Executive Turned Missionary: Finding Your Passion and Purpose

Mentor Mama:

Today we are going to be talking about finding your passion and pursuing it for God’s glory. Our guest today, Karen Bruton, author of the book, “The Lamb of Wall Street,” will be sharing her journey from working in an office as a corporate executive to helping impoverished women in communities all around the world. Karen sensed a calling from God that led her to leave her prestigious position and devote her life to offering hope to these destitute populations. After leaving her executive position, Karen continued trading stock options to create an income for herself and her non-profit organization called Just Hope International. After unprecedented returns, Karen was shocked when she came under investigation by the SEC, which accused her of fraudulent practices. Her faith in the Lord upheld her and strengthened her beyond what she could have ever imagined during this dark difficult time. Join us as Karen walks us through her story and shows us how ultimately God can change any situation to glorify His Kingdom, but first a word from our sponsor.

Mentor Mama:

Karen Bruton graduated from the University of North Carolina and holds an MBA from Wake Forest University. She spent more than 25 years as a vice president and corporate controller of two corporations. In any week, you might find Karen watching the markets, working in the field in Sierra Leone, or listening to young women in an orphanage in Panama. Please welcome Karen.

Karen Bruton:

Thank you.

Mentor Mama:

It’s so nice to have you here today, Karen, thank you for taking the time to be with us. So, tell us about your book, “The Lamb of Wall Street.” Why did you decide to write this book and why is it so timely in today’s culture?

Karen Bruton:

I was working on the Island of Cypress for two-and-a-half years, bringing ministry out to people, and I got a phone call one night when the house was dark, the house I was renting was dark and it was at 10:30 at night. I was working on my computer. I heard a voice (say) tell the story now and I pushed back and thought, somebody’s in the house, but I heard it in my heart, tell the story now. I didn’t know what that meant. And two days later a person called me on the phone and said, I have heard several things about your story, and I think a book needs to be written about you.

Mentor Mama:

That’s so exciting and amazing how God can speak to us through His Spirit. Tell us about how did you learn the stock market at age 50? And what advice would you give to others who are wanting to do the same?

Karen Bruton:

I have an applied math degree and so I just got interested in numbers, and I worked a little bit and then I had a friend, and she and I took a course together for two years and it taught me how to trade. I just went over and gradually went toward options. And so, I ended up trading strictly with the Chicago board, the Chicago stock market, because they trade options, and the rest is history. I was asked what my returns were and little by little by little, my friends came into the stock market or just came into hope advisors. I’ve ended up trading over 240 million dollars.

Mentor Mama:

That’s amazing. In your book, I think you stressed such an important point, and that was that it took time. It’s not something that you can learn overnight, right? You invested a lot of time and energy and learning through that process. It is something that as you go through that process, you will learn, and it’s so exciting as you tell your story about how you put that to work for God’s glory. Related to that, I’d like to take just a step back for a moment and ask you about how you came to know Jesus as your Savior and how throughout your book you’ve incorporated Scripture and just how God has been at work in your life in a mighty way. Tell us about your story there.

Karen Bruton:

I was raised in the Methodist church, my family took me and my brother to every Wednesday night service and every Sunday morning service, so I was brought up that way, but I explored when I was in college, more and more and deeper and deeper what God meant to me, and I live my life for Jesus Christ now.

Mentor Mama:

Yes, I can definitely see that. Well, it was interesting that in your book, you said that one of your church pastors asked you point blank, what is your mission? And that really got you thinking. So, tell us about the discovery process of finding your passion of using your business knowledge to help communities around the world.

Karen Bruton:

I moved here to Brentwood, and I started attending churches. The first church I attended was a Methodist church and it was huge. I had never attended a church that large, and I sat in the back and said, I can’t go to church here, but I must meet the pastor because his sermon moved me so much, and I set up a meeting with him and I said, I just want to meet you, and we talked, he asked me some questions and it was simple. Then he said, what is your passion? And I said, my passion is music and theater and art. I use the other side of my brain for my passion. And he smiled and said, that’s not what I’m asking you. I said, I know it’s not, and he said, what is your passion? And I said, I don’t know what my passion is, but I would like to take an international mission trip to see if that’s my passion. A couple of days later, his administrative assistant called me and said, we want to put you on our Russian trip, and it was leaving in a couple of months, and I said, okay. That was the beginning of my heart changing places, my heart giving up what I was working for and being paid for and serving the Lord.

