Based on our experience, we expected about 50 people to register for IPI Denver. Our break-even number was somewhere around 15. We ended up with 11, most of whom registered in the last couple of weeks. We made the final decision to go ahead with the class the day after Easter with 4 confirmed students, largely because we could not cancel our $4,000 group hotel reservation.
As we set up for the class last Sunday, Alex and I went back and forth on the questions that had been simmering in our heads for weeks. Did we mess up? Should we have seen the signs and cancelled the class when we had the chance? Was this just God’s medicine for relying on our experience too much and on prayer too little? Or, was God doing something here that we did not plan, that would not have happened with a big group?
After the class, I still think that it was a small slap to the head from God. We all spent a couple of weeks intentionally refocusing on prayer and seeking God’s will for the class, a process that should pay dividends in every other area of our life and ministry. On the other hand, we also saw several clear signs that God was doing something that we didn’t plan or expect.
First, though it was a small group, we clearly had the right people at the class. All were deep thinkers and committed advocates for immigrants. They came from a variety of backgrounds, and their stories and passions inspired and challenged each other. The small group allowed us to forge a much deeper connection with each student, and allowed them each to get to know each other. Those eleven students could easily go on to serve hundreds or thousands of immigrants in Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, and Wisconsin, and I think that the knowledge and relationships that they gained at IPI will be a big part of that.
Second, this class could be instrumental in jump-starting Immigrant Hope in Colorado. More than half of the students left planning to talk seriously about working to start an Immigrant Hope center in Colorado, with the goal of germinating a regional network of centers. Even before this class ended, they were discussing key people they would encourage to attend the next class in San Antonio. Whether or not this group ends up working with Immigrant Hope, our experience with Immigrant Hope – South Central Wisconsin taught us that planting seeds with good people can have unexpected long-term results.
Third, we got connected with a group of eight all-star immigration attorneys in Denver. We did not know any of them going in – they were recruited by the boss of two former IPI students – but all of them were well-known and respected, experienced in their presentation areas, gifted teachers, and hugely encouraging to our students. That can be a rare combination: not everyone who knows a topic can teach it well, and some immigration attorneys are suspicious of non-profit, non-attorney immigration counselors. They all gave out their contact information to students, and offered to help out in the future. I think that the small size of the class may have been one reason why they were comfortable doing that. It really was a home run for us, and God brought it together without any help from us. I don’t know if/when we will bring the class back to Denver, but we don’t have access to a group of local attorneys like that anywhere else in the country.
So, we still don’t have a definitive reason why the class was smaller than expected, but now, at least, we have three investments that could easily blossom into worthwhile results.