Category: Business as Mission

Changing Senegal through Farming and Discipleship

The Beersheba Project is changing the landscape of Senegal through agricultural techniques and discipleship of young farmers. United World Mission has missionaries serving on this multi-ethnic, multi-agency project.  Check out their story…

Aaron & Sara, Serving in Senegal

Beersheba Project from Go2819 on Vimeo.

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Saved to Serve

Most missionaries can wholeheartedly agree that this missionary life can keep us very busy. Leading, teaching, preaching, preparing, accounting and administration are just a few things that fill our days and our schedule. So much so that sometimes we forget to stop for the one right in front of us (the one we came to serve *gasp*). We were recently given the opportunity to reach out with the love of Christ in a personal, sacrificial way. Let me tell you about Brenda…

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We were in a busy season of ministry getting ready to open the doors of our new Vocational Skills Center for Girls. We were up to our ears in planning meetings, looking for curriculum, hiring teachers, buying school supplies….yada yada (you get the picture) when Brenda came into our lives.

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I knew Brenda from my teen moms’ outreach. She was a small girl, dark as charcoal with a shy demeanor and a broad smile, her belly burgeoning with the growing little one carried safely inside. She dropped out of school in 4th grade because she didn’t have the school fees, left home at 15 because of an abusive aunt, went looking for love in all the wrong places and at sixteen became pregnant. She was then abandoned by the baby’s father with nowhere to go. No job, no education, no land, no husband. This is becoming an all too common story woven throughout life in the village.

A few days after losing her newborn son, she was chased from her in-laws place as they simply didn’t have enough money to continue feeding yet another mouth. God placed her in our path at a most “inconvenient” time. As she invited us into her story, I must admit a million reasons for why we should not ‘enter in’ bombarded my mind. We were busy doing ministry (*wink*).

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Yet, Brenda came into our lives in a time when God knew we needed to learn another important lesson. We were reminded how Jesus, though He had places to go and crowds to teach, took the time to stop and serve the one in front of Him. People matter. Lives matter. All the time. No matter the time.

actis-2So…together with the local pastor we work with, we hatched a plan. Together with his church, we would give Brenda the family she needed. We would co-parent her to meet her emotional, spiritual and physical needs. We found and rented a small house for her near the pastor and his wife. They can provide a family and supervision, and we also enrolled her in our Girls’ Center so she can learn important life skills and discipleship. We now sit with her as she endures her very first trip to the dentist; we scour the open air market looking for adequate clothing for her; we have long chats about discipline; you know, normal parenting stuff yet, in a very not-so-normal circumstance.

“Surprised By Love” is a core value of our mission. In this case, not only has Brenda been surprised by love, but also WE have been surprised by love. As we go on with the daily ministry we love, training village pastors, teaching Farming God’s Way, running the Vocational Center, visiting our sweet widows or teaching young moms about proper nutrition, we are reminded to stop and take care of the one God has placed in our path in that moment. We are forever changed in the messy, the hard, the inconvenient, the joy-filled, the abundant, the indescribable moments called life.

By: Shelley Actis, Serving in Uganda

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7 Things Every Mission Pastor Should Know About Business as Mission

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to exchange some emails with a friend who has a passion for business and mission and is affiliated with a mission organization overseas.

While starting off as more of a traditional missionary approach, in his 20 year career as a business consultant he has been a part of developing several businesses. During the past three years, he has developed a very profitable business that allows him to fuse together faith and business. A few months ago he had the opportunity to speak about some of the invaluable lessons that he learned to some of the key mission pastors across the country. I asked him to share some of his thoughts. Here’s what he had to say…

1) God loves Business as Mission

  • Doing business (organizing people to work together and thus provide for their current and future material needs) is part of the call on God’s people.
  • Over the centuries (e.g. Paul was a small business owner and not just a tentmaker) God has blessed organizations that have taken their business abroad and proclaimed His kingdom.
  • God is putting in on the hearts of business owners world-wide a desire to use their resources for God’s glory.

