Workplace Mission Field - Engaging with Business Leaders in Uganda

Bob and Cheryl Reccord speak to Uganda business leaders. ©  2009

In any type of walk in faith, the key is following…following Jesus Christ that is.

But in order to make disciples, you have to lead. You have to seize the truth of the gospel, and impart it in on others in a way that by following you, following your example, others ultimately choose to follow our great Savior.

Running parallel to the Christ-focused concept of leading-following, is the business paradigm, where in order to create successful businesses, you have to lead others.

Thus, discipleship and business go hand-in-hand to an extent where Christian ‘best practices’ in the workplace are key to seeing both a spiritual harvest and economic results that can produce strong yields vital to developing countries.

With this in mind, my wife Cheryl and I were led by God this past summer to venture from our home and ministry base outside of Atlanta to Uganda. The nation has been increasingly growing in its evangelical base and also in its economic potential. Though still considered part of the flock of African nations battling through devastating poverty and AIDS/HIV epidemic, it is seeing decent growth through a continued focus agricultural exports—particularly coffee—and economic reforms.

We spent about two weeks in the country, partnering directly with Global Advance to encourage and minister business leaders in a handful of the major cities. Global Advance, headed by Dr. David Shibley, with whom I attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with, is an organization that focuses on training and equipping ‘native missionaries’ throughout the world; they seek to build spiritual leaders from within a particular country that are willing to fulfill the Great Commission to their own people group and beyond. Global Advance also focuses heavily on the business sector, which is where our two ministries were able to sync up on this particular mission. It was a privilege to collaborate with their organization.

Our trip began with a stop into the capital city of Kampala, where we spoke to 55-60 business leaders on taking their faith to work, essentially integrating biblical principles into a work ethic that fosters Christ-centered business decisions and a better model for directing and managing employees. In a global culture wrecked with relativism and corruption, such an emphasis on faith and the Word of God in how we act is essential. The national Minister of Finance joined us for part of the conference, which greatly impacted the message. Still in Kampala, we went on an urban safari to local businesses and talked with owners on their own “turf” about being On Mission for Christ in the workplace. Fort Portal, the second largest city, was next. We had over 200-plus business leaders flood into a Global Advance-sponsored Marketplace Conference. When I spoke to them on “God’s Call to the Workplace,” the thought that God calls men and women there just as He calls them to vocational ministry and missions, they stood and cheered. We also taught on such issues as “Establishing a Workable Business Plan”, “Taking Your Leadership to the Next Level” and “Effective Decision Making in Leadership Today.”

Just as in Kampala, we hit ethics and integrity head on and had incredible response. Questions such as, “If someone participates in the bribery so common in our nation, but they tithe on the outcome, is that acceptable?” was evidence of the searching heartbeat those in attendance had for wanting to find biblical answers. As a result of the conference, the groundwork was laid to form a Christian biblical fellowship of business leaders to find strength and help amongst one another in the trials to come. Others of the team dealt with ethical budgeting, vision and planning, motivation, team development, and practical leadership. The hunger of those in attendance was displayed in that they did not want to leave even when the conference was over.

The team had the joy of ministering to nearly 2000 ministry leaders from western Uganda and their spouses. Segments of this were the men together and the women in separate gatherings. Cheryl had the joy of speaking to wives and the response was amazing! They even gave Cheryl and the other women leaders a native African dress as a sign of their love and appreciation of the team; after the sessions, the women felt they were individuals that He could mightily us, both as an individual and as an equal counterpart alongside her husband. Three of us as couples were able to model to all of those in attendance what it is like when a husband and wife minister together. This is not a common concept in Africa as it has been a male dominated society. But the response was one of openness and willingness to learn new leadership models that can extend and increase their impact in ministry.

Eighty-five men and women graduated—in caps and gowns—from an intensive study of basic Bible doctrines that Global Advance had prepared and provided. The celebration for these valiant student leaders was jubilant. So little advanced education is available to them, that we found them to be like dry sponges, soaking up every morsel they could. I have never seen a more celebrative graduation! Every conference attendee was challenged with a commitment to: 1. Have a daily time with Christ in their walk with Him. 2. Be involved in planting at least 1 church in the next year. 3. Be willing and open to becoming involved in cross-cultural missions and not be content with staying in a comfort zone.

When the commitments were called for, the responses were breathtaking! Their seriousness in fulfilling the Great Commission is exemplary…and I found myself wishing that we saw that type of passion more in the states.

Additionally, we were able to address challenges in ministry such as forgiveness, unjust accusation, burnout and keeping the home fires burning.

What was shared had little to do with “theoretical speculations” but centered on the practical difficulties of being in business leadership today…whether in Africa or America or anywhere in the world for that matter. In the midst of the business focused activity, we also got a great opportunity to speak truth into leaders, the ‘frontline shepherds’ that Global Advance seeks so passionately to equip, at a special Christian Leader’s Conference. When an invitation was given on the last day, 14 accepted Christ!

Overall, the trip was a wonderful success—and the glory goes all to God and much gratitude to the prayers on the home front who supported us. He did something in the hearts of those business leaders, a change in thinking that may start to bring a wave of change in how people in that country go about making deals and building business. The doors are wide open for the future…and the future in Uganda is as bright as the promises of God!