Marketplace Ministry, Updates

Business Development: Mission in Action

Part of our work allows us to focus on business development and initiatives that help people to envision new possibilities. To do this we have been working on ways to assist individuals and teams as they work through ideas for business startups. To do this we use something called Business Modelling. This form of business development focuses less on making a plan and more on working through the ideas and testing them in the real world. Using something called the “Business Model Canvas,” we create space for ideas to form and grow as they are readied for testing, the crucible where they are measured for validity.

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The format itself is not very important, there are many excellent ways to process new business. What is important is the opportunity we have received to help others realize their dreams. We have worked with all levels of society, rich and poor. We have encouraged business development that takes people into account. We have even managed to take our training on the road, beyond Manila, even beyond The Philippines. We work with individuals and teams. Private businesses and agencies developing social enterprise. We have even been invited to help ministry teams develop new strategy for mission that is self sustaining and highly innovative. It is amazing to see what people can dream into reality.

We didn’t set out to become consultants, but that is exactly what has developed. Doors have opened as people hear about our work, allowing us to share in their vision, helping them to refine their ideas as they work out complex issues and complex problems. It has stretched us, challenged us, and mostly humbled us as we have been forced to learn, often from our many mistakes. We often joke that failure is a great teacher and we are always learning. It is a truism but in our case it has proven to be truth. It is good not to take things too seriously.

What is most exciting about this development in our work is the opportunity it has given us to share about marketplace ministry. We are given voice in areas beyond where we imagined, influencing decisions that are shaping business and mission development that considers the gospel as it relates to our neighbours in the workplace. Decisions that are changing the very essence of business purpose, moving to an agenda that adds social and environmental issues to the bottom line, what we personally view as important parts of holistic mission. What is most exciting is our ability to encourage business people, helping them to embrace their calling to serve, as business people, to see the value of business as a means to human flourishing. It is good work, a really great part of our job, and we are blessed to have this opportunity to help people in this particular way.

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Marketplace Ministry, Updates

Stingless bees, a sweet project in Bicol

Throughout 2017 we have been travelling to Bicol, a peninsula on the southern tip of Luzon Island, in order to support work being done to reach out to the Agta people. Landless people, the Agta tribal people live a subsistence life, often as day labourers. Working with local partners we helped to develop a business model that has introduced bee hives to the community.

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Bee hives can be split, allowing for a growth model that doesn’t require funding support from they outside, building up a business over time. The hives can also be moved if the family is expelled from the land and can be placed in a hollow during a typhoon, both real issues for these people. A stingless bee variety, the honey has a significant market potential that exceeds the level of production the project could ever hope to manage.

While the hives are being split and the people are being trained, we are developing a second, parallel business model that is developing the production and marketing of the honey. In order for the Agta people to receive fair and timely compensation for their work, there needs to be a developed business model that can accommodate their honey quickly and profitably. The parallel business will produce a stable supply of honey that can serve to fulfil contracts and grow the market over time. The Agta people will have access to these markets as they grow their own production, freeing them from the burden of marketplace development that can stifle startups and slow growth. Eventually, should they choose, they can further develop their own businesses with training that will be made available. There is much potential for growth should people choose to participate. This really is a sweet project!

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Marketplace Ministry, Updates

The Launch of Food for Life

It has been over 18 months of preparation, teaching, dreaming, and planning. Food for Life is now a reality! Starting with 10 farmer cooperators, Food for Life is in the process of building a community of people who will stand together in the face of significant oppression. Food security is always a maddening condition that no one should ever have to suffer. Food security amongst farmers and farm workers is just shocking and should never happen. As global pressure exerts itself, local small plot farmers are forced to borrow increasingly for farm inputs and are left with less money to support their families every year.

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Cooperatives have become a vital part in sustainability for rural communities but have themselves become less stable and many have failed over the past decade. Food for Life is starting small which will allow leaders to learn without placing the community under further risk.

