Issue no. 4 - 2014 Governor Community Connection
Laura Truax didn’t know that the simple act of giving a speech would transform her own life – and help to fuel her enduring creativity as a pastor and writer.
Ten years ago, Opportunity asked her to prepare an address for an Opportunity donors’ forum.
But first, she had some research to do.
“Before the meeting, I traveled with a group of Governors to Nicaragua for a few days,” she explained. “While that trip took us to houses of poverty and families in want, we experienced the transformational power of opportunity…. Seeing the impact of small loans made my husband and I want to be part of this amazing organization.”
Around the same time that Laura became involved in Opportunity, she was chosen to be Senior Pastor at LaSalle Street Church in downtown Chicago. This non-denominational, evangelical church has a long tradition of uniting faith and action.
Much like Opportunity, Laura’s church is an “incubator for thinking creatively and faithfully about what it means to follow Christ in a world of need.” Through the years, the Opportunity initiatives that Laura has been involved in as a Governor have played a role in informing her activities as a minister.
Most recently, Laura made headlines when, through her leadership, LaSalle Street Church unrolled its “reverse tithing” project. After her church received a significant return on a real estate transaction in summer 2014, she decided to take a bold step.
“As I was praying about how the Lord might want us to use this for the Kingdom of God, I was also reading Jesus’ teaching on the Parable of the Talents in which each of the landowners’ servants were entrusted with the master’s resources and asked to invest them in whatever manner they saw fit,” Laura recalled.
“It became clear to me that the Lord was asking us first to tithe on the money and give those resources to the landowner’s servants (us!) and was asking each one of us to invest a portion of that tithe in whatever way they saw fit. The first Sunday in September 2014, we distributed the $160,000 to all the actively engaged people of our congregation.” (The $160,000 represented a tenth of the money that the church had earned from the real estate sale.)
“There are several amazing stories so far – people pooling their money for a scholarship fund for neighborhood youth, doctors giving to an Ebola clinic in honor of a stricken colleague – but perhaps the one that stands in greatest relief to me is a really simple story from one of our seniors,” she said.
Nadeen is a LaSalle Street Church member who had, at times, depended on the church’s benevolence funds for sudden expenses that her limited income couldn’t cover. Upon receiving her distribution of $500, she returned the majority of it back to the benevolence fund
As a Governor, Laura has witnessed how Opportunity perpetuates giving through loans that are repaid and recycled back into the system. She’s delighted to see this principle playing out in her own congregation.
“What a thrill it is to offer someone the pleasure of giving,” Laura said. “People have truly allowed the master’s resources to just flow through their hands and hearts.”
Laura believes that the most rewarding aspect of being a Governor has been “…visiting the determined, hard-working Opportunity clients around the world. Visiting them with a wonderful group of interested, engaged Opportunity donors is even better!”
Laura and Terry have three children—two are in college and one is in graduate school. Laura serves as a teaching pastor at the University of Chicago and is pursing a Doctor of Ministry degree through Fuller Seminary.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the national NPR show Here & Now aired an interview with Laura to delve into the remarkable story of her reverse tithe. Hear Laura describe how her congregation reacted to the announcement. And for a deep dive into her ideas about grace and making an impact on the world, read Laura’s 2013 book, Undone: When Coming Apart Puts You Back Together.