REACHING EMERGING TECH CAPITALS FOR THE 10/40 WINDOW
Business As Missions (BAM) is the cutting edge of the worldwide missions movement and becoming increasingly important as the least reached nations become harder and harder to access.
Closed & Open Doors
For years, the countries where the gospel is most needed have been closed to traditional missionaries. Many have therefore gone out as NGO workers in education, humanitarian service or community development. However, in recent years, the doors to NGOs are also closing.
After the three Color Revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan in 2003-2005, Russia’s KGB allegedly concluded that they were orchestrated by a hostile West, often working through international NGOs. When the word got out, many 10/40 Window countries began to tighten their policies to deny foreign NGO registration or their workers’ visa renewal.
However, business people are still welcome. Foreign investments that create jobs are important for developing economies anywhere. BAM companies can potentially become cities on a hill if they bring economic, social, environmental, and spiritual impact that improve the lives of people.
Entry to Strategic Gateway Cities
As most BAM endeavors are small businesses in agriculture, manufacturing and the service sector, we need complementary strategies to reach the technology and business professionals in the urban centers. Consider the ministry of Jesus and Paul.
We are familiar with how Jesus reached out to the down and out. But he was mainly criticized for wining and dining with sinners and tax collectors—people with business and government connections in first century Palestine.
In his missionary journeys, Paul focused on reaching cities even though the great majority of the population in the first century Mediterranean world lived in the countryside. He spent the most time in Corinth, Ephesus and Rome. They were the commercial, intellectual, cultural, and political centers, where new goods, new trends, and new ideas spread to the rest of the Roman world. Today, the emerging tech capitals of the 10/40 Window are also centers for the dissemination of new ideas. They are gateway cities to their nations.
Why Reach Tech Entrepreneurs
The fledgling tech sector of every emerging economy attracts entrepreneurs and professionals. The majority are young people standing at the crossroads of their country’s past and future. Tech workers are exposed to new ideas on the internet every day. They are likely to have better English, be more at ease with foreigners, and probably more open to the gospel. As people for innovation and change, entrepreneurs often become influencers in their own society.
From the Silicon Mountain of Cameroon to the Silicon Wadi of Israel, from the Techno Valley of Saudi Arabia to the Cyber City of Malaysia, from Pardis in Iran to Zhangjiang in China, California’s Silicon Valley and the U.S. in general are looked up to as the Mecca of technology and innovation.
With their skills, experience and resources, God’s people in the business and tech sectors hold a premium calling card. Their talents need to be deployed for His Kingdom.
SILICON VALLEY AURA REACHES RURAL CHINA
It was the last day of a camp in the backwaters of West China. The volunteers from America were offering an English program to teachers and students of a high school in a small town.
Over lunch, the school principal came up with an idea. He wanted the team to address all the students to encourage them to work hard on their English after a great summer intensive with foreigners.
That afternoon, three hundred students got seated in rows of wooden stools in the school courtyard.
Our team members took turns to introduce themselves. They shared thoughts about the summer camp, about language and culture, and the benefits of English proficiency for personal development and career advancement, etc.
Now it was Jeff’s turn to share. He spoke in Chinese. The students were captivated by his story of learning English and adjusting to western culture after arriving in the U.S. as an immigrant at age 17.
Then Jeff talked about his first job after college. “I worked as a computer engineer in the Silicon Valley,” he said. At the mention of gueigu (Silicon Valley), a hushed chorus of “waah” broke out spontaneously from the audience.
Most youth in rural China ten years ago did not own cell phones or computers. But they had all heard of the Silicon Valley. Gueigu is the place of innovation and opportunities, where dreams are made.
Even for young people today in China’s big cities and top universities, the Silicon Valley is still a favorite destination for exchange, graduate work, internships, and international careers.
The Lord used all of Paul’s skills as a tentmaker, his training under Rabbi Gamaliel, and his birth status as a Roman citizen for the furtherance of the gospel.
If we fail to dedicate our business and technology knowhow to reach the world in times like these, it would be like burying our God-given talents in the ground.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP TRAINING FOR YOUNG MUSLIN PROFESSIONALS
This summer, a team of Silicon Valley young professionals formed a consulting team to offer entrepreneurship training in a Muslim country.
