Monday, April 25, 2016

Happy Birthday, Hannah!

In France...
So cute...
Today is Hannah's 23rd birthday.  I don't like being 7500 miles away on her birthday so this is a very loud shout out to her!  Maybe you can join me in wishing her a happy birthday but sending an email to her at  She is working with an agency called Novel Responses, providing in-home services to children with developmental disabilities.  She seems to be enjoying it! 

Hannah emulating her Dad...enjoying lying in the yard, looking at the sky...
Today we completed our first day of our first intensive training for pastors.  It went very well, with pastors coming from many different parts of Kenya to attend.

I will share more in the coming posts, for for today, let me just share with you some of our favorite quotes that we shared with these senior pastors:

Scottish theologian, Dr. George MacLoed (1895-1991):  "I simply argue that the cross be raised again, at the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church...Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves, on the town garbage heap, on a crossroad so cosmopolitan that they had to write His title in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greet, or shall we say, in English, in Bantu, and in the kind of place where cynics talk smut, the thieves curse and soldiers gamble, because that is where He died, and that is what he died about, and that is where Christians should be and what Christians should be about." 

Henry Blackaby, in Experiencing God in Business:  "The Marketplace is the last mission frontier.  Christianity in the marketplace is salt and light in a dark world."

William Tyndale, the great English Reformer and the first translator of the Bible into English:  "There is no work better than another to please God:  to pour water, to wash dishes, to be a shoemaker, or an apostle, all is one; to wash dishes and to preach is all one, as touching the deed, to please God." 

C.T. Studd (missionary):  Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Cheering for the little guy

Who doesn't like cheering for the little guy to win?  I ran across a great video recently called "Battle at Kruger," a national park in South Africa, where a baby buffalo is grabbed by some lions, the buffalo abandon the baby, and then they organize themselves and come back.  Watch it here if you have a few minutes and want to be inspired:   

 Battle at Kruger

What does this have to do with Discipling Marketplace Leaders?  I'm glad you asked.  :)

Of the four strategic activities that we are involved in with business people through Discipling Marketplace Leaders (training, mentoring, advocacy, and access to capital), advocacy is the most difficult one for people to understand.  The other three activities are simple as they seek to build and develop one person's business internally through training, mentoring, and access to capital. If you are familiar with SWOT analysis, these three activities address both the strengths and weaknesses of a business.

But what about external pressures to a business, outside of its control?  That is where advocacy comes in.  Advocacy looks at the other part of the SWOT analysis, specifically the opportunities and threats.  Too often small business owners feel like the baby buffalo - so many predators, unable to fight on their own.  Advocacy is trying get the buffaloes back together and organized to go after the big scary predators.  We tend to describe the way advocacy works in the following fish picture and encourage all our Marketplace Ministers to get together in cooperatives to address both the opportunities and barriers that exist externally to their business.  So far we have four cooperatives that have formed in four different cities in Western Kenya for this purpose.
Small fish organizing to be able to defend themselves and take on some bigger fish together.
Here is short (one-minute) fun video which helps drive home the point:

 It's Smarter to Travel in Groups

I'm reminded that in the work of Discipling Marketplace Leaders our ultimate goal is to see business people do their work as unto the Lord and to see Him lifted up in the Marketplace.  The choice of DML is to do that through the church, which can be both an opportunity for businesses to do this well, but it can also be a threat.  But when we look out for each other, when we affirm the work, the life, the value of each person, and when we pull together rather than pull apart, we can make a significant difference.  The Church is a key umbrella to unifying the vision and calling of Christian men and women in business.

Amartya Sen, a Nobel-prize winning economist, states that, “Economic growth cannot be sensibly treated as an end in itself.  Development has to be more concerned with enhancing the lives we lead and the freedoms we enjoy.”  Sen states that what matters is “not the things a person has – or the feelings these provide – but what a person is, or can be, and does, or can do."  Business development, while important, is not simply about increasing income or creating jobs.  It is about enhancing lives, enjoying freedoms, and affirming what people can do.  The Church can and should play a significant role in helping people understand this and find their place in it.  If a secular economist who claims to be an atheist can see the need for affirmation of calling and the role of economics beyond numbers, certainly we as the church can see that need as well.  Can I hear an "amen?"