Mentor Mama:

I’ve been on missions myself, and they are absolutely life changing for sure. Going back to your career, you not only dealt with sort of discrimination in a very male dominate field, but you found success. So, can you talk about how you handled that, how God grounded you during that time and how you found your own path forward?

Karen Bruton:

I was working with a company in Charlotte, North Carolina, and I was the head of a department, and I reported to a manager, and he brought a young man in one day that just graduated from college, and he called me into his office and said, can you teach this young man? And I said, I’ll be glad to. At the end of the month, we got paid monthly, his check was put on my desk, and not his desk. I just opened the check, not thinking that it wasn’t mine, and (I saw that) he made much more than I did and, I went in to talk to my boss, and he said, oh, he’s a male, he’s got a family, you don’t need that much money, he doesn’t have a family, but he’s married and children will come to him, so that’s why we’re paying him more money. I held my breath and just walked out of his room and said, I’ve got to find another path to walk down, and I went to work for a CPA firm, and we had to work there for two years to become CPAs, and that’s what I did with my career, and then I was hired back, by that same company and made a vice president, the first female vice president.

Mentor Mama:

You definitely didn’t allow that to hold you back and you had determination.

Karen Bruton:

Yes, I did.

Mentor Mama:

It’s so important. Tell us about your experience in the stock market and how you were becoming very successful, and then, how did being a Christian help you as you came into some situations in your stock market experience that were difficult?

Karen Bruton:

My life is not based on money. I have a 2012 car; my life is not centered around money. I spend money to do a lot of things, but it’s not centered around money. I tell people that I am close to living under a bridge in Nashville, because my life is not based on money, and I was surprised and I place this on the Lord’s lap, that He (just gave me) more friends and more friends came to me and gave me money to trade, and my biggest trading for people was over 50% one year, and my least amount that I earned was 11%. I averaged 20 to 25% every other year, so I wanted to make my friends money and use that money that they paid me to work all over the world. I set up a foundation out of that money, so I told people that every dollar they gave me, I would put nothing toward their gift to pay for administrative costs, that every dollar they gave me would go to help other people, and I used that foundation to pay all of my administrative costs. Pay salaries for everybody working for me, pay for every copier and every printer and, things that you need in the office, I paid that through the foundation.

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Mentor Mama:

I think one of the exciting things that you did was that you taught them how to make a life for themselves, maybe share a little bit with our audience about how you differentiate between just giving people things versus really what you’ve done, which is giving them tools to make a better life.

Karen Bruton:

My first trip was to Nicaragua, and I planned to go to a trash dump, and it is a big trash dump in Nicaragua, and I paid a company from Minnesota to transport food to that area, and it came in on a ship and I transported it and put it on a truck, and I fed those children for two weeks, only the children. They lived on a trash dump, and they chased garbage trucks every day to get their food and get something to wear. They just went through the garbage and that moved me very deeply. When I got home from that trip, my heart was soaring. I went to bed that night just glorifying God and my heart was twice as big as it was. And then I woke up the next morning and said, those children are hungry again; I didn’t change a thing. So, I redirected my goals and I started giving a hand-up, not a handout, and that changed everything. I taught women how to make things that they could sell on the street, and I taught villages how to plant properly. I had an agricultural specialist that traveled with me, and he could teach those people. They planted corn in the same place for 20 years and their corn was not growing very well, and he taught them how to rotate their crops, keep a space vacant for a year, he taught them everything, and now they’re growing crops that they can sell. They grow enough for their families to eat, but they can sell their crops and they’re making money off of it.

Mentor Mama:

That’s just such a heart story, and just the impact that you’ve had and how God worked through you in that way. Can you tell our listeners the story about how you took the chickens? I thought that was such a great story about how you brought chickens and you had to cross a stream, and it was a difficult process to do that.