 2) Business as Mission is not just about starting a company in another country

  • Starting a company in your home country has a success-rate of 1 in 10. Opening a branch in another country has a similar success rate. Starting a new company in another country does not increase the likelihood of success!
  • Starting a company is complicated, time-consuming and requires more money than was forecasted. Doing this in another country is rarely less complicated, less time consuming and never more predicable!
  • Effective cross-cultural business takes an existing effective business in one country and adapts it to a new country. Rarely do people who try to re-invent the wheel succeed in doing something beautiful.

3) Business as Mission is not a way to get more money or more time to do mission

  • Running a business is time-consuming so if your workers want more free time don’t get them to run their own company. Being in charge means that they don’t have anyone else to shift the responsibility onto!
  • Businesses require money to run. If raising support of US$40,000 a year was hard, why will it be easier to raise at least US$200,000 to open a business in a dangerous country?

4) Business as Mission is vital for communicating the Gospel

  • The Gospel impacts individuals, families and communities. It impacts them physically as well as spiritually.
  • Communities need to see the Gospel implemented not only in individual lives and in families but also in other social environments.
  • After the family, the most common social grouping is business.

5) Business as Mission is not the job of charities

  • The type of person with experience to run a business do not often join a mission agency in the way that, say, a teacher or doctor does.
  • Charities (and people with a charitable background) have difficulty managing for-profit organizations because of the difference in organizational culture.
  • Charities cannot simply own for-profit organizations without risking their charitable status (since the charter for each charity rarely permits them to establish or run such businesses).
  • The authorities in the US (and elsewhere) are concerned with money-laundering of charitable funds. Moving money to another country to pay money to a business (either for salaries or equipment) with no legal relationship to the charity is likely to be construed as money laundering!

6) Mission agencies have key roles to play in Business as Mission

  • Business as Mission people may not join mission agencies in the same way, but that does not make them lone rangers. They value professional experience (including in missions), and they expect to work in partnership with the rest of the church.
  • Business as Mission people need advice and guidance to how to do mission appropriately. Mission agencies can work with the business leaders to form their Business as Mission strategies and to provide ongoing insight.
  • Agencies can specifically encourage certain types of business to enter their fields so that it is easier for other Business as Mission people to enter. For example, if there are experienced sympathetic consultants on the field, then it is easier for other Business as Mission people to assess how to enter that market.
  • Agencies can fund research into market opportunities to attract Business as Mission people onto their field.

Agencies can take advantage of effective Business as Mission people by providing them with competent tentmakers with a strong BAM ethic.

7) Mission will look different after this latest Business as Mission wave

  • Mission agencies are likely to need to work with Business as Mission people as peers not employees. This means that some agencies will tend towards becoming service providers rather than employers of missionaries.
  • Mission will be seen as something done by the inter-dependent church not merely by local congregations sending their members to work for mission agencies.
  • If a business leader came to you today, how would you explain what you can do to make the business more eternally effective? How would you relate to that Business as Mission person? How would you enable the Business as Mission person to pay for the services? What happens if that BAMer is from Africa or Asia?

If a business leader wanted help to do what you do on your field, would they be able to find you at all today? (Business as Mission owners are typically too busy to attend mission conferences so how do they get to hear about you?)

By: Justin Forman, VP of Sales and Strategic Partnerships – BluefishTV and RightNow Campaign

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Melting the Iceman in Asia

How God used business conversations to soften the heart of one man, then others…

Three rough male characters from one extended family have slowly made their way into my life, and none of us are the same for it. The construction project management company that I own has facilitated contact with many people, both believers and unbelievers. My company is not just a platform for ministry, but responsible for large projects involving millions of USD and demanding deadlines. It provides the opportunity to rub shoulders and disciple many different nationals, from CEOs to laborers. In short, the lines between ministry and true business have become nicely blurred.