Monday, April 11, 2016


My goofy kids, loving to pose for the camera...or not.
On Thursday, I leave again for one month, spending two weeks in Kenya and two weeks in Ethiopia.  I will get back just a few days before Noah graduates from Calvin College.  That's right - both of my kids will be college graduates. To think that they both have started and completed these major milestones without their Dad's presence reminds me of how fast time moves. 

Judy King and I
While it's true that I got back from Kenya just two weeks ago, I came back for a very specific reason other than seeing my dear husband and children.  I had been invited by a dear friend and prayer partner, Judy King, to attend a conference in Alabama called a "Ruach Journey."  Ruach is the Hebrew word used in the Bible for God's spirit and the human spirit. This conference was a guided spiritual retreat, with about 100 women in a beautifully peaceful and serene setting to get in touch with our spirit and with God's spirit.  It was a great blessing and I believe the message is one that will continue to develop in my spirit over time.

As I head back to East Africa, I continue to look forward to how God will continue to roll this work out in His Church and through His pastors.  I look forward to see how the pastors respond to the Discipling Marketplace Leaders intensive two-day training that we will be giving in Kenya; I also look forward to seeing how the Church in Ethiopia responds to the message of DML.

Please continue to pray for this work, as we seek to reclaim the redeemed Marketplace and help people understand how to be the Church from Monday-Saturday.

Walks in the morning, with the mist rising off the lake - so peaceful and beautiful.
As the sun rises, asking myself, "How is my body?  How is my soul?  How is my spirit?"

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Messy Middle


When God created the world, 
He declared it to be good.  
And it was.

Then sin entered and it became not so good.  It became "all about me."  Messy.

Then Christ came, redeemed all things, and things got better
 - more hopeful -

but still messy.

And that is where we are today.

The Messy Middle.

Humans are called and created to work - to take the resources in this world and be fruitful with them - to be creative with them - to be creative as image-bearers of a very creative God.  

Working Christians are to operate in the messy middle, working on both creative and redemptive goals.  That is the task before us.  Christ has redeemed all things and we have been given the task of reconciliation.  We are Christ's ambassadors.  For those of us in the business world, our call is to continue to be creative and to be fruitful to meet the needs of the world as the population continues to increase and the world becomes a more global village.  We are to provide goods and services that will help individuals and families flourish.  As we figure out ways to meet those needs, we then need to multiply it so that more people can have access and flourish.  Be fruitful and multiply.

But we don't get to stop there, as we are also called to deal with the messy middle, to deal with the reconciliation that needs to take place:
  • Reconciliation between man and the earth.  
  • Reconciliation between man and man in the workplace.  
  • Reconciliation between business and employees. 
  • Reconciliation between business and society.
  • Repentance from corruption, greed, poor ethics, poor quality, poor attitudes,and so much more.
Working with Christian business owners, their churches, and their pastors, to understand the role of business in reconciliation is also a messy work.  How do we engage the world on these issues?  Do I simply look at what I am doing, or do I have a responsibility "from field to fork to disposal?"

I heard a business woman from Western Kenya tell a story of finding a gap in the market for a by-product of sugar (Western Kenya produces a lot of sugar cane and manufactures it as well).  She had access to it and found a great demand in a different city.  They were willing to pick it up from her.  She was happily doing business.  Then one Saturday, the main customer who had been picking up the product, called her and asked her to deliver this one time as his vehicle had broken down.  She and her husband agreed and made the drive to the place.  Upon her arrival, she saw a broken down area, people staggering with drunkenness, and saw that it was a major producer for a type of alcohol made from this sugar by-product.  She felt sick when she realized that she had been the supplier for this.  And she made the decision to stop immediately.

Was that the right call?  Is she responsible for how people use her product?