Karen Bruton:

In Peru, I took Guinea pigs and baby chicks and seed and fertilizer; that country was run by malice terrorist for about 10 years, and they went into villages, and if no villagers would follow them, they killed the whole village. They killed everybody living in the village, so you had to run out into the woods. I met a pastor in Peru, and he wanted to take me to a village that was destroyed by those malice terrorists, The Shining Path, they’re called The Shining Path, and I said, yes, but we need to build the village back up, so we got crates of baby chicks, crates of Guinea pigs. They eat Guinea pigs in Peru. I had a Guinea pig as a pet, and I took seed and fertilizer, and crossed a heavily flowing river with boxes on our heads, and I carried a box of Guinea pigs, and I thought I’m going to fall down in this river and the Guinea pigs are going to drown, but I made it across to the other side and the villagers weren’t allowed to go back to their village for about five years by the Peruvian government, and then they were allowed finally to come back to their village, and I was walking into a village that houses were destroyed, fields were destroyed, and I walked up a little hill and there I was met by the villagers and they were throwing flowers at my feet. It impacted me so emotionally, I continued walking and they continued to throw flowers at my feet, and I got up to the village and it was destroyed. And I said, we’re bringing Guinea pigs, baby chicks, seed, and fertilizer to your village. And I didn’t know that, but the pastor who brought me up was from that village. I learned that a couple of days later. They celebrated us, they fed us, and we just spent the day there and they thanked us so heavily, and I was just joyous from there and their thanks and throwing flowers at my feet, and that will stay in my heart for the rest of my life.

Mentor Mama:

And have you had reports of how they’re doing now?

Karen Bruton:

They’re doing excellent. I plan to go to Peru this June and visit them again.

Mentor Mama:

That will be special.

Karen Bruton:

I went to a museum in a couple of days later with the pastor, and I have a picture of that pastor in the book, but, he said, I will sit in the car, you go on in, and a few minutes later, I was standing in a room that a skeleton was partially covered with dirt and, the malice terrorists, buried people alive and they just turned into skeletons and he came up and entered the room where I was looking at that skeleton, and I said, welcome, you’ll just have to walk through the rest of the museum with me, and the last thing we saw was an article about his brother and sister that the malice terrorist killed, and he didn’t know that was in the museum and he just dropped to his knees and started crying, and I dropped to my knees, wrapped my arms around him and started crying, and the picture is in the book when he’s writing in the museum notes. I didn’t read what he wrote in the notes, so that impacted me very much.

Mentor Mama:

I can only imagine. And I think you mentioned in the book too, that did, to some degree, that really helped him, even though it was such a difficult experience to have to have gone through, right?

Karen Bruton:

Yes. But he knew they were in heaven. He knew that their family followed God, and he’s a pastor.

Mentor Mama:

What a beautiful story. Can you tell us, for the young women that are listening out there, what words of advice or encouragement would you give them? You know, as they’re seeking to find their passion and purpose in the world in , what advice would you have for them?

Karen Bruton:

Whether you’re called by God to take care of your family, whether you’re called by God to travel internationally, whether you’re called by God to be a preacher or whatever you’re called by God to do; serve Him. We’re all a part of Jesus Christ. I may be a hand, you may be an arm, you may be a foot, you may be a leg, but we’re all coming together to serve the Lord and whatever you’re called to do, pray and God will answer your prayers. What am I to do to serve you, God?

Mentor Mama:

Well, before we close out this interview, Karen, can you share with our audience, if people want to find out more information about you and your book and how can they find out more information about you?

Karen Bruton:

You can order the book at Just Hope International website, www.justhopeinternational.org.

Mentor Mama:

Can, that’s perfect.

Karen Bruton:

They can email me at karenbruton1@gmail.com.

Mentor Mama:

Share with us a little bit more about Just Hope International.

Karen Bruton:

I quit my job and formed it on this day in 2007. I quit my vice president’s job and started traveling piece by piece by piece by piece, and I’ve traveled all over the world. I haven’t traveled to two continents, Australia and Antarctica, and I’m so blessed. I am so blessed because I didn’t know how I would pay for things, and I learned how to trade, you know, for that reason. I put the pieces together and God was over me and taught me how to trade so I can make money spend on others around the world.

Mentor Mama:

And you’ve used that organization to manage that whole process.

