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My wife and I spent a couple of weeks in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos in August. The focus was freedom! Freedom from slavery and injustice, and freedom to live in truth, enjoy beauty, create wealth and share goodness. This is the story of freedom business.

We know that jobs with dignity are a primary need for prevention of human trafficking. It is also a must to bring restoration of survivors of modern day slavery.

That’s why freedom businesses exist, and the Freedom Business Alliance exists to help freedom businesses succeed.

To that end the Freedom Business Forum was held in Chiang Mai, Thailand in late August. It was the first global gathering of its kind, and about 140 people from all continents participated. It was a great mix of people and talents, all committed to true freedom through business, with all their hearts and minds.

Freedom business is hard, but necessary. And some are called to it, and as Pope Francis says: “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world.  It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good.” 

The concluding keynote address at the Forum was held by one of my heroines, Annie Dieselberg. She runs a freedom business in Bangkok. Her calling is clear and her commitment exemplary. Her challenging freedom business journey is reflected in a most inspirational speech. Here’s Annie:

Hold Fast to Your Dream

My children recently decided they needed to make some money. Secretly they began creating products and then they laid them out on the table and announced their store was open. They invited mom and dad to come and to make purchases. What they had created was paper bookmarks, origami, and drawings, which they had priced at around 10-20 baht each. My husband and I each chose a couple of their products and my kids proudly pocketed their income with plans for an outing to the nearest 7/11. They had figured out that earning money was purchasing power and the ability to make choices.

Most of us, if not all of us, at young ages, became aware of the power that money has to give us choices in life. Most of us probably came up with innovative ideas of how to make some money to gain choices that our parents were not providing for us. From lemonade stands, to car washes, to babysitting, or mowing peoples’ lawns, there was in us a desire to create money, because money is purchasing power and gives the ability to make choices. The ability to choose is not something to be taken for granted. It is something that comes with freedom.

Freedom allows for choice, which can be used for good or for evil, for self entirely or for the good of others.

My older daughter Kristina was a nanny for a very wealthy and prominent business family. One day my daughter and the 3 year old were discussing friends. The wealthy family traveled so much that she didn’t have any friends to play with. The 3 year old announced, “That’s okay, I will buy friends.”

This 3 year old already understood that money was power. From her worldview she could get anything she wanted with money. She is too young to understand the negative consequences of misuse of money and power, especially when it comes to relationships.

The business of prostitution and sex trafficking makes billions of dollars of profit for people with evil and selfish goals. It preys on vulnerabilities of people who have few choices in life and turns them into slaves and commodities. It is an obscene abuse of power and of wealth. The dreams of the victims to gain income for their families and improve the quality of life, quickly turns into terrorizing nightmares that scare away their dreams.

Prior to working with women in prostitution, I mostly viewed the business world as the other side – where greedy and selfish people used money used for privilege and exclusivity while ignoring or exploiting the vulnerabilities of the poor. I made the mistake of dismissing business as a whole.

Somewhere around 2003 however, I was introduced to Business as Mission and I began to see the strength of business and the opportunity for individual, community, and global impact.[1] I realized that it wasn’t business or making money that was evil and self-serving, but the misuse of that privilege. I realized that the creation of business, is a key to sustaining freedom, by providing survivors life-giving choices.[2]

I am a survivor… I have survived being a pioneer in the freedom business movement. In 2005, my team and I began NightLight Design Co. Ltd. The story I have told many times over is a humble beginning with one girl over a coke at McDonalds learning to make a necklace. She needed a job and I promised her one so with a prayer and a leap of faith we began. Though I had 5 years experience working with survivors, I did not have any professional business experience. Being a pioneer in the field I had no mentors that could guide me in creating or operating a freedom business.

Initially visiting business people’s advice lacked awareness of the challenges of working with survivors. Mission groups came through with advice on addressing the spiritual or emotional needs, but their advice lacked the understanding of the business side. I quickly discovered that we were pioneers with a big machete in hand, hacking through the jungle vines. We would encounter valleys and mountains, we would get hit in the face with branches, bit by spiders and snakes, trip and fall on our way to find the path. It was messy and it was and is an adventure.

The business took off quickly with a lot of excitement. By the third year we had 88 women employed. I made a hasty and foolish promise to God that I would not reject anyone who came our way for help. It was a promise I couldn’t keep. As other organizations began to emerge with similar businesses and the market quickly became saturated, we began to realize that our model was not sustainable.

