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Business Hope in Adversity: An Interview with a BAM Company in the Middle East

In our series this month “Exploring BAM as Justice: Choosing Hope in the Face of Challenge” we’re taking a deep dive into the intersection of faith, business, and complex global realities. We’ll be looking at business as mission’s impact on poverty and justice issues across the globe. In this interview, we have the privilege of hearing from a BAM practitioner in the Middle East.

 

Malika H and her husband began their tourism company in Türkiye over 20 years ago.

The couple has since fostered not only a highly successful business – bringing in sustainable profits and demonstrating their commitment to the four bottom lines – but also a vibrant and close-knit community within their company.

The couple’s appreciation for life makes them excellent curators of delightful experiences for customers and friends who travel to Türkiye. Having spent time with them in the past, I also witnessed firsthand how they cultivate a culture of genuine joy, optimism, and connection around them.

It hasn’t always been easy. External threats and difficult operating conditions have affected this company in tangible ways. For this series on BAM as Justice, we wanted to share a firsthand perspective of holding onto hope and demonstrating integrity and justice, in the face of challenge.

….and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
1 Thes 4: 11-14

I took a sip of my morning coffee as Malika set up her camera. It was still dark out, my eyes were still adjusting to the bright desk light, and although my questions weren’t as elegantly prepared as I would have liked, I knew that what I would hear from Malika was going to be good.

It was sweet to see her again, even if just over video chat.

I pulled up my notes and started by asking Malika to add some background:

What sort of company is it? Where are they located? How did they start? And how do they navigate operating a business in their region?

Our tourism company is located in Türkiye, which is a very desirable destination on the global travel scene. We don’t usually have to convince people to want to come here, nevertheless, it can be a volatile area.

We started our company several years after 9/11, which set the stage for the reality of what it’s like to run a tourism company in a part of the world that is connected to the Middle East. At that time, all the tourism had dropped, and it was a long process requiring a period of stability and calm to see the industry return.

Since then, we’ve had to ride several waves of ups and downs…

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A Movement of Consumers: Exploring Our Ethical Purchasing Power

The BAM movement is not just a movement of business people. It’s a movement of consumers. We are all consumers, so while it’s crucial that BAM business owners are making ethical decisions regarding their supply chain and workforce, it could be argued that collectively as consumers we command an even greater power to shape ethical business practices. And any business owner knows that no matter how great their team or how ethical and mission-driven their business model – if there are no consumers lining up to buy their fantastic products, they cannot make the impact they hope to make.

So, as consumers who believe in the business as mission movement, what are we doing? Are we researching the products we’re buying? Are we checking their environmental footprint, or whether they are associated with injustices such as ethnic cleansing or child labour – or simply paying unfair wages? Do we care about the economic, social, or spiritual bottom lines of the businesses we’re purchasing or sourcing from? Purchasing decisions are powerful!

Opening Eyes

I discussed the topic with a group of colleagues in my neighborhood. I asked openly if this was something that they cared about, and one of them responded very honestly, “I prefer not to know the ethical backgrounds behind the things I buy… I just don’t want to put in the effort to research. If I knew, I would feel like I had more responsibility and then I would have to make decisions based on that information and I don’t want to. It feels inconvenient and I don’t feel I have the money or the time.”

This was an eye-opener. Yet the truth is that the majority of the world does not consider the ethical consequences behind the purchases they make, whether that is due to lack of information, money, time, access, or motivation. Even when people do have the resources and arguments for ethical purchases have been thoroughly integrated into major marketing messages, many are still inclined towards convenience.

For those of us in the privileged position to be able to make informed consumer choices, how do we begin to make better ones?

As believers we should certainly care about the impact our purchases have on the “least of these” – those populations most susceptible to exploitation. What would happen if we aligned our regular purchasing habits with our calling from God’s to care for His most vulnerable people? What could happen if we factored our God-given assignment to tend and steward creation as we shopped? What would we communicate if our neighbors saw us living out a deep care for the world they live in and the people they live with, in all aspects of life, not just from our ‘religious’ platforms.

We’re called to be good stewards of our money and resources and as BAMers, we should be leaders in this area. Is it okay to say we care about the least-reached and poorest of the poor whilst also (unintentionally or not) funding slavery, bad air quality, or unjust working conditions? How can we champion at-risk communities in public forums and also when we spend our money? As people who care passionately about how business reflects the glory of God, we have the opportunity to amplify our message and act on our values with our purchasing power.

Consumer demand drives the market. So, as ethical consumers, let’s do our part to drive the market for the glory of God and care of His people!

Easier said than done.

But also, not impossible. My personal take is that redemption comes through research. So here are some simple strategies for making ethical purchases:

Learn more

Start by researching ethical purchasing or products, in general, to find out ideas on how to integrate them easily into your lifestyle. Take a deep dive into learning more about it. This is the best way to start caring.

Check here to view ethical company scores

Here’s another example of an ethical shopping guide

Access Tearfund USA ethical shopping resources

Learn more about ethical fashion 

Most resources like the above are based in a particular geographical region, though they contain many useful principles that can be widely applied. Search your country or region for resources that apply to your area.