What about this one?  There is a worldwide phenomenon called "glue children" - mostly street children who get addicted to a very cheap glue, made for furniture and shoes.  This addictive glue, when sniffed, makes the children feel happy, satisfied, less hungry, and less cold.  It does, however, cause brain damage.  The Minnesota-based US company, HB Fuller, a major supplier of this glue was asked to include a simple ingredient to the glue to make it unsniffable:  mustard seed oil.  Mustard seed oil is an irritant to the nose and would cause these children to stop sniffing.  HB Fuller refused, stating that it wasn't safe for their employees.  Safety measures could have been taken for them, but the reality is that HB Fuller stood to lose a lot of sales if all the children stopped sniffing daily.  It went to the Supreme Court and HB Fuller prevailed.  A documentary was done on the Glue Boys of Kitale, where I lived and work in Western Kenya.  A five minute clip of that documentary can be seen here:

Now, is HB Fuller obligated to change their product based on how it is being used, especially when it is being used in a different way than the owners designed?  Clearly, HB Fuller and the courts said no.

These cases may seem more obvious in terms of ethics.  But what about using plastic bags when selling products?  Selling water bottles or serving water in plastic bottles?  What about paper usage and trees?  Chemicals used on food? Wasting electricity and water?  And the questions go on.

We live and work in the messy middle.  We are called to be reconcilers.  But knowing how to be an agent of reconciliation is not easy and it is not always black and white.

That is why we need to talk about these things.  To share.  To encourage.  To disciple.

If we simply stay in the fruitful and multiply stage of work, and not engage reconciliation, we ignore a huge battlefield and may be negatively contributing to it, without even being aware of it.  Churches, let's engage our people, calling and equipping them to be agents of reconciliation!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Disciple To Purpose

Over the past three years, as I have moved the work of business development under the umbrella of the Church, I have had the opportunity to meet and talk with many, many pastors and church leaders. It is very clear to me that pastors and church leaders are passionate about transformation.  They long and desire to see people transformed, families transformed, communities transformed, and nations transformed for the glory of God.  But I am also beginning to learn of the challenges of transformation from within the church.  In order for transformation to take place, there needs to be knowledge and application.  In my interviews with churches, I am seeing multiple ways that the knowledge of transformation is being given:  through discipleship classes, marriage and parenting classes, evangelism classes, and so on.  The challenge comes in the application.

The formula again:  Transformation = Knowledge + Application.

In my recent visit to Kenya to find out about the application of the Discipling Marketplace Leaders ministry, we interviewed churches that had upwards of forty programs and departments. These churches are keeping their church members very busy in the church, going from class to committee to program.  It occurred to us that some churches keep their members so busy with gaining knowledge, that there is very little time or energy for application outside the four walls of the church.  I ran across this quote that underlined what we were observing: "The devil doesn't care if you go to church or read your Bible, as long as you don't apply it to your life."

The church needs to practice discipleship like Jesus. Jesus taught, but also sent his disciples out to proclaim and even bring the Kingdom of God. Discipleship is not merely about learning but also about transformation which comes through application. That is it's purpose - there has to be a practical outworking and application of the knowledge received in the teaching ministries of the church.  Discipleship without application is knowledge and keeping people busy, but doesn't lead to transformation.

Here are some calculations on our use of time during our key productive years from 20-65 years of age.  There is a total of 400,000 hours.  That time breaks down to 42% at work; 16% with family and friends; 33% sleeping; 5% eating; and 4% at church (based on 7 hours per week, which is generous).  The minority of our time is spent at church.  The majority of our time is spent at work, yet is rare to find a church discipling people to purpose in their place of work.  Instead we build a department for evangelism, rather than equipping people to being evangelists in their place of work.  We disciple people about how to read the Bible, but neglect to show how the Bible points to the Creation Mandate and how we should do our work in the workplace.  The sacred/secular split continues to be a wide gap, where people take off their "Christian" hat on Monday - Saturday, and replace it with their secular hat.  There has been little to no discipling to purpose for how we spend the majority of time in the world.  Yet, we have discipled people to purpose in terms of marriage, family, and church. 

