Christians develop business partnerships to share Jesus

SOUTHEAST ASIA (BP)--Christian workers are using business savvy to reach the people of a restricted-access country in Southeast Asia with the message of Christ.

Partnering with national Christians who work as shopkeepers, Chris and Kim Lee* set up a store at the border between their own country and a neighboring, more open, country. They minister to the nearly 5,000 people who cross from the Lees' country monthly.

Their goal: create a Christ-like environment, making the shopkeepers' store a "platform to give leverage to anything they would say about Christ," explains Lee. "We started the store very simply, with about $1,500 worth of stock," says Lee. The Lees taught shopkeepers basic lessons on buying, selling, and finding good products that would interest people crossing the border.

The results have been amazing.

Despite political restrictions, the longstanding reign of Buddhism, and growing nationalism in their country, the Lees' ministry is reaching many people who would not hear the good news otherwise.

The Lees have confronted intimidating odds using a simple, effective method -- they put love into action.

Would-be buyers, accustomed to being cheated and looked down upon, find the store "a safe, non-threatening haven," Lee says. Visitors notice these businesspersons are "doing good deeds and caring" without expectation of reward -- unlike clergy and monks who are paid to behave kindly.

Christian shopkeepers go the extra mile, allowing visitors to stay long after the shops close, often overnight.

"There have been times the shopkeepers were averaging 20 people a week spending the night," says Lee.

During these after-hour visits, and sometimes during the day, they share Christian literature and show evangelistic films. Because of their intentional ministry, says Lee, "when the shopkeepers talk about Christ, it enhances the witness."

In addition to demonstrating love for the people who visit, shopkeepers' lifestyles bear witness to the difference Christ makes in their lives, raising questions among the visitors.

"[They] wonder why, for example, a shopkeeper isn't cheating on his wife," says Lee, and why the shopkeepers are treating the border-crossers "so good." Each incredulous question provides an opportunity for sharing Christ's message.

The Lees realize that these initial efforts at engaging the people with the gospel are critical to future church planting. The message is spreading. Newer groups of believers are seeking out older believers, receiving instruction and training, and taking it back to their villages.

Thankful for growth, the Lees know great challenges lay ahead. They pray for a strong indigenous model for the underground church now developing in the Lee's focus country.

They also know the clock is ticking. Chris and Kim feel as though they have "a window of opportunity -- perhaps five years" before the country is completely closed, unless a great revival takes place.

"That is our sense of urgency," he says.

Still, they do not ask for relief from persecution.

"We're not praying that politically things will change," Lee says.

"Persecution, in almost every instance, has caused things to spread rapidly."


EDITOR'S NOTES: During the 2001 International Missions Emphasis, Dec. 2-9, Southern Baptist congregations across the United States will focus on the cause of extending God's kingdom to every people group. This year's theme -- "The Unfinished Task: Planting with Passion" -- emphasizes the passion for planting churches that comes when we understand God's heart for the lost nations.

The goal for this year's Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions is $120 million -- every penny of which will go to support missionaries and their ministries. The International Mission Board draws 36 percent of its income from the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists' unified budget. The Lottie Moon offering provides 46 percent.*Chris and Kim Lee are pseudonyms. Adapted from Missions Mosaic, magazine of Woman's Missionary Union.

(BP) file photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: ABOUT THE FATHER'S BUSINESS.

-- SBC Photos: http://www.imb.org/ime/downloads/WPIM8.htm

-- Video: Young men can't reach the Maasai: http://www.imb.org/ime/Gods_World

-- Pray around the world! http://www.imb.org/CompassionNet/TodaysPrayer.asp

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