BAM in Singapore

Missional Business From Singapore: A Singapore Journey

Singapore is a multi-racial, multi-cultural city state with a population of 5.3 million. Due to its size, the Singapore economy is heavily dependent on the global export market for its continual growth. Singapore entrepreneurs and business professionals often look beyond the shores of Singapore for growth markets and for new opportunities. Thus Singapore businesspeople are accustomed to an externally focused business environment, in an export-oriented economy. Many foreign companies are attracted to Singapore, a result of attractive incentives offered by the government and the availability of managerial talent in Singapore.

In terms of the history of missional business—or business as mission—in Singapore, there were some early forays into business by individuals, as well as by churches, some of which date back some 20 years. Some of these early attempts at business were started primarily as platform to gain access to or to remain in the field for those sent as missionaries. Many of these early enterprises faced setbacks of various kinds and some were subsequently closed down when the business was not viable or did not fit the context of the country, or the business owners found it too demanding. Some of these early attempts at business survived and persisted after having gone through several business cycles, with their most recent iteration better informed by the growing literature on business as mission.

Business as mission (BAM), though not entirely new to the church in Singapore, is not widely adopted as part of the church’s missional strategy. Many of the churches seem more attuned to involvement in social enterprises than with BAM enterprises, since BAM tends to be considered more commercial in nature. This in part is due to the notion that profits in a commercial business is synonymous with profiteering and that the lower profit motivation of social enterprises is congruous with the purpose of the church, and thus is more appealing to the Christian mindset and ministry.

The dichotomous view between the sacred and secular, ministry and business is one of the challenges that besets the development of BAM as a mission strategy. Another challenge is the discomfort of having profit as a intrinsic part of a missional business. A third challenge is the differing notion about what is a holistic ministry. Alongside a sound theology of missions, there is a need to review the theology of work as well the theology of business as part of a wider effort to seek the adoption of business as mission as a mission strategy.

Some in Christian circles have considered Singapore as an “Antioch of the East”, drawing parallels between these two important centres of commerce that bridged the East and the West. This is also an expression of aspiration for Singapore to become an important sending centre for global missions. Singapore has also been seeking to position itself as an important hub in numerous aspects of commerce and trade as part of an ongoing effort to charts its course for continual economic growth and prosperity. Perhaps through business as mission, Singapore could truly fulfill the expectations of so many who have gone before, and claim the recognition of being the Antioch of the East. In order for this to become true, the Singapore church must be prepared to incorporate missional business as part of its overall missions strategy to reach the world for Christ.

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BAM in Haiti

BAM in Haiti: Case Studies and Insights from Business as Ministry at the Base of the Pyramid

Christians in Haiti have been in business for centuries, yet, within the last decade, have come to see that there is no dichotomy between their vocational calling to business and their Christian faith. According to data and interviews collected from many entrepreneurs in the Partners Worldwide network and other networks, entrepreneurs throughout Haiti now sense an affirmation to allow their Christian faith to guide every part of their lives, including their businesses.

The main difference is in the daily ways businesspeople live out their faith. Business as mission (BAM) practices have tremendous influence in a culture where voodoo, mystics and irrational thinking prevail and negatively affect the workforce. Businesspeople and other stakeholders in a business sector are able to join force to utilize BAM practices that reflect the life of Jesus Christ and can influence societal and individual transformation through the direction and empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

Ralph Edmond, Evelien de Gier and Daniel-Gérard Rouzier are among these inspiring businesspeople living out their faith in Haiti. Although they have practiced Christianity throughout their lives, they have very rarely been affirmed—and oftentimes even been criticized—when they tried to see the direct connection between their Christian faith and their sphere of influence: their business and community. This is all undergoing transformation today, especially as they are now affirmed by other Christian believers to follow their calling from God to be in business.

Through the affirmation of business as ministry in Haiti, the BAM movement is bridging the gap between the church and business, by bringing Christian entrepreneurs and business professionals to a new affirmation and deep understanding of their sphere of influence they have always had, yet never recognized before. As a result, the BAM movement is moving throughout the country and region. This affirmation encourages and equips businesspeople to bridge the gap between business and the global church, and to humbly, faithfully, and practically follow their calling as Christians while serving God with the talents of their business skills. To God be the glory!

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BAM in Iran

Laboring in the Dark: Business in Iran

Iran is an extremely hostile environment for any endeavor that is not instigated and controlled by the Islamic Government and its sympathizers.  This creates significant challenges for the Christian Community to create and operate businesses that promote Biblical values. In addition, due to the xenophobia of the Islamic Government and the imposition of International Sanctions, it is very difficult for the larger world wide Christian Community to provide any assistance or support.

Internally, the Christian Community is viewed as a threat to the Islamic Government and to openly identify oneself as part of that community is to invite persecution and potential death. Thus any identification of individuals or businesses as being an expression of the Christian Community is extremely dangerous and invites opposition.

In the area of economic activity, any enterprise of significant value is controlled and managed by the Islamic Government and is subject to its Islamic rules and regulations. Thus, to create and operate a significant business enterprise that is not owned and operated by a supporter of the Islamic Government and its values is nearly impossible.

However, despite the challenges of doing business in such a hostile environment, there are business examples to learn from. This report shares a summary of findings from a survey of 25 businesses in Iran. Many of these business are smaller in scale and tend to stay under the radar. The report shares survival principles and lessons learned from these businesses, as well as a summary of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats for business as mission in Iran.

