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Serve Jesus where you are

Monday, July 31, 2017

Dave Kier is an IBEC Board member and CEO of DFS Feed in Iowa. He writes a daily devotional for his more than 200 employees. I am privileged to be allowed to read them; one of which is reproduced here with his permission.

Feedback from a recent Business as Mission conference I attended revealed a desire from many to know more about how to be a Christian in business. Recently I read an article about our Secretary of Education where the author was almost appalled that she speaks of emphasizing biblical values in education. She and her friends even had the audacity to call themselves “believers”, yet there is an army of us believers in government, education, the medical community, serving in nursing homes and all throughout every field in the marketplace. Millions of us get up and go to work to serve Jesus and others and yet the young people are asking how they can live out their calling where they are. Yes, it’s concerning that they ask, but I am deeply humbled and excited that they are. Maybe this is the generation that will make the greatest impact for Jesus in this world.

How do I live out my calling here?

What would you tell a young person asking this question but to be strong in their faith, first and foremost. Go deep with Jesus taking serious the teaching of Paul where he said “…whatever you do, do all for the glory of God. (I Cor. 10:31)”. Be diligent in your work, but also remember to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (II Tim. 2:15)”.

Remember every day to “…always give thanks for all things. (Eph. 5:20)”. Ignore the temptation to think it is every man for himself but rather “do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (Matt 7:12)”. Jesus said to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you (Matt 6:33)". Never forget, no matter how lean the times, that the first fruits of your day belong to the Lord as does the first fruits of your income. Humbly declare Him by your actions and by your words. Be wise but do not be silent.

Being a Christian in the marketplace

We met with two different companies this week. One we meet with every so often but we didn’t know the leaders in the other company very well. Still, we opened our time with prayer asking the Lord to guide us. No one has ever been offended but almost always someone will say “Thank you”.

Being a Christian in the marketplace is being who you are. Why hide who you are? If you are a child of the King, you don’t need to be brash about it but for sure you aren’t ashamed of it – are you? Don’t let the world and its threats intimidate you. Live for Jesus wherever you are. Speak up for Jesus wherever you are, not to make “brownie points” with Jesus but because you love Him and you love your fellow man or woman. It is a tremendous privilege, and responsibility, to serve Jesus in the marketplace.

Business as Mission – how about results?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The facts of this story are real and true; but due to security issues, names have been changed.

As I travel around the US and Canada, I am often asked, “are you seeing any results for all your work with Business as Mission?” In short what they are demanding is “Show me the money”. It is a good question and they have a right to know.

I have visited Asian Business Company (ABC) twice. ABC is in a country considered to be “unreached” with the truth of the gospel. While visiting I spent time observing and interviewing several of the thirty or so employees and spending extended time with the owners, Chris and Simon. I have seen the value this job-creating manufacturing firm brings to the community and in the personal lives of the workers. I have seen the profitability and sustainability grow over the past 14 years. I have interacted with six different consultants who have applied their wisdom to ABC.

Three years ago Simon hired a manager of production, Mr. M. Not only has Mr. M proven to be a valued employee and effective manager, but he has taken an interest in spiritual issues, expressing a desire to learn more of who Jesus is. He diligently read the scriptures strategically place on the factory walls. He began to ask questions and he participated in prayer times and it gradually became clear that he was seeking the truth.

Simon has met many times with Mr. M and recently he affirmed his desire to live out his life in relationship with God. He is now following Jesus.

The is not the beginning of the story and certainly it is not the end. Now all four senior managers of ABC have come to faith and are following Jesus. Several others are new and growing believers.

But it doesn’t stop there! There are even more needy areas in Asia – more impoverished and more spiritually unreached and Simon and Chris have long had a vision to extend their company to some of those places. And now as I write this, they are deploying a long-term staff member and Jesus follower to a high risk, unreached area. He will be serving ABC as a sales representative, but more importantly he will be representative of Jesus in that area.

This is not the first example of outreach to faraway places by employees and former employees of ABC - and by God’s grace it will not be the last. There are many more stories of God at work in the past 14 years. And all because Chris and Simon took leave of a comfortable life in North America and began a startup business in Asia – a business committed to profitability, to job creation and to making disciples of Jesus.

I tell those questioning that “it doesn’t get any better than that!” But it does take time; it takes prayer; it takes capital and it takes a whole team – both in North America and abroad. Thank you God!