Upon my return to Grand Rapids, Michael and I took a couple of days to ourselves, as is becoming our habit when we are separated for extended periods.  He took me to see the movie, "The Big Short," which is about the economic recession of 2008 (thumbs up on the movie - great cast).  It was amazing to see the overt greed and complacency of people involved in banking, housing, Wall Street, and real estate. It reminded me that this is what happens when we separate faith from our work.  When asked about some of the wrong-doing, several answered that it was "what everyone was doing."  The ripple effect of this greed hurt significant numbers of people in this country and beyond.  It underlined (with an exclamation mark!!!) the need for us as a Church to disciple to purpose.  We need people purposely resisting the temptations found in the Marketplace, with support, backing, equipping, and discipling by the Church. 

This is the work to which I believe God has called me to be an ambassador.  Discipling Marketplace Leaders is one aspect of where transformation can take place in businesses, with rippling effects to communities and nations.

One of the highlights of the recent trip to Kenya was signing a Memorandum of Understanding with CMS  (Connecting Mission Services Africa) with Rev. Dennis Tongoi.  I view Rev. Tongoi as one of the fathers of the Business as Mission movement and have great respect for him.  So for him to find usefulness in the Discipling Marketplace Leaders material and want to bring it to the churches with whom he works in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan, Burundi, and the DR Congo is very exciting.  I look forward to learn even more about what he and his team learn as they roll this out.

Please pray with us for the churches who are starting this work.  There does seem to be a lot of spiritual warfare around this.  I don't think Satan does want us to figure out how to apply this in the workplace.  We need and covet your prayers for those pastors and churches applying this, as well as for those business people who are seeing themselves as Marketplace Ministers, representing Christ in their workplace. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Feedback and Tweaks

DML Team at King Jesus in Bungoma, starting DML in April
When starting a new program, ongoing learning and listening is very important.  The Discipling Marketplace Leaders (DML) ministry is now three years old - the age of a toddler in many ways - and there is much to learn.  So I am in my third week in Kenya at this time, and have completed many hours of interviews to learn what is working and what is not.
Meeting with the DML cooperative in Kisumu

The exciting news is that in all the interviews with pastors who are implementing this work in their church, 100% have said that they have seen increases in the following three areas:  members, participation of business people in the ministry of the church, and giving.  That is exciting.  We heard testimony after testimony of members and pastors sharing how people are implementing various aspects of the quadruple bottom line in their business:  reaching out spiritually as Marketplace Ministers to people around them, socially to the community and employees, working to care for the environment, and growing economically.

It has also been interesting to see which pastors completely own this ministry as their own and are setting the pace and vision for how this ministry can grow, develop, and more forward. There is something called the "Innovation adoption curve" that shows the percent of people who can expect to run with a new product, those who join later, and those who are the laggards.  We clearly are seeing some of the innovators as well as some early adopters.  We want to be intentional to continue to learn from those early innovators for what works and what does not.  We are also seeing churches who are welcoming DML into their church but are not owning it for themselves.  Because it is difficult to have pastors come to Kitale for an eight day training on the theological foundation of Business as Mission (as we used to require), we are now introducing a two-day intensive training for pastors that will be offered in the various regions where we are working.  We hope that will increase the buy-in by the pastors and bishops of the various denominations.  The other challenge we have is that business people get this very quickly and want us to begin training yesterday.  But we need to hold off on their demands until we can get the church leadership on board, especially if we want this to be about discipleship and not just another program or training.

So, it's's's being open and flexible to God's leading as He continues to unfold how this ministry can be used to build His church. 
Dr. Walker with one of the many bishops with whom we met, who has planted 100 churches.
After working in Kenya for over three years, I finally had my first sighting of Lake Victoria, with two of my favorite brothers, Rev. Elly Kisala and Rev. Johnfred Ajwang
The obligatory flat tire on our way from Kisumu to Mumias, to meet with a Deliverance Church in Mumias