East Africa (MNN) — Something’s changing in the world of missions.
“We really believe that there is a new frontier in missions work,” reports Jereme Lambert of Business Connect.
“We’re seeing the transition from a missionary coming in and providing help, to [missionaries] coming alongside of people in the developing world and raising them up to start their own businesses, bring change.”
Business Connect is on the forefront of this emerging missions trend.
Business Connect helps entrepreneurs launch independent water and solar businesses in 34 countries. Founded in 2010, Business Connect is a social enterprise (L3C).
“Our mission is to create hope through business,” explains Lambert.
They’re committed to teaching people how to fish instead of simply giving them a fish, as the old saying goes. Sustainable solutions are at the heart of Business Connect.
“One of our biggest strategies is to…provide them with the means and the avenues to create economy, to create business, to create infrastructure that will then care for the needs and provide for people,” Lambert expounds.
At the same time, they’re introducing people to Jesus.
“Christ is an integral part of my life and an integral part of our business. They go hand-in-hand constantly,” shares Lambert. “We wear Christ on our sleeve. Faith is a part of who we are and a part of what we do.”
He shares examples from a recent visit to East Africa.
“East Africa is one of our target areas,” says Lambert. “We have representatives in multiple countries there.”
The five countries Lambert visited include Ethiopia, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. His goal was to raise up new representatives, as well as meet with non-government groups and government officials to implement solar and water technologies.
“As a whole, I was there to raise up young businesspeople — entrepreneurs — to make an impact on their country through clean water and through solar power,” states Lambert.
While conditions and circumstances differed in each East African nation, Lambert shares a few noteworthy observations.
Among South Sudan’s latest headlines are the release of thousands of child soldiers by rebel troops and the daily flight of refugees from South Sudan to Sudan. Conflict in the world’s newest nation has been displacing thousands of people since December 2013.
“Where I was at, in Juba, was fairly safe; there wasn’t a lot of civil war there specifically, but it’s always changing,” Lambert shares.
If a peaceful resolution to the conflict can be found and people can return home, Lambert says officials will have to confront new problems: infrastructure and clean water.
“It’s developing, but it’s a lot of years behind because of everything that’s gone on there,” he says.
“When I went into Juba, I was really taken aback that the street is lined with water bottles: thousands of water bottles just lining the street because the water there is not healthy.”
Business Connect first distributed water filters in Uganda with Compassion International about six years ago. Since then, Business Connect has developed new representatives in both Entebbe and Kampala.
“Uganda is one of our oldest-standing places,” Lambert says.
“In Entebbe, [I] met with a young entrepreneur that has a whole team of people there, kind of raising up out of poverty, looking to start their own business. That was exciting to spend a day with them, raising their capacity in what they wanted to do.”
In Tanzania, Lambert’s meeting with government officials was featured on national news.
“I had a great time with the government,” Lambert shares. “I met with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Water; we had quite a few large meetings with the leadership of Tanzania.
“Tanzania’s really pushing to ‘go solar’ and provide solar [power] to their rural areas. They really see a need for it. They also see a major need for clean water, so they’re working hard as a government to make that happen.”
There are a few ways YOU can team up with Business Connect, as well.
“We have a couple of very strategic ways [to] be involved,” Lambert notes.
He then describes four different types of Business Connect partnership: the international team, champions, donors, and prayer warriors.