeah. Wow.

Chris Searles 51:11
Beautiful. Can you talk a little bit about this potential, we, Jimmy and I gave you really for simplicity of of our preparation for talking with you gave you the title of a global poverty expert. So you may not feel comfortable with that, but you are working in nine countries, extremely impoverished and under resourced communities. So I'm curious if you can talk about this idea of potential through the ecological means and community building that you're doing as a global poverty solution, but also as a priority for communities of faith that they can utilize locally, you know, the the techniques, the mindset, and so on and so forth, that we need to support the work that you're doing and others like you, but we also need to implement where we are some of the same ideas. Can you talk about how these things cross over a little bit? Yeah.

Scott Sabin 52:08
I mean, and I'm used to thinking in an international context. So it's always a bit more challenging to think about how it might apply in a US context. But I think, you know, first of all, looking for the the Win Win, kind of thing, I think, you know, as communities of faith. We weren't good news, or were intended to be good news for creation. Right? Romans says, the creation waits for the children of God to be revealed. I don't know exactly what that means. But it does mean that in some way, where we are as communities of faith, as Christians are intended to be good news for creation and in the, the Great Commission, as it's given in the Gospel of Mark is to go out and preach the good news to all of creation.

Scott Sabin 53:01
So again, we're supposed to be good news to all of creation. What does that look like in practice? Are we in our communities of faith, life giving, or death dealing? And I think there's a lot of times where we think of this as, as, as secondary or a distraction, where we can be a living witness to the kingdom of God, bringing good news to all of creation. So, yeah, I think that's one way that we can think about where we have church, how we relate to our community, how we prioritize things in our community. You know, to your earlier question about global poverty. I, where I'm definitely not an expert is at the policy level, I made a very conscious decision to get involved at the grassroots level at the community level, because I thought it would be easier than policy. You know, we've we've learned that it's, there's a lot of pitfalls there too. But if nothing else, you can see you can see the impacts and

Scott Sabin 54:20
I've seen, you know, poverty dramatically reduced at the same time that I've seen, you know, forest return and rivers begin to flow again and and fruitfulness return to the land. And I think that is scalable. Right now we are directly serving about 400,000 or 500,000 people have an impact from what we've been able to measure have a measurable impact and just over a million people. But as I said nearly a billion people make their living as subsistence farmers so the potential to scale this and to serve many that's where I'm I get really excited Me too. Sorry. And it also, as it has a local impact, and as it's restoring forests locally, it has a global impact, you know, forests and fertile soil sequester carbon and have a, an impact on climate change.

Scott Sabin 55:23
And I've seen again, seen local farmers, people who may not even be literate, get excited about the fact that they're having a positive impact on the climate. And they they're aware of climate change. I hear farmers talk about how the climate is changing all the time. And they get excited that we're doing something not just for our community, not just digging in the dirt to try and eke out a living for my family. But I'm doing something for the planet. Let's tremendous.

Chris Searles 55:59
There really is I mean, if you just think about the feeling of that. Back to this bridging word, you know, you're connecting those people to a sense of global identity. And there's a lot more we could say about that. I have one more question for you. Jimmy, would you prefer to have the last word or the second the last word?

Rev. Jimi Calhoun 56:20
I prefer the second last word. Okay. Well, as I heard, and his his conscious decision not to get involved in policy, I can certainly relate to that, because I've kind of made the same decision at two levels. The political as well, as, you know, there's certain things that I don't have expertise and, and what we talk about around here is that perception precedes perspective. And really, what that means is like, for Chris and I are simpatico, we're really close. And yet, I know of I brought him to a lot of evangelical churches, and he shared his perspective, they would not understand that because of their perception. And that's why my, what my work is to try to change people's attitudes about how they see people with different skin color, this attitude that needs changing. And that's, that's my role. And now as I'm hearing Scott here, I know the same thing would happen. If I were to go and share and say, well, listen, I met a guy online, he's doing all this wonderful work around here, there, and they rattle off all these countries, and because their perception of what poverty is ever go, so their perspective when they will, they will not be able to grasp the import. And so I just wanted to say that ignited a fire in me today. And so thank you for this time.

