Over the past week an international team of Christian investors has been in South Africa looking for businesses that are viable and have the potential to make a significant impact for the kingdom of God.
First SA investor trip
The first South African investor trip under the auspices of Business 4 Transformation (B4T) is the culmination of two to three years work says B4T developer Jeremy Sieberhagen who oversaw the identification and pre-screening of businesses to be assessed by the B4T investor team.
Speaking at the end of the Port Elizabeth leg of the trip in which the investors from the United States of America and Johannesburg evaluated five local entrepreneurs, Sieberhagen said the investors were very impressed with what they had found from both a business and Kingdom impact perspective.
“It seems like we are going to have a very successful take-up of these business opportunities by the investors. So we are thrilled that it is going to be a very successful first trip.”
From PE the investors flew to Cape Town to meet up with three more entrepreneurs.
Sieberhagen, who completed a business degree at Rhodes University before going into the mission field in Central Asia for 20 years, says he has always had a “combined passion for missionary church planting and business”. In Central Asia he got involved in several business projects to uplift poor people. When he returned to PE he was already on the global leadership team of the B4T movement which had been recently established by Operation Mobilisation (OM) and he immediately set about raising up local entrepreneurs that he could introduce to an investor team.
His goal is to bring an investor team to SA annually.
Gene Short, a B4T investor from Dallas, Texas, agrees that Jeremy and his team have done a great job of finding and evaluating candidates for investment support.
“I personally look for people who have a demonstrated skill in running a business (which means they can be sustainable and can create jobs) and they have a passion for the Kingdom and seeing people coming to Jesus. We found these criteria met in three guys here. That to me is outstanding. You don’t find these guys that often. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.”
Short whose 40 year business career included 20 years in the international business consulting field focusing on business performance, says the B4T investors support suitable entrepreneurs through business consulting and by investing to provide working capital needed to grow their businesses. They also assist them with increasing their Kingdom impact – “which is what really excites me”.
Short, who has been married for 52 years, says that he and his wife accompanied a missionary to Haiti in 1978 and both felt it was something they would like to do permanently. He kept on praying about it but God did not open a door until he retired in 2004 and he received a phone call from a missionary organisation looking for help with strategic planning. Since then he has become more and more involved in mission work. First he worked for mission organisations but for the past two years he has been freelancing, focusing on his passion of promoting business as mission. He has done much work in North and East Africa and the Middle East.The biggest barrier he sees around the world preventing people in business from using their businesses to advance the Kingdom is the sacred-secular divide mindset in which people think they are sacred on Sundays but not during the rest of the week. “Well, Muslims don’t think that. They are what they are every day. We need to help Christian believers in business to be who they are every day and that takes walking with them,” he says.
A South African member of the B4T investor team, Jimmy Dowsley, of Johannesburg, says he became a Christian five years ago after noticing the change in the life of his eldest daughter after she started to follow Jesus. Within a month of retiring from the mining industry three or four years ago he was invited to a breakfast where he heard Jeremy share his vision for B4T.
Idea of work being mission resonated with him
“It resonated with me, the idea of work being mission. Work is where you can demonstrate the love of God and the principles of Christianity daily. I felt it [B4T] was something I would want to get behind and so I agreed to get together an investors circle in Johannesburg of people who might be interested.”
Dowsley has been on a B4T investors trip to Pakistan and on the current SA trip.
During his mining industry career he was involved in an investor environment. “I think God confronted me about my lifestyle and how I can use my set of skills in retirement for a much better cause,” he says.
He says that as B4T investors they look at the bankability of a business and the kingdom impact it might have. “It is a business relationship. It is not philanthropy. It is a loan or an equity stake with a view that if the business is sound and well the kingdom impact will also be sound and well.”