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Missional Economics coverMissional Economics: Biblical Justice and Christian Formation
By Michael Barram (Wm. E Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2018, 283 pp, $26 US)

As printed in The Marketplace magazine

 If North American Christians are guilty of biblical illiteracy, nowhere is this more so than in our failure to wrestle with and grasp God’s intentions around economics.

Most of us, Michael Barram argues, “are, at best, only vaguely aware of what the Bible has to say about economic issues related to justice and Christian discipleship.”

As printed in The Marketplace - 2018 - September/October

pointing fingersBy David Rupert

Each summer, as a teenager headed for college, I was determined to make as much money as possible. My dad, a roofer, needed the help. There were perks:  free transportation in Dad’s ‘52 Chevy, a lunch packed by mom, and a paycheck that didn’t bounce.

Reality is, I wasn’t a good roofer. My lines were often crooked and, if left uncorrected, would ruin the run of shingles going all the way up the house. My patient dad would help me rip up the offending row, and we’d start over.

Spiritual discernment starved in digital dessert

By Ron Tinsley

As printed in The Marketplace - July/August 2018 .

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Anyone who thinks technology has no impact on spiritual formation is mistaken, Ron Tinsley says

“The Bible consistently warns us about where we fix our gaze and how we direct our desires, he says. “From the golden calf in the Old Testament to Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, where we focus our inclinations tells others what is important to us. As Christians, our focus should be on Jesus and the Spirit he promised us.”

Abundant leisure time and media stimuli provide many more distractions than ancient peoples faced, he notes. “This can draw us away from the rich oasis of experiencing God and increasingly into a digital desert of distractions. Many of them are coming through technology.”

By Mike Strathdee

As Printed in the Marketplace - July/August 2018

book cover God Art of Improv Soul Enterprise July 2018Speaking in public tops the list of many people’s greatest fears.

Getting up in front of a room full of strangers and doing improv — a performance made up on the spot — is something that can challenge even people used to public speaking.God, Improv And The Art of Living By MaryAnn McKibben Dana (Wm. E Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2018, 230 pp, $21.99 US)

The skills of a good improv artist are things we can all benefit from learning, and are applicable to far more than stand-up comedy, MaryAnn McKibben Dana says.

The author, who is a pastor and student of improv, suggests that we are all improvisers. Recognizing this truth can help us in decision making and many life endeavours, at work, in church, or just around the people we interact with every day.

The book outlines three types of improvisers, all of whom are as useful in companies, congregations and other groups as they are in onstage situations: Pirates, robots and ninjas.

We need all these characters in our lives, in the proper ratios.

As printed in The Marketplace - May/June 2018

IMG 5939Professor describes a redemptive approach to the art of persuasion.

By Dan Galenkamp

Ask the average consumer about their ideas on business, and they’ll likely describe it as profit-oriented and self-serving, tainted by greed and excess. Marketing — the industry of persuasion — is often perceived as having no moral criteria, as taking advantage of people and encouraging destructive consumerism. Marketing carries heavy baggage.
There is a need to develop both a theology of marketing and a framework for teaching, researching and practicing it ethically. In other words: how can God’s shalom redeem the art of persuasion? Prof. Laurie Busuttil, assistant professor and chair of Redeemer’s Business department, examined how the purpose of marketing has gradually become misaligned with the practice in her tenure paper and presentation, Marketing: Exchanging What Is for What Should Be.

Book calls believers to gain wealth for good

By Mike Strathdee

As Printed in The Marketplace – March/April 2018

In recent years, several authors have suggested that pastors who fail to preach regularly about money, (sermons where the focus is other than giving) are committing clergy malpractice.

Given that more of Jesus’ teachings dealt with material things and work than any other topic, it’s not difficult to agree with the malpractice theory.

Yet many pastors are given precious little, if any, teaching about personal finance or economics during their Bible college or seminary studies. Significant numbers arrive at their first ministry post with crushing student debt. Neither of those life experiences serve them well in meeting the needs and expectations of the people they are called to serve.

