This is the third post in a series about Five Talents' Business As Mission (BAM) program, which develops training materials that professionals use on short-term mission trips to teach entrepreneurs. The author of this post, Stoddard Lane Reticker, recently returned from a BAM trip to South Sudan. Click here to read parts one, two, four and five of this series.Late last winter, over dinner, I was asking Five Talents President and CEO Craig Cole about Business As Mission (BAM) tripsand casually mentioned that ever since going with Five Talents to Uganda in 2006, I had maintained an interest in going to South Sudan.
Craig said that Jim Oakes was planning a South Sudan trip fairly soon. September is typically the beginning of my busiest season, so when I found out that this is when the trip would be, I mulled it over for a week or two, and then politely declined. How could I justify taking two weeks away from my business and spending all that money for five or six days of training a relatively small number of South Sudanese students?
For some reason, however, I could not get the trip out of my mind. Finally, in late July or early August I asked my Sunday night prayer group to pray for discernment. On a Sunday morning two weeks later, I awoke with the conviction that I needed to make a decision that day. I still had no idea what the decision would be.
My habit is to use the Daily Office in the Book of Common Prayer to guide my morning devotional time. When I came to the Gospel reading, I thought, "uh oh." The reading for the day was The Parable of The Five Talents. When I came to the line, "The Lord said to him, 'You wicked and lazy servant,' it cut into my soul like the two-edged sword it is meant to be. I went to the computer and e-mailed Jim: "Is there room for one more at this late date?" Unsurprisingly, it just so happened that one of the team would be unable to go.
On the ground in South Sudan, the return on investment equation looked radically different. There was a young woman named Mary in our class who had spent five years of her childhood on the run in the bush with her family, often surviving by eating leaves. Now she had graduated high school, married and had a son. She wanted to start a business but didn't want to take a loan. Our colleague, Tim Purnell, bought her first embroidery and her business was off and running.
And there was Daniel, the tall young Dinka man who thanked us profusely for coming, saying, "You (Americans) fed us during the war and now you're teaching us what we need to know now that we've gained independence."
And there was the fellowship of Christians from different cultures and denominations coming together to do the work that God had called them to do in one of the poorest nations on earth. Africans are known for singing when they come together, and its a joyful experience. Since three of the four of us were good singers, Jim Oakes, Tim Purnell and Susan Talbot (from our World Concern partners) decided to return the favor. At the end of our teaching in Kuajok, we regaled them with "When The Roll Is Called up Yonder". Faces lit up. They loved it.
There's no way that we can know in this life what all God will do with our insignificant efforts here, but we left South Sudan fully-confident that it was and will be worth every penny. In an economy where one can lose the cost of the trip like ours when the Dow Jones Industrial has a bad hair day and be left nothing to show for it, a BAM trip seems a very good investment indeed. After all, it's all His anyway.