Ryan serves in Romania. He is the founder of AgencyBoon and a member of MDE since 2018.
“The model of doing business to fund yourself on the mission field is not a biblical model.”
This is what I was told some 15 years ago while attending a denominational Bible college and sensing a call to serve God in Romania. I had started my studies as a mission major but found I had more in common with business administration.
Confronted With the Need
When I was twelve years old, my father took me to Bucharest, Romania, on a short-term trip with our church. At that time, thousands of homeless children lived in the underground and sewers of the city. During the day, they would linger around the train station getting high on glue. Our hotel was directly across the street from the train station. The children were my age, runaways from government-run orphanages. Each one vulnerable, a casualty of communism. That summer wrecked my dad.
My father had run a juvenile facility in Indiana and had high hopes of making a difference. Our family returned the next summer, and those that followed. We focused on serving organizations working with vulnerable young people.
My dad had no desire to fundraise or follow the traditional missions model. For years, he sought a way to support our family, which would allow us to serve in Romania full-time. At one point, his pastor observed, "Are you sure the calling is on your life, and it's not on Ryan's?"
At seventeen, my parents allowed me to return to Romania alone and volunteer with an organization working in orphanages. That summer, the Lord impressed on my heart that I would one day live in Romania.
The first week of college, freshman year, my father passed away unexpectedly. While at Bible college, the call on my life grew stronger, but I would wait ten years before finally moving to Romania with my wife. Our desire was to put an end to human trafficking.
Change Needed on Multiple Levels
We soon learned that human trafficking is a symptom of a broken society. Preventing it would require igniting change in multiple areas simultaneously. This understanding eventually led us to start a nonprofit, Good Bureau, focused on investing in young Romanian change-makers. These leaders would then bring change in their chosen spheres: job creation, working with broken families, providing housing. In reducing vulnerabilities, they could help combat human trafficking.
Each year we choose a cohort of ten emerging change-makers. The program is free; additionally participants receive a monthly stipend of roughly $100. Our curriculum is light. We choose to focus on developing the leaders themselves, which is accomplished through a retreat, monthly zoom meetings, meetups, and coaching calls.
In Eastern Europe, change is possible if there is money and/or connections. By building a growing network of change-makers, we have the opportunity to create more impact. If a participant’s vision is needed country-wide or beyond, we have the opportunity to partner together and help them scale. One such connection saved a Romania social enterprise from closing during the 2020 pandemic.
The Day Job
For the last eight years, I have led Agency Boon, a company specializing in digital marketing, brand development, website design, and ongoing website support. We have 20 talented team members, based mainly in Romania, serving our clients in the United States. Romania has been called the "outsourcing valley" of Europe. Through Agency Boon, small and medium-sized companies can access the talent that makes larger companies stand out. Through Agency Boon, my family honors the call on our lives.
I invest roughly 80% of my time in leading Agency Boon. Initially I was conflicted because I wanted to do the work that would matter most. I have come to realize that business in itself is a powerful force for good. It is not just that a business makes money so that it can do good. There is a ripple effect. When big businesses fail, they devastate communities. In the same way, when businesses do good, they bring blessing to communities.
I believe in MDE’s vision. A big part of the future of missions will be enabling ex-pats to understand that they are on mission in their careers. MDE gets that space and facilitates this missions approach in a healthy way for people. Through MDE, I have received business mentoring, member care, and accountability. It is important to me that a third party knows me and what I do.
Mission agencies are funded through the fundraising efforts of their membership. I think that funding model is broken. MDE makes its services available to paying members. I like the idea that I am a customer who pays for the services I receive. I would recommend MDE to other entrepreneurs who want to simplify the sending process and still be held accountable.
Mission agencies often emphasize missionaries teaming together. I have chosen to focus my energies on investing in like-minded Romanian change-makers. Our team is forming in a gradual, organic way. As an MDE member, I have the freedom to focus on national partnerships.
Mission agencies often dictate how ministry is done and where it is done. Serving independently as a member of MDE, I am thankful for the support I have, enabling me to stay in Romania for the long haul.