In the country* where I work, business happens in cafes around small tables over dozens to hundreds of cups of tea. This is where I meet with vendors, logistics coordinators, and clients, all native to the city where I live. It’s also where I mentor young potential entrepreneurs. Not only is the tea excellent – served in tall glasses, hot and sugary – but running a local business is what gets me a seat at this literal table in a country where it’s illegal to do Christian missionary work.
This is what Business for Transformation looks like. Establishing a small business gives us an authentic purpose for being in the country. And it enables us to develop thriving relationships and support local livelihoods that help holistically transform communities – economically, physically, and spiritually.
When our team of missionary entrepreneurs first arrived more than 10 years ago, we wanted to start a business where we could wholeheartedly work for the good of the city. A business that would fit us naturally in accord with who God had made us to be and, at the same time, would create opportunities for cross-cultural relationships.
These opportunities to witness and talk with people about Jesus are most often first born out of the mundane circumstances of the workplace and public space, doing life alongside others in the community. They often unfold over time, letting faith flow naturally out of life and business interactions, after we have again and again shown them Jesus through our love and actions.
I’ll share one story to describe what that looks like.
Where we live, it’s an acceptable practice for family members to leave a person with a disability to beg for the day on the street corner. Passers-by will often drop a coin in their hands because their society values giving money to the poor.
There was one woman who was dropped off daily by her family near our office, along with a bag of lentils to eat during the day while she begged.
Highly impacted by Parkinson’s Disease, the lentils would scatter out of her shaking hands as she tried to feed herself. She was a fragile-framed woman whose face would light up with a toothless smile when she saw us. Members of our team would walk by her every day on the way to work, and eventually, we began to stop and get to know her.
We learned that her name translated to “One Who is Loved.” We would gently collect the lentils and give them back to her. Or sometimes, on the days that tremors stopped her from eating, we would feed her. Some days we would bring some bread or a bag of clothes for her grandson.
Even small interactions like this – stopping to get to know a street beggar by name – can become an opportunity for us to showcase God’s great love.
And she didn’t just feel our love – she and all the people on that street who were watching our interactions with her got to hear about Jesus’s transforming love, power, and grace. And they were able to hear that because they were seeing it lived out, day after day.
In so many ways, God, in His kindness, continues to affirm this way of loving the city.
Our relationships are where the gospel gets to shine and be lived and shared. As a result of the Spirit’s work through our interactions, we are seeing people who put their trust in Jesus and their lives are being transformed by grace!
Sometimes, we even get to hear our call from Jeremiah echoed back to us.
One local, young man, who cares a lot for his city, attended a few cultural events that we hosted. After some time of getting to know him, we invited him for Thanksgiving dinner, and at our table, when everyone was sharing something we were thankful for, Mohamed* said, “I am so thankful for your business. What you are doing is really good for our city on so many levels! We have never seen anything like this before. And I am so glad to be a part of it!”
We are grateful for how God is using businesses like ours around the world to open doors to shine the light of Jesus in some of the hardest-to-reach places.
Please pray for creativity and wisdom for us Business for Transformation missionaries as we consider how to ‘pivot’ in this post-pandemic environment in a way that blesses our city, so that we can continue to have these opportunities He has been showing us.
*Real names and locations not disclosed to protect security and privacy