What makes this venture so exciting is the participation with the local church. Congregations are banding together in support of these farmers. In the rural churches it is the farmers who are beginning to think differently about how to support each other, choosing to act as a community rather than solely in their own interest. This has included a collective decision to pursue ecologically sustainable farming practices that will restore soil quality after many years of over fertilization. This was not a decision they were compelled to take, in fact it was their decision to make it a mandatory aspect of membership, community in action for social change. It was an amazing thing to witness. Creation Care and Marketplace Ministry coming together within Sustainable Community Development. It is a Gospel Movement!

In the city, where most of the rice is sold, urban churches have also committed to support these farmers and farm workers. Congregations are making decisions to purchase locally grown rice over imported options that are most often less expensive. This is the reality these farmers face. Factory farming in other S.E. Asian countries has pushed down the price of rice in the region. Farmers in The Philippines, small land holders, are unable to compete if they try to go head to head with such scale. Where these small landholders have an advantage is in their ability to produce higher quality food, Food for Life. These urban churches are learning about food quality and community value, choosing to purchase local products that benefit the local economy and their families. It is a fine example of using the marketplace to assist in transformation, in ways that are sustainable and tasty!

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Marketplace Ministry

“Do you love me more than these?”

One of my favourite scenes in “Fidler on the Roof” is the beautiful moment when Tevye asks Golde if she loves him. Long married, and dealing with the romantic complications thrust on them by their daughters (and their cultural context), Tevye wants to know exactly how his wife feels about him. This is of course not an uncommon. I’m sure, that at one point or another, all of us have asked this question, even if it was only to ourselves. Jesus also asks this question.

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By the lake, after a moment of great commercial success, a miracle catch of fish, Jesus asks the apostle Peter directly, “Do you love me more than these?” Peter, having denied Christ, having returned to his former work, is being asked point blank about where he has placed his priorities, where his heart lies. This past Sunday our Pastor, Dr. D, preached a brilliant sermon on this interchange between Jesus and Peter. Jesus is calling Peter out, asking him to assess his situation and take stock of his life. Where is he placing his love? Dr. D asked us this same question. Do we love Jesus more than these? Will we place Him before our careers, before our planned futures? I had to admit, it was a convicting question. It is easy to let our dreams get in the way of our relationship with Christ, to allow our ambition to cloud our judgement and form our actions in ways that draw us away from Jesus.

I believe this is especially challenging for those who have been called to business. With success there often comes money, resources, and power. It is not difficult to locate examples of individuals who have lost their way as a result. Even for those who set out with a dream to create common good through the marketplace it is a difficult not to be swept up by the euphoria of success. It is easy to forget that we have been called to be fishers of people while we strive to be fishers of profit. It is important I am not misunderstood on this point.  It is not a bad thing to be engaged in business, to be creating wealth. In fact it is vital for the common good that some of us do so. Societies depend on it. It is equally important for those same societies that those who work in business remember to uphold the common good and not solely work for themselves, or their families. Seeking profit for profits sake, especially at the expense of people and the environment, should never be the focus of the marketplace. Loving Jesus more than these means putting His priorities before our own, and that means loving our neighbour in and through our business practices.

I get to see this in action often, business people seeking the common good in their own small way, in the form of business mentoring. Every day experienced business people share their time with new entrepreneurs as they start out. It is beautiful to see but it is culturally counterintuitive. For many business people, in this context, to share ideas and skills with someone outside your family would be considered ill-advised. To give something to a potential competitor, to do so willingly, and for free, would at best be considered a bad business decision and at worse, reckless. It isn’t a naturally occurring action. It is here where Jesus’ question comes into play. When Christ enters, when He asks each of us whether we love Him more than these, new opportunities come into view while old worldviews are challenged and replaced. New ways of doing business, living together in community, and caring for our neighbours become possible. Sometimes, like Peter, that means we are called into a new vocation, to abandon our former dreams completely for something different entirely. Other times, more commonly, Jesus asks us to remain right where we are, in business, or any other vocation in which we might be engaging, and to do so loving Him more than these.

P.S. Join the conversation. We would love to hear where your worldview has been challenged, where Jesus has caused you to do your work in a counterintuitive way.

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