Who says business is only about making money? Staff members from Youth With A Mission are using business not only as a source of income to fund mission projects but also as a gateway into remote areas of the world and a legitimate reason for long-term stay in a community.
A recent article on posted on YWAM's Web site revealed that many of its missionaries can be found running micro enterprises such as a beauty salon, a travel agency, or an internet cafe in areas around the world.
For one YWAM staff member called "Sam Wilson", starting a business was necessary in order to gain access into an exclusive community in India.
"We felt called to an affluent business community in India," Sam explained, "and it was important to us to be business people to penetrate that community."
Sam's company provides database upgrading for large businesses, with a client list that includes Ray-O-Vac and Dunn & Bradstreet. The business also employs about a dozen Indian nationals with prospects of an Indian employee starting a similar business in the Middle East.
Steve Goode, YWAM’s international director of mercy ministry, said the micro enterprise approach to mission will help the ministry fulfill the Great Commission.
"We've been slow-dancing around business for a long time as a mission," he said. I think that micro-enterprise development, and business as mission as a whole, is going to be a key mission for us for the next couple of decades. It will help us fulfill the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, and the discipling of nations. It will bring us into contact with all areas of society and cause us to have a significant impact on the poor, more than anything we've ever done.
These business projects help church planters access remote areas for extended periods and give them a legitimate reason to be there long term, said a YWAM staff member "Ron Eaton," who is working in an Islamic community.
"Christian micro-enterprise development not only alleviates poverty, it transforms an area into a kind, caring community," said Supatra Sirisomruthai of YWAM Bangkok Relief and Development who manages a program called Step Ahead Micro-enterprise Development.
Funded by an American organization called Global Fund, Step Ahead has granted some thirty loans in the amount of $125 each to business women with at least one year experience. The women also meet weekly in groups.
"The groups provide people with friends, social contacts, and life-skill learning in areas such as saving, managing their business, and writing and following a business plan," said Supatra.
According to Sam, who at first attempted a small-scale business but was unsuccesful, anyone going into micro enterprise should take it seriously. "The expectation of our neighbors and peers was that we should do 'real' business,' he said.
For many YWAMers involved in the micro enterprise development, the Business as Mission Consultation, which saw 150 YWAMers, as well as many business people affiliated with YWAM in Pattaya, Thailand last year, provides training and advice.
"People have been afraid because they looked at the pitfalls and problems," said consultation coordinator Lynn Green, YWAM's Field Director for Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. "The vision we have here is that business is an integral part of the kingdom. It's not just a vehicle for mission, it's part of our mission."