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High-Tech Field Parallels High-Hope Ministries
Dave Hemker sees a lot of big ideas come his way – big ideas that need big dollars to succeed. As vice president of new product development for Lam Research, a producer of semiconductor manufacturing equipment in the Silicon Valley, it’s Dave’s job to sift through all the high-tech hype and back the best ideas with the capital and counsel that will create the next industry breakthrough. Even after 23 years, Dave says that picking the next big idea that will reap big rewards remains a tricky task.
“How do you choose and how do you give it a higher chance of success?” Dave asks. “You never really know ahead of time. If it were that easy everybody would be doing it.”
Dave’s eye for successful start-up enterprises combined with his expertise in nurturing new ventures make him appreciate Wheat Ridge Ministries. He sees Wheat Ridge as a preeminent Lutheran venture capitalist, identifying and investing in emerging congregational ministries that deliver high-hope rather than high-tech.
“There are parallels between feeding a new business venture and feeding a new ministry,” explains Dave. “There’s the excitement of coming onto something that doesn’t yet exist. You find someone with a passion and a vision and you help them get started. From my perspective, I know that in the business world not every one of these projects will pan out. I think that’s probably even more so in the nonprofit world. But if you don’t try, you’ll never find out if it will work.”
And Dave thinks that Wheat Ridge has refined the process to help maximize its new ministry success rate.
“I like that Wheat Ridge is moving beyond saying, ‘Here’s some cash – good luck!’ to ‘Let’s make sure you’ve got the weaknesses covered,’” explains Dave. He appreciates the way Wheat Ridge consults with the ministries it seeds to help leaders develop a vision and ministry model, recruit volunteers and raise additional funds. It’s the same process of leveraging strengths and filling in weaknesses that Dave uses to nurture a new business. “I think that’s relatively unique within the Lutheran Church world,” he adds.
Dave’s been part of that world as long as he can remember. He grew up in a Lutheran church in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and remembers helping his mom with Christmas cards each year. Mom would write out the card, while Dave and his sisters would put on the stamp and the Wheat Ridge Christmas Seal. After pursuing his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Stanford University, Dave and his wife, Pamela, settled in San Jose to raise their son, Matthew, and daughter, Mary. There, they are active in Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Fremont, where Dave recently served as congregational president.
Dave and Pamela have partnered with Wheat Ridge through an annual year-end gift for more than a decade now. It’s a decision that comes through prayer and an understanding of who God has created them to be. “When I look at the causes we support, it’s a spirit-led approach. Typically someone in our family has had personal exposure to it. It’s something we can relate to – it hits you at your core and is meaningful to you.”
Dave says his core connection with Wheat Ridge and the start-up ministries we support is a natural byproduct of his business experience. In other words, Dave sees an innovative fledgling ministry that is spearheaded by a passionate leader, supported by Wheat Ridge, and purposed in sharing the love of Christ as a high-potential investment.
“If I want to reach out to those in need, what better way to do it than being motivated by the love of Christ?” Dave asks. “If I have two kids who need a meal, they can both get the same meal, but if one gets the meal and also hears how Jesus loves them and cares for them, then that’s the extra bonus.”