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The Power of Dignity Restored: Business in the Heart of a Community

Read Part 1

Getting to Market with a Detour

From tree to table, the average coconut oil has likely changed hands 9 times. Each change of hands hikes up the price and disconnects the consumer from the farmer. By the end, a hierarchy of profits has left the farmer, who usually needs it most, with the least amount of money. “On one side, we see the farmers making so little from their work while the middlemen and big oil companies reap the profits. Then on the other side, many in the West are asking questions of brands like: Who are the people behind the brand that actually made this product? How are they treated? Is my purchase feeding an oppressive system or helping people? We saw an opportunity to benefit both sides.” remarked Erik.

Dignity has had a goal of connecting the local farmer to the global export market, but did not always know how reaching that goal would unfold. A successful Kickstarter campaign in May 2015 provided the necessary funds for Dignity to detour from their original plan of selling in bulk and instead develop their own brand for retail sales. They became the direct bridge between the farmers as well as factory workers, and the end users. This tangible connection between customer and producer has shaped the position of their brand in the market. Read more

Restoring Dignity Through Business: Dignity Coconuts’ Story

“We’re fighting this multi-billion dollar evil with a peashooter,” Stephen told Don as they wandered around the exhibition hall at an anti-human trafficking convention. At every booth they were encountering stories of abuse and human suffering. There were also stories of rescue and restoration… However, the sheer scale of global slavery seemed to dwarf the efforts of those at the front-lines fighting against it. Most organisations working with trafficked communities can only provide jobs for 5, 10, 20 or so people. This is great and essential work; giving meaningful work and a stable livelihood is central to people getting out and staying out of slavery. Yet the need for stable jobs far surpasses the supply. Don and Stephen came away with a burning question: How can we employ a growing number of people vulnerable to, or rescued from, human trafficking?

A year later in 2009 Stephen Freed and Don Byker left their long-held positions and set out to research business opportunities. They realised that if they were really going to tackle the underground slavery industry, they would need multiple, substantially-sized businesses that could employ hundreds or thousands of people. They looked at micro-enterprise solutions, but realised that there is a limit to how effective those can be. Not everyone is an entrepreneur with aspirations to own their own business – and micro-businesses rarely scale to create thousands of jobs. As they researched they found, as economists have discovered, that the key to solving poverty and bringing widespread economic development to communities is a growing number of SME-sized businesses. Read more

How They Got Started: 3 Different Routes into Business as Mission

From Dream to Island Reality: Samantha

At the tender age of nine, rather than dreaming of make-believe castles and glass slippers, Samantha dreamed about living her life on a certain archipelago in Asia. After college Samantha spent a year in China teaching English then returned to the States to get her Master’s degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Upon graduating, she taught English for several years at high school level. Then one day God began stirring that dream from her childhood of living in Asia. After months of seeking wise counsel and pushing on doors, a plan began to take shape. True to His word, God did “more than she could ask or imagine”, doors opened for her to join an organisation that fit her youthfulness and passion. She raised long-term support, and took a survey trip. Within a short time Samantha had moved and begun studying the local language on a main island of the archipelago. She was open to God’s provision, setting no expectations on how long she would remain long-term in the country.

Three months into her language studies Samantha received a phone call from a certain small business ministering out in the islands asking if she would join them in their endeavor. Samantha had connected with this business months prior during her survey trip, hoping that God would open the door for her to join their business since their vision was the same as hers for the islands. With her teaching skills and a passion for the Islands, she immediately said, “Yes!” – believing she could do anything God called her to, including small business. Read more

Life Encounters Life: The Integration of Business and Mission

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with the best content and resources available. As we wrap up a great year we are highlighting various articles and resources which have stood out above the rest. Below is the “Editor’s Pick” for the fall of 2015.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

We interviewed a ‘practitioner of integration’ who over the last 16 years has tightly integrated business and mission together among an unreached people group in Asia.

Can you tell us a bit about how and why you got started with business as mission?

We were trained and sent out into the mission field with the vision of bringing the gospel for the first time to a Muslim people group. The idea of doing business was really birthed out of our experiences during a research trip into the area. The people we are working amongst are relatively poor, uneducated and in a remote area. Few venture down the maze of narrow streets which make up their communities. Those who do, either belong from birth, have family, or have come to do business. Although the initial response of the community towards visitors is always hospitality, underneath the question is brewing, “Who are the newcomers and why have they come?” This was really brought home to us after we spent 7 days in a Police jail on our research trip being questioned about why we were there! Although we started with a more traditional missions and church planting model in mind, we soon realised that there was only one option for a genuine, respectable role in the community and that was to do business. Read more

How We Built Consistent, Committed Prayer into our Company

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

Dear BAM Mentor,

What prayer habits have you found helpful in your business? How have you experienced prayer and hearing direction from the Lord fitting alongside ‘normal’ business practices and hearing from advisors and others?