We came to a crisis point a few years ago. The negative voices thundered in my head and I began to cave in and doubt the vision that I had believed came from God. I almost quit. I almost gave in to shutting down the business. At about that time Jennifer Roemhildt Tunehag[3] came through with encouraging news about the launching of the Freedom Business Alliance[4] and instilled some hope back in me.

Around the same time, God gave me a vivid dream that was a clear warning against aborting the vision. I decided to take a stand and rather than give up we did some re-structuring to save a failing business. That restructuring began to turn things around.

Freedom businesses are hard.

Recently my family was returning from vacation at the beach when my 6 year old daughter asked, “How do you get a hotel?” wow, what a loaded question. Now that I have been in business, I began to list many of the steps from planning, to investment, to design, to construction, interior decorating, restaurant set up, menu, guest services, staffing, and marketing.

By the time I was done listing I concluded that it is a huge project that involves a lot of work. My daughter was not anywhere near as overwhelmed as I was and announced, “I am going to have a hotel.” What was it that made her decide she wanted a hotel? It was her positive experience. She had made the connection albeit naïve, that having a hotel could give people, including herself, a positive experience. She had a dream.

I had a dream of a business that would employ survivors and give them a positive experience. I really had no idea what I was really getting into, but I had a dream and in spite of the challenges I was not going to give up.

Since 2005 we have seen 175 women come through the holistic employment program of NLD and NLF. The women are employed in an environment of faith, hope, and love that they have never experienced before.

One of my heart stories that drives me is a woman I met when she was still in prostitution. She told me that sometimes she did not know if she was still a human being so she cut herself. She said if she saw blood and felt pain she knew she was still alive, still human. When she started making jewelry at NightLight she said to me, “Annie, I used to catch myself with my head low because I was so ashamed of who I was and what I was doing. Now I catch myself with my head up high because I am proud of what I am doing.”

Today that same woman is on staff managing the materials department. She teaches new women and expat groups how to make jewelry. She now has power of choice in her life and she is choosing to make an impact in her community.

Freedom businesses are about the business of restoring that hope, of restoring the power to choose, of redeeming the value of life, and the ability to make money for good and positive impact. Freedom businesses give people the chance to dream again, to believe in a future that has quality of life.

I believe many of you are starting out or in a stage of the dream where it feels hard and honestly when we hear the presentations of some of the very successful businesses it can feel overwhelming. We wonder how we will ever get to that measure of success. We wonder sometimes if we can legitimately call ourselves a business in comparison. We resonate with Kerry’s[5] description of heart-driven decisions. But honestly, none of us here are only heart people. We all have a little of the brain at least. And brains, you all have at least some heart. Otherwise none of us would be here at this forum.

The Freedom Business Alliance is in fact an intersection of the two. If we were all heart, we would be content just working at a soup kitchen or a relief agency. If we were all brain we would probably be doing business completely oblivious to the crying demands of survivors. All of us are here because we either have big hearts with growing business brains, or big business brains with growing or enlightened hearts. We all dream of a world where business has a great social impact and provides jobs, freedom, choice, and quality of life to survivors, their families, and their communities.

Langston Hughes wrote, “Hold fast to your dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.” The women we encounter in the sex industry are broken-winged birds who cannot fly, birds caught in cages, bought and sold and with each sell they lose sight of themselves and their dreams.

Freedom businesses open up the cage doors and bring the broken-winged into a place of security, of love, of healing, and of hope.

Freedom businesses give women back their dreams and through freedom businesses women are given back their ability to fly. Hold fast to your dreams!  

Freedom business founders and leaders, hold fast to your dreams! I cannot promise it will be easy, but with each bird, each woman, who flies again, we forget the costs, the labor, the sacrifice, and we celebrate life and freedom.

Annie Dieselberg, NightLight [6]

Keynote address at the Freedom Business Forum [7], Chiang Mai, Thailand

Delivered August 23, 2017

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Notes added by Mats Tunehag / MatsTunehag.com

[1] See http://bamglobal.org/ and http://businessasmission.com/

[2] See BAM Global Think Tank Report: “A Business Takeover: Combating the Business of the Sex Trade with Business as Mission.” http://www.matstunehag.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/BMTT-IG-BAM-and-Human-Trafficking-Final-Report-October-2013.pdf

[3] Jennifer & Mats Tunehag visited Annie in Bangkok in February 2015

[4] http://www.freedombusinessalliance.com/

[5] Kerry Hilton also spoke at the Freedom Business Forum. He runs a freedom business: http://freesetglobal.com/

[6] http://www.nightlightinternational.com/

[7] http://www.freedombusinessalliance.com/forum

 

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The Bible talks about wealth in three ways; one is bad and two are good. Hoarding of wealth is condemned. Sharing of wealth is encouraged. Wealth creation is both a godly gift and command, and there is no wealth to be shared unless it has been created. But all too often the issue of wealth creation is misunderstood, neglected, or even rejected. The same thing applies to wealth creators.

