2014 was a painful and exhausting year for Estela. A mother of three, she faced a broken marriage, a child struggling with addiction, and the suicide attempt of another of her children. Her business – a bakery selling breads, pizzas, jams, and cheeses – had a small client base but mostly depended on daily peddling, and always ran the risk of high extortion taxes to gang members, who control much of the commerce in her city.
Estela, who has been a Christian since childhood, looked to her local church for support, but was met with a lack of empathy or support. Severe anxiety and depression plagued her as she fumbled to find a way forward for herself and her children.
In 2016, Estela’s mother fell ill. Estela spent all of her capital on her mother’s illness, and all her time taking care of her in the hospital for two months. As a result, she lost her business clients, had to cancel all her loan products, and was required to take her children out of a local school because she had accumulated so much debt.
Estela felt isolated, alone, and unsure of where to find hope.
Then, through a friend, Estela was introduced to a local church named Locos por Jesus (Crazy for Jesus). Locos por Jesus is a sister church of Iglesia Transformacion de la Ciudad. The main pastor of ITC is partnered with Partners Worldwide through the church based LCI named Cocrear (Community of Entrepreneurs that Advance the Kingdom). This partnership is also supported by a Business Affiliate Team by the name of Conex.
The members of Locos por Jesus were a huge spiritual and emotional support as Estela walked such difficult challenges. She received counseling with the pastor on financial matters, and he guided her on how to build relationships and negotiate with her children’s school for loan repayment opportunities. The two youngest children started going back to school again. Her oldest son was counselled and employed by the pastor, overcame his addiction, and got involved in church community and serving the Lord.
Through Locos por Jesus, Estela was invited to a training held by Cocrear. Cocrear leaders are trained in the Partners Worldwide Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Curriculum and offer the training to sister churches and small businesses is the surrounding community.
While attending the training, Estela was able to open up about her financial situation and struggle to rebuild her client base. The pastor of ITC opened up his doors at church so that Estela could sell her bread after church services. Slowly, and bit by bit, Estela has designed a business plan, regained clients, and has grown her business from the ground up for a second time.
In Estela’s words, she now knows what it is to experience a ”true church” -- a church that cares for her in spiritual and practical ways.
She is thoroughly involved in her church community, ministering and empowering other women, and also leading a dental partnership project, where she connects university students in dentistry with children of extreme poverty that need dental care. Her youngest son plays musical instruments at the church, and is a young music teacher. Her daughter is also actively involved in the church, and her oldest son has two jobs to help out Estela with the expenses while her business grows.
This year, Estela plans to become a trainer and pass on all that she has learned to women who have walked similar roads of heartache, loss, and perseverance.
Once isolated, now connected, Estela has hope – hope and opportunity for a truly flourishing life.