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!