Monday, June 7, 2010

What Do You Do?

How many times do we hear that question in our life? How many times growing up do we think about ways in which we would like to answer that question? Recently, I have heard a new word thrown into it when the question is directed to me: What exactly do you do?

I love what I do so writing about it is easy. The problem is that it is so intertwined with what I believe that I will have to work at not preaching as I describeJ.

The short answer to this question is business development. I write “business consultant” on my immigration cards as I travel from country to country. The actual title for my position is West African Regional Facilitator for Partners Worldwide. What does this mean? Well, to understand that you need to know a little bit about Partners Worldwide ( The mission of Partners Worldwide is “Business as ministry for a world without poverty.” The vision is to “encourage, equip, and connect business and professional people in global partnerships that grow enterprises and create sustainable jobs, transforming the lives of all involved.” This is where I imagine people thinking, “That sounds good, but what does that really mean? What exactly do you do?”

Here is an image that illustrates the work. The foundation of this structure is the belief that God is the Maker and Creator of business. The first enterprise was the Garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve were the managers (God is always the owner). God’s plan included setting up a working enterprise – in this case a farming business, an environmental exploration business, and a management firm, through which humanity’s needs would be met. And just as a reminder, this was set up before the fall! What would this world look like if we behaved in a way that showed that God is the owner and we are the managers. How would our ethics, our stewardship, our care for employees, customers, suppliers, and competitors change? What type of evangelism could take place if we viewed ourselves as evangelists in the workplace, a natural setting for people of all faiths to come together? You get the point – I am passionate about this and could go on about Business as Mission, a core component of why we do what we do. On this foundational belief, we build partnerships between groups of people in both the developing world and the developed world. Each country in which we work has a partner group, most of whom are from North America, for the purpose of mutual transformation and growth.

These two groups then join together to work through the four pillars of the actual work: training for small and medium size entrepreneurs, teaching business as mission and all key components of running an effective business; mentoring which is done through a tiered approach using local, regional, and international mentors; advocacy, working to right economic injustices by appealing to our Father in Haven through prayer but also governments, sectors, and other groups; and access to capital, making sure businesses have the access necessary to build their business, usually through loans that match the savings done by the business owner. The old adage is, “If you give someone a fish, they will eat for a day. If you teach them to fish, they will eat for a lifetime.” I like to add the question, “But what if they can’t get to the pond because the rich owners won’t let them pass? What if they can’t buy a fishing boat or fishing nets?” That is where access to capital plays an important role; doing it through loans instead of grants or gifts accomplishes the goal of allowing the individual to maintain their dignity by doing it themselves, as well as allowing for a loan fund to revolve, blessing people over and over again.

The goal of these four pillars is job creation which then will result in poverty alleviation.

So what I do exactly is work with our partners in Liberia (LEAD INC,, Cote d’Ivoire (ACLCP,, and Ghana (Hopeline Institute, in fulfilling the objectives in these areas and assessing the progress we make. Check out their websites if you want more info or to see video stories. And, of course, since each in-country group has a North American partner, I also work with folks from various states in the US, as well as individuals in Canada. I view my position as a bridge between two worlds, making it easier for people to walk across, to get to know each other, arching toward God as they pass. Much of my time is spent in meetings (mostly on the phone since I am in Ghana), writing reports, writing grants, and training. I spend about 50% of my time on Liberia, 20% on Ghana, 20% on Cote d’Ivoire, and 10% on Partners Worldwide, although on a week to week basis this changes based on need.

What I find so exciting about this ministry is the empowerment aspect that work provides. When people work, they can take care of their own children (lowering the number of social orphans in orphanages), pay their own school fees, medical treatment, buy food, clothing, etc. thereby significantly reducing the need for outside aid and dependency. Creates a healthier world.

By the way, if I may have a moment to brag, both of my children finished their school year on the honor roll. Noah’s grade point average is a 3.9, Hannah’s grade point average is a 4.0. This was despite missing two weeks of school in March for Bob’s funeral and fighting depression and exhaustion for the remainder of the school year. I couldn’t be prouder of them and I know Bob would be very proud of them as well. Here are some pictures from the awards ceremony and graduation.

They left last night for the US to spend some well deserved rest time with family and friends. I miss them already. Hannah and some of her friends from school: next to her, Wylee from Cote d'Ivoire; Sonya from Ethiopia; Elisamuel from Puerto Rico, and Daichi from Japan.
Noah and his good friend, Armand from South Africa; in the middle is Olivia Korum, Hannah's good friend who just graduated.

Award ceremony at the school - Hannah receiving the Distinguished Christian High School Student award for outstanding achievement in Academics, Leadership and Christian Service.

The American International School of Accra High School Graduation 2010. Only three graduates - Hannah is at the podium reading one of the biographies of the graduates. On the right is the principal, the Minister of Education, and other dignitaries.