Scott Sabin 58:04
Thank you. Thank you. Yeah,

Chris Searles 58:06
yeah, the the inspiration I get from both of you all is profound. I want to repeat for the audience that Scott said, very humbly, a moment ago, that they're helping around a million people now indirectly, and around half a million people directly with their programs. Again, this is a man who started with one program in one country a few decades ago, and has been able to really build this incredible thing that back to the point you left on a phone a moment ago, Scott, it's exciting. I just get so excited about, wow, look what Scott did in 30 years, where can we be in 30 more years, because now we have a template. And the template is rooted.

Chris Searles 58:53
Another way that you and I've talked about this, and I'm wrapping up here, but another way I've you and I've talked about this is it's rooted in altruism. And so the faith aspect of it allows for the development pieces to be about the people inside of the project about the life the other organisms about the long term, as opposed to short term economic returns and these kinds of things. And that is the model that are that is a piece that is to some degree been lacking in the way the academic world and the policy world have viewed creating opportunities for people. They've looked at it, as Jimmy said, more of like an economic exercise. And your model is so much more about the whole person about the families and so forth. And they are learning from you, obviously, over these last decades. But I appreciate it so much.

Chris Searles 59:44
And so for anyone in the audience, please check out Jimmy's work at bridging and Jimmy But please, please check out client with Look for Scott's books and so forth, and I and his other interviews And the other content from hunt with purpose on the web, because again, they really are leading half a million people are being affected by this care based work. The last question I have for you, Scott is a big simple one. I like big simple questions. So I'm wondering if you can speak to the people of faith or people in general, about a singular priority if you had to choose one priority in light of the environmental and social problems that we're trying to solve now? What would it be? You sort of spoke to this a moment ago when you were talking about being called to share the good news?

Chris Searles 1:00:42
But anyway, what would your you know, the one thing you wish everyone knew and was acting on be?

Scott Sabin 1:00:49
Wow. You know, we spend so much time trying to hold in balance, both the poverty work and the and the faith outreach and the environmental that pulling out one, but I think that might be what I'm most excited about is you don't have to you don't have to see it as a zero sum game that actually those those three things are. There's a synergy between them. I think that people are, are one of the reasons that people are sticking with the work is because they see it as an outgrowth of our faith fact, our director in in Tanzania has told me that that a lot of a lot of tree planting programs, they pay people to plant trees, they stop paying people to plant trees, the trees stop getting planted, are people or people we work with, I should say, see it as actually something they do to take care of their watershed. So all that to say probably the overarching thing is there's good news, I see good news. I see good news every single day.

Scott Sabin 1:02:08
And I get really excited about it.

Scott Sabin 1:02:09
I'm blessed in that on Sunday, I'm headed to the Dominican Republic, I'm going to be visiting some of the people and some of the families that I first saw 30 years ago, when we were only working with 80 families. Earlier this year, I got to go to Wahaca, Mexico, where we visited a place a hillside that was completely barren. And we were putting these little tiny seedlings in the hillside. And I remember thinking this is futile. Meaning like, what are we doing this for? And today? Well, this spring I walked through a forest with trees that were 40 feet high, the the smell of pine needles and the trees. Birds perching in the branches and the farmer talking about the biodiversity they returned and the stream that was flowing and the deer that had come back.

Scott Sabin 1:03:08
And I think too often people look at the environmental issue, and issues of global poverty. And look at both of those is hopeless. Just like those we serve. If we see this hopeless, we lose our agency. It's not hopeless!!

Chris Searles 1:03:28
Yeah, I'm excited about the future. I think I think we have an enormous bunch of stuff we got to do real fast together. And the hardest part is doing it together. But I am very excited. I think we have a lot of good things figured out and leaders you know, among us all over the place. And then I think to wrap up on a big idea for me right now you know, something use each of said, you know, everyone is important, everyone is gifted. I think we're all geniuses here and we just haven't created a context where that can really really be utilized the full symphony of potential or something like that.

Chris Searles 1:04:08
I don't want to let you guys go just because I'm such a huge fan. But to everyone listening here, thank you so much for tuning in. This has been a great pleasure for me to bring these two guys together and get them conversing and so forth. And just wishing everyone the best as we move forward in this pursuit of care.

Chris Searles 1:04:29
Thank you, Scott, so much for your work with plant with purpose. Please check out the other podcasts on

Scott Sabin 1:04:37
Thank you, Chris. Thank you, Jimmi.

Rev. Jimi Calhoun 1:04:39
Thank you!

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