Chat about it

Then, talk with friends and your community about it. If you have a friend who cares strongly about the environment, they’ll probably know which companies not to shop with. If you have a friend who is passionate about ending slavery, I’ll bet they have a small list of companies they won’t touch with a ten-foot pole. Get those word-of-mouth recommendations from people you trust and keep the conversation going.

Browse the ingredients

One of the easiest ways to provide some sort of middle ground for someone who doesn’t necessarily have the money or the resources to always buy the brands we wish we could is to at least browse the ingredients list on regular grocery purchases. Do some research on goods produced for your market and avoid products that are often unethically sourced such as palm oil, mica, or non-certified cocoa.

Read the labels

Take a quick glance over the labels on a product, or check into the company’s certifications.  It’s not always the easiest or an official determiner for a company’s ethical footprint but it can at least help. For clothing check for labels such as Fairtrade, organic, WFTO, or Fair Wear. For food and drinks, look for labels such as Fairtrade, Fair for Life, Rainforest Alliance UTZ, free range, palm oil free, or MSC. For health products look out for Fairtrade, BDIH, Natrue, or Leaping Bunny.

Promote ethical companies

In the BAM and Freedom Business spheres we know of so many great, genuinely ethical companies that are not only striving for environmental and social bottom lines, but want to use their companies to share the love of God with people. Let’s tell our friends about them! Let’s rally around the businesses and brands we love and know are out there doing good in the world. What a simple and effective way to support what God is doing around the world.

Pro tips:

Shop Freedom Business Alliance

Shop Dignity Coconuts

Shop Simple Coffee

Shop Dinadi

Shop Earth Heir

Shop Imani Collective

Shop Deux Mains

Shop Thistle Farms

Shop Outland Denim

The first two on the list above produce Ethical Shopping Gift Guides and Directories that will connect you to a whole lot more companies. Get in touch with us if you have more great ideas.

Don’t Promote Unethical Companies

There’s an unbelievable sale online where we can buy an item for four times cheaper than market value. We tell everyone we know. At least this is my first response! But before we jump to telling everyone, let’s ask how they can afford to sell the product for so little. Let’s do our research and make sure the company treats its workers ethically and uses sustainable practices. People are more inclined towards convenience. We’ll tend to jump at the opportunity for cheaper, faster products. But by not promoting an unethical sale or company, by avoiding wearing brand logos or sharing that less-than-ethical online deal, we can do a lot of good over the long-term.

~

Here in the USA, we are doing last minute Mother’s Day shopping this week. What are you buying this week that you can think more intentionally about? Whether it’s an occasional gift or our weekly grocery shop, let’s step into our next purchasing decisions with integrity and care, not just for our own family, but for all peoples and the world we live in.

You can use the strategies above to guide you through your purchase decision this year. Or, if you’re already a champion of ethical purchasing, let us know what ethical companies you love to shop at or what strategies you use when stewarding your purchasing power. Please share them with us at editor@businessasmission.com.

Shay acts as the communication assistant for the BAM Global team. As a full time content creator and web developer, Shay uses her skills to partner with community-building organizations.

 

 

 

 

The BAM Global Summit: A Time to Glorify the Work of God

It is difficult to capture what it was like to attend the BAM Global Summit. It’s tough to do justice to the experience of hundreds of people sharing their ideas and prayers live and in real-time from all corners of the world. Of hearing testimonies of how God is moving through His people in business on each continent. When God’s people come together like they did, in one heart and mind to share about God’s work in their stories, it is holy and it is sacred.

To me, this year’s BAM Global Summit was a divine opportunity. Who else gets to see this? Who else gets to hear these testimonies of how God is glorifying His Name through business? How many opportunities are there to hear about God’s work on such a massive and global scale?  It brings new depth and meaning to the words “And you shall be my witnesses in all of the earth.” We, quite literally, were able to witness God working on a global level through this medium of business.

After reflecting on the stories heard at this year’s Summit, one thing stood out clearly: God is using business and business people to bring Himself glory on a global scale. This was highlighted in three ways:

1. BAM is springing up naturally in the hearts of people worldwide – even people who aren’t aware of the global movement

2. The BAM movement is from everywhere to everywhere

3. The Spirit of God comforts and supports His people in BAM, and also through the strength of the BAM community

It was great that we were able to come together online to celebrate, praise, and glorify the Lord for His marvelous works through business.

A Global Work Springing Up Naturally

We may have had moments in the past when it felt like we were pioneering a movement. After attending the Summit, it’s hard to still think we are the pioneers. Rather, it’s evident that God is the one heading up this movement. We can tell because of the countless reports of the people of God starting businesses and engaging in the market with the intention of seeing God’s Kingdom reign on the earth. And this is springing up everywhere, with no other central coordination than the stirring of the Holy Spirit. Many have begun without BAM terminology or resourcing and get connected to the wider community later.

