Tell us a little about how you got started in this role.
I had previously worked as a programmer, project leader and business and systems analyst. In my early days of language learning, my administrative skills became known and I was approached about setting up this new institute and becoming the director. Running a business was very different but I had a lot of support from a steering committee.
Our business was one that met the needs of many mission workers. This meant it served a clear purpose and we were able to easily promote it through networks of friends and mission agencies. It meant I could spend considerably less time on the business than a typical business would need, so I also spent lots of time in friendship evangelism.
What were your highlights?
Our local Arab Muslim employees were able to see Christ in the Christian administration team. I also heard of a conversation the teachers had comparing some Christian workers who were students with the local community. One teacher remarked, “We have seen your way and it is better.”
Did you have any challenges?
As the director of a business in a high power-distance culture I had to be careful in reaching out to those whose natural instinct would be to do what the boss says and verbally agree to what he says.
I also found doing language school in the morning and friendship evangelism in the evening did not work very well for me. It was sometimes hard to find the right balance of time to allow me opportunities for natural relationships alongside locals.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to start and run a business in the Arab world as part of a mission team?
Church-planting is about winning individuals and their relational networks to Christ and this involves communicating the whole gospel to people in their culture. A company can reflect Christlikeness; it can share Christ’s love through its actions and words and even display the gifts of the spirit. Our businesses are instruments through which we serve people and glorify God. We treat people as God would treat them which communicates the gospel. The business should operate successfully financially and bless the local community by providing good employment and the dignity that comes from that and should also have a positive environmental impact. Spiritually the business should further the Kingdom of God. The relational networks that are built up by a business could naturally draw people together and facilitate the establishment of a local church.
If you’re interested to find out more about how your skills might be used in cross-cultural mission, click here to make an enquiry.
*Name changed and library image used