I first met Iceman when he was desperate for work, and he became the foreman for a $50,000 project. He moved his young family into a dilapidated house on site with very difficult conditions. I would not have considered this a discipleship relationship at the time, but through many interactions we see now that God had plans much higher than mine. I have seen Iceman–who spent years in jail as a hard young man with obvious character issues and little skills or experience–become a family man with his wife of 20 years and a much softer character, as well as a more consistent provider. At first we drank tea and ate lunches together in a group, and then he began seeking me out for advice, regularly ending with times together where we discussed spiritual topics and other issues. As we were working together, we learned a lot about each other, sharing struggles and victories with each other and praying for each other during the numerous times of hardship for both of us.

Building the Iceman's home
Building the Iceman’s home

 

 

 

Seven years and numerous projects later, Iceman took me out for lunch last week. You see, we have this favorite café that we meet at periodically to eat logmon (national dish of noodles and meat) and drink tea. It is at this café that we have had lots of difficult and good talks about business, life, and spiritual things. Here Iceman told me how grateful he was that my wife and I were in their families’ lives, and we are also grateful for them.

So how can our motto of “Focus on a few and go deep” make any real impact?

As I look back I see that Iceman was the gatekeeper to his brothers and numerous other young men, mostly nephews, and although the time investment into Iceman and his family was big, there were spinoff disciple-making relationships that eclipsed even Iceman. Honestly, I never really thought back then that I would see the Iceman of today. God works miracles in us all!

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Firstly, God allowed us to spread the net wide during lunch times with Iceman and about eight workers. We all got to know his relatives and friends as we talked very openly about spiritual matters and one or two came to Christ, and the family grew to trust me. Secondly, this allowed Barry, his brother, and Light, his nephew, to work on a later project with me for 10 months, and through formal time in the Word in the mornings and other daily contact, they got fired up for Jesus Christ. His nephew went back to a neighboring closed country to live out his faith. Thirdly, Barry is influencing his wife, two kids, and the entire extended family like we would not have imagined, especially from the drunk he used to be! He practices spiritual disciplines, and God has transformed his character so that it is unmistakable.

Fourthly, a house church has formed out of this large, extended family, and God is continuing to work in the lives around us. Someone else is involved with this church and the disciple-making process as well as myself.

Lastly, Iceman’s son is heading to Bible school this year.

As we look back, we see God was at work in Iceman’s family, and in turn they were and are a light in their sphere of influence to a nation of Muslims who have never heard the Good News. We are humbled that God chooses to use us in the expansion of His Kingdom as we were changed and learned more than Iceman’s family. I have learned through them to be less judgmental, more patient with my family, as we also walk the path together. I have also learned that keeping a relationship and prayer life with God, is a vital component. We also see that business was a very natural vehicle to build friendships and see God transform lives because of the time we spend together… something that is hard to do spending an hour a week with a person. In my experience in a Muslim, unreached setting, it is hard to only focus on the spiritual life without helping them with other life decisions that they struggle with at times. As we were drinking tea, we talked about the possibility of their family tree being mostly Christians years from now due to what God is doing in and through them. May God receive glory for the things He has done.

By: One of our Businessmen Serving in Asia

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Business as Mission: Where Social Impact and Profit…and Much More…Converge

Some people find it confusing to read about socially conscious business, social entrepreneurship or values-driven business. Isn’t business just business – driven by profit margins acceptable to shareholders?  What’s all this talk of values, social impact and community development?

For the past decade or so, it has become increasingly popular to talk about social purposes, meaning that some entrepreneurs have a motive beyond profitability.  They want to solve social problems and bring a positive return to society.  Big corporations sometimes address this through the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR); and business startups sometimes call themselves social entrepreneurs, meaning they start businesses which inherently provide for maximum job growth in their area, or they hire the marginalized in the community, or they take gigantic steps to benefit the community by helping solve problems that exist in the community, or all of the above.  Some entrepreneurs are driven by a cause, like a software developer eager to provide a better way for people to connect.

