Grand Rapids, MI

by Cesar Gallardo

One of the added benefits of this conference was the ability to meet other people attending different conferences that week. I think that one of the most interesting aspects of this gathering was the diversity of the attendees, religiously, racially, and ethnically. It was interesting to converse with alumni and hear of how Acton had impacted their lives and the direction of their ministries, studies and business interests.

And, although this might sound like an advertisement, I must say that what makes the conference even a greater experience are the staff members that worked hard to put it together, and even through the hectic pace of keeping a conference on track managed to somehow always answer questions with a smile on their faces. This also includes the speakers who were available to attendees to answer questions.

The Acton Institute brings together an eclectic group of Christians from a wide scope of denominational and theological perspectives. To say the least, it was interesting as an evangelical protestant, to be amongst a diverse group of Catholics and protestants, with many seeking to find a common unifying vision, or at least open to discuss common issues of interest that impact our society.

A friend who spoke quite highly of his experience at the FAVS conference he attended introduced me to the Acton Institute. Although this friend has been known to exaggerate his experiences, not lie, just exaggerate, I came to the conference with very high expectations, which in all honesty I expected not to be met.

I will admit that I had some trouble wrapping my mind around the Christian anthropology as the foundation of the subsidiary model presented early in the conference. It was difficult for me to see how in a secular society such as ours, a model based on a Christian anthropology could succeed, given that our society does not embrace anything Christian.

It was beneficial to hear from ministers out on the frontlines like Rudy Carrasco who has implemented in Harambee the model of subsidiaries and testified that the model works within a faith based program designed to help the social and economic conditions of the people he tries to help.

Two thoughts come to mind regarding my experience at the FAVS conference. The first is related to the ministry of working with youth that God has called me to, and the second is related to the way Christian ethics applies to businesses. This is especially important to me since I have been running a small fast food restaurant in Los Angeles for the last ten years and in the process of potentially buying part of that restaurant.

Regarding youth ministry I was impressed with the devotion of some of the speakers and many of the attendees to impacting our young people in such a way that they might have hope for a better future. And although some and even myself left Acton with the impression of an overly idealistic and not practiced philosophy with a few exceptions, I think it is important to recognize that most if not all-social and political change begins with an idea. Acton provides the forum to dialogue not just Acton’s views, but also to dialogue the views of others who may not necessarily agree with Acton’s philosophy, but are seeking to implement social, economic and political change to help society. After returning home I am more determined to start up youth worker training institutes dedicated to training volunteer youth workers and providing a place for teenagers to find the hope that many, especially in our inner cities and in the third world so desperately desire. I am excited to see how this vision pans out and to come back to Acton and share how that one-week in Michigan has impacted the ministry God has called me to.

The second thought is regarding the small restaurant that I am in the process of acquiring. One of my concerns being in business has always been how one can remain ethical and still be successful in business. It seems that many businessmen are always cutting corners or compromising their morals in order to increase their bottom line. As a result of my time at the conference and hearing from successful businessmen who have not compromised their ethics, my hope is to take over this small business and run it in such a way that is pleasing to God. My hope is that God will honor the commitment to run the business in an honorable way, that the doubters may know that one can be successful running an a business based on Christian ethics.