Sawasdee (pronounced sa-wa-dtee) cup (spoken by men, Sawasdee ca by women) is the most common Thai greeting, stated with both hands flat together in front of the chest and a slight bow. It originates from the Sanskrit and means “well being,” much as shalom does in Hebrew.
As I await my departure to the airport to began the long journey home to Atlanta, Georgia, it is not at all difficult to know where to begin in reflecting on the Global BAM (business-as-mission) Congress that just wrapped up yesterday (April 28, 2012) in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I must begin in worship and praise for our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. If ever I have been encouraged and energized for God’s mission in the world, this conference was likely my greatest experience on those lines. It was humbling to meet so many who are laying down their lives for those suffering the dehumanizing life of poverty, and especially those victimized by human trafficking.
Some 530 delegates gathered from more countries than I can recount (I am sure a final tally will eventually become known) from all around the world from every continent save Antarctica. The keynote speakers and break out session presenters addressed the issue group concerns as each group prepares to submit final reports in June after a year long, transnational virtual think tank collaboration. There were sixteen issue groups in all (see at http://bamthinktank.org/process/) and it became apparent there could easily have been groups developed around many, many more! I was blessed to have taken part in two issue groups during the think tank phase – advocacy and mobilization (how do we get the global Church engaged in being Christ in and through the marketplace?) and biblical models (laying a sound theological and biblical foundation on which a solid “house” of BAM can be constructed as we go forward). If you have read much of my blog, you know the biblical and theological cases are very near my heart. I have said repeatedly, “You would never build a house without a sure foundation, but this one is being built on the Rock.”
More importantly than even the thought work to come of it, the Congress was about creating new and solidifying old connections among colleagues in the business-as-mission movement. Before, between, and after sessions, it seemed I found myself in one-to-one meetings, all but one entirely unplanned but perfectly arranged and timed by the Holy Spirit, from breakfast to midnight almost everyday. I now have covenant bonds with a church-planting brother in Pakistan, a pastor-cum-BAMmer transitioning in South Korea, and an academic leader from Down Under, to note but three. But there are many more I spent time with, sharing in the glow of Christ’s presence among us and seeking his guidance as we move together, many workers joined to one commitment: the Kingdom of God, coming even now on earth as it is in heaven. It is apparent, God has a purpose in all and each of these new relationships.
The worship sessions each morning were among the most anointed I have ever experienced. There was no division of denominations or national boundaries here. Here was one voice, of many origins, nations, and languages, joined together, five hundred strong, lifting praises to a God more glorious and loving than we can ever imagine. If nothing else occurred in Chiang Mai, that Christ was lifted up assures us that the Word goes forth and we are promised that it shall not return void of accomplishing everything God desires.
I spent a bit of time shopping in the night market where street vendors, traditional stores, and restaurants cater to local residents and tourists alike. The sights, the sounds, the bright lights and electronic billboards, and the bustling bodies moving between the curb-parked vendor carts and the storefronts, mixed with the sudden appearance but ever present temples strewn throughout the city, all lent to an energy and feel typical of Asian life.
But nearby, and far too prevalent, the karaoke bars and massage parlors, fronts for extensive prostitution, sadly a major tourist “attraction” in Thailand, are never far from one’s awareness while observing this dynamic city. Of hope, however, a small café, the Zion Café, sits right next door to a brothel just around the corner from the Congress’ hotel. You see, the Zion Café is a Christian business, a business-as-mission, an intentionally planted business that seeks out and welcomes the young women of its surrounding neighborhood into a safe, embracing relationship and space amidst a local culture, broken like so many others around the world. A new friend and I ate dinner there our first night in the city. It was as if breathing fresh, mountain air after coming in from an oppressing smog. Here, in the Zion Café, an unassuming corner restaurant nestled in the din of Chiang Mai, a ground-zero point itself in the center of the East, the Light of Christ shines forth. Please keep the wonderful folk operating the Zion Café in your prayers for surely they were called to this city, this neighborhood, and this very building for such a time as this, as a line of rescue thrown out to all God’s children.
I have said several times in the last two days that when I arrive home, sometime tomorrow, it will take me thirty minutes to unpack my luggage and six months to unpack the BAM Congress. More likely, and I hope it is so, it will take me the rest of my life!
I met some folk here who, to me, are giants in the global BAM and tentmaking movements – Mats, Jo, Patrick, Dwight, Peter, and too many others to even recall offhand. Some I had communicated with before electronically but it was grand to put a face, a voice, a smile, and a handshake with the name and person I had come to know before. Some I met for the first time. In every case, I was blessed by their humility and tirelessness. These folk are true heroes comparable to David’s mighty men in Israel. I was humbled as well by how little my faith and service to God, the Church, and the world has cost me practically and in risk compared to these venturing boldly and directly in through the gates of hell, assured that that those gates will not prevail against the Church but always mindful of the evil intent and wiliness of Satan.
You might note that I did not include their last names here. Most of those named are people who need not be too concerned but many of the Congress delegates live very dangerous lives in places where Christians are routinely persecuted and even run the risk of a death sentence if found out. There was even a subtle “sign” each one wore that revealed to us all, as we moved about our sessions and common spaces in the hotel, that these folk need our prayers and a discerning level of sensitive protection from the rest of us. We were repeatedly exhorted not to photograph them nor to post Congress photos online. The Congress organizing committee will publish a great deal but not until every photograph and document has been thoroughly vetted to protect these precious, anonymous servants of Christ.
In the end, I will summarize (for now!): Since beginning my own journey with Christ into the marketplace in 1993, I have been convinced it is land ripe for Kingdom reclamation and dear to God’s heart. That I was, at that time, being drawn into a global movement of the Holy Spirit, I was entirely unaware for a decade. But while I was in seminary, God drew to me begin studying and understanding his economic plan for humankind and the rest of creation. That journey led to the publication of Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation in Mission last year, and led me to Chiang Mai this month. I have never seriously questioned that I was being caught up in God’s marketplace movement but if anyone attending the Congress came with even a hint of doubt, surely they are leaving not only with no doubt but also a revived energy to be a blessing to all nations through the wealth-creating power of the marketplace and the just use of all God’s blessings among the global poor.
I, and many, many others, will be encouraging marketplace ministry participation by the whole body of Christ in the coming months and years. We will be preparing and presenting seminars, vision tours, and information portals to help you on your journey into these areas, as you are so called by God. Seek the Lord’s heart and wisdom and seek us out. We are prepared, having heard the call, and said “Yes and Amen, Lord, send me.” There are many of us who can help you connect to “the front lines” of this aggressive war in an arena too long influenced (and largely “owned”) by the enemy. You can contact me directly through my website (www.edensbridge.org) or any number of other organizations you will find if you simply Google “business as mission.”
That is all for now but there is surely more to come for so much is yet to be said. Be blessed and intentionally be a blessing “unto all the nations.” Shalom. – Dave.