Let’s take the oft-quoted proverb of going beyond giving a fish (aid, charity) to teaching people how to fish (self-support, development).  Social entrepreneurs also investigate and address issues of alienation and marginalization. They ask, “How can we provide access to the fishing streams and ponds or to advanced fishing industry equipment controlled by interest groups and power brokers…breaking down barriers that hinder the poor from advancing?” They want to revolutionize the fishing industry.

Some might say, “That sounds good, but it mixes two extremes in ways that seem irreconcilable.”  A business is focused on profit, and the Not-For-Profit or NGO is focused on social impact.  How can you do both together?

The idea of the Triple Bottom Line surfaced in 1994 when John Elkington coined the term in reference to equal attention to environmental, social and financial measures (or as some think of it – the 3 Ps – profits, planet and people).  People started to talk about sustainability in terms of protecting the planet, improving individual and community conditions, while still making a profit.

Business as Mission (BAM) similarly seeks an eclectic integrated approach to our humanity, but acknowledges the spiritual component of our humanness, thus combining the temporal and the eternal; the individual and the corporate; God and humanity; the sacred and the secular.  The case could be made that BAM is the ultimate social enterprise because it creates jobs, improves the community, provides profit to investors and assures that employees, investors, customers, vendors, and the wider community learn of the God of the universe and of Jesus’ provision for the human condition.

So, BAM business owners are truly social entrepreneurs.  They know they must satisfy their investors, and those investors understand the wider social and spiritual purposes.  They believe in the goal of simultaneously seeking profit for themselves as well as spiritual and personal growth for society’s public benefit.

Such BAM businesses are driven by spiritual values and are sometimes called Kingdom businesses, meaning that they are part of building the kingdom of God on earth and pursuing the eternal kingdom of God for all who follow in Jesus’ ways. Hence, we see on the IBEC website reference to values-based businesses, because in order to realize real social reconciliation, consciousness and purpose, one needs to base one’s life and business on eternal values – such as  faith, love, integrity, excellence, truth and purpose.  BAM businesses are all of this: socially conscious, values-driven, mission-driven, business for transformation – all of which bring the entrepreneur to incorporate everything that is important to God together in an integrated whole with the human condition.

How does this work?  For example in consulting with a business, it is important to pursue a business plan at some point; and also pursue a ministry plan (or social plan).  Both aspects need to be integrated, intentional and measurable.

Here is how one client planned for spiritual and social value (in part). Dave decided to write a weekly proverb on the main office door of his East Asia office where all 25 employees came to work every day.  He wrote it there with no biblical reference.   For example he might write, “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them about your neck…”  Sound good?  Everyone pretty much thought that sounded like a good thought but they had no idea of the source, until someone would be chosen to ask where it came from.  The low-key answer from Dave: “…oh that is from my Holy Book” – which led to conversations about Dave’s Holy Book and what it said.  After a few weeks they were asking to study more “good sayings” from Dave’s Holy Book.

I visited Dave’s manufacturing plant a few years ago and I asked several employees (through translation) what they liked about working for Dave.  Many things emerged:

  • I like that he pays us on time each Friday (something atypical of that region).
  • I like that he gives us severance if there are few contracts (not all that common).
  • I like that he honors our families and includes them in group activities.
  • I like that he cares about our kids when they are sick or in trouble.
  • I like that he teaches us new skills.
  • I like that he hires handicapped people from the community and gives them value and dignity.
  • I like that he invites us to go camping once a month, and listens to us talk about life around a campfire.

Dave is a social entrepreneur; he is a Business as Mission business owner (BAM); he works toward Business for Transformation (B4T).  He drives toward the Triple Bottom Line – profitability for his company, job creation and community value and spiritual formation.

