Ben Ryan, a mechanical engineer, joined Mike and me on this trip. When I recruit people to go to Bukavu, the typical reaction goes something like this: “I don’t know what I could do that would be valuable. I am not qualified to help. I have no experience.” As you will see below, those thoughts were going through Ben’s head, but God had a different idea. I hope you enjoy reading how God used Ben to build His kingdom and make the situation in Congo look a little more like heaven.
This, my first trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), would turn out to be more fulfilling to me than I had expected.
I went, wondering, what could I possibly contribute to the betterment of the Congolese people? I knew very little about my new friends, their economic or political environment, or what struggles they faced every day. I knew my Biblical knowledge was still in its infancy. I have very little to offer in terms of small business development and dispelling some of the negative connotations of business and profits. Fortunately, as God was in control, the prepared materials and the message of Genesis 1-3 conveyed what God wanted people to hear about small business. I did my best to figure out what I was supposed to do, and to let God provide me with the words to convey His messages. I had certainly heard that this was the way it’s supposed to work, but it wasn’t until I worked directly with our students that I fully realized the power of God to take control. God was teaching us all. Our Congolese “students” have many hardships to distract them from giving their life to God. Their desire to welcome us and share their faith with us was overwhelming to me. I was the student. The trip was a continuous lesson of what is pleasing to God; I am still digesting all of the messages.
One man, a student in our sessions (pictured here with his grandmother), began to welcome me immediately and acted as my guide and interpreter. During a market research trip into the city of Bukavu, he made sure I got headed in the right direction and didn’t overpay a cab fare. He constantly supplemented the interpreter’s words with insightful observations of the subject business people were studying. God was in control again as we meandered off into the outskirts of the city to collect some “real data”. The students, while showing me the sights of their neighborhood, and interviewing business people, were making sure I wasn’t getting lost. For this I was grateful and overwhelmed. When we returned from our adventure, we sat down and talked. I learned about their dedication to the Young Life program of bringing young kids to Christ, and their eagerness to get going in a small business.
These students were eager to start a business to help their families and help their customers. Several instances were to help people with unmet needs – for instance providing education and pre-natal nutrition of mothers and babies, or, producing and distributing food to their families or less-able individuals. Yet, one thing they lacked in their knowledge of business was how to protect their business and profits from disappearing. Their own generosity and acceptance of over-taxation would be their undoing. For us, the hardest lesson to convey was to take defensive action in the midst of what was charitable and esteem-building. It is not in their make-up to be shrewd. It’s also a common belief that business, because of unscrupulous profit taking, monetary or otherwise, is a bad thing. In our sessions we try to emphasize that having a business to help others is a good thing, and pleases God. Having a business that grows because it is profitable only increases your capacity to help and employ others.
All the days of our trip were filled with God turning our efforts into something more powerful than what I could attempt. The efforts I put into this mission were exceeded by the profits I received. Thank you all for your prayers and support.
What a great story! Ben supplied the courage and God supplied everything else.
If you sense God suggesting that you go on a future trip, please let me know.