“Tom, you’re no longer strange to me.”
What in the world did Ivan, my close friend of two years, mean by that?
My wife, our two middle-schoolers, and I had moved into a country that every national who had the chance was fleeing. Food was scarce. Utilities were sporadic. Unemployment was skyrocketing. Corruption was rampant. New criminal gangs were terrorizing the populace as they were fighting each other and carving out their territories.
Our move from the suburbs of America to this collapsing country didn’t seem odd to me. It seemed more like an adventure to make a difference in the world by distributing humanitarian aid and leading bible studies with young adults who had never seen a Bible.
I met Ivan and his wife on our first day in his country. They were both college graduates and were unemployed. I hired them as our language tutors, our interpreters, and our first employees. We shared life with them for hours on end for 5-6 days a week for two years.
The bible studies seemed to be going well. Ivan was translating the materials from English into his native language. Using his artistic ability he also illustrated them with pen and ink drawings. Ivan was a new believer himself so our times in the Word were rich and special for him.
I thought I was really connecting with Ivan, so what was that comment about me, “no longer being strange?”
After our first 18 months in the country, I changed my focus from humanitarian aid to missional enterprise (BAM). As the enterprise grew we were able to employ more and more people. Job creation took the place of humanitarian handouts. Gainful employment restored dignity and removed the stigma of inferiority.
The needs of our enterprise began to create auxiliary enterprises that provided employment for more people. This ripple effect of wealth creation made more sense to Ivan than our previous attempts of propping people up with bailouts.
So why did Ivan think I was strange? When I asked him he gave me two reasons:
He also gave me two reasons why I was no longer strange to him:
It makes me wonder how many others have thought of me as strange when I thought I was just trying to help.
- Missional Entrepreneur, GEN Desk Contributing Writer