By: Larry W. Sharp, President & Director of Training – IBEC Ventures

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A Small Section of the World

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In the late 1990s one of United World Mission’s partner ministries came alongside a group of 12 women in rural Costa Rica to help them start a micro-business: the Association of Women in Biolley (ASOMOBI).  Most of these women grew coffee on their small, family farms, and they wanted to create one central location to do all of their roasting.  Our national partner helped them buy their first coffee roaster.  In a couple years, the women began to develop a coffee processing business. Through partnership and the prosperity of this micro-business, several families have come to know Jesus.

One of the first families to become Christians is a very large family, and today several of their children are pastoring churches all over Costa Rica. The legacy of this group of women who started ASOMOBI has expanded far beyond the economics of their small town to have eternal consequences throughout their entire nation. They’ve even garner attention from other parts of the world!  An Italian coffee company, Illy, recently made a documentary film about ASOMOBI, called “A Small Section of the World”.

 

Documentary Film

You can view the trailer and see a piece of their story below.

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Working for Kid’s Sake in Costa Rica

For over eighty years the NGO Roblealto has served children-at-risk in San Jose, Costa Rica. Its business segment operates a profitable business-as-mission model called La Granja (The Farm).
La Granja combines creative entrepreneurial practices with a missions focus to build profitable businesses which provide resources for marginalized families. Last year they contributed $400,000 from business profits. Each year approximately 1,000 children and their families receive assistance through Roblealto children’s programs. Former business executive Steve Mean is a UWM missionary and business advisor to Roblealto.
UWM talks to Steve about his role and perspectives in this successful international business that serves the poorest of the poor.

UWM: Where do you live, and what do you do?

My wife, Denise, and I serve in Costa Rica, the Central American country located between Panama and Nicaragua. Although Costa Rica is known for its lush jungle and beautiful beaches, it is also a country with stifling slums, generational poverty, and child exploitation.

I work with a ministry called Roblealto. It is a child advocacy ministry which cares for the physical and spiritual well-being of children. We work to bring hope to the impoverished. Through Roblealto’s daycare centers, school, residential shelter, feeding programs, and health clinics, children are healed and loved. They provide an opportunity to find the only true hope: the love of Christ.

UWM: What makes Roblealto unique?

Any faith-based NGO that has stayed true to its principles and survived for over 80 years is special. Since its inception Roblealto has held to Christ as its foundation. Healing and changed lives are only possible through God’s love and mercy. Another distinctive is Roblealto’s intentionality to remain sustainable. It operates several profitable businesses in the agricultural industry to help support the ministry efforts.

UWM: Tell us more about the business.

The farm first started with a few cows to supply milk for Roblealto’s hungry children. The business has evolved, and now its principle activity is poultry genetics. We hatch and sell day-old baby chicks which are used for both egg production and for chicken meat. It is an integrated business which sells nationally and abroad. The Granja is run by an energetic group of professionals under the stewardship of a Board of Trustees composed of respected local businessmen. The farm is operated and led by Costa Rican nationals. Last year we sold over 15 million birds and employed approximately 250 employees. We also operate a feed mill and a small dairy. Perhaps my favorite part is a specialty cheese factory where we craft artisanal cheeses and ice cream. In the past five years the Granja has enjoyed strong profits and has made constant donations to the children’s programs.

UWM: Can you give us some specifics about what you do?

My role is a business advisor and coach to the farm business. While my official title is member of the Board of Trustees, that is a little misleading. I am more like a cheerleader or an advocate. I care about the Granja, its leaders, and the children we serve. Roblealto is a remarkable place of miracles and healing. I enjoy my role in the ministry. Every day is different. For example, one day I may get to visit a daycare center to see a kid’s drama performance and the next day I may huddle in a conference room with team members, drinking coffee and hammering out a marketing strategy for a new business segment. It is interesting work and worth doing.

UWM: How does UWM fit into this?

The UWM partnership fits well on several levels. First of all, the work at Roblealto is consistent with the UMW ethos of supporting and encouraging local leadership in ministry. Secondly, UWM’s understanding of context and culture along with its focus on long-term relationship allows for service that is relevant and strategic without being overbearing.