 

By Mike Strathdee

As printed in The Marketplace - November/December 2017LoveLetGo cov 9780802874474Love Let Go — radical generosity for the real world By Laura Sumner Truaz & Amalya Campbell (Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2017, 203 pp. $21.99 US)

Imagine being part of a hand-to-mouth urban church serving the disadvantaged, when a $1.6 million windfall from the sale of a nearby housing complex falls into your lap.

Think about how you would feel as you and your fellow congregants were told of a decision to distribute $100,000 to people in the pews — $500 each — to “go out and do good in God’s world.”

Amman apartments best

 FEL Desert rugged DAM Photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jordan is an amazing country of stunning beauty. An oasis of stability in a region where armed conflict is a regular occurrence, this desert nation hosts the second-largest number of refugees per capita in the world.

Like the old story about engineers pronouncing that bumblebees shouldn’t be able to fly, first-time observers watch and wonder.

As printed in The Marketplace March-April 2019

March 8 is International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is #Balance for Better.
Balance is not a women’s issue, but rather a business issue, the campaign suggests. “Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive.”
Creating business solutions to poverty by providing economic empowerment to vulnerable populations, including women and youth, is a major focus of MEDA’s work.

If there was an award for perseverance in presenting at a MEDA convention, Rose Mutuku of Smart Logistics Solutions would be the hands-down winner. Mutuku, a MEDA lead firm partner who flew in from Nairobi to be part of several panel discussions in Indianapolis (see story, pg. 12), showed up under extremely difficult circumstances.Mutuku and Ghimire shot for Roadside StandRose Mutuku with MEDA staffer Nikesh Ghimire

A few months earlier, she suffered a manufacturing accident, breaking her arm and hand in more than 20 places. Despite being in considerable pain and requiring some assistance, she cheerfully took part in tours, conversations and multiple presentations over the weekend, then travelled on to Ottawa for sessions with Canadian government officials. You can watch the latter presentation on the web, at vimeo.com/302144477

Former Canadian governor general David Johnston gives a shout-out to Waterloo County values of collaboration, sharing and mutual aid in his new book Trust (see review, pg. 20).

In a chapter entitled Be a Barn raiser, he notes that: “Neighbors who help each other with no expectation of immediate return build more trusting communities.”

As president of the University of Waterloo, Johnston and his wife Sharon owned Chatterbox Farm, a 100-acre property and horse stable north of the city. The Johnstons were impressed by the giving nature of their Old Order neighbors. “When a spirit of barn raising exists in a community, the community is a trusting one and, as a result, a strong and resilient one,” he writes.

“All community members trust in the knowledge — grounded in generations of experience — that they will step up to help a neighbor in need, and that their neighbors stand ready to help them if and when their time of need arrives.”
“While the Mennonites’ method of community self-reliance is founded on faith, it is one that neighbors in any community can emulate.”

Just prior to leaving Waterloo for Ottawa in 2010, the Johnstons helped to create the Barn Raisers council, a group of community leaders who met regularly to focus on long-range projects to improve community health. That effort also spawned an annual Barn Raiser award to recognize local leaders who demonstrate that community spirit.

MEDA’s new president

Incoming MEDA president Dr. Dorothy Nyambi (see profile, pp. 6-7) brings much relevant experience to the post that will serve the organization well in coming years.

Bilingual in French and English, she is well connected in the international development sector. She has considerable public speaking experience, both at conferences around the world and service clubs across Canada. During her time with the Canadian Executive Services Organization, she recalls speaking in Red Deer, Alta., Nunavut in Canada’s north, and St. Catharines, ON, to name a few.

Two of Dorothy and her husband David’s three children share her interest in medicine.

Their oldest son, Trevor, is a nursing student. Daughter Agatha works at an HIV research program in Toronto. Youngest son, David Jr., is a financial analyst with the Oshweken First Nations reserve, not far from the family home in Ancaster.

