Saturday, December 17, 2011

Business As Mission: Part Two

According to what we repeatedly from locals, Volleyball is the second most popular sport in Bolivia (behind futbol/soccer of course!). Project Bless Volleyball is a sports ministry that was started in Bolivia, through World Venture.  There have been some cool activities around this concept that have varied from kids club teams of all ages, to college age competitive teams.  They have had some impressive participation in coaches sports clinics that included famous professional athletes, and have started to make a mark with their presence in the community.

But there are also some significant barriers to this program really taking off, and as a result, this was the second business concept our business team looked at while we were in Bolivia.  This project has reached a wide audience, but has been completely dependent upon donations from the United States to sustain its efforts.  For several years now donations have come in, but always last minute, which has hampered their ability to plan ahead.  Additionally, every time they have built up their competitive team to where they are receiving some attention, star players are recruited by local universities to play for them, with significant financial advantages to doing so.

As a result, Project Bless is being refocused and developed around a kids club concept, that will fit the local culture, maximize the number of youth they can impact, and be sustainable based on a cash flow basis.  That sentence sounded very simple, but trust me, our team struggled with a number of concepts here, not the least of which was understanding the local culture and current volleyball sports system.

Local kids volleyball clubs play late into the night.
I get excited about the concept of creating a sustainable system with the potential to have positive impacts on a developing country.  But another aspect of this project that was exciting to me was seeing Dana as she utilized her talents in assisting this project.  Dana spent a significant amount of time creating lesson plans for coaches in this system that would combine learning volleyball skills with a corresponding life value that will give these kids lifetime benefits from their involvement.

I look forward to seeing what this project can grow to in the future with a real business model.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Exciting Bolivian Business Update

I’m not generally a very excitable person.  Dana might even say that is the understatement of the year right there.  I have a tendency to hide emotions, and often fail to adequately celebrate achievements with my wife.

Having said that, I’m tingling with excitement right now!  I just received an e-mail from Dan Collins in Bolivia, that seemed to be almost an exact answer to some of the questions he and I had discussed while I was in Bolivia.  Specifically, I was asking about the Board, leadership, and future direction of the non-profit (Emprendimiento Mundial) they have established for their mission.  Along with that, I had some very specific questions about the role of Bolivians, and any plans for transferring ownership of the vision to locals.

One of the Bolivians (Tito) who is already serving on the Board of Directors took the opportunity to come meet the entire team of U.S. businessmen who traveled to Bolivia while Dana & I were there.  There were a lot of direct goals and deliverables that we hoped to achieve as a result of having this team on the ground, and a lot of progress was made toward achieving those ends.  But as God often does, He used us in ways we had not even expected.  To quote Dan's e-mail, "We might have just sparked the desire and passion of an influential Bolivian business man who sees where he can use his business gifts in missions."

As a result of the excitement generated by our meetings that day,Tito recently provided Dan with a basic written strategic plan to do some of the very things we had talked about trying to figure out how to motivate someone to do!  Now, Dan and Tito are working together to lay a strong foundation for me to be able to come alongside them and build toward a sustainable system of business enterprises that support the vision of World Venture in Bolivia.  The potential exists for many great things to come out of this seemingly small step.

Please continue to pray for Dan and the direction of the many activities being undertaken in Bolivia.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Big Questions: When?

The most common question we have had in response to our news about moving to Bolivia is, “When?”  Right now I can tell you the answer to that is…  TBD.

Yeah, not exactly the best answer.  We would really like to be in Bolivia within a year.  In November, the Bolivian school year just completed, and this kind of timeframe would give our kids some time to settle in before having to jump straight into school.  The field staff in Bolivia would love to have us on the ground as soon as possible.  There are timelines with our current jobs that we want to be sensitive to.  In many ways, this would be an ideal time-frame.

The reality is that we aren’t completely in control of our timeline. Because we are going through a Missions organization, World Venture, we are required to raise the funding for this venture entirely from donations.  As a result, the real answer to “When?” is that we will go once the funding is in place.

If you are interested in helping by providing a tax deductible donation through World Venture, we would welcome your participation with us in this endeavor.  Click here for more complete information regarding our budget.

If you would simply like to make a donation now, or provide a monthly commitment, follow these links, and choose “Holzer, Quinn & Dana” from the drop-down menu provided.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Business As Mission: On the Ground in Bolivia

While we were recently in Bolivia for two weeks, Dana & I spent the week of October 29 – November 5 with a group of business people from the U.S.  As a group, we focused on two separate projects: a sports ministry and a carpentry shop.  This was an exciting opportunity for us to witness firsthand the type of business assistance needed.

The first hurdle I had to get over in my mind was simply understanding why a missionary would be involved in either of these projects.  I had visited with Dan Collins (missionary in Bolivia) several times about these projects, and I had started to wonder if a lack of focus wasn’t taking away from the overall effectiveness of their efforts.  Dan had shared the overall mission of his efforts to “Be, Make, Mobilize: Disciples of Christ.”  Sounds like a great mission for a missionary!  But what about a carpentry shop?