Bill, who has been traveling around the globe to visit with and encourage BAM practitioners, reported,

“I came across this really interesting BAM operation with people who really knew nothing about the movement. What that indicated to me was the movement was really a reflection of what God is doing. And sometimes he keeps doing it even though the folks he’s doing it with haven’t figured out how to connect with the rest of us.”

K from Pakistan reported on a recent initiative in that nation,

“Two hundred people from all across the nation came at one single call. God is really doing something big… people from the international community were there, the people from the business community were there, the people leading the vision were there. It was such a great motivation, and we all together just decided that we will take this as a movement. It is not project-like thinking or activity-based thinking, it is not just an idea. It’s a passion for us to change the paradigm, it’s a dream to see the Christian entrepreneurs in the marketplace in our country.”

As the Summit gave us the opportunity to connect and reflect together, it’s no longer the feeling of a small and starting movement but an evidential explosion into the world of commerce being brought about by God at work and the prayers of the saints. As a community, we’re seeing the fruits we’ve prayed for and realizing it is far beyond ourselves – we give thanks for God’s work.

From Everywhere to Everywhere

On multiple occasions throughout the Summit it was reported, “It’s not just ‘West to the rest’, it’s from everywhere to everywhere”. The phrase “West to the rest” came about because early in the history of Protestant missions, many missionaries went out from Europe and the Americas with the goal of bringing the gospel to the whole world.

But the picture of global mission has been changing for some decades and this is true in the business as mission movement today. From our time at the BAM Global Summit, we heard from global leaders located in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East reporting how they’ve seen new business ventures blossoming, growing, thriving, and multiplying – and entrepreneurs and professionals being mobilized. We are witnesses that He is at work throughout the whole business world.

Not only that, but we’re celebrating together on a global scale. It felt like a glimpse of Revelation: that every tribe, tongue, and nation will come together to praise Him! In our virtual and increasingly connected world, we live in a time when it is beginning to feel commonplace for different tribes, tongues, and nations to come together praising the Lord. Has the world ever been like this before? The Summit was certainly a wonderful opportunity to experience it.

This is how we know it is the Lord at work, and that we are part of His purposes: that people from everywhere are coming together, in unity and fellowship with people they have nothing in common with but the Lord. And that people from everywhere are going everywhere to proclaim His name.

The Ministry of the Spirit of God and the Strength of the BAM Community

The final highlight of the Summit for me, the story I heard time and time again, was how deeply personal and involved God was in each BAMer’s story. In times of tragedy and hardship, pain and hurt – which were quite vulnerably and honestly shared from the main stage and during breakouts – God showed up and spoke into each life, heart, and circumstance.

BAMers go through very specific and unique types of hardships. Though everyone has tough times and trials, businesspeople face a unique set of problems that can be difficult for others to understand and relate to. Add to that an intense passion to serve the Lord, an onslaught of spiritual warfare and trials that seem to go hand-in-hand with daily life. Those who shared from these places of hardship and struggle testified how God had powerfully and uniquely lifted and encouraged them in their tough moments.

One BAM leader said,

“Many people in this realm find a disconnect from their church, from their support… It becomes somewhat difficult. The more serious they are about the business the less they’re understood. One of the positive effects I’ve experienced and seen in others is that you will probably be led more to lean on the Lord Himself rather than the structural systems [you had] before. As a result of that, the Lord is the real resource that we have, the only resource we have in some cases.”

Often those in the surrounding community – including employees and coworkers – were the ones who delivered hope and encouragement from the Lord, giving BAM practitioners the strength to press forward into what God had called them to.

Julie gave a testimony from the main stage of one of her darkest moments and how her community strengthened her faith,

“The car caught on fire, it blew up and it was the only company asset we had. Then there was a robbery at our factory and they stole our generator, batteries,  tools… And I kid you not, then there was a flood and all our raw materials were flooded, and then I got dengue fever. This was one month. I was so low and felt so abandoned and so alone, I didn’t know if these were the signs to walk away…. The healing part of that story, the God part, was through my business partner Jolina. I came into the office after I got better and I was crying, and she let me cry for about a minute and she took her thumbs and wiped my tears away and she said ‘Okay, back to work’. And it was that spirit and the faith that they (this people group) had, that allowed me the strength to carry on. She was showing me the love of the Lord in her response to me, by not allowing me to stay down and lifting me up.”

God is the One we rely on, but having a community and BAM ecosystem around us gives courage in times of discouragement… and the resources to grow in times of flourishing.

It was an incredible Summit this year; so evidently God is moving and working in the lives of His businesspeople around the world. What a wonderful time it was to celebrate, be encouraged, and praise together with you all!

As we reflect on all that we learned together and on the work of the Lord among us, I pray that these truths would sink into our hearts afresh. We are part of a movement ignited by God and it is God’s Spirit that sustains us, in community with one another – all for His Name’s sake and His glory among the nations.
 

 
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Shay acts as the communication assistant for the BAM Global team. As a full time content creator and web developer, Shay uses her skills to partner with community-building organizations.

 

 

 

 

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