Andres Lavanderos is a first-generation Chilean American, born in Chicago and raised in Miami.
Though raised in church (his father was a pastor), Andres says he didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus until he was about 19 years old.
No long after that, Andres decided to attend TBC. His first memories of TBC include being welcomed with a grin and open arms by former professor Dr. Jim Schaefer and being challenged by then Dean of Students Mike Grover. Andres married his wife, Jennifer Gomez, in 2006 and he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Missions in 2009.
Andres wrestled with how unreached people groups and the Great Commission would shape his life.
He was pastoring a local church in Jacksonville when he was first invited to preach at a conference in Nicaragua.
“God captured my heart for Nicaragua, and we felt God’s calling to live there as missionaries. So, we did – we lived in Managua for over a year, where we planted a church and started a small school.”
But then came an unexpected change in life: a quick transition back to life in the US.
“One of my girls was born with a congenital heart disease. We came home for a scheduled furlough for her to have open heart surgery. The surgery went well, but when they went to stitch her back up the sternum collapsed. So, they had to put a metal bar in her sternum.”
The doctors advised them to remain in the US due to the follow-up surgeries that were needed, and the stressors of going back and forth to Nicaragua would be complicated for both her recovery and their family’s well-being.
Andres returned to ministry here in the US, but never lost his passion for missions.
It wasn’t until the opportunity to own his own company came about that he heard of the concept of “business as missions”.
“…I struggled with it [transitioning from ministry to business] morally. I was thinking, wait… God called me to ministry. What about that? I wrestled with it for a full year. A couple of my mentors (including Pastor Messer) really challenged me to think of business as missions. It was the idea of using the business platform and resources to be part of advancing the kingdom of God, and how I could fulfill and compliment my calling through the business platform.”
The concept intrigued him, but he was hesitant to jump in, knowing that many would misunderstand his motive transitioning out of ministry and into business.
Notwithstanding, Andres took a leap of faith in 2019 and started a solar energy company, Synergy Solar, going all in with business as missions.
It was a move he made sacred, backed only by his passion for missions, his desire to provide for his family, and the support of a few close mentors.
“For a solid year I was terrified. I was known as a pastor, a missionary, a preacher… now I’m a business guy? Now I look back and I’m fine. I love it, I have passion and vision, but it was challenging. There are still people who look at me sideways.”
As he has watched God work, the fear has given way to excitement at the possibilities.
Andres says that being mission-minded in the field of business allows believers to sit at tables with CEO’s and executives with influence to talk about collaborations that impact the world for Christ. For example, last year, Synergy teamed up with another company to donate a large sum to jump start a missionary endeavor. Other connections have been instrumental in helping start businesses on foreign fields that provide a living for national pastors. Andres has been surprised and emboldened by the number of businesses and business leaders that claim the Great Commission as their core focus.
“The amount of Christian business owners and executives who love Jesus and want to utilize and leverage their company for the kingdom of God – it’s actually a big world out there!”
Since 2019, Synergy has grown to 30 employees, and is still expanding.
Andres started the company with a single employee but soon expanded. His second hire (and eventual business partner) was fellow TBC grad Jonathan Lindstam (’06), who, incidentally, was also transitioning off of the mission field at that time. The skills and talents Jonathan brought to Synergy effected rapid growth; becoming partners only accelerated their success. Andres is thrilled that he and Jonathan are completely united around the conviction of using the business platform to change the world for Christ.
When introducing people to the concept of business as missions, Andres breaks it down to macro- and micro- levels.
At the micro level, he sees business as missions playing out in personal everyday interactions.
He says that anyone is welcome to work at Synergy – being a Christian is not a requirement. The company culture is governed by values that are based upon scriptural principles. This allows him to directly instill scriptural values into his staff. Since the business is led by Christ followers, prayer and scripture are part of many meetings and the gospel is shared freely when given the opportunity.
On the macro level, Andres truly believes that the sky is the limit.
From his perspective, the funds, connections, and interactions with customers can all be leveraged for the sake of the gospel; all it takes is some creativity. He has long pondered the fact that he lives in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
“It intrigues me, bothers me, makes me curious about what else we can do. We can essentially highjack the world’s money for the Kingdom of God! We are all agents in the kingdom of God, on the same mission given to us by Jesus. People in the business world have a unique opportunity to infiltrate the city for the Kingdom of God.”
He says that his background in both the Latino and American cultures enables him to connect with various people groups locally through commonalities of language and culture. But the potential for reaching unreached people groups extends far beyond that. Andres has had the privilege of travelling to over 14 different countries, and he shares this perspective on the doors that are available to business leaders who want to impact the world for Christ.
“… they probably don’t care that you have a doctorate in Theology. You aren’t getting a visa that way. But I can probably get in as a CEO of Synergy to bring them green energy. And because the Kingdom is in me, I now have infiltration into those places to make disciples through the business platform.”
Synergy Solar currently employs four TBC alumni and is championing (Synergy is not the sole contributor) the building of a school in Colombia. This project is their Business as Missions focus for the immediate future. To date, the land is purchased in Cartagena, Colombia and they are currently in phase two of construction.
Andres Lavanderos lives in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife, Jennifer, and their four children.