Dana lends a hand sanding a chair destined for an orphanage.
“Following the Master Carpenter” is a catchy name for a missions-based carpentry business, but what exactly was the tie-in?  It turns out that the original objective of the carpentry shop was to build furniture for local orphanages, providing them with much needed bunk-beds, chairs, and desks.  Certainly a noble purpose, and one that caught on with donors back in the States.  But when the entire business plan is built around donating end product, that endeavor is entirely dependent upon those donations.  What happens when the economic engine that is U.S. donations slows down or comes to a complete stop?  I hope the answer to that is fairly obvious!

On the other hand, what if a sustainable business model can be developed that provides ongoing revenues, leveraging those donations into something that can have a positive impact even without the ongoing oversight and donations provided by the U.S. missionary community?  It’s a bit like the difference between giving a man a fish, and teaching him to fish.

Alex, the Bolivian in charge of the carpentry shop.
And what about making sure this project is consistent with overall mission to “Be, Make, Mobilize?”  This shop has recently transitioned from being managed and run by a U.S. missionary, to being run by a local Bolivian man who has several years of Bible classes.  Now, he is not only making furniture, but is working with men in a drug rehab center to provide “occupational therapy” that includes them learning a trade, as well as studying the Bible together, right there in the carpentry shop. 

The future of this carpentry shop still has some questions to be answered, and further opportunities have come up even in the three weeks since we undertook to help make this a sustainable business opportunity.  But seeing the potential outcomes, and helping make this possible, is exactly what “Business As Mission” is all about.  It’s something I’m excited about, and I hope it makes sense to you too. 

I have several other topics to address in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, if you have questions or want clarification on anything, please don’t hesitate to comment below, or e-mail me directly.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Big Picture

So what is Business As Mission?  The basic concept is that by coming alongside people living in developing countries, areas of abject poverty, or circumstances that may seem otherwise hopeless, we can honor God by simply using the knowledge and skills He has given us.

I will admit that I used to question my ability to participate in “missions” around the world, for a variety of reasons.  But in the end, I think I thought that in order to be a missionary, I would have to forsake the very skills I have spent years and countless thousands of dollars developing through formal education, work experience, etc.  But I’m coming to realize that I have skills and knowledge that can be invaluable for supporting struggling endeavors, and building relationships as a natural outgrowth  of those efforts. 

You won’t see me standing on a box with a sign indicating the end of the world is coming.  I’m not planning to hand out countless numbers of tracts.  And I certainly won’t be planting a new church or getting up to preach every Sunday.  But what I will be doing is helping support an existing missionary in Bolivia by providing guidance and support to ensure that positive activities undertaken can be sustainable in the long-term, rather than solely dependent upon ongoing donations for the United States.  What I will be doing is developing relationships with key people who have the ability to affect transformational outcomes, whether those people are in Bolivia, or back in the states.  In other words, I’m planning to use the gifts God has given me, in a manner I can passionately engage.

If you want to see more about what this might look like, you can check out the website of Transformational Ventures, the Business As Mission arm of World Venture, a missionary organization whose vision is “Powerful Partnerships.  Transformed Lives.”  In fact, there are several references to our Bolivia page on the bottom half of that site right now.  There are also a variety of other exciting examples of the impact we can have on the world by using business skills in a positive way.

So yes, we’ll be missionaries.  But probably not in the way you might have expected.  And next week I'll give some concrete examples as we look back on our trip to Bolivia, and exactly what activities we did engage in.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Big Move: Bolivia

So we’re going to move to Bolivia.

I don’t know if that got your attention, but frankly, it got mine! Dana & I have been talking about this since last summer, and yet it’s still kind of hard to wrap my arms around exactly what it means. The good news is that we just returned from two weeks in Bolivia during which we had a chance to see the city we would be living in (Cochabamba), visit with some of the people we would be working with, see some examples of schools that we might put our kids in, and get a much better idea exactly how we might be able to really be of assistance.

The short version is that I will be taking a position titled “Coordinator of Business as Mission” for the country of Bolivia. What does that mean? It means we will be working alongside a traditional missionary, in a non-traditional missionary type of role. I don’t have Bible classes in my background, but I do have an M.B.A. and have experience in economic development, and working with small businesses. So I’ll have the opportunity to help make sure some business projects have the opportunity to be sustainable, long-term efforts that impact individuals and communities in the country of Bolivia.

I realize that’s a somewhat broad and vague description. Fortunately, our trip to Bolivia allowed us to get a much better vision for exactly how we can have an impact. Rather than try to lay out all of the details of that right now however, I am committing to updating this blog with stories, pictures, and more information in the coming weeks and months.

So if you want to hear more about this strange, wonderful, exciting, and daunting chapter in our lives, sign up to follow our blog or register for our email newsletter here, and see where this adventure takes us.