UWM: Anything else you want to add?

I am grateful to be able to be a part of all this. I give thanks for our UWM family who supports and prays for us as missionaries and for the children of Costa Rica. Please continue to pray for us and that the children of Roblealto find the hope of Christ.

See More about Roblealto

See the ministry of Roblealto narrated by Ricardo, the General Manager of the Granja.

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What is Business As Mission?

Many business professionals and church leaders today are hearing of the term “Business as Mission” (BAM). While there are many variances to a perfect definition, I like the expression of J.D. Greear of the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC, “Christians in the marketplace today are able to gain access more easily to strategic, unreached places. Globalization, great advancements in technology and urbanization have given the business community nearly universal access.”

Greear reminds us that God has placed in his church the skills necessary to penetrate the most unreached parts of our world – and those skills are business skills. Business people should focus on a two-fold vision, “whatever you are good at, a) do it well for the Glory of God; b) do it somewhere strategic for the mission of God.”

Mats Tunehag, one of the leaders of the BAM movement suggests that Business as Mission (BAM) is simply “legitimate economic activity (business) by a workplace professional which serves as a vehicle for sharing the love of Christ…” He and the Lausanne committees on BAM insist that BAM activities must be profitable and sustainable, create jobs and local wealth; and produce spiritual capital (disciples of Jesus).

Such a definition would encourage one to think that BAM could, should and does take place in every workplace in the world where God’s people in business are faithfully living like Jesus and looking for ways to bring people to know him. And while to a certain extent that is true, BAM over the past 20 years has tended to think in terms of “developing impoverished” countries and unreached areas where Jesus is relatively unknown.

Three propositions may help to justify and explain the Business as Mission movement:

  • The Sanctity of Work  It is important that we all have clarity on the biblical divine understanding that God is a God of work, and he intends his people to be workers (Genesis 1). We should not feel guilty or feel like second class Christians when we succeed in business; God expects us to drive for excellence, to be ambitious and to do “all for the glory of God”  (I Cor 10:31). While business and work can temp us to sin, work and business are fundamentally good and provide many opportunities to glorify God (See Business for the Glory of God, W. Grudem).
  • The Christian at Work   This proposition suggests that Christians should engage in work like anyone else but live differently from everyone else. Christians work ethically, view their customers differently, love and serve others, seek justice and use their work to serve their communities. In so doing believers become a testimony and draw others to become followers of our Savior.
  • Work and the Kingdom of God  The book of Matthew suggests that the kingdom of God is “not yet” (heaven) but also “here and now.” As we create jobs and wealth, we are advancing the kingdom of God which essentially is obedience to the Second Commandment (i.e.to love our neighbors). The Great Commission enjoins us to make disciples of “all peoples.” So the Christian businesses that we develop here in our home neighborhoods represent a transferrable model. We can participate in business startups, franchises, or multinational business efforts abroad in the developing world and all the while live like Jesus. That is Business as Mission.

Here is a quote from a recent memo from a friend who is a kingdom business entrepreneur in an Asian country: “Upon entering a local office where local authorities facilitate some aspects of our company, I saw my national friend who manages the office. Amidst the hubbub we greeted one another and caught up on personal news. Suddenly my friend asked, “Do you have a divine connection? I’m sensing a positive energy emanating from you and I don’t know what it is.”  Stunned, I replied, “ Well as a matter of fact, I do have a divine connection to Jesus!” I then went on to explain who Jesus is and His presence in my life. He listened intently. Something is happening in my friend’s heart and mind…something we believe that God is doing.”

So Business as Mission is not “business as normal.” Neither is it “missions as normal.” It is living out the commands of Jesus in the workplace: to love our neighbor and make disciples so individuals and communities are transformed – spiritually, economically and socially – for the greater glory of God and the establishment of his church.

By: Larry W. Sharp, President & Director of Training – IBEC Ventures

Video Story

See an example of how a factory in China is thriving in business and in mission.

Barrington Gift