The isolation of the Islamic Government, whether due to International Sanctions or self-imposed, creates an environment of suspicion of any foreign support or involvement. Thus the National Christian Community suffers from the same isolation and we on the outside are very limited in what we can do. However, this report does contain some recommendations for networking and facilitation activities that could strengthen business efforts in Iran.

In spite of the dark conditions, God is at work in Iran. It is a testament to the Grace of God and the perseverance of His people in Iran that in fact there is a powerful underground movement in the country that is having a great impact on the people and society, and yet is hidden from sight.

There are many parallels between the old Soviet Union—and what was known as the Iron Curtain—and the Iran of today. We could say that Iran has a ‘Black Curtain’ of religious and political darkness that shrouds the nation. The oppression and control is similar and we believe that the eventual collapse of the Black Curtain is also inevitable. In the meantime, it is our honor to continue to stand with and support our brothers and sisters in Iran, as we also look forward to and prepare for the day that the curtain comes down!

This report provides some insight into these courageous efforts to bring the transformational power of the Gospel though businesses to the dear people of Iran.

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BAM In and From the Nordic Region

Business as Mission: A Viking Challenge

As far back as 200 years ago there was an example of BAM from the Nordic Region. This one person impacted his country socially, politically, financially and spiritually in just a few years. Hans Nielsen Hauge was a serial entrepreneur with a calling from God. He started around 30 companies, or rather industries, in Norway within 4 years and preached the gospel and discipled people.

In spite of having Hauge as a clear forerunner for BAM within the region, until recently business has existed in a limited way in overseas missions. Overall, except for a few brilliant examples, such as Hauge, these have been on a smaller scale. The discussion around business as mission (BAM) first started in recent years and has been related to a new focus on societal development and poverty eradication. So far there are only a few examples from the Nordic region.

The main purpose of this Regional Group has been to step back, listen and learn. We have used this listening and evaluation process to help set our direction for the future. We have built a much stronger network through the experiences and work we have done together both in our region but also internationally. This will result in synergies and multiplication of power to the benefit of our world and of Gods kingdom.

The learnings we share come from our BAM work in our own region as well as work done going out from our region. We also report findings and recommendations from the work on different themes that we have done in various BAM Think Tank Issue Groups.

Together we conducted a SWOT analysis of business as mission in and from the Nordic Region. We were able to identify strengths and opportunities, including current trends in society, the felt-need of business people in the church and the ability to build on past experiences. Threats and weaknesses include a lack of affirmation and valuing of entrepreneurship and business, both in the church and in society as a whole.

We researched four profiles of businesses that have been doing business as mission within or from the Nordic Region, plus a couple of shorter organisation summaries. We present some lessons learned and observations from these experiences.

In conclusion, doing BAM in and from the Nordic Countries is a Viking Challenge for our day. Maybe there is something left of the “Viking spirit” or ”Sisu Mentality” of our Nordic cultures? Even though the overall legacy from the Viking history does not give us reason to be proud, originally the noun víking simply referred to an expedition overseas for trade and commerce, when Viking men and women travelled all over the world, beyond their traditional boundaries.

We can do that again! We believe that Jesus followers from the Nordic countries will contribute to Kingdom development, through business, making an impact around the globe again.

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BAM in Mongolia

Business as Mission in Mongolia

Mongolia is seen as the “Final Frontier” for many people. It stirs up images of the horse herds that still run free across her open steppes. From the harsh arid climate of the Gobi Desert in the south, to the pristine lakes in the frozen north that border Russia’s Siberia, the climate has forged a hardy, resilient people who work hard, play hard, and practice a survivalist hospitality.

Into this climate, Mongolia in 1990 opened her borders to doing business and trade with the rest of the world. Freedom of religion was written into her new constitution. A free market economy emerged. People were asking for the tools to cope with a new and growing economy. From 2000 to 2012, Mongolia’s resource-rich countryside has fueled what is now reported to be one of the fastest growing economies of Asia.

Into this setting business as mission (BAM) entrepreneurs are finding opportunities to work with Mongolians to help them build their country on the solid foundations of faith and the hope that does not disappoint. BAM workers seek to close the gap between rich and poor; to disciple Mongolia’s young population with values which will encourage them not to buy into the despotism of capitalism, but that will build a sustainable future.

Probably the biggest hurdle most BAM workers (BAMers) will face is the government’s US$100,000 entry requirement to start a foreign-run business in Mongolia. This requirement is to ensure that businesses which apply to be in Mongolia are legitimate businesses and have enough capital to start up and run in the first 2 years of operation. Though many mission workers may find this hurdle unrealistic and difficult, it has been noted by many business people that this probably is a basic minimum to realistically start a business in most countries.

Mongolia faces many similar concerns that other developing countries also face: corruption, frustrating legal red tape, unskilled workers, workers with a different worldview regarding ethics or finances, etc. However, most successful BAM entrepreneurs after sifting through the difficulties, have found themselves working beside hard-working Mongolians who are sincere about learning how to provide for their families, both physically and spiritually.

In this context, Mongolia presents itself as a BAM mission field that holds many opportunities. Mongolia is a country where BAM workers could have a significant influence to disciple Mongolians who are building their nation. They could help those who have caught the vision to share the Good News beyond Mongolia’s borders.

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