Over a week, they met with young aspiring entrepreneurs representing select startups. The team worked with them to refine their business plans, and coached them with their presentations.
Silicon Valley Calling Card
When the program was first advertised in the spring, interest from local companies was tepid. It was a new thing and the project had no name recognition. The team and their supporters prayed hard as the application deadline drew near.
When word finally got out that the team would be made up of professionals from name brand tech companies in California, applications poured in. The Silicon Valley calling card made a difference.
Red Carpet Reception
A prestigious local institution offered their facilities for the event. All the city’s media channels showed up on the opening day. Team members were invited to speak at different companies throughout the week. A major corporation sponsored a party for the team, the participants and all the local volunteers.
The red carpet reception by the business community made the team feel like rock stars. But they had just come with a heart to serve.
Few Dry Eyes
The team bonded quickly with the young entrepreneurs. They were touched that these Americans took the time and paid their way to come help them. They could tell that their trainers were genuinely interested in them as individuals. “You really care,” they said.
During the half-day outing before the week ended, deep conversations took place on the long bus rides as people exchanged personal stories.
There were few dry eyes at their parting. This was unusual for a business training event, but not for a short-term missions trip.
After coming home, most team members have continued to mentor their Muslim friends on line.
REFLECTIONS FROM THE TECH TEAM
HOWARD, TECHNICAL PRODUCT LEADER
I found the local entrepreneurs to be bright and engaging people, super eager to learn. Several participants and volunteers asked why we took vacation and paid our way to be there. We shared that we are Christians, and had the opportunity to explain what was important in our lives.
Sometimes we need to leave the U.S. to realize how privileged we are. It is so easy to take for granted the clean environment, convenient transportation, stable government, robust economy, and resourceful educational system that we enjoy.
To people in many other countries, the U.S. is still a beacon of hope and a force for good.
There is an aura associated with professionals from the Silicon Valley, as if we know so much. Obviously this is only perception. But it is good to use it for God’s purposes.
Cross-cultural outreach built around business consulting provides common ground for bonding with Muslim professionals without either of us raising our guard. It’s wonderful.
Back home, it is easy to talk to neighbors and co-workers about going on a trip to help startups in a developing country. Their eyes would light up immediately, and we can share more.
Through the trip, I rediscovered the joy of serving others. It is so worthwhile to invest a small part of my life into these young entrepreneurs and know that some of them, if not all, will in turn help others and pay it forward. I really enjoy the service component of this missions trip, and will do it again.
As a Christian in the developed world, it is easy to become self-absorbed. It is easy to care more about my security than about people. It is easy to care more about tech gadgets than about people. It is easy to care about mindless Trump tweets, and equally silly media responses than about people. Yet in His heart, God cares about the people of this world, that they may come to know Him.
KYLE, SOFTWARE ENGINEER
I have gone on many short-term missions trips in the past. I would leave my professional life behind when I boarded the plane to go overseas to share the gospel. Work is work, ministry is ministry. There is a clear separation between the two.
But this mission trip is different. I actually got to use what I know and do in my professional life to bless others. It’s exciting. My work and my ministry came together in a holistic way. I could love people by sharing my IT skills and knowledge. I could guide them, counsel and encourage them, and give people hope.
LARRY, ENGINEERING MANAGER
Because of the media, we tend to think of going to Muslim countries as a risky proposition. And being a Christian there seems like an added liability. But in the country we visited? Not so. Knowing that we came from America, the entrepreneurs we met basically assumed we would be Christian. And because we were volunteering our services, they welcomed us from the start. They were very hospitable and open.
A Different Reality
After I came home, I received a message from a young woman that I mentored. She wrote: “In most parts of the world, young people dream and think about new ways to do things, something out of the box—a new language, a different haircut, a new dance move and new technology tricks...
“And then there are the youth in my hometown. They think about new ways to go home, safely. But there is absolutely no guarantee."
“My mom called me the other day and said, ‘Sweetheart, don’t come home. Find a job somewhere else. I’ll miss you, but I know you’ll be fine in another country. I don’t want to see your graduation photo in social media with condolences written beside it.’
“Recently, bombs and violence in my country took many lives. They included children, women, newlyweds, and young grads. With what confidence can I dream?”