On an island off the coast of Africa, a business English school functions as a marketplace blessing to the local community. The school provides for-profit English language classes and training to locals looking to get higher-paying jobs in the community’s robust tourism industry. But this school is also a hub for a team of missionaries planting the Church in this 99.99% Islamic community.
Until recently, the BAM team there knew of no indigenous believers. Traditional missions strategies won’t work on this island. The country doesn’t allow missionary visas. There is no Bible school in need of missionary teachers.
What this island nation does have is tourists. Lots of them – from Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and even the United States. And the common language shared by nearly all these tourists is English. By learning “business English” a local person can find new life-changing employment and economic opportunities in the robust tourism industry.
Learning English from a native English speaker is highly coveted and our missionary friends recognized this marketplace opportunity. They moved into the community to both demonstrate the and proclaim the Gospel…through business.
They launched a for-profit English school and are literally planting the Church through the business. Like any good business, the school meets a tangible need in the community. But where many missions efforts might embrace a compassion ministry, this business English school tackles a marketplace need. By providing a highly needed skill to the people of the island, they foster trust and relationships that give them a platform for physical presence and ultimately gospel proclamation.
This is the beauty of Business as Missions!
By meeting a legitimate market need and hiring locals to work in the business, the missionaries become a true value-add partner to the local community. The marketplace is a perfect avenue to proclaim the Gospel in word and in deed!
After years of sowing, the dry and fallow ground is beginning to bear Gospel fruit.
A few months earlier, a guy we’ll call “Charlie” was hired by the school as a translator. Through his consistent interaction with the teachers, Charlie gave his life to Jesus. While Muslims are very open and interested in talking about Jesus, converting to Christianity is an abomination. Because of Charlie’s decision to leave Islam, his wife’s family revoked her marriage to Charlie and took her away. They had given her to Charlie as a Muslim man, but as a Christian they were no longer obligated to honor the union, even though she wanted to remain his wife and was pregnant with their first child.
Charlie’s brothers threatened to kill him. They locked him out of his home and took all his possessions. Because of his new faith in Jesus, Charlie was literally left alone with only the clothes on his back.
Yet even amidst the horrific persecution, he refused to renounce his faith and his allegiance to his Savior. We sat with Charlie for a few hours, listening to him tell his story and his unwavering faith in Christ. We cried with him as he talked about losing his wife and their child.
And then we had the honor of walking with this small group of BAM missionary English teachers down a small dirt path to a little inlet of the Indian Ocean to watch Charlie be baptized as the first known believer of this people group. This was literally the equivalent of seeing a stadium full of people in other parts of the world!