Taking in the View
At the top of the glacier there is a remarkable view…. a breath-taking scape of mountains and ice. Anne regularly leads groups to this beautiful place… and she takes them kayaking, hiking, skiing and caving too! Anne is the owner of small business NorTrex based in Nordland, just inside the Artic Circle in nothern Norway. To Anne the view from the glacier has everything to do with building God’s Kingdom in this beautiful and rugged community.
Anne has a passion for outdoor activities and also for influencing her community for Christ. “To me, being a Christian is about doing whatever you do with great passion and devotion… I really have a deep desire to point people to God by using sports and outdoor activities”. As a teenager in The Netherlands Anne began to think about how to use outdoor activities to change and influence society and as a result she went to a YWAM Discipleship Training School (DTS) in Norway in 2003 that had a focus on the outdoors.
Over the following years as a YWAMer she lead outreaches among skiers and snowboarders. As a qualified guide and outdoor leader she took DTS teams out into the wilds of Nordland to do team building and other outdoor activities.
Getting into Business
Her vision for the local community developed over the years, but initially business was not at the top of Anne’s list of things to do. However, that changed when she got involved with an innovation and entrepreneurship program at a nearby university that required her to write a business plan. “After a while, I realized that a business model might be the best way to achieve the dreams I had for using outdoor activities, it would allow me to get in touch with the community and really make an impact on the region.” Anne is still closely connected with YWAM, however she realised from early on that a business could provide her with a specific role in the community and the ability to have an influence in a whole different way than she could with a normal job or working in her previous staff role in YWAM.
Since NorTrex was started in early 2007 it has experienced steady growth. The company runs Ski Schools in the winter and offers a variety of daytrips and adventure experiences during the summer high season. This past high season they were running trips every day, sometimes two at the same time. Anne has been able to employ 3 other guides during the high season and one of them is ‘stand-by’ all year round. Although the global financial situation has affected some opportunities in the international market, things have been positive in the local market. The business has got a lot of publicity in the last year which has resulted in a growing customer base in the region.
Being a profitable business is a non-negotiable for NorTrex and a primary goal for Anne. In order to be sustainable in the long term, the numbers have to add up! However as essential as that is, Anne has a long term and much broader vision for her business.
For Anne the truth that “the whole earth is filled with God’s glory” is central (Is 6:3). She says “We want to change the way a generation views our God! We will do so by shouting out the truth, ‘GOD IS GOOD’. Through our business, our job is to affirm and enjoy the goodness of creation. When people come with us on a glacier, kayak or caving trip, they will receive a five-sensory sermon about God’s goodness. Taste and see that the Lord is good!
Missions is less about the transportation of God from one place to another and more about the identification of a God who is already there. It is almost as if being a good missionary means having really good eyesight. You see God where others don’t. And then you point him out. – Rob Bell, Pastor
One of the intentions of NorTrex is to bring God into the picture – to point out the God who is already present, to show His attributes, to help people really enjoy creation – and also to transform and build the community around them.
Building the community
In The Old Testament Template, Landa Cope challenges us: “If you are a banker, a business person, a laborer, a manager, a store owner, a stock broker or a ditch digger who provides goods and services for your community or nation in any way, you are part of God’s plan to reveal Jehovah Jireh, God our Provider…. What would happen if every Christian who owned a business asked, ‘What does our community really need and how can we provide that and make a profit?’”
This is a challenge that Anne has taken to heart.
One of the social problems in Nordland is that young people are moving out of local communities and into the bigger cities. Anne wants to help create jobs and opportunities for young people and also empower them by helping them develop their skills and character. She sees that young people have problems with identity and self-image and wants to create a safe place for them to develop in the area of leadership, decision-making and responsibility through trips and internships. She has been taking young people out on trips and is developing a program with the local school. Her goal is long term: “I want to see renewal in the area. I have set the goal of 15 years to see my community grow, so that more people are coming in than moving out of the area… My contribution is to provide internships and training to young people”.
Related to this, Anne aims to help her region develop in the area of tourism. “I want to attract tourists to Nordland. One of the goals is to bring economic resources to the area and help in marketing the region.”
Through her business she has developed a whole network of relationships in the community, from other business leaders to officials in the Rådhus (Town Hall). She meets people in the local area who she has never met before, but who know her and know about NorTrex. Anne reflects on her journey, “I certainly see that we have gained influence in the community – I am invited to come with our view on how to make an impact on the youth, and on social-economical issues in the community. I was also asked to come with input in a project that focuses on making this area attractive for youth and students to live and work.”
Anne sees that her business is perceived as innovative, committed, professional and credible which in turn makes her worth listening to! She has received a lot of respect for launching a successful small business in such a small town. She says “They see that we love this place and that we are committed to invest in the people.”
Being intentional about values
Anne is convinced that as Christians in the world, people will be drawn to us when they see our ‘good works’, our professionalism, integrity, wisdom and success. She has carefully thought through the values that she wants to model through NorTrex, which include having an attitude of service, dealing with integrity and working with excellence and skillfulness.
“To live a life that matches up with my words is one of the most important things for me.” Anne shares. She is convinced that doing business well is in itself glorifying to God and opens up the opportunity to reveal the Kingdom of God in the marketplace
Anne’s hero is Hans Nielsen Hauge, a preacher and an industrialist who started up small businesses in Norway. As a result of Hauge’s entrepreneurship and revival meetings, he was a catalyst for change in Norwegian society. Hauge’s example is why Anne sees social transformation as a realistic goal.
Anne says “I think, by showing innovation and courage, I can build hope in people through my business. And not only in people but also in the community and in the whole region. As we gain influence, we can also share our Christian values in the sphere of business.”
For some of us the idea of bringing business and mission together is curious and sometimes misunderstood. But Anne keeps it simple: “I don’t want to make life more difficult than it is, I want to hear and obey the Holy Spirit in what He tells me to do. I am living my life as a follower of Christ here in Norway, changing things around me because Christ lives within me. My aim is to serve Christ, to see people transformed and to point people to the deeper truths about God – through my life, my skills and my business”.
Jo Plummer is the Editor of the Business as Mission website, with thanks to Anne. Anne is an entrepreneur and business owner and was a participant in the 2008 Introduction to Business as Mission Course. This training has been developed to prepare teams and individuals for business as mission initiatives.