By Jack Benjamin
I will never forget the moment 24-years ago when the Latin America Regional Director, for whom I have deep respect, made this stunning comment: “It is cruel to talk about the Great Commission in two-thirds of the world.”
“How could that be?” I thought to myself. “The Great Commission is the reason my wife and I just moved to Colombia with our three young children!”
That regional director was Aldo Berndt, a Brazilian. After his bold statement, he saw my distress. So with a gentle smile, Aldo went on to clarify. When fully funded gift-income missionaries launch a new work with the hope of reproducing and sending out laborers, those new laborers often don’t have the funding capacity or time to replicate what the missionary had modeled. The consequence is that future generations of laborers may become discouraged and end up giving the work of the ministry to the “full-time” workers.
“If we want to see nations reached for Christ,” Aldo went on to say, “we must offer the majority of people a different model, one that is more realistic and replicable in their context.”
My Navigator colleague, Jimmy Payton, understood what Aldo was saying. Jimmy had recently started a leather goods manufacturing and export business in Bogotá named Tenazcol. Employees, customers and suppliers—all those relating in some way with Tenazcol—saw that this business was different. They heard the Gospel message and saw it in action. Many were drawn to Christ and followed Him.
The daily opportunity for Jimmy to work side-by-side with his staff proved to be an ideal arrangement for life-on-life discipleship. Some of those employees were discipled well and have gone on to lead the next generation in Colombia.
A decade later, Jimmy and Roberto Blauth (from Brazil), who were serving in Aguascalientes, Mexico, began working on a home construction business called Casas Mas. As with Tenazcol, Casas Mas became a place where life-on-life discipleship and the Scriptures combined with God’s Spirit to make Jesus real to many.
It wasn’t long before a vibrant community of faith grew up in Aguascalientes and, energized by Casas Mas, contributed significantly to a new generation of laborers in Mexico. The word spread and a number of emerging laborers from around Latin America chose to intern at Casas Mas and serve in the Aguascalientes work as part of their ministry training. Today most of them are laboring fruitfully around the region.
In recent years, a group of Navigator alumni who are successful Mexican professionals, including a former Casas Mas general manager, have come together to launch a new generation of missional enterprises such as Tenazcol and Casas Mas. United by this passion, they provide mentoring, subject matter expertise, whole-life discipling and funding to aspiring missional entrepreneurs—people who can serve as Gospel pioneers in other nations.
The Navigators has been involved with missional enterprises for more than three decades. Each of the seven regions in the Worldwide Partnership has missional enterprise initiatives as part of their overall strategy to advance the Navigator Calling. Such enterprises help not only to gain access to closed or hard-to-reach places, but also to establish credibility with the local community in which they are operating.
Please continue praying that God would use these efforts to draw many to Him.
To watch a short video about missional enterprises in Latin America, follow this link: https://vimeo.com/65304675
Jack Benjamin is director of the Global Enterprise Network, a ministry of The Navigators. He served in Colombia, Chile and Brazil for more than 20 years. He and his wife, Karen, have three adult children and live in Colorado Springs.