Mike*, one of our former MDE members and a current advocate, shares his experience of seeking excellence in both business and mission.
My wife and I served in Spain with a traditional missions agency for our first term. We were placed in a small Catholic village with an assignment to plant a church. We fell in love with the village and the people. Our challenge was that of making disciples of Jesus Christ without separating families. An answer came when they asked us to teach an English program for their children and approved using a Bible-based curriculum (DVBS). That program was in development when we came up for our first visa renewal. The visa was denied.
We returned to the States, but our hearts were still in Spain. We sought a way to return that would guarantee a visa. I considered the many conversations we had experienced with locals.
So who are you and what do you do? I had wanted to tell them I worked in a job that they could understand. When I used the word missionary, they were confused and didn’t understand their need for one of those.
What would happen if I went back to Spain and worked a real job?
I have a background in scuba diving and am a certified instructor. Think about it. It’s the perfect job to take overseas—I just need water. I began tossing that idea out to people.
What about a scuba company? It would be a real business, not a fake business, and would allow my wife and me to be real missionaries at the same time.
Before my wife and I became traditional missionaries, that is what we did. In obedience to God’s call, we ran a small family business and worked in our local church as youth pastors. I enjoy working for myself, helping others, and the challenge of doing both well.
The Vision Becomes a Reality
I don’t remember how I first came across Marketplace and Development Enterprises (MDE). I was putting out many feelers about starting the dive business, so I can’t remember who connected me to MDE. At 9:00 pm one evening, I remember receiving a call and someone said, “You need to talk to Mark Canada.”
The experience working with MDE was a lot of fun. I have a passion for starting new businesses and love getting around other people who like to do the same thing. Mark enjoys what he does and has a calling to do it in the context of missions.
In joining MDE, we became part of a network of brothers and sisters who prayed for us, understood our vision, and would help us work through the details. This support is rare in the mission world. Despite decades of dialog about business as mission (BAM), it is still difficult for many people to understand that you can do real missions and have a real business at the same time.
In time, our vision became a reality. As the owner of a diving business, I had access to people I would never have met otherwise. Friendships naturally developed through the dive business and the people around the ocean. As we worked a hustle similar to theirs, we were invited into their homes and families. At one point, we were invited to the Annual Fisherman’s Banquet and sat at a table with the two police chiefs. Those relationships were possible only because of the business.
In the culture we were in, relationships quickly expanded to include immediate and extended family. Some say traditional ministry also creates these opportunities. I’ve observed otherwise. If you are limited to contacts at church, your relationship network grows more slowly and is not as authentic. In business, your neighbors watch you battle to support your family. In that common understanding, relationships form at a level where you can confide in each other.
In 2020, we were forced to return to the States because our visas had once again been denied. Despite the disappointment, we are thankful when we think of the doors that opened during our time in Spain. Going into a cross-cultural situation as business owners allowed us to be authentic and transparent. It ultimately earned us the right to share our hearts – bringing the love and message of Christ to our friends.
*Name changed for privacy.