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) - is it BAM?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Recently I watched a “60 Minutes”1 documentary describing the phenomenal rise of Chobani Yogurt to become the top selling yogurt brand in the United States. Founded in upstate New York in 2005 by Turkish immigrant Hamdi Ulukaya without outside investors, Chobani is a charming feel-good story of entrepreneurship.

The story seems to have all the components of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) which is a corporation's initiatives to assess and take responsibility for the company's effects on environmental and social well-being as well as the economic financial outcomes. The term generally applies to efforts that go beyond what may be required by regulators or environmental protection groups.

Despite examples of abuse and attempts to deceive the public, generally CSR is a good thing, based in part in the philosophy of the Triple Bottom Line, a term coined by John Elkington in 1994. A CSR-responsible company develops its policies, programs, standards and principles in accordance with:

People – what is good for the human capital and the social good. Such is true at Chobani. “From the beginning I tried to treat everybody right,” Ulukaya said in a speech last month. “We paid everyone well above minimum wage. Everybody in our plant gets the same holidays as everybody in the office. Our entire company — hourly or salaried — would get full health care, retirement plans.”

Not long ago Ulukaya offered 10% of the company ownership to his 2,000 employees. But perhaps the most interesting decision was to hire legal refugees in his New York and Twin Falls, Idaho plants. Today more than 600 refugees have jobs. Says Ulukaya, “The No. 1 thing that you can do is provide them jobs. The minute they get a job, that’s the minute they stop being a refugee.”

Profit – without question Chobani is a profitable company, and is valued at over $1 billion today. The owner understands the customer and creates value for all stakeholders. Such value-creation has been translated into profitability and sustainability.

Planet – the third bottom line is concern for the environment and the health of people. The mission of Chobani to have “better food for more people” translates into the use of natural ingredients, more protein, less sugar and ultimately a healthier lifestyle, illustrated in this partnership with McDonalds: http://www.chobani.com/nutritioncenter.

Cows are not treated with rBST and animal welfare is an ethical and moral imperative. All of creation is important to Mr. Ulukaya and Chobani.

This certainly is good. It is good CSR; it is a good business model. But is it BAM?

Business as Mission (BAM)

BAM often talks of the Quadruple Bottom Line, with the 4th item being the all-important commitment to be a Kingdom Company and ultimately a Great Commission Company. All of the above-mentioned components of CSR are great and important but a Business as Mission company requires the owner and management to operate the company with Biblical principles and for the glory of God.

Rundle and Steffen in Great Commission Companies define such as “…a socially responsible, income producing business managed by Kingdom professionals and created for the specific purpose of glorifying God and promoting the growth and multiplication of local churches in the least evangelized and least developed parts of the world.”2

BAM company leaders “…make it known in their personal and professional daily speech, actions, lifestyles, management styles, decisions and testimonies that they are ardent followers of Jesus and are doing their best to conduct all aspects of the business in a manner worthy of the gospel.”3 Thus BAM companies incarnate the life of Jesus and proclaim the gospel verbally when there is opportunity.

The result – more and more people become followers of Jesus; lives (and ultimately communities) are transformed. This is a 4th “bottom line” and an essential one.
IBEC believes in CSR and we love stories like Chobani. But our work is in the direction of Business as Mission; Kingdom companies producing Jesus followers.

1 CBS 60 Minutes, April 6, 2017,  Chobani founder stands by hiring refugees. 
2 Rundle, Steve & Steffen, Tom. Great Commission Companies, InterVarsity Press (2011), p. 45.
3 Johnson, C. Neal.  Business as Mission, InterVarsity Press (2009), p. 280.

Sight for Souls – medicine as a business

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Not long ago, I was talking with Ken Leahy, former IBEC Director and board member. He was giving me an update on the for-profit Discovery Eye Institute (DEI) in Ethiopia (owned by Sight for Souls in the USA). Ken is the treasurer of DEI and along with Gwen Rapp provided IBEC consulting services for DEI.

Trachoma is the leading infectious cause of blindness worldwide, affecting 41 million people, most of them in the world's poorest countries. Children are the most frequently infected by trachoma which, if untreated, causes a painful and irreversible blindness by age 30-40.

Ethiopia is particularly severely affected, making up 30% of trachoma cases in all of Africa. In fact, trachoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the country.

Trachoma is a completely preventable and treatable cause of blindness. Blindness and severe pain can be prevented through a safe, affordable surgical procedure that costs only $40 per patient.

