New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - March 12, 1993, New Braunfels, Texas
144 So. Seguin New Braunfels, Tx.
(Across from Naeglin's Bakery)
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Manager Mary Esther Sanchez Asst. Manager
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HOUSTON — It's doubtful there is anyone in Houston who takes the adage “Cleanliness is next to godliness* more seriously than Gerald Lashley.
Over the past eight years or so,
. Lashley has taken an idea to provide cleaning, food service and basic management services to Houston churches and built it into a multimillion-dollar business employing about IOO.
Among his clients are some of the city's most well-known religious institutions, including First Baptist Church of Houston and St John Hie Divine Episcopalian Church.
From his first contract for $7,600 a year, Lashle/s Aztec Church Maintenance Systems has now grown to bill about $1.2 million a year.
A religious man, Lashley, 54, believes God showed him the way to success. During the 1960s and 1970s, he worked for a company named Service Master in commercia] health-care maintenance.
He moved to Houston in 1977, servicing many of the city's and Texas' large medical facilities. But he was restless and wanted to start his own firm.
“I had become very unhappy and decided to go into business for myself,” he said. ”1 ran away from the business I had been in.”
But his first attempt to go it on his own was a disaster. He tried to start a hand tool company franchise in 1981 and two years later ended up losing his life savings, $76,000, that he had sunk into the venture.
"I almost lost my home, my credit; everything that could have gone wrong went wrong,” he said.
At this point in 1983, a friend who had worked with him at Service Master told him how badly churches needed the sort of service he had spent two decades letting up for medical facilities.
*1 w«it to work for him in 1984 and for two years we had one heck of a ride,” he said. “We dealt mainly with hospitals, churches and commercia] accounts.”
That company, Support Management Systems, was bought out in 1986 and within a month Lashley found himself back at square one — out of his job as operational manager.
The company that bought out his fanner employer began to consolidate and close offices. But within ayear or so, it was out of Bio church business.
It was at this point that Fred Weitsel, business administrator at Grace Presbyterian Church, gave Lashley advice.
“He told me that there was no reason why I shouldn't do exactly what the other company was doing and he had the foresight to say that tho new company probably wouldn’t be able to stay in busbies! and provide the same service operating out of Chica-go," ladyg said.
Weitsel said ho supported Lashley because ho had been approached by some companies
tiying to provide full service but found them wanting.
"One key thing we derive from a group like Aztec is that they are geared solely to serve churches,” said Weitzel.
“We are a seven-day-a-week church as opposed to an office downtown that shuts down at five and on weekends,” he added “A lot of the work they do for us is special set-ups and takedowns in rooms that may be used throughout the day for various functions. It's not strictly cleaning.”
When he started out, Lashley sought advice but found little to no help from the city’s small busi-ness-aid organizations — they didn't know what to tell him.
Around this time in 1986, St John's was about to go out for bi and invited an existing company, Aztec Maintenance Services Inc., to become a limited partner.
He began bidding a full package of services to churches including air conditioning, heating, plumbing and electrical lighting as well as assistance in energy conservation and preventive maintenance.
In the energy conservation and maintenance areas, Aztec provides a software package that is used to prompt church officials as to what each maintenance employee is doing and when they should perform a certain task eqch day, month or year.
“We are the only company in the United States that is doing this sort of thing for churches,” Lashley said. “We are reinventing the wheel as we go along.”
Molly DeVries, business administrator for St John's, said her church had been approached by some other maintenance firms but that Aztec was the only one that provided the full range of services the church needed.
“I rely on them to handle all of our maintenance,” she said. “When they came in they took over all of our maintenance employees. He has really expanded his scope of services.”
The employment arrangement varies from church to church. At Grace Presbyterian, all of the maintenance employees are workers of Aztec, but at First Baptist, all of the employees are employed by the church.
Lashley said his experience has been that many churches have somewhat outdated approaches to their infrastructure needs.
“We like to say there is business sense and church sense,” he said.
Churches are similar to retail outlets in the respect that if the clients, or in a church’s case, the congregation, don’t enjoy their surroundings or find them clean and inviting, they may decide to shop elsewhere for religious guidance and comfort
Turnover is a constant problem in a business like Lash ley's. He is trying to combat this by giving some of his employees part ownership in the business.
“We redesigned the company last year by bringing in some of the employees as co-owners,” he
said. “We gave them profit centers: each employee is responsible for a certain number of churches and if they perform well they make more money.”
The company is virtually debt-free, Lashley said, which is some feat considering he started it with virtually no seed money.
“God opened the door for me, I truly believe that,” he said.
For the coming years, Lashley sees things moving on a pretty even keel, with revenues staying about the same. He would like to see expanded use of the software system in other churches outside of Houston and nationwide. He believes the service could be run from his office using an 800 number.
“We believe that if we put God first in our business, then we will be a success,” he said.
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■a HERALD-ZEITUNG FRIDAY. MARCH 12. 1993Waco cult extreme case of millennium beliefs
; NEW YORK — Apocalyptic, end-of-the-world scenarios have been around through most ofhis-•tory, and the Waco group in an armed standoff with federal authorities is another peculiar outcropping of it
Religious analysts foresee a surge of such end-of-times expectations as the close of the century nears.
Convinced of the rising interest in such reckoning, a Philadelphia researcher, Ted Daniels, has .made monitoring it his occupation.
"The idea is clearly hot,” says Daniels, who holds a doctorate in folklore from the University
“Ifs going to get increasingly important as the century winds down. I hope to God ifs not violent,” he said.
Daniels, founder of the Millennium Watch Institute and editor of a year-old newsletter, Millennium News, said he keeps tabs on about 600 groups that anticipate an early close of the age and start of a perfect one.
In between, as some theories have it, there will be intervening periods of disorder and suffering, called “the tribulation,” and a last purging war, Armageddon, before the era of peace and abundance unfolds.
"Ifs to be paradise on earth, the transformation of the world,”
Daniels said in an interview. “That’s the kernel of the whole millennial story. This world will be transformed into paradise.”
Daniels' recently published book, “Millefinialism, an International Bibliography,” records several thousand cases in history of groups predicting an end of present mixed realities followed by a utopian aftermath.
“It’s not strictly a Christian idea,” he said. “Some of these notions are older than Christianity. But mostly, it’s associated with some type of piety. It’s very much involved in the whole 'New Age’ thing these days.”
Teachings of most major churches avoid specifying future
details, seeing pictorial biblical allusions to such events as symbolic of the struggle between good and evil that is fully resolved only in God’s redeemed creation.
However, millenniumism of various kinds threads evangelical and fundamentalist teachings. The word refers to a supposed 1,000-year reign of Christ, as interpreted from Revelations 20 in that highly symbolic book.
Postmillennialists claim Christ’s reign of righteousness will come before the conclusion of history, while “premillenni-alists” say the golden age will come only after corrupted time is terminated in a final conflict.
The leader of the Branch
Davidian group near Waco, David Koresh, seems be in the “premillennial” category, although there apparently is much deviation from it Stiff his reported messianic claims and
“Most presumed prophets don’t announce they are Jesus,” Daniels said. “The prophet says he is a channel for the supernatural.”
Church cleaning business gives man second chance