I think I like best about engaging in the gospel mission through BAM consulting, an idea I call dynamic development. Dynamic development is a mindset that allows all the different members of a business relationship, employer or employee, customer or stakeholder, to be challenged and transformed. I happen to use this a few years ago while on a BAM consulting trip.
We didn’t set out to start a business, income-generating projects, or even engage in community development. Our heart was to tell people about Jesus in a real and authentic way.
When we landed in Tanzania, we quickly realized the quickest way to be authentic was to simply roll up our sleeves and do things that Tanzanians were doing. You can learn a language in a classroom, but you feel the heartbeat of those words when you’re walking through a smelly fish market, crowded into a public minibus, or helping your neighbor dig a garden.
When you use a local phrase in BAM consulting, working in the African heat with your local friends, you gain credibility. To get to that point, you must be developed.
Giving with Understanding
There has been a lot of debate about the need and purpose for development in Africa. Much has been written about the adverse effects that development has had on the continent. I feel as though those negative effects are primarily due to the ‘haves’ giving to the ‘have nots’ along a one-way street. The gift could be anything: food, money, ideas, networks, and programs, but given without understanding-greed, dependency, and disempowerment can be the unintended results. Yet if the giver provides understanding, allowing themselves to be developed in the process, the result could be far better then what was intended. Throughout our BAM consulting work, Jackson was a young man who taught me this very thing.
Community dynamics in Tanzania require that everyone have a guard at night. As we invited a few candidates to take one of our night positions, Jackson sat on the couch with a large comfortable grin on his face. He wasn’t as big or qualified as the other candidates, but my wife was convinced that he was the guy for us as he left that day. He didn’t disappoint. Jackson was always cheery, helpful, and able to accomplish any task given to him. It was after a few months that I found out Jackson’s true worth.
Our BAM consulting work started with a small building project, and I asked Jackson if he wanted to earn extra money. As we started the project, I realized that Jackson was superb with measurements, quantities, and craftsmanship on the site. It was then he told me that German Missionaries had trained him in carpentry. Jackson stopped being a nightguard that day.
At the same time, we began a recycling project on our property. The economy of our community was based mainly on tourism. Naturally, there was an excess of empty wine bottles, and we thought perhaps we could capitalize on the abundance of free materials. Jackson fit perfectly in our little workshop.
Our idea was simple. Cut a wine bottle in half, round off the rough edges, and create a rugged drinking glass that matched the ‘Safari Style’ of the tourism industry. BAM consulting work profits would then be turned over to our national church to assist in community projects like water wells and primary schools. We worked hard to find clients and sell the product while Jackson created faster and more effective ways of producing the product.
He was brilliant in the workshop. Day in and out, we would work together, cut bottles, and talk about whatever. My wife would often come out to the shop with a sketch or an idea. Jackson and I would work to see if her vision was possible to create. BAM consulting during those times were “the good ole days,” as they say.
We had an opportunity to participate in a local Christmas fair where we displayed and sold our products. During those two days, Jackson was right there with us, talking about the product and closing deals as well. His people skills were on par with his craftsmanship. I was beginning to see that Jackson was a deep well with much to be discovered. The most significant discovery came about 8 months into our BAM consulting project.
One day in the workshop, Jackson began talking about the local church we were volunteering at. He was working with the pastor to create a specific program for the kids. Kids Church wasn’t really a thing at that time, so his efforts were being recognized. “I feel I need to go to Bible School,” Jackson told me. “Can you help me?”
Asking for help like this is very much a part of Tanzania’s culture. As an employer, I bore a responsibility to consider the request. The problem was that our BAM consulting project was really beginning to take off. In my mind, Jackson was too valuable to leave. I told him to pray about it over a few days and let me know what God had told him.
It was no surprise that prayer had actually solidified the idea in Jackson’s mind after a few days. My reaction to this news wasn’t very good. “Well,” I told him, “I need you here. If you want to go to school, I’ll help you. But you have to give me 6 more months to find and train another guy like you. You are valuable to this project.” Jackson was unwavering. “I feel like I need to go now,” was all he said to me.
Since I wanted to continue doing our BAM consulting project with him, I gave him an ultimatum. “If you give me 6 more months, I will pay for your school. If you decide to leave now, I will give you no help at all. Why don’t you go home and pray about it and let me know what God says to you.” I thought I was so logical in my thinking.
After a few days, the answer was the same. Jackson was clear that God has spoken to him, and it was evident that his track was towards children’s ministry. I also took a few days to pray about the situation.
I needed Jackson for the BAM consulting project. It felt like so much was riding on him. But the conviction that Jackson felt for ministry slowly worked its way into my heart. It was undeniable. Jackson was to go to Bible School, and I was to help him. I committed to Jackson. As long as he produced good grades and maintained good standing with leadership, I would help him through master’s work if God opened the doors.
The result of letting Jackson go was far greater than I could have thought. We actually found two more guys who worked great in our BAM consulting project. Jackson and his knowledge gave me inroads to the bible school, and we began to disseminate our ideas about recycling and business among the students. Jackson did so well in school, he was asked to be a part of the development committee of campus. From there, he started to get invitations to hold seminars on recycling across Tanzania. All the while, he never once stopped working with the kids at his local church. When he graduated, Jackson received several invitations to work at well-established churches.
As Jackson’s story unfolded, I realized that I was being developed. Sure, our BAM consulting idea was fun, creative,and transformational. But that idea, cooped up in the workshop, limited the effect. Jackson, as a nightguard, would not have touched Tanzania. Through dynamic development, God changed us both, and the impact was multiplied many times over in Tanzania.