Founder John Kempen provided an update a few months ago and he refers to “…so many years of planning and work.” Ken provided much of the financial planning and work for what now is a clinic with 9 staff plus doctors - and with doors open for about six months. Read this from Dr. Kempen:

It was a great start to the day. Seeing an old man sitting in a wheelchair with an eye patch on reminded me that my partner, Dr. Emebet, had been doing surgery yesterday, only the second surgery since we had started the full scale Discovery Eye Center after so many years of planning and work. As I took his patch off, there was a slight pause, and then a startled look came into the man’s face followed by a big smile and he started looking around the room. “God’s blessings be upon you!” he proclaimed. It is traditional for a “shee-mah-gee-lay” (an elderly, respected man) to bless the young, especially when he is happy. The blessings rained down this time.

He began to talk. He was a Korean war veteran, apparently one of not so many who had survived battles back in the 1950s, and he showed me a picture of himself as a well-dressed young man exploring Tokyo ten days after leaving the war zone. Since we are working in partnership with the Korean Myung Sung Christian Medical Center, which was inspired by the thankfulness the Koreans have toward those who saved them from falling under the dictatorship of the Kim family in North Korea, it was especially poignant to begin our launch with this particular gentleman. Yesterday, he had been blind—like about 500,000 other people in Ethiopia, limited to the ability to tell whether the light in the room was on or off. Today, before we even put any eyedrops in to wash the mucous away, he was already seeing 20/40. What a change! And not uncommon with cataract surgery, especially among those whose eyes have been neglected as with so many here who have little access to care, even in Addis Ababa.

I was heartily encouraged, since it meant both that our hard-won equipment for planning the surgery was working well, and our new staff members were using it properly. I wasn’t surprised by that, but it is exciting to see the fruit of that labor and the promise of more to come!

This little incident, one among many patients, was God’s blessing to remind me and all of our team (now four ophthalmologists, two optometrists, and four nurses) a little bit about why we had come to Addis Ababa and given up alternatives that the world might see as better. It is such a blessing to work in a time when much can be done for so many using the skills and equipment God has provided through his people.

Please pray for us now, as we make the welcome transition from the new foundation of a clinic with a great deal of capacity to employing that capacity to bless people and to shine the light of God’s saving grace in this land, which has for more than 1,400 years been a front line against the aggressive expansion of our neighboring religion. In particular, we would like to begin doing outreaches to the poor around the city, and gradually expanding outward into the nether regions of Ethiopia, which provide a lot of opportunity to partner with churches in bringing physical and spiritual sight to the blind.

There remain all kinds of challenges and stresses with the work, expectations, and of our family living in a very different situation. Most of these are great opportunities that we have sought for years and for which we praise God. Nonetheless, they still require strength, grace, and wisdom along with a healthy dose of elbow grease.

Please pray with us:
  • That the project can be adequately funded during the startup period of operating at a deficit
  • That we can successfully wade through the bureaucratic jello to bring in all the remaining equipment (some progress there recently, praise God)
  • That we can build partnerships and strategies to make the most of the spiritual opportunities that come with the dramatic physical benefit we can provide to many, as the parallel between restoring physical sight and being opened to the light of the gospel was one of the main reasons I chose this profession in the first place!
John Kempen

DEI is inspired by the self-sustaining Aravind Eye Care model, developed in India. Here are a couple of videos one of which shows some of the beneficiaries of the surgeries and the other video is provided by Mrs. Kempen showing the heart of this social business enterprise.

10 Ben Franklin quotes for business owners

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Historian Richard Morris suggests that there are seven key Founding Fathers.  Predictably they are John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington. If you are an entrepreneur or a business owner, you may identify most with Benjamin Franklin. Arguably he may have been the most successful inventor, entrepreneur and business person of the group.

On this Independence Day weekend, reflect on these ten quotes of Ben Franklin and apply them to your business initiative (or personal life). And thank God for the republic.

1. By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

2. Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.

3. He that rises late must trot all day.

4. Rather go to bed without dinner than to rise in debt.

5. The US constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it.  You have to catch up with it yourself.

6. A penny saved is a penny earned.

7. I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion about the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.

8. To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.

9. Never confuse motion with action.

10.  Work as if you were to live a hundred years.  Pray as if you were to die tomorrow. 

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IBEC Ventures -- Consultants for BAM/Business as Mission