The Global Consultation on The Role of Wealth Creation for Holistic Transformation aimed at addressing that. During the Consultation process 2016 – 2017 we discussed various aspects of wealth creation, including justice, poverty, Biblical foundation, wealth creators, stewardship of creation and the role of the church. The findings will be published in several papers and a book, as well as an educational video.

The Manifesto enclosed below conveys the essentials of our deliberations before and during the Consultation.

After the Manifesto below there is a short introduction to three other global consultations that also have dealt with issues related to wealth creation. There are excerpts from their respective Manifesto, Declaration and Statement, as well as links.

 

Wealth Creation Manifesto

Background

The Lausanne Movement and BAM Global organized a Global Consultation on The Role of Wealth Creation for Holistic Transformation, in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in March 2017. About 30 people from 20 nations participated, primarily from the business world, and also from church, missions and academia. The findings will be published in several papers and a book, as well as an educational video. This Manifesto conveys the essentials of our deliberations before and during the Consultation.

Affirmations

  1. Wealth creation is rooted in God the Creator, who created a world that flourishes with abundance and diversity.
  2. We are created in God’s image, to co-create with Him and for Him, to create products and services for the common good.
  3. Wealth creation is a holy calling, and a God-given gift, which is commended in the Bible.
  4. Wealth creators should be affirmed by the Church, and equipped and deployed to serve in the marketplace among all peoples and nations.
  5. Wealth hoarding is wrong, and wealth sharing should be encouraged, but there is no wealth to be shared unless it has been created.
  6. There is a universal call to generosity, and contentment is a virtue, but material simplicity is a personal choice, and involuntary poverty should be alleviated.
  7. The purpose of wealth creation through business goes beyond giving generously, although that is to be commended; good business has intrinsic value as a means of material provision and can be an agent of positive transformation in society.
  8. Business has a special capacity to create financial wealth, but also has the potential to create different kinds of wealth for many stakeholders, including social, intellectual, physical and spiritual wealth.
  9. Wealth creation through business has proven power to lift people and nations out of poverty.
  10. Wealth creation must always be pursued with justice and a concern for the poor, and should be sensitive to each unique cultural context.
  11. Creation care is not optional. Stewardship of creation and business solutions to environmental challenges should be an integral part of wealth creation through business.

Appeal

We present these affirmations to the Church worldwide, and especially to leaders in business, church, government, and academia.

  • We call the church to embrace wealth creation as central to our mission of holistic transformation of peoples and societies.
  • We call for fresh, ongoing efforts to equip and launch wealth creators to that very end.
  • We call wealth creators to perseverance, diligently using their God-given gifts to serve God and people.
Ad maiorem Dei gloriam – For the greater glory of God

PS. Click here for pdf file of  Wealth Creation Manifesto in English, here for Korean, and here for Russian, here for Chinese traditional script, here for Chinese simplified script, here for Arabic, here for German, here for French, here for Bahasa, here for Spanish, here for Portuguese, here for Farsi, here for Japanese.

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Let me refer to three other global consultations I have also been a part of, and which also have dealt with similar issues. They were held 2004, 2009, and 2014.

The Lausanne BAM Issue Group

The first BAM Global Think Tank was held under the auspices of Lausanne. The Business as Mission Issue Group worked for a year, addressing issues relating to God’s purposes for work and business, the role of business people in church and missions, the needs of the world and the potential response of business. It summarized its findings in the BAM Manifesto 2004. But please allow me to share a few excerpts, to illustrate a growing consensus among leaders that wealth creators are called by God to serve in business.

“We believe that God has created all men & women in His image with the ability to be creative, creating good things for themselves and for others – this includes business.

We believe in following in the footsteps of Jesus, who constantly and consistently met the needs of the people he encountered, thus demonstrating the love of God and the rule of His kingdom.

We believe that the Holy Spirit empowers all members of the Body of Christ to serve, to meet the real spiritual and physical needs of others, demonstrating the kingdom of God.

We believe that God has called and equipped business people to make a Kingdom difference in and through their businesses.

We believe that the Gospel has the power to transform individuals, communities and societies. Christians in business should therefore be a part of this holistic transformation through business.

