As local communities emerge from an extended season of uncertainty, STCH Ministries Faith & Finances courses are positioned to help where people need it most. With three Texas locations in Houston, San Antonio and Corpus Christi, these training sites reach expansive regions with a message of financial hope. All courses are operated by generous volunteers who bring a solid knowledge and understanding of money matters from careers in the financial sector. In partnership with these professionals, students benefit from the practical guidance and direction of volunteers who model a healthy integration of faith and finances within their personal lives.
The Faith & Finances volunteers lead busy lives yet consistently find the time to give back in a way that aligns with their professional calling while furthering the gospel. Eddie Zuniga lives in Houston and works as a financial planner at Edward Jones. While his tenure within the company sits at four years, Eddie’s exposure to the world of financial planning extends to 2010 when he first became an Edward Jones client.
Eddie revealed that his financial acuity did not materialize overnight, and it took years to become fiscally savvy. Because of this, Eddie recognizes the value of the Faith & Finances course and believes it provides a safe space for people to think about money differently. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Eddie. “No other group does it better than STCH Ministries. Faith & Finances connects Christianity with behaviors. After this, everything else falls into place.”
While reflecting on his path to volunteer work, Eddie recognized the privilege he holds as a course facilitator where his pro bono contributions directly impact the community. He finds purpose in
connecting personal core beliefs with his career. Eddie notes, “When I see people release themselves from debt it is the coolest thing ever. Helping someone get to retirement is a goal, but helping someone find fulfillment is an achievement.”
Even with a background in financial planning, Eddie avoids a hard sell on investments for new students as he sees this wealth-building strategy as the cherry on top. Eddie reminds his classes that money is a tool, but without a goal rooted in truth, vulnerabilities and misdirection arise. “God has a plan for you,” says Eddie. “Don’t miss out on what God can do through your finances and for your family and community.”
Two hundred miles southwest of Houston lies the community of Corpus Christi, Texas. Here, Lavonne Spears volunteers with a local Faith & Finances program. As the employee development supervisor for CoastLife Credit Union, Lavonne spends her working hours training staff in the company’s products and services. With a financial career spanning 29 years, she finds fulfillment by discussing savings and lending topics with students in her class. “When I see that light turn on for others, it’s so rewarding.” Lavonne adds, “But the most rewarding thing is to see somebody free. To see that bondage lifted off of them. To see people now filled with hope and bypass their desperate situations.”
Lavonne began her volunteer work with STCH Ministries as a guest speaker and slowly integrated into a teaching role four years ago. “This volunteer work has taught me obedience,” said Lavonne. “The Bible says, ‘Go ye therefore into all the world and preach and teach the gospel.’ This is the gospel. Be obedient to what God has called you to do, and He will connect it all. This is my way of tying work and faith together.”
Throughout the course, many students encounter “aha!” moments where everything comes together. As the course instructor, Lavonne experienced her own moment of clarity when she looked down at a one-dollar bill and read, “In God we trust.” This prompted her to further pursue the concept of finding God’s will within her money. “I now see how God was really working things out for us to live with purpose and for us to be helpers from one to another.” Lavonne continued, “Faith & Finances is an awesome program, and even through the pandemic, God provided ways for us to do this virtually. We were able to reach even more people than before.”
On a personal level, Lavonne sees why it’s important to integrate faith into work. She recognized firsthand that students who complete the course leave with a tangible connection between their spiritual life and careers. Following hours of course preparation, Lavonne noticed how her Faith & Finances training grants her more freedom to talk about how faith should connect with money. Throughout her time as a volunteer, Lavonne witnessed people move from homelessness to security and eventually create and sustain a savings account. “They had lost everything,” Lavonne recalled. “It’s truly God’s hands and feet moving through this program.”
Today she encourages her local community to find a way to take the course. “Just take it. There are things you can add to the class and also things you can take from the class. It’s an exchange, and everybody brings something to the table. Don’t think you can’t be helped because you can. There is hope for everyone.”
In San Antonio, Texas, 150 miles northwest of Corpus Christi, Nick Holguin volunteers as a Faith & Finances instructor while serving as the CEO of Baptist Credit Union. Nick is within his first year of teaching the course, and he brings a unique perspective to each session as a previous Faith & Finances student. Surprised by its impact in his own life, Nick now feels fortunate to work in a place where he can live out his faith through vocation while pointing others to STCH Ministries resources.
As an advocate for the underserved in San Antonio, Nick regularly observes the results of poor financial education by way of expensive interest rates and bad credit. “It’s a matter of educating people who would otherwise be trapped in that cycle,” he says. “We’re using Faith & Finances as part of the credit union to teach the basics and the building blocks for financial stability.” Nick prioritizes the need to help credit union members experiencing hardships find refuge from dire situations.
With a personal story of financial and spiritual disconnect from his past, Nick speaks from experience when he shares how money is intrinsically tied to relationships. He sees how people value relationships more than anything else, yet too often, spending patterns do not reflect this value. “We need to consider our relationships and how they’re affected by how we spend or invest our money,” says Nick. He encourages people who are considering the Faith & Finances course to not waste another minute. “I’ve been a banker for 30 years and a CEO for 24 years, yet I didn’t understand how money was a part of my spiritual life,” Nick explains. “Once I understood that, I was able to make decisions filtered through the lens of faith being merged with finances.”
Eddie, Lavonne and Nick each bring unique gifts to the table as they freely offer their financial aptitudes to benefit their communities at large. Because of their willingness to walk alongside the financially disadvantaged, STCH Ministries volunteers get a front row seat to the redemptive work of Christ as vulnerable people find financial security.