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Another way to do business

By Sally Jongsma

Six Dordt business students got a first-hand look at how some Christians do business when they attended the Partners Worldwide National Conference in early October with their business professors, John Visser and Matt Mathias.

Rachel Clemens, Joelle DeHaan, Andres Acosta Rozo, Delicia Lourens, Chris Kuiper, and James Kats spent their two-day fall recess at the Partners Worldwide conference learning from Christian business people.

Rachel Clemens, Joelle DeHaan, Andres Acosta Rozo, Delicia Lourens, Chris Kuiper, and James Kats spent their two-day fall recess at the Partners Worldwide conference learning from Christian business people.

“One thing that really struck me was that all of these Christian business people gathered together because they wanted to do something about the world’s problems. These were not people who only deal with a problem when it confronts them, but people actively working to end problems that will never confront them,” reflected James Kats, a senior business administration major from Hudson, South Dakota.

Delicia Lourens, a junior business administration major from Orange City, Iowa, responded “One thing that struck me was the passion that everyone shared for wanting to help.

Most of the mentoring Partners does is international, but some of the seminars offered suggestions for how to help locally and that got me excited. I realized that there are things that I can be doing now, I don’t have to leave the country. We give a lot of excuses for why we don’t help others, but some of the little things we can do with minimal effort, time, or money. God calls us to help, and we need to answer ‘Yes’ with more enthusiasm sometimes!”

“I was reassured that not all business is corrupt,” said Joelle DeHaan, a business-turned-nursing major from St Catharines, Ontario. “North American ideas of success are not anywhere near what a Christian’s view of success is or should be.”

The Partners Conference highlighted many ways in which Christian businesses and business persons can and do reach out to assist businesses in developing cultures. Workshops on mentoring programs and cross-cultural partnerships punctuated the three-day event. Students heard and saw presentations about some of the extraordinary events happening in Africa as a result of work with Partner members. Similar presentations focused on Honduras and Nicaragua where Partners team leaders work alongside business people and farmers. Dr. Dennis Hoekstra, the leader of Partners Worldwide described the effort to bring clean water to Kenya when children daily die of diarrhea and other infectious diseases. He also stressed the importance of sustainability in such efforts if they are to have long-term effects.

Although the Dordt business students were most struck by participants’ willingness to help other people and businesses, the conference, like Hoekstra, focused as strongly on the importance of understanding what it means to be a Christian business. Workshops stressed having a vision that makes faith integral to everyday routines and decisions and consciously adopting institutional values that direct practice. Attendees heard about how some businesses are putting this commitment into practice and learned strategies for implementing such a model in their own businesses.

Visser describes four things that go on at a Partners conference: matching business people in North America with those in a developing country, giving attendees opportunities to support businesses that could offer valuable services—by joining together and investing in something important but that may be risky, offering educational sessions on operating Christian businesses as God’s calling, and bringing like-minded Christian business people together for networking and peer mentoring.

“Business, done properly and holistically, can legitimately be seen as the ‘best hope for the poor of the world’,” Visser believes. He says that students come to understand the importance and breadth of seeing business as Christian calling best when they see examples like those they saw at the Partners conference. He also thinks it provides them with valuable models as they begin their own businesses.

“The Christian in the business world has a huge responsibility to use the gifts and finances that are God’s gift to him or her. Businesses in the developed world are extremely blessed to be successful, and it is their role to work with others who have less opportunity,” says DeHaan.

Lourens adds, “We don’t have to all be preachers and missionaries but rather be willing to share ourselves and our skills with the people around us.”