An Unexpected Journey

Africans doing Business as Mission

By Mpho* (A Christian worker from a South African nation)
Guest Writer

South to North

In 2011 God directed me to North Africa. I said yes, not knowing what lay before me. I moved from the south of the continent to the north. Education was my field of expertise, and I expected to move into a teaching position. For various reasons, that door closed, but the door to starting a business with a like-minded business partner I had never met before remained open. I was on a steep learning curve. I soon came to learn that business is part of God’s Kingdom strategy to reach the unreached – especially in Creative Access regions of the African continent.

The God of the impossible was once again at work in my life. I went with plenty of life experience but zero business experience: challenge #1. Yet God had given me tools and skills from my past that would contribute to starting the business: my intermediate level of French conversation, my teaching experience, my love for cross-cultural living, and my love for God and His people. These, and a desire for North Africans to hear about Jesus, were important factors in my choice to step into “Business as Mission” (BAM).

Before we landed, my business partner and I both worked hard to raise capital for the business. Most of the funds, however, were raised in the global North and from other kingdom entrepreneurs in the organisation – in the form of loans or seed money. A minimal amount was raised in my home country. A Christian worker raising capital for a business was a strange phenomenon in my community: challenge #2. However, by God’s grace, in 2013, we opened the doors of our business.

Both of us were committed that we would do business as business and not use it as a means to an end. It was important for us to create jobs. It was important for us to share the hope we have in Christ through the way we ran our business – through our lives, actions, and words. It seemed my business partner and I were a strange phenomenon in our community and to authorities: two middle-aged women in a North African country starting a business. Challenge #3. We were called in by local officials and “visited” in our business office. And we had trouble getting our residency permits. But the doors of our business remained open, and remain so today.

On our one-year anniversary, one of our co-workers said to me, “You are different from the other businesses in our town. You care for your workers.” I simply said to her that it’s God. There were many opportunities like this one, between North Africans and followers of Jesus. Sometimes in a group context, but most times one-on-one, we were able to share with our co-workers about our relationship with Christ and even pray with them. I witnessed firsthand how a God-honoring business could bring value to a community, both economically and socially. And through this, we gained both the credibility and the opportunity to share and live the Good News of Jesus Christ in a location closed off from the gospel. Our business continues today with two different business partners and still provides a place where the gospel and the local community can intersect.

“Business as Mission. Business as Ministry. Kingdom Business. Tent Making. Whatever we call it, I believe that business is a tool that God is using to expand His kingdom in difficult contexts.”

North to South

After I returned to my home country in 2016, I wondered if it would be possible to mobilise more Christian business people and entrepreneurs from sub-Saharan Africa to do what I did. I joined our mobilising office as the Creative Access Mobiliser. Through a team effort, we started the BAM Café initiative to provide a space for Christian business people and professionals to be exposed to God’s purposes for their business among the unreached. The vision was to inform, train, and mobilise Christian business people and workers in the marketplace, to help them see how they could use their businesses and their God-given position and entrepreneurial skills to reach the unreached peoples of the African continent and African diaspora.

I was keenly aware of my limited business experience as I started this initiative. During some business studies, I read the book Annointed for Business by Ed Silvoso and my spirit was quickened. I needed an Ohaliab and a Bezalel, “with knowledge and all kinds of skills” (1) to grow the movement among business and marketplace believers. God brought along the partners of His choosing. I was introduced to the Repurposing Business—Transforming Society courses run by The Institute (2). We partnered with them, hosting and completing the 20-week course with a focus on the Gujarati of Madagascar. Challenge #4. We then went on a pre-venture trip to Madagascar to impact kingdom-minded business people there and to pray on-site for the Gujarati. We are about to begin our second course, trusting to generate more prayer for the Gujarati and to mobilise more kingdom-minded business people to reach those who have not had the opportunity to respond to the gospel.

Addressing the challenges within the African context

Challenge #1 – Lack of business experience. There is a growing movement of BAM practitioners and programs across the continent. Some challenging existing businesses to get involved and see their businesses as a senders, and others like Global Disciples (3), training those who are called how to become disciple makers and run a business that will generate income for their support. My hope is that God will lead us to kingdom-minded business people who are willing to take their business to the nations, and to business people who are willing to provide those who are called with opportunities for business internships that can prepare them for building a business in a Creative Access nation.

Challenge #2 – Raising capital for a kingdom business. Personal support raising continues to be a huge challenge for our African members, but not impossible. Raising capital for a kingdom business is even more challenging. The words “missionary” and “business” don’t seem to go together. But business is part of the Kingdom of God. There need not be a separation between sacred and secular here. Business is a tool that God has used and is using for kingdom expansion and transformation. Educating people about the role of business in Mission is therefore imperative. May there be more business people who are willing to invest in kingdom businesses where God is opening doors.

Challenge #3 – Women in business. When God called me to North Africa, I questioned Him. “Really? Me, an African, single woman in business in this context?” But with God, nothing is impossible. What He requires is our obedience. He will do the rest. Sub-Saharan Africans face many challenges in North Africa where more often than not they are looked down upon. I believe as God promises in His Word, that when He calls, He is faithful and He will do it. My prayer and desire is that God will raise up more sub-Saharan Africans to “Go North.” Even women.

Challenge #4 – Being intentional. Business is ministry. This is a lesson I had to learn when I was busy managing our office instead of stepping out and visiting with people in their homes, which I thought was the only form of ministry. But the service providers and co-workers God brought into the office were the ones He was asking me to impact daily with my words and actions. However, when the unreached are in the minority and daily interaction does not bring us into regular contact, there is a greater need to be intentional in seeking opportunities. In East Africa, there are many South Asian business people who are largely unreached like the Gujarati of Madagascar. I pray that believers in the employ of these business people, or fellow business owners who love Jesus, will be intentional about being a blessing to them and sharing the gospel with them.

Business as Mission. Business as Ministry. Kingdom Business. Tent Making. Whatever we call it, I believe that business is a tool that God is using to expand His kingdom in difficult contexts. The challenges exist but so do the opportunities. God is our provider and I believe He will open the doors as we step into the challenge of Business as Mission across Africa.

Footnotes:

(1) Exodus 31:3 / Silvoso, Ed. Anointed for Business Baker Publishing Group.

(2) Repurposing Business-Transforming Society® is a registered trademark of The Institute for Innovation, Integration & Impact with whom BAM Café is partnering. See also www.repurposing.biz

(3) For more information: globaldisciples.org

*The author’s name was changed for this article. Mpho means “gift” in the Sotho language.

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