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A New Wave of Missions - ICON 2018

There is an element of missions that I have always admired and romanticized - the idea of sacrificing all you have and all you know to go live in a faraway place for the sake of sharing the love of Christ with people who do not know Jesus.  What automatically came to mind was something along the lines of living in a hut with chickens and goats while wearing prairie dresses and befriending local villagers. It sounds a bit primitive, but this would not be too far-off a description of my own first overseas missions trip experience I had in 2004.

I know that missions has changed over time and that there has been a movement to integrate business and missions, so I was really looking forward to the opportunity I had to visit Jakarta with Resource Global and get a first-hand look at one way that missions can look like today.  

How do you impact a city of 10 million people for the sake of the gospel?  One effective way would be to find the young movers and shakers, invest in them, and mobilize them to be the change agents in their own city and to their own people.  This, in a nutshell, is what Resource Global is doing in Jakarta.

Who are these young movers and shakers?  They are business start-up founders, company CEOs, and other heads of businesses.  They are in the position to employ and directly influence tens, hundreds, and some, tens of thousands of people.  They can infuse Christian values into their business leadership and business culture in a way that shines Christ. They are in positions of great influence.  And they are under 30 years old.

I was quite impressed with the many 20-somethings I met in Jakarta.  What was initially impressive to me was their high business positions and titles at such a young age.  But this is not what was lastingly impressive. The persisting quality that stood out to me was their passion and conviction to use their positions to honor Christ.  It sounds typically spiritual and holy, but I imagine that being heads of businesses comes with a lot of worldly temptations that does not make this an easy or light matter to take for granted.

Many of these young people have strong business acumen that has helped to propel them to success. However, I was surprised by many who did not have much or any business background, but circumstances had fortuitously led them to engage in their family business that they originally did not plan on or have the aspiration to do.  This, along with the weight of responsibility they feel to those they employ and work with, draws a posture of humility before God.

What potential do these business leaders have to impact their city and country?  A young business co-CEO of a large scale apparel manufacturing company that makes clothes for many notable U.S. brands, who provides jobs for 28,000 people in Indonesia.  A young maritime business head working to bring healthcare to remote islands in Indonesia through floating hospitals- donating resources and working to raise funds and workers- whilst running the maritime company that is not at all related to healthcare.  A young business CEO who started a company that provides microloans for small online businesses, which is helping to build a virtually non-existent middle class in Indonesia. These are a few snapshots of the young people God is using in Jakarta.

While I continue to hold the utmost respect for those that sacrifice all they have and all they know to go live in faraway places, I am also awakened to other ways to shine Christ to people who do not know Jesus.  Find young Christian entrepreneurs and business leaders, invest in providing them spiritual mentorship, cultivate in them a love for their city and their people, and mobilize them to use their God-given positions to impact their city and their country for the sake of the gospel.  This is the work of Resource Global and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to catch a glimpse of it.

Ellie Kim was one of Resource Global’s first board member.  She is a teacher at the Chicago Public School

Loving the City - ICON 2018

Psalm 107 portrays the gathering of displaced people into a city as an ideal.  “. . . and they founded a city where they could settle (v. 37).”  Displaced people are described as “finding no way to a city where they could settle (v. 4b).”

Jakarta has become a global city where over ten million people have found their refuge. The Chinese are among those who have settled in Jakarta.  This mega city in South East Asia on the island of Java has the highest number of overseas Chinese in Indonesia. ICON 2018 was a conference to promote the values and practices of “Loving the City” for an audience made up mostly of young ethnic Chinese.  Several other people groups were among the audience, but the majority were definitely the Chinese and, if history told it all, the Chinese would not have a reason to love Jakarta.  The article on “Chinese Indonesians” in Wikipedia, documents a history of discrimination and persecution against this group.  And yet, over 100 young (average age, 27), Chinese Indonesian professionals gathered on a Saturday in July to receive instruction and encouragement to love Jakarta.  Why?

Many of these professionals came to a personal faith in Jesus Christ while studying abroad and now desire to live out that faith in and through their lives.  But they have a problem, or a potential, depending on which angle one approaches the issue.  Their positions in the business world allow them to implement changes of scale larger than mere personal transformation. The potential of influence would be a problem if the conference did not specifically address this unique angle.  But the organizers have been tracking the needs among this audience for the last four years with excellent, on-the-ground data. Resource Global was able to challenge the audience on their level, and at the right point for their next step.  In education a timely challenge, that is truly a next step in ability and willingness is called, the Zone of Proximal Development.  Debriefing with several participants made it evident to me that ICON hit the Zone.

