Over the last five trips, God has helped me focus on promoting three things: the Bible, business formation, and prayer. Certainly, in hindsight the Bible and prayer look obvious, but there is a good story as to how God led me there. I’ll save that story for another time. The focus on business formation is less obvious.
I used to wonder whether a “ministry” helping people establish businesses was really much of a ministry. No more. Here’s something that I ponder. I have several friends involved in orphan ministries. If you had seen orphans in Africa, you would be involved in orphan ministry as well. The orphan situation is heartbreaking. But let me ask you a question: what happens when orphans become adults and there are no jobs? Being an adult in much of Africa is pretty bleak because there are no jobs. Most people live a subsistence lifestyle, even in the city. I think that style of living, which is true across much of Africa, is less than what God designed us to do. It is inconsistent with His desire that we “subdue the earth” (Genesis 1:28). So, in this ministry, we help faithful Christians fulfill His desire to subdue the earth by establishing businesses that utilize their God given skills and abilities.
Before I tell you some stories, you may have noticed that this email has got to be one of the ugliest emails that you have seen. If you know MailChimp (or want to learn it), I could use someone to design a template and arrange the content.
Now for three stories …
A young man that I met on the last trip was in New York for five weeks of church planting training. He flew to Austin so we could discuss Bukavu and future collaboration. He said something interesting. He told me that much of the problem with hunger in Bukavu is not a lack of money, but the lack of food. There is no system of distributors who incentivize farmers to produce more and then transport the food from farm to city. Makes sense. Would you work hard to produce more crops than you could carry into the city? Of course not. What’s the answer? For business people from America to teach faithful people in Bukavu how to start a distribution business. The need for this type of business has been confirmed by my experiences with Justin.
Some friends and I loaned Justin the money to buy rice from Tanzania and sell it in Bukavu. I have monthly Skype calls with Justin to pray together and check on the progress of his business. It has been more difficult than I expected. One day I was particularly frustrated. I realized that I was trying to teach basic business principles, basic Excel skills and basic accounting all over a relatively poor Skype connection and through an interpreter who converted my English to French. Despite these difficulties, Justin sold 3 tons of rice in his first month. Wow! Justin works full time for an organization and then spends an additional 20 hours per week on his rice business. He has already come up with ideas to expand to another food product. He also believes he can triple the amount of rice that he is selling. Please pray for wisdom for Justin as he wants to expand and increase the profit margins of his business so he can quit his job.
After several delays, Gedeon is starting his chicken business thanks to a $7,500 loan from some of my friends. In a region that has more than 500,000 people, there are no commercial chicken raising operations. He is building a chicken coop and will import 600 chicks from Uganda – 300 meat chickens and 300 egg producers. There are numerous impediments and risks. Would you pray that God would “pave the way” for Gedeon in the next few weeks? I’m thinking really practical things like getting healthy chickens, protecting them on the trip, arranging an adequate food supply, etc. In Congo, you learn very quickly that nothing is easy. It’s certainly easier to remember to pray there! Gedeon also reported that some people near his chicken coop were jealous. Would you pray that they would see the operation as an opportunity? (There is a concept that sociologists discuss called “Limited Good.” Limited Good means that if I have more success than you, then I have effectively “taken” from you. Some of my “increase” really belongs to you. You can see how that view would make economic development difficult. The concept of “Limited Good” is deeply embedded in Congolese culture. Let’s pray against that cultural lie.)
Please pray for Gedeon and Justin as they play a small part in subduing the earth in Bukavu. Please pray that God would prompt more people to start businesses and attend our training in January.
Thanks for your time,