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Engaging in business in the Balkans

Friday, August 17, 2018
firefighters in training

In Luke 19: 11-27 Jesus clarifies that the Kingdom of God is not going to appear at once (v. 11). Instead, the parable of a noble man going “into a far country to receive for himself a Kingdom and then return” (v. 12) makes it clear what we should be doing while we wait for the King to return.

Second, Jesus clarifies how His disciples (the servants in the parable) are to live as they wait. He gives ten servants one mina each (about three months wages) and commands them to “engage in business until I come.” The Greek word translated as “engage in business” is pragmateuomai, from which we get our word pragmatic. It was an ancient mercantile term meaning to trade or do business in order to make gain. So, the servants were to engage in gainful business activities as they awaited the return of their master.

When the King returns “having received His Kingdom” the servants are called to give account. Those who worked and invested wisely are given a proportional number of cities to govern in the Kingdom. The one who hid his mina and had nothing to show for it is rebuked, and his mina is given to the wise servants.

So what? All of us have been entrusted by God with a set of resources. We are to steward these resources wisely as we wait for the return of Christ. How? By proactively, intentionally, and purposefully “doing business.” The question then becomes what does your “business” look like? What resources has the King entrusted you to steward in this life?

By working as unto the Lord in an honest profession we are loving God, loving our neighbor, and making disciples by incarnating the Gospel and the values of God’s Kingdom. These values of truth, beauty, and justice are present in part now, but will be revealed in glorious splendor when the King returns. When He returns, what will He say about you and me and how we “engaged in business” while waiting for Him? This becomes a framing question for every aspect of our lives.

Since 2015, a company in Eastern Europe has been training local firefighters how to respond to emergency medical situations. Just last month, they welcomed four American first responders who returned to Europe to hold training for 17 firefighters, bringing the total of people trained to 78 firefighters. Each year gets better and harder at the same time.

This year, four local instructors led the training, since they were trained last year to become instructors. The company’s vision is to equip local firefighters, through written materials, training and mentoring to teach their fellow firefighters in Emergency Medical Response. This process of equipping is a long-term process and investment with a Kingdom perspective.

An important element of the training was the cooperation with government authorities, as they participated in the program with firefighters from eight cities joining in on the training. Conversations were rich in content related not only to emergency response issues, but also in value-laden topics. God is evident in every aspect of this business.

It has been a privilege for two IBEC consultants to provide services to one of the owners some years ago. And now we rejoice in what is happening in this European country.

Check out this IBEC video on a related topic from Luke 19: John Warton: Do Business Until I Come

  • Adapted from an article by CB in the Balkans.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Social Issues as a Business as Mission opportunity

Friday, August 10, 2018
humanitarian aid

"Every single social and global issue of our day is a business opportunity in disguise..." – Peter Drucker

While I was in business school, everyone drooled over the wisdom of Peter Drucker, and indeed his books are still read today. Let’s think about this quote from long ago.

Followers of Jesus are often counseled to look three ways when considering pathways of life: to look upward and consider what God considers important; to look inward and discover how they are wired with gifts, education, passion, aptitudes and experiences; and look outward at the world around them and pay attention to needs.

So probably there is a lot of wisdom in Drucker’s counsel. That is not to say that every business needs to be a social enterprise; but I think it is safe to say that when considering the scores of social issues on our globe, we may need to become more aware of hidden opportunities. Here are some that I have connected with or become aware of.

Refugees in North America: Many consider the world refugee situation as an important social and global issue. Certainly, job creation is an important part of the solution. A few years ago, I was assigned to mentor a young white male 20-something in a business start-up. He was starting a Somali restaurant in Minneapolis, in a state with 40,000 Somalian refugees. I immediately wondered, “what does this guy know about Somali cuisine and eating habits?”

It turned out that he knew next to nothing, but he was an entrepreneur with a business degree. His plan was to hire the right people who knew what he did not know and provide jobs for a wide range of skills in the refugee community. He saw a business opportunity to provide for a needed product (Somalian food) and create jobs for the Somalian refugees. As a result, he was successful.

Health and Disabilities: The CDC estimates that 53 million Americans (22%) suffer with some type of disability. Without creative innovation and entrepreneurship, these individuals could simply languish as wards of the state. That was not going to happen to John Cronin of Huntington, New York, who has Down’s Syndrome. After high school he said to his father, Mark, “Dad, I want to go into business with you.”

After thinking and trying a few things, they settled on a passion of John’s, crazy socks, and the company was born: John's Crazy Socks. They make money and they follow their dreams. The website states: “our Social Enterprise model is an alternative to models that only seek to make money. Make no mistake, we want to be profitable ($ two million in sales last year), but we have found that the more we do for others, the better our business will succeed…giving back is an essential part of what we do.

“We do not think a business can simply sell stuff, it is essential to give back. From the beginning, we have pledged 5 percent of our earnings to the Special Olympics. We have added a growing list of Charity and Awareness Socks that raise money for our charity partners. We also hold special events to generate funds for our charity partners.” John’s Crazy Socks has found a business opportunity connected to an important social concern.

