Monday, November 18, 2013

Poverty or Contentment?

I recently completed teaching another Business as Mission class at the African Theological Seminary, this time for the BA in Theology 2011 class.  It was a small, dynamic, and challenging group.  But again, I learned so much.  I was reminded of various types of poverty:  spiritual, financial, relational, mental, physical, and emotional; we discussed the challenges of the presumption of poverty only being financial.  We spent a lot of time discussing the inherent problems of aid and the damage it has done to the dignity of so many, stripping them of the belief in their ability to be creative, made in the image of God.

I recently read this story and thought it was a good word of caution about what NOT to do in business development - how not to presume that we "know" what is best for others:
Once, a powerful executive went on vacation - his first in fifteen years. As he was exploring a pier in a small coastal fishing village, a fisherman docked his boat. As the Fisherman lashed his boat to the pier, the Executive complimented him on the size and quality of his fish.
"How long did it take you to catch these fish?" the Executive asked.
"Only a little while," the Fisherman replied.
"Why don't you stay out longer and catch more?" the Executive asked.
"I have enough to support my family's needs," said the Fisherman.
"But," asked the Executive, "what do you do with the rest of your time?"
The Fisherman replied, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, and stroll into the village each evening, where I sip wine and play guitar with my friends. I have a full and busy life."
The Executive was flabbergasted. "I'm a Harvard MBA, and I can help you. You should spend more time fishing. With the proceeds, you could buy a bigger boat. A bigger boat would help you catch more fish, which you could sell to buy several boats. Eventually, you'd own an entire fleet.
"Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you could sell directly to the consumers, which would improve your margins. Eventually, you could open your own factory, so you'd control the product, the processing, and the distribution. Of course, you'd have to leave this village and move to the city so you could run your expanding enterprise."
The Fisherman was quiet for a moment, then asked, "How long would this take?"
"Fifteen, twenty years. Twenty-five, tops."
"Then what?"

The Executive laughed. "That's the best part. When the time is right, you'd take your company public and sell all of your stock. You'd make millions."
Poverty?  or Contentment?
"Millions? What would I do then?"
The Executive paused for a moment. "You could retire, sleep late, fish a little, play with your children, take a siesta with your wife, and stroll into the village each evening to sip wine and play the guitar.with your friends."
Shaking his head, the Executive bade the Fisherman farewell. Immediately after returning from vacation, the Executive resigned from his position.
(taken from Personal MBA, by Josh Kaufman)

The problem with this story is that it doesn't recognize the purpose of business, which is to make goods that will allow individuals and communities to flourish, as well as the calling that is in each of us to use the resources that God has blessed the earth with to be such a blessing.  But I do appreciate the message: building up earthly possessions and losing relationships is not wise; being a workaholic is a form of idol worship.  I need to be careful in my work not to project my definition of "success" on others.

Last Tuesday, we completed the Training of Trainers with twenty pastors and business persons, who are now ready and equipped to take this work of Marketplace Ministry into their various churches and cities.   I love this group!  We had a total of 16 days together, five hours each day.  So we got to know each other well and had many good debates, discussions, prayer time, and laughter.  The class ended with the different groups presenting their business plan for their mock business to the "bank" (another group), requesting a loan.  That was a lot of fun as each trainer was able to create a business plan, and then wear the hat of the business owner and also the bank, assessing the business.  Please pray for these trainers as they go out to spread the word of Business as Mission and work to build capacity for businesses within their churches!
Group who developed an AgroVet business
Business facing off with the Bank and presenting their case.
On our way back from Kakamega last Sunday, this accident happened just before we got there.  That is a truck on top of a sugar cane tractor, which is upside down.
Same accident, different angle.  Thankfully, and amazingly, no one was injured.