(The two stories given today are of Business as Mission practitioners on the field using business as a mechanism for planting the church in areas of the world where you can’t do that with traditional missionary methods. To protect the BAM consulting work being done, we will not be sharing their names or specific locations for their protection.)
When doing BAM, sometimes getting it right starts by doing it wrong!
Imagine that you have arrived in a country that is ‘behind the times, or even one that isn’t. The culture is completely different than your own. The food is different. What everyone wears is different. How conflict is resolved is different. Needs are different. Everything is different.
While doing BAM here, it’s easy to quickly think that if you could explain how to do a few specific things, then their life would be better, and so would yours.
When we come into another culture, it takes many significant adjustments and probably hundreds, or more than likely thousands, of minor adjustments. It’s challenging to navigate and even more difficult if we believe that our ways are better. Our methods might be better, but not everyone will agree with us, certainly not an entire culture.
This can cause an internal war within us about living peacefully, doing most things in ways that seem arbitrary. These aren’t the kind of thoughts we want to be having while doing BAM!
So What Do We Do?
Do we cave and do everything the way they do it? Do we share different (or better, if we are honest) ways of doing things that they just don’t know yet?
From my experience of 12 years of living in a culture outside of the one I was brought up in, I would contend that the best approach is one of understanding. Instead of looking at situations as black and white or that one way is better, striving to understand the “why” can lead us to much better open communication and personal growth.
What does this have to do with the BAM business model?
A lot. Everything.
It is easy to come into a new culture, see what is ‘lacking,’ and make decisions based on our worldview on how businesses could benefit from our ideas.
I’ll wave the red flag of caution here and implore you to approach these decisions differently.
Maybe this story will help illustrate…
I have a western friend who did BAM consulting in another country for many years. She became very concerned for the poor living at the railroad stations in this desperate, dirty, and very crowded country. So, she and a group of friends began to go and visit the people there and brought food, blankets, toothbrushes, and other necessities for them when they would go.
They would listen to their stories, share with them, and go back and do it all over again the next week or so.
This went on for many months.
One day, when their BAM consulting group brought the food and necessities to give away, they noticed the food was taken quickly, but the other items weren’t. This confused my friend and her team, who had been so diligent in gathering things that “people like this” need. So that day, as she talked to a lady at the railway station, she asked her if she needed any of the things that hadn’t been taken.
The lady turned and pulled back a piece of plastic that she had recovered from a torn billboard. My friend was shocked to see several of the blankets, a pile of toothbrushes, and other items under the plastic just sitting there not being used.
The lady at the railway station looked at my friend and said, “we don’t need these things.” My friend said she felt a wave of anger hit her face. She couldn’t understand how someone so poor didn’t need whatever was brought to them.
As she tried to push back her shock and anger, she was able to just simply ask this lady, “well, what do you need?” Although I was fully expecting the answer to be money, my friend was shocked again when that wasn’t the answer. Instead, with a quiet tone and eyes that could melt you, the railway lady said, “we need containers that rats can’t eat through.”
My friend sat there in astonishment. She said she realized at that moment that she had never asked anyone there what their needs actually were. Having done business as mission for a little while now, it gave her the assumption that she just knew. More than that, they had been very proud that each week they had plenty of food for everyone there, knowing that it would last them at least several days.
Now she wondered who had actually eaten the food…the people or the rats.
It’s vital that we seek to understand. So, when we come with business model ideas, that is not a bad thing. Even better, though, is when we come with ideas and then understand the culture to see how (and if!) that model can work through BAM while still engaging the culture.
Trusting Jesus Through Every Season
(This is another story of a BAM practitioner on the field using business as a mechanism for planting the churches. Again, we will not be sharing their names or specific locations for their protection.
“Praise is to the name of God forever and ever; wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.
He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.”
In our little BAM area of Northern Africa, fall is upon us, and the rains are coming down here. The Winter season means rain and cold winds from the Mediterranean. It floods the streets, and if you don’t have good rain boots, you get used to having wet toes. Tourist season is over, so the streets aren’t as crowded, but you still see people walking them, getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible.
Just a few hours away from here in the mountains, it snows, and the winter girl in me itches to get over there at least once to see it fall. Down south, you get desert and more desert, not a whole lot of rain, and definitely no snow. It gets brutally cold at night in the desert but warms up quickly in the day.
The diverse terrain means diverse weather. It mirrors the people of this country beautifully. The multiple dialects of Arabic, the many people groups, the many different cultures that make up this land – it’s a beautiful thing.
Our lives mirror the changing seasons in so many ways—the season of childhood, youth, adulthood. The season of being single, then dating, new marriage, babies, not new marriage, grandbabies . . . you get it. Every season comes with unique experiences but also can have profound loss.
Life and then fatigue.
Joy and then unspeakable sorrow.
In a nutshell, it’s life, and it’s universal.
I see the same seasons happening here with my BAM friends and their families. I am constantly reminded living here that I have a constant source of shelter in the changing seasons – Jesus. I honestly can’t fathom making it through a day without Him. Yet, the vast majority of these people are still unreached.
People have no concept of who Jesus is, what He did for them on that cross so many years ago, and what He still desires to do today. That is why we are here. To show the world what living for Jesus, trusting Him through every season, looks like.
Will you pray with us as our business as mission work is being done here? Will you remember us as we represent Him to this world? We are seeing movement here with new believers coming to Jesus. We know of three new followers of Jesus from just the last few weeks, all three direct results from workers on our team. We rejoice with them, and we pray now for a strong national church to come together to help disciple them.
Will you please pray with us to see that happen? He is here. He is moving. He is performing miracles and revealing Himself in dreams and visions.
And we are rejoicing!