Karen Bruton:

Yes, I’ve developed Just Hope Foundation, and I put most of my money into that foundation.

Mentor Mama:

Karen, before we go, was there anything else that you’d like to tell our audience today?

Karen Bruton:

What the SEC did to me; the woman that ran the SEC and this is under the Obama Administration. I don’t put the two together, but, she put out an email or wrote a note or something to all the department heads. And she said, we’re going after the large investment firms and they have their own in-house attorneys, and they’re fighting us, so go after the smaller companies because they can’t afford to fight us. And two weeks later, I got a group of them from the SEC, and the Atlanta office, and they walked in, I had been audited by the Chicago board, and they didn’t find anything wrong with what I did, but the people that walked in my office from the SEC didn’t know what what a call was, but they were just going after me and my money, and I got called to an Atlanta courtroom and the judge pointed to me and she said, you’re not allowed to speak a word in my courtroom. If you open your mouth, I will call this courtroom closed and you deal with me personally. My attorney got up to talk and she said, the judge said, I’m not interested in what you’re saying. And the SEC man got up and lied about what I was doing, then they put a gag order on me, for life. But, I’m taking that gag order off of me. I’ve got freedom of speech under the constitution. I decided to do this about a month ago, and I stood up in my church and told them that I was taking that gag order off of me. I don’t know how this story is going to end, but I know God’s in charge. The one investor bought 300 and something books and sent it to every Congressman and every Senator, and he put a note in the front of the book, and I told him not to tell me what that note said, so he followed my decision and I don’t know what the note said, but he’s got a lot of responses from a lot of congressmen and senators. God’s in charge of this. They charged me with fraud and I couldn’t fight them; I couldn’t afford to fight them. They did just what that woman said that they would do, go after the smaller companies, because they can’t afford to fight us. They took millions of dollars away from my foundation and God’s in charge of this, so He is going to respond to them someday. I’m not in charge. God’s in charge.

Mentor Mama:

Yes. What a horribly difficult situation that has been for you, but I think as you pointed out when we were talking earlier, just that your story may not have been told about how your organization was developed had you not been allowed to endure this hardship, and so we can be grateful that your book was written and that people will learn about Just Hope International foundation, and we can pray that God will continue to use you and those serving the poorest places of our country and continue to help them rebuild and share the love of Christ with them. I just applaud all that you’re doing. And for our listeners, we can be praying for Karen in this outcome, and that God will continue to provide for all of her needs and her future endeavors to continue the work that she’s started and that God has called her to do.

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Mentor Mama:

Thank you so much, Karen, for being with us today. Before we wrap up, I want to ask some of our favorite questions here at Coffee and Bible Time. Can you share with our listeners what Bible you use and which translation?

Karen Bruton:

I use the NIV Bible. I also read the chronologically prepared Bible.

Mentor Mama:

Awesome. Thank you so much. And how about, do you have any favorite journaling supplies or anything you like to use to enhance your Bible study experience?

Karen Bruton:

I journal on my trips. I forced myself to write in the Bible several years ago because I didn’t want my ink pen to touch the Bible and I got over that, so I journal in my Bible too.

Mentor Mama:

Do you have a favorite app or website for Bible study tools?

Karen Bruton:

I don’t use this often, but the app – Holy Bible?

Mentor Mama:

The YouVersion App.

Karen Bruton:

Yes. The YouVersion app.

Mentor Mama:

Yes. That one’s excellent.

Karen Bruton:

Yes, because I can select the many Bibles to read from, and I just select the ESV and NIV are the two that I select.

Mentor Mama:

Both great translations. And, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the YouVersion app we will put a link for you down below, but it is a great resource for looking at many different Bible translations, and it also allows you to look up a lot of different verses a little bit quicker. Well, Karen, thank you so much for being here today to share your story. And for our readers, I would just like to encourage you to pick up a copy of Karen’s book called, “The Lamb of Wall Street,” you can find the link here, and lastly, just head over to the Coffee and Bible Time website for our prayer journals that will help guide and document your prayer life at coffeeandbibletime.com. Thank you for joining us on our blog today.

Mentor Mama:

We love you all and have a blessed day.

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