~ Exploring Prayer

Dear Exploring,

Whatever we attempt for God has to be in accordance with His will and be blessed by Him if we are to see genuine success (in the heavenly definition of success). This is true for every venture, whether operated under the auspices of a local church, a Christian organisation or an overtly commercial business venture. In fact, because of the pressures and expectations that the world brings to bear on business ventures, it is all the more important to ensure close communion and communication with God. Whatever this may mean in practical terms, it has to include prayer.

The most obvious biblical instruction about how we should pray is Jesus’ introduction to His model prayer – that which most people refer to as the Lord’s Prayer – as recorded in Matthew 6. What these instructions boil down to is: keep it sincere, keep it personal (you and God) and keep it short and to the point. How this operates in practice will vary according to local circumstances. Our own experience was developed over a short time but then served the business well for many years – but not without some hiccups along the way, it may be added. Read more

Helpful Prayer Habits from a 27 Year BAM Journey

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

Dear BAM Mentor,

What prayer habits have you found helpful in your business? How have you experienced prayer and hearing direction from the Lord fitting alongside ‘normal’ business practices and hearing from advisors and others?

~ Exploring Prayer

Dear Exploring,

Early in our history, while I was still segmenting my life pretty well, the Lord spoke to four of our leaders within 48 hours. He said to each of us that we had to begin meeting to pray. We had allowed the security problem here in our location to become an excuse to not get together. We began that week and continued every week for over 15 years. It wasn’t easy. Two of the people became car sick every time they rode the bus to my house. It eventually blended into a church prayer meeting. Read more

Life Encounters Life: The Integration of Business and Mission

We interviewed a ‘practitioner of integration’ who over the last 16 years has tightly integrated business and mission together among an unreached people group in Asia.

Can you tell us a bit about how and why you got started with business as mission?

We were trained and sent out into the mission field with the vision of bringing the gospel for the first time to a Muslim people group. The idea of doing business was really birthed out of our experiences during a research trip into the area. The people we are working amongst are relatively poor, uneducated and in a remote area. Few venture down the maze of narrow streets which make up their communities. Those who do, either belong from birth, have family, or have come to do business. Although the initial response of the community towards visitors is always hospitality, underneath the question is brewing, “Who are the newcomers and why have they come?” This was really brought home to us after we spent 7 days in a Police jail on our research trip being questioned about why we were there! Although we started with a more traditional missions and church planting model in mind, we soon realised that there was only one option for a genuine, respectable role in the community and that was to do business. Read more

Lessons From the Edge: Living the Gospel Among Unreached People

Insights from a BAM Practitioner 

This BAM Practitioner has been in business in Asia for 16 years.

Meet your people every day
Your business has to bring you into contact with people. I think this really is the most important thing. If we view the challenge of missions as “how to get a believer together with an unbeliever” then this has to be absolutely central to any BAM model. Access to people is not the end goal, but it means we are able to show the Kingdom and share the King with people. If a business opportunity or role comes up that doesn’t help us be with our people, then we don’t pursue it. It’s surprising how simple, yet easy to miss this can be.

Be respected
That sounds simple, but it’s not so easy in practice! Our lives must be credible to people. Our business must be respectable. Think about what you can do that will make sense to people, what roles or actions will bring understanding and respect. I had a supplier who was supposed to deliver goods, but was late. I had to cut the payment because he was late, and after a long conversation about it, he told me he was going to take me to court. After two weeks he comes back and says, “Well I went to the court and they all told me that you wouldn’t cheat me, so they sent me away.” That place of respectability that we can have in business can be a powerful place to convey the message of the gospel!

Express the Kingdom
We are showing people around the Kingdom, but we also need a safe place where a verbal expression of the gospel can happen. It’s got to be part of what you do. Providing a way for that may change your business model. We’ve changed the way we do production so that clusters of women can do certain jobs in groups in their homes. This is good for productivity, but also for opportunities to share biblical ideas, our stories, and Jesus in countless moments where our Christian staff are sitting with the women and children. This happens in other contexts with the men as well.

Read the full interview with this practitioner