We recognise the fact that poverty and unemployment are often rampant in areas where the name of Jesus is rarely heard and understood.

We recognise that there is a need for job creation and for multiplication of businesses all over the world, aiming at the quadruple bottom line: spiritual, economical, social and environmental transformation.

We recognise the fact that the church has a huge and largely untapped resource in the Christian business community to meet needs of the world – in and through business – and bring glory to God in the market place and beyond.”

See also BAM Manifesto

 

Wheaton Consultation

A global consultation on Business as Integral Calling was held in Wheaton, Illinois in October 2009. It brought together leaders from the realms of business, non-profit organizations, and Christian ministry with theologians and academic leaders in business, economics, and missions. Excerpts from the Declaration:

“Lamentations

We lament that the church and business itself have undervalued business as a vehicle for living out Christ’s calling, and have relied excessively on non-profit approaches that have resulted in dependence, waste, and an unnecessary loss of human dignity.

Celebration of Faith and Hope

We celebrate the growing movement of people seeking to be used by God and to deploy business economic activity for God’s Kingdom. 

Business can create value, provide the dignity of work, and transform communities by improving livelihoods.

Business can be an integral calling to proclaim and demonstrate the Kingdom of God by honoring God, loving people, and serving the world.

Business can also provide a powerful opportunity for the transformation of individuals to achieve their full potential for creativity and productivity and to flourish and experience a life of abundance as envisioned by the Kingdom of God.

Business can be used to help restore God’s creation from its degraded state.

It is our deep conviction that businesses that function in alignment with the core values of the Kingdom of God are playing and increasingly should play an important role in holistic transformation of individuals, communities and societies.”

See also Wheaton Declaration

 

Atibaia Consultation

Wealth creation and distribution were discussed as part of the Lausanne Global Consultation on Prosperity Theology, Poverty and the Gospel held in Atibaia, Brazil in 2014. The consultation affirmed that sharing wealth is good and Biblical, but wealth distribution is too often our main response to meeting peoples’ needs. It was identified the need to increasingly seek to understand how businesses can bring solutions to global issues, including poverty and human trafficking. The notion of simplicity as a universal value was also challenged, and certainly needs to be addressed further.

The Atibaia Statement is quite long, but here are a few excerpts related to wealth creation, business and the poor.

Christians are called not only to give and share generously, but to work for the alleviation of poverty. This should include offering alternative, ethical ways, for the creation of wealth and the maintenance of socially-responsible businesses that empower the poor and provide material benefit, and individual and communal dignity. This must always be done with the understanding that all wealth and all creation belong first and foremost to God.

We acknowledge that, in the global market economy, one of the most effective tools for the elimination of poverty is economic development, and yet evangelicals have often failed to promote value-driven business solutions to poverty.

How can we more effectively work for the establishment of creative, ethical, and sustainable business endeavors in the fight against poverty?”

See also Atibaia Statement

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There are different opinions, and rightly so, about the European Union. But it has been instrumental in achieving an unprecedented time of relative peace on a continent that has a long and tragic history of many devastating wars.

Every year the Schuman Centre for European Studies organizes a State of Europe Forum. It brings together various leaders and dignitaries, “promoting a dialogue on Europe today in the light of the vision of the ‘Father of Europe’ for a community of peoples deeply rooted in Christian values” of human dignity, solidarity, equality and freedom.

The event is supported by the European Parliament and it will be held in Malta, May 7 – 8. Malta presently holds the Presidency of the European Union.

Today Europe is facing challenges like the huge streams of migrants and refugees, Brexit, as well as several elections with agendas that may bring about major shifts. While we engage in the public arena to serve the peoples and nations of Europe, we must also pray for Europe.

My wife will do a seminar on Human Trafficking, and I have been asked to lead in a prayer after the final address (given by the President of Malta). I have written a Prayer for Europe, adapted from a prayer by St. Patrick. (Different from the BAM prayer – see previous blog post )

Please pray for Europe, and feel free to use the prayer enclosed below.

It is also available as a pdf file: St Patrick’s Prayer for Europe.