During a conversation with her shortly after her appointment, I was impressed by her thoughtful responses to a range of questions. While she thinks that “there is no one organization that has all the answers,” she also believes that not enough people know about MEDA.

She is clearly a collaboratively minded leader. When asked about leadership, she quotes the president of Rwanda, who when asked what he would do if he was (Facebook founder and philanthropist) Mark Zuckerburg, replied, “I don’t want to be Mark Zuckerburg. I want to create thousands of Mark Zuckerburgs.”

She appreciated the thoughtfulness of that answer, recognizing that more can be done by many people working together than as one person alone.

The Nyambis have lived in Canada for 17 years, first in the cities of Markham and North York in the Greater Toronto area. They moved to their current home 1.5 years ago.
 -MS

As printed in The Marketplace - 2018 - September/October

Vanessa HoferVanessa HoferBrnjas head shotChris BrnjasMEDA recently hired two people for its fundraising team, one an existing staffer who will be familiar to some supporters, the other new to the organization.

Vanessa Hofer, who has worked in MEDA’s Lancaster office since August 2017, assumes the new position of associate development officer, working with mid-level US donors. Hofer, a Goshen College grad, is an actor who has also worked as a theater instructor, writer and editor.

In Canada, Chris Brnjas joins the Waterloo, ON office in a similar associate development role. Brnjas, a Conrad Grebel University College alumnus, previously co-founded the Pastors in Exile non-profit, which works mostly with Mennonite young adults.

He has also worked at the Centre for Community Based Research as a research assistant and at Grebel as the interim student services program Assistant. -MS

As printed in The Marketplace - 2018 - September/October

Sarah Kessy, founder of Tanzanian food products manufacturer Halisi Products (see pg. 14) is an amazing woman, one of many people you will benefit from hearing at MEDA’s annual convention in Indianapolis in November. A MEDA tour group that visited her facility in January was both impressed and surprised by what they saw. With all of the product lines being processed at the facility, where does she find the time to raise chickens that run around the property, or deal with the fish pond, a member of our group asked.

Both of those initiatives, unrelated to Halisi, are there to show her workers that it can be done and encourage them to start their own home businesses, she replied.

As printed in The Marketplace - 2018 - September/October

Sam PasupalakMany successful entrepreneurs can tell stories about failures or setbacks that preceded their eventual success. Sometimes the scale of the difference between the two can be breathtaking.

david johnstonDiscussions about the effects of innovation and technology on society can draw sharply contrasting reactions, depending on the context.

For every example of promise of helping people’s lives there is a tale of peril, often resulting from unintended consequences.

I recently heard a cybersecurity expert warn that unless proper controls are put in place for appliances connected by the internet of things, hackers may one day use your toaster for an electronic attack.

In the information technology world, the dominance of a handful of companies means that “never before have we been confronted with megalithic corporations owning so much of our daily experience,” says Loren Padelford of e-commerce firm Shopify.

IMG 3178As printed in The Marketplace - May/June 2018

For people scratching out a living subsistence farming, climate change isn’t some abstract future theory. It’s already having significant, often detrimental impacts on their livelihoods.

Farmers in Kenya and Tanzania (like Martha Kisanga, profiled on pg. 13) find it increasingly difficult to grow crops without irrigation. Many can’t afford the means of doing so.

As Printed in The Marketplace – March/April 2018

Here are some observations about a recent trip to East Africa to visit MEDA projects in Kenya and Tanzania. Stories about these projects will appear in this issue and the next.

East Africans must, of necessity, be among the most entrepreneurial people in the world. A pleasant shoeshine man encountered in the airport in Addis Ababa has taught ancient history at the post-secondary level for 16 years, but finds it easier to support his spouse and four children by cleaning loafers for travellers at $2.99 US a pop than hoping that his teacher’s salary will arrive.

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