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Making disciples among the unreached
     

Stoves for salvation's sake

Tags: Business as Mission (BAM - MDE), MDE, Story

By Mark Canada, director of Marketplace & Development Enterprises — Don and his wife, Krystal, had been living in Albania, working for a mission agency and trying to plant a church among Roma people. 

The Roma in Albania are largely squatters who usually make a living in one of two ways – by rummaging through trash to collect and recycle plastic or by sending their kids out to beg.

In either scenario, the family brings in $3-$5 a day, on a good day.

Don saw that the Roma lacked hope because they were undereducated, couldn’t find jobs and faced distain from the surrounding community. He realized the men he was seeking to reach had little time or desire to talk about God when finding money to buy food and to survive that day consumed them.

Don set out to change that.

***

It took a while, but Don eventually created a wood-burning stove that he could teach the Roma men to build. The quality matched that of imported stoves, but these could be sold at a price that lower- and middle-class families could afford.

He had a product, but he didn’t yet have a business. Don needed help.

So Don turned to Marketplace & Development Enterprises.

***

MDE — an offshoot of SEND International, formed to make disciples through tentmaking, community development and business as mission — was just getting off the ground when Don contacted us two years ago. MDE helps believers launch businesses in unreached communities so that people may be transformed by and through the power of Jesus Christ.

We flew to Albania to meet Don and Krystal and to find and work with a lawyer and an accountant to set up an LLC to legally house the business, named Inovat.

MDE connected Don with an entrepreneur in the United States, Jim Schlott, who volunteers as one of our advisors. Jim began walking Don through our 10-step process for creating and launching a business. 

Don needed $40,000 of start-up capital. We found investors for him.

Don needed a bookkeeping system; we found a volunteer to help him create and use that system.

“When we were introduced to MDE, we were very impressed and saw it as a perfect fit for our ministry that God had called us to,” Don says. “MDE provides Inovat with an umbrella of protection that has allowed us to carry out our ministry efforts with professionalism and a confidence that we are operating legally in a foreign country.”

***

Inovat’s stove-making business creates better-paying jobs and deepens relationships.

Inovat’s stove-making business creates better-paying jobs and deepens relationships.

Through trial and error, Don learned how to make four or five stoves a week — but that wasn’t enough to make Inovat truly profitable. So MDE found another volunteer, Jim Logan, who has more than 30 years of experience in manufacturing.

Jim and other MDE volunteers flew to Albania where Jim developed a list of suggested process improvements for Don. Don has implemented about half of them so far. He has quadrupled his production and dramatically reduced production errors.

Don employs five Roma workers on a part-time basis. They make about $20 a day – five or six times what they were making before they started working for Inovat. Each man is now entered into the country’s health and pension system; each is gaining job skills that are transferable to other jobs.

“I continue to feel like I am more a part of the Roma community, and I also strongly feel that God is allowing us to be a part of the solution in helping them in legitimate ways — empowering them and giving them dignity in meeting their own financial responsibilities,” Don says.

Last year was the warmest winter in 75 years in Albania, and Don lost some money — something that is not uncommon when starting a new business.

Now, with colder weather and a more efficient production system, Inovat is on target to end the year in the black.

***

Because of Inovat, each Roma worker looks Don in the eye over a cup of coffee during break times and hears how the love of God compels Don to do what he is doing.

“With little in common with the Roma and at my age, I relate better with these men in a work environment instead of just hanging out with them and drinking coffees with them. I am able to do both,” Don says. “I’ve personally experienced my relationships move deeper and beyond the superficial.”

Don is still a missionary. He disciples youth who come to his wife’s Kidz Club, which MDE also helped establish.

But because he is also a businessman, he can tell the story of God’s love to his business suppliers, to the shop owners who sell his stoves, to fellow small-business owners who understand what he is doing and can relate to how hard it is.

And, when he goes to the Roma community, people point to him and say, “Hey, that’s Don. He’s an American, but he’s helping our people by giving us real jobs. You need to listen to him.”

More about MDE 

Marketplace & Development Enterprises' vision is to see thousands of mature Christ-followers taking the presence and the message of Christ to the millions who have little to no hope of experiencing God’s love or hearing truth in their communities. 

The organization believes this is often best done through relationships built in the natural setting of the marketplace. Here, relationships are developed by working alongside people — either as a fellow employee or as the owner of a business. 

MDE's goal is to help connect Christ-followers with opportunities and with resources that encourage and enable them to use their vocational skills and passions in unreached communities for the purpose of teaming with others in planting healthy, reproducing churches through the natural relationships that flow from working and living in authentic ways.

  • Click here to find out more about Marketplace & Development Enterprises' vocational opportunities. 
  • Click here to volunteer your business expertise for the cause of Christ.