 

Prayer for Europe

Every year on March 17, many people around the globe celebrate St. Patrick. He was a human trafficking victim in the 5th century, who became a missionary to the people and land (Ireland) where he was a slave. Here’s a well-known prayer by St. Patrick, slightly revised and customized to be a prayer for Europe:

Christ with us, as we pray and work for Europe

Christ before us, our hope is in Him

Christ behind us, for history is His story

Christ in us; a guiding light for the nations

Christ beneath us; He is the foundation

Christ above us, as we seek justice and mercy

Christ on our right, Christ on our left, He is Lord of the marketplace and the public square

Christ when we lie down, and rest from our work

Christ when we sit down, and do our work

Christ when we arise, enthusiastic or weary

Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of us, and our vision

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of us, and our work

Christ in every eye that sees us, young and old, rich and poor, countrymen and foreigners

Christ in every ear that hears us, speak about hope for Europe

Glory be to God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen!

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On March 17 many people around the globe celebrate St. Patrick. He was a human trafficking victim in the 5th century, who became a missionary to the people and land (Ireland) where he was a slave.

Let me share a well-known prayer by St. Patrick, and customize it to a BAM related prayer: (the original is in bold and italics)

Christ with me, as I do business for Him and people

Christ before me, as I plan my business

Christ behind me, as I review my business

Christ in me; my guiding light in business

Christ beneath me; He is the foundation

Christ above me, He is the owner of my business

Christ on my right, Christ on my left, He is the Lord of the marketplace

Christ when I lie down, and rest from my work

Christ when I sit down, in my office chair

Christ when I arise, enthusiastic or weary

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, and my business

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, and my business

Christ in every eye that sees me, my staff, customers, suppliers, and competitors

Christ in every ear that hears me speak about my products and services

 

For St Patrick’s BAM Prayer in Bahasa click here and in Portuguese click here

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The prospects were not good. Actually really bad, even disastrous. The city was under siege, and everything pointed towards a defeat. People would be assaulted, hurt and killed; houses burnt down and the remaining citizens of Jerusalem would be deported to a foreign land.

In this doomsday context the prophet Jeremiah was told by God to make an investment – in the doomed city! Sounds like bad advice, like buying property in war-torn Syria today. (Maybe we should?) But it was supposed to be a prophetic action by doing real business.

Jeremiah conveyed the message loud and clear: God will restore his people and the city, and the signs of a restored nation would be found in a functioning marketplace.

Jeremiah buys a field from a relative, using his birthright. Payment is fair and done in front of witnesses. Deeds are issued and kept for posterity.

This is a prophetic purchase: For this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.” (Jer. 32:15)

After war, destruction, despair and exile, restoration will come, and it will come from God. The indicators of the restoration are seen in marketplace functions.

Jeremiah did a prophetic act when purchasing the land. It involved a financial transaction, title deeds and archives, and a long-term investment with a potential return many years down the road. These are all present and future indicators of a God approved economy. These are signs of a transformed society, of justice in the marketplace. The wider context in Jeremiah talks about benefits from building businesses and growing the economy; wealth is created, there is joy, there are festivities and gratitude to God.

“The restored people would have lives of work, enjoyment, feasting and worship all tied into one. The picture of planting, harvesting, playing music, dancing and enjoying the harvest depicts the pleasure of work in faithfulness to God.” [1]

Jeremiah chapter 32 shows that God wants business and growing businesses. A God inspired nation has a legal and societal framework conducive for business development.

Let me list a few things that are implied or explicitly mentioned in this Biblical narrative, all part of a marketplace for peace and prosperity:

  • A Rule of Law society
  • Birth certificates, some kind of officially recognized identity
  • Property laws
  • An established currency
  • A functional system for economic transactions
  • Honesty and transparency in business dealings
  • Title deeds, records, archives
  • Buying and selling worked
  • Return on investment, and long term thinking

Other lessons we can learn:

  • There was a willingness to take risks
  • The importance of acknowledging God and honoring the Covenant in business
  • Readiness to follow God’s instruction, and take steps of faith
  • Rejoice in the harvest / profit
  • Work and worship was integrated
  • Wealth was created, and prosperity came to the city

We see a God who is engaged in the marketplace. It is part of God’s mission in the world and through history. The events in Jerusalem with Jeremiah show God at work in history. Business as Mission, BAM, is also a part of that story – His story

As David Green, founder of Hobby Lobby put it: “There is a God, and He’s not averse to business. He’s not just a ‘Sunday Deity’. He understands margins and spreadsheets, competition and profits.” [2]

Lastly, “it is good to manage even our worldly affairs in faith, and to do common business with an eye to the providence and promise of God.” [3]

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[1] Theology of Work Bible Commentary

[2] More Than a Hobby, by David Green. Thomas Nelson, 2005

[3] Matthew Henry (1662-1714) in a comment on Jeremiah 32. Commentary on the Whole Bible

 

 

 

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