When Jim Logan’s father-in-law invited him on a trip to an orphanage in Guatemala, neither of them knew it would turn into a passion.
Jim, a design engineer, had degrees in engineering and business and worked in the auto and high-speed manufacturing industries.
But when he and his family began taking service trips, he found a love for gospel-centered organizations and the people who served in them. They kept traveling to countries in South America, Central America, and Africa, and they try to return to Guatemala and Peru every year.
A New Merger
Forty years in engineering. Thirty years taking service trips. The first time those silos connected was when Jim was asked to use his expertise to help a BAM venture in Albania. The invitation both intrigued and intimidated him. There were so many unknowns.
“I was told, ‘We have a business trying to make stoves. They’re struggling a little bit to take it to the next level. Would you like to help?’”
To Jim, the idea of “business as mission” seemed a natural way to build relationships among employees, customers, and suppliers. He saw friends attempt missions work outside of business, only to watch them struggle to adapt culturally and earn trust.
“Whether it is overseas or locally with our neighbor, you need a way to grow the relationship and grow credibility before you can really impact their life,” Jim says.
Don and Krystal Zollinger were part of a church plant in Albania. They were finding inroads into the lives of Roma families through visitation and a children’s club outreach. The men were harder to reach because they worked long hours, many of them “picking” scrap materials to sell at local salvage yards. One of the Roma challenged Don: if he wanted to help the men, he should create jobs for them.
Don was a firefighter before he and Krystal started their journey toward Albania, following God’s call. They knew little about the language and culture, but wanted to connect deeply with people and serve them well, so they decided to do that by creating jobs.
Except they didn’t have any experience running a manufacturing business, nor did they know how to make wood-burning stoves, the product they would manufacture. Their courage astounded Jim, who prefers to minimize unknowns with careful research and planning.
“I did not know quite what to expect. My biggest apprehension was that I would get over to Albania and not know how to help them.”
When Jim arrived, Don had been making stoves for about a year in a small, rented garage, with some success, but also some challenges. Jim spent two days walking around, observing the team at work, tracking and sizing up the tasks.
“Since it was a small operation, I could see what needed to be done,” Jim said. “They knew about a lot of things. But none of them had a manufacturing background in order to plan out production.”
He immediately saw a few simple things to make their lives easier, their business more efficient, and their products higher quality. Jim was encouraged and began making a list of suggestions. Planning production. Managing order receipt and fulfillment. Incoming raw material quality checks. Inventory and record-keeping. New tools, new layout, new fixtures. And so on.
As Jim observed the men, something else, something deeper, struck him.
“It was fun to see Don working with the men in his shop,” Jim said. “He was having a real impact with those guys, not just by training them and contributing their livelihood. He put his faith in action by being a ‘life coach’ and showing compassion for the men and their families.”
Jim saw this in marked contrast to people who put barriers around themselves to eliminate vulnerability and avoid uncomfortable situations. Don and Krystal embraced the challenges and made a difference in Albania.
“When you have a skill that you can leverage to help somebody in another part of the world, it is is really fullfilling,” Jim said. “It makes you feel like you made a difference. You’ve brought something unique to the picture that they couldn’t have found anywhere else.”
And while Jim originally traveled to Albania to help and encourage, he found himself on the receiving end, too.
“Their willingness made me a little more willing to put myself in unknown situations.”