Human Trafficking and Prostitution: Outland Denim is a company in Kampong Cham, Cambodia. It was started seven years ago by James Bartle, an Australian entrepreneur who saw an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of trafficked women through employment, while making a profit. He entered the fashion world of denim with a steep learning curve after traveling to Asia to see how the trafficking industry worked, and to envision how he could provide a sustainable career path to victimized women.

There is a strong commitment to preparing each of the 40 seamstress employees with all the skills of the factory. Each person learns every aspect – every machine and every detail on a pair of jeans – the denim, the thread, rivets, buttons, belt loops, zippers – all are meticulously and artfully produced and reviewed. The high-end product is no regular jean - with retail prices in North America starting at $195 per jean.

The women take pride in their work, and we noted when we visited this year - on the finished products, the leather patch had a simple statement under the Outland name, “This jean handcrafted by …… (name of person)”

We were impressed how the owner in Australia, and the managers in Cambodia, Caleb and Katie, relied on the importance of prayer, with many stories of how God directed them in creative entrepreneurial ways – building a business on a serious global social issue.

War and Human Conflict: The war in the Balkans in the 1990s created massive ruination throughout the country, as well as devastating unemployment. Around 100,000 people were killed during the war. Over 2.2 million people were displaced, making it the most devastating conflict in Europe since the end of World War II. In addition, an estimated 12,000–20,000 women were raped, most of them Bosniak.

The war in the Bosniak area, in what is now southeast Bosnia, left more than half of the employable men and women without work. It was to this area that John and Katie started a youth center and then a business to provide employment for several of the men and boys. Though the agricultural business experienced much turbulence, it is still functioning with a robust berry farm in that region. They too developed a business out of a global social issue – war and conflict.

World Hunger: Phillip and Brittany had international experience, business degrees, an entrepreneurial bent, and a passion for social causes. After experience elsewhere in the world, they decided upon western Kenya and the development of a fish farm. They wanted to meet a local need for jobs and for food, and to develop a prototype for a farm elsewhere in an even more needy area.

Today Big Fish Kenya is officially one of only two hatcheries in the westernmost region of Kenya. Construction of the first hatchery finished in June 2014, and they employ several folks from a very poor region of the country. A local fish expert provides leadership in product development.

Their dynamic and purpose: "Empowering communities through love, education, training, and resources that THEY may carry these principles forward throughout Africa and beyond.” They are the embodiment of another global social enterprise which was a “business opportunity in disguise.”

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Wealth Creation Manifesto

Friday, August 03, 2018
colorful galaxy

Last week we highlighted many scriptures referring to work as an important God-ordained institution. The Wealth Creation Manifesto is another way of representing the importance of work in addressing poverty and obedience to God’s intent. Mats Tunehag has been friend of IBEC and some of his videos are on our website. He is also one of the architects of this manifesto.



The Lausanne Movement and BAM Global organized a Global Consultation on The Role of Wealth Creation for Holistic Transformation, in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in March 2017. About 30 people from 20 nations participated, primarily from the business world, and also from church, missions and academia. The findings will be published in several papers and a book, as well as an educational video. This Manifesto conveys the essentials of our deliberations before and during the Consultation.

  1. Wealth creation is rooted in God the Creator, who created a world that flourishes with abundance and diversity.
  2. We are created in God’s image, to co-create with him and for him, to create products and services for the common good.
  3. Wealth creation is a holy calling, and a God-given gift, which is commended in the Bible.
  4. Wealth creators should be affirmed by the Church, and equipped and deployed to serve in the marketplace among all peoples and nations.
  5. Wealth hoarding is wrong, and wealth sharing should be encouraged, but there is no wealth to be shared unless it has been created.
  6. There is a universal call to generosity, and contentment is a virtue, but material simplicity is a personal choice, and involuntary poverty should be alleviated.
  7. The purpose of wealth creation through business goes beyond giving generously, although that is to be commended; good business has intrinsic value as a means of material provision and can be an agent of positive transformation in society.
  8. Business has a special capacity to create financial wealth, but also has the potential to create different kinds of wealth for many stakeholders, including social, intellectual, physical and spiritual wealth.
  9. Wealth creation through business has proven power to lift people and nations out of poverty.
  10. Wealth creation must always be pursued with justice and a concern for the poor, and should be sensitive to each unique cultural context.
  11. Creation care is not optional. Stewardship of creation and business solutions to environmental challenges should be an integral part of wealth creation through business.

We present these affirmations to the Church worldwide, and especially to leaders in business, church, government, and academia.
  • We call the church to embrace wealth creation as central to our mission of holistic transformation of peoples and societies.
  • We call for fresh, ongoing efforts to equip and launch wealth creators to that very end.
  • We call wealth creators to perseverance, diligently using their God-given gifts to serve God and people.
Ad maiorem Dei gloriam – For the greater glory of God

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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IBEC Ventures -- Consultants for BAM/Business as Mission