A business owner at my table decided to make himself accountable.  Mr. Steve Preston, the keynote speaker, a business leader and a former US housing secretary, mentioned that businesses could become deliberate in changing a neighborhood. “Why not cooperate with other businesses and deliberately place your next venture where the economic situation is dismal?”  That is exactly what this business owner heard and inquired about after the speech. What would the dynamics be if he placed his next manufacturing/assembly business in an accessible place to a population that was a need?  He promised he would pray about it and investigate the actions necessary to make the love of Jesus tangible in a neighborhood.

After all, these young professionals have committed themselves, at least forty of them, to implement whatever they learn from the Scriptures in their family businesses and work places and in their personal lives.  Icon 2018 gave them specifics on scaling their influence to not “take out of the city, like many others, but to give to the city” (challenge from Alex Evans, the pastor at The Collective.)

The theme for next year will bring the focus back to personal ethics and issues of integrity.  The organizers of ICON know how to dance between the Sermon on the Mount issues (Matthew 5, ethics) and the parable of the good and faithful steward in Matthew 25 (stewardship).  Icon is making disciples in Jakarta who can and want to change how Jesus’ love would be experienced in healthcare, education, politics, architecture, and more in a city where many migrate to (over 50% of the population is not from Jakarta).  It is crowded now, but open spaces are coming!

Dr. Julius Wong Loi Sing - thoughts from ICON 2018

Struggles of Working in a Family Business

Working in a family business is like an irony. People would think that because it's our own family company, we have a lot of rooms to grow and move around and change things as we deem important. But truthfully, it's harder than it looks. Here are some of the struggles I've encountered:

1. Passing the baton

My father is a self-made man. His family came from nothing and being able to build his own entire company until having what we have now, is something he values so much. It’s his baby. Maybe it's even where he puts his identity in. So that being said, I felt there were a lot of difficulties for him on giving up control and authority. Company structure became messy and I wasn’t the only one who was having trouble positioning myself in the company. The employees were also confused on whom they had to report to, because the business was slowly being passed onto his kids.

But seeing from his point of view, he saw us as kids who weren’t ready to be passed on the family business. This create a lot of tension, because trust was now at stake. My father might have felt that as kids we will never be “man” enough to run the business, but we as kids, we wanted our chance to prove to our father that we were capable. But there was nothing that we could do except to wait (impatiently), until he felt that we were ready.

Sadly, when things at the company are bad and you just want to wind down at home and not talk about business anymore... you still have to sit at the dinner table with family and still discuss business, which makes it hard to separate business from personal feelings and family.

2. Bringing education to the workplace

I was blessed to have the opportunity to have my university education in America where I was exposed to Western ways of thinking and mentality. I took business as my major, so when I went back to Jakarta, I wanted to implement a lot of the same things in the company to make it more forward. But with the different culture and years of an immersed tradition within the company, it wasn’t so easy to penetrate it. It would take a lot of time to make our employees and employers understand why we would want to shift some of the ways we traditionally do it.

But all  that said, I have realized a few things: honest communication is very important, establishing boundaries and positioning ourselves in the company is also key, and taking things easily, or in other words, argue your arguments, but when it’s done, make sure it’s a clear and finalized before you leave it.

3. Depending on God

Finally, my foremost important takeaway from working in a family business is that it makes me understand more about having God as our center as the most important thing in my life. We can get caught up with work and businesses or talk about it neverendingly, which can make it our identity. But without God as our core foundation, we will be easily shift and forget what exactly is the entire purpose of work. Working in a family business requires a lot of patience, and when we try with our own strength, it will never sustain. But with His love, it’s not impossible.

All of these times, it never occured to me to put my faith and trust in Him within my workplace, gosh ..it never really crossed my mind to do so. Maybe because it was too far of a reach that even thinking about it was just ...off. But one thing that God revealed to me at my time at Resource Global was when He helped me understand that His heart is never pointed to only one part of our lives, but to all extended parts; and seeing people from different nations and cities having the same heart that wants to glorify God with their work was another proof that nothing is too big or too far reached for Him.

Velencia Bong, Jarakta Cohort Member 2018