Posted by Craig in Interviews, Methods
on Dec 28th, 2012 | Comments Off on Kevin Nisly on Entrepreneurship, Mennonite Missions, and Money
Hi folks. I’m very happy to offer you a great interview today! Leaders, take note.
Welcome to allaboutmissions.com! It seems appropriate to have you on since you encouraged me to get this site going. Who are you? How old are you? Are you married? How did you end up in El Salvador?
Hi! My name is Kevin Nisly. I just recently turned 24, and am single. My parent’s are long time missionaries to El Salvador, Central America. I was born here, and have lived all my life here.
What do you do? Are you a missionary or a business man?
To be honest, I’m often not sure what to call myself. Technically I’m serving in El Salvador with Amish Mennonite Aid, as the General Finance Manager for El Salvador. That basically means I’m responsible for getting everyone’s financial reports together and computerized, as well as distributing money for operating expenses. A big part of my time though, is spent with a Christian literature distribution company. So I guess to answer your question, a missionary with business interests?
Is that ethical to make money selling spiritual information?
I’ll tell you the same thing every Christian publishing house will say. We want to keep a mission emphasis on what we do. We wish we could give more stuff away for free. But if our goal is to distribute Bibles, and there’s no millionaire benefactor wanting to give $100,000 in Bibles each year, we need to find a realistic way to distribute them. (if you’re out there and reading this, contact me!)
Back in 2009, when I started this project, we were working out of our garage, open just 3 days a week. We sold things at cost, having no expenses. Now, a few years later, there’s three of us working full time, we have a retail space, where we are open 6 days a week, a cargo van we use to make deliveries anywhere in the country. We’ve had phenomenal growth every year since then.
It wouldn’t have been possible to have the impact we are having now, and distribute the amount of Bibles that we are now distributing, if we were still selling at cost, out of our garage.
Do you think we are seeing a trend towards the merging of business and doing good?
I think so. I’m not sure how big of a trend it is though in Anabaptist circles. I’m all for it!
You seem really switched on with entrepreneurship and leadership. What influenced you to push beyond being just another nonchalant missionary kid?
I guess I always had a bit of entrepreneurship blood in me. I think when I was as young as 10-12 I would be buying nifty hand made toys and gadgets to sell to my friends in the states, and bringing back cell phones and computers to sell here in El Salvador.
Being a entrepreneur is basically doing things before you’re completely sure how to do them. It’s so true! When things are tough, I like to remind myself that the tough decisions and risks are the only thing that keeps me in business. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it, and if everyone was doing it, I wouldn’t have a job!
What are the best books you’ve read recently?
What is your advice to other missionary kids?
Be goal oriented. Think out, and put on paper some specific goals you have for your community, your friends, your youth group, or your church.
If your goal is to survive boring life on the mission field until you’re 18, when you can go back the states, that’s OK. It’s not easy to make a significant difference in the country you are serving. I don’t recommend you try, because when the going gets tough, it’s often that deep conviction and clear goal that keeps you going. The good news is that God will inevitably use someone else to do some pretty exciting stuff.
If you have a clear goal or feel a calling however, to reach out to a specific group of people, maybe people on your block, maybe students from the university, etc, than be very intentional about what you do and how you do it. Ask yourself the hard questions, “what’s the best way to actually impact these people”? Don’t do things the way they have always been done if it’s not the best way to accomplish your goal.
What are you passionate about right now?
One of the things I’m passionate about right now is being intentional about what I do. In business, in church, in life.
One of the things I see happening sometimes is when new missionaries come down for 2-4 years the leaving missionaries show them “how to do it”. There’s a huge danger in focusing on what to do instead “why we do it. What if doing something one way 5 years ago was the best way, but no longer is? I don’t blame the new missionaries. It’s overwhelming for a missionary to arrive in new country, new culture and new language. It’s so much easier to manage what others have left. “Is this the best way to do it?” is a scary question, because you open up the possibility that it’s NOT the best way to do it.
As missionaries, I think it’s especially important that the what we do and how we do it is not defined by the way we’ve always done it, but instead by what what’s the best way to accomplish our goal. So I guess I’m passionate about living with purpose. Donald Miller talks about living a good story. Living out of the “why”. Why am I en El Salvador? Why is my church in San Salvador? Why is my business in El Salvador? What can I do with those things to accomplish the “why”?
What new experiences are you getting ready for?
Sometime this year I would like to go on a mission trip to Asia, with a program like VISION. In the future I would like to intern somewhere to learn more about church planting.
What is your advice to other Mennonite missionaries?
Honestly it would be to have a clear goal of what they would like to accomplish in the people group you are serving, or what call you feel God has placed on your life. I would invite them to not shy away from the tension of what we’ve always done and what’s effective. It’s good to feel that tension. One quick example: Nearly every Mennonite mission I know has church services set up as carbon copies of the home church in the states. That’s fantastic. Not complaining at all, IF it’s the best way to accomplish your goal within the culture you are serving. If you are in a culture that doesn’t have a huge attention span, maybe a 3 hour service isn’t the best option. If you’re trying to serve university kids in a highly relational culture, maybe you should at least consider at the options of smaller more informal meetings with nachos and dip in your living room. If you know that cell groups is leading to the fastest church growth in Asia and Latin America, maybe you should at least sit down and think about it? Don’t be tied down to the method. Be completely dedicated to the goal!
Posted by Craig in General
on Dec 25th, 2012 | 1 comment
Today its cold. The sky is clearing and remnants of snow drifts trim the wintery landscape. Its Christmas Eve and I’m reflecting on what Christmas was like in Thailand. The first event was the Lisu Christmas gathering. These were regional events that included a number of villages. A large tent was set up with a PA system more than up to the task. Pickup loads of villagers would arrive on the first evening, the women sporting bright and glittery traditional dress and the men wearing western pants or culottes. One year they had a welcoming committee that sang a song as people came in the entrance. Accommodations that first year were very interesting. We were shown to a house well within earshot of the festivities. Mats or padding of some kind were covering the main room of the house. We along with perhaps 6-8 other fine folk slept in the room that night while the “after-service” music rocked on into the wee hours of the night. The light bulb in the room stayed on the entire night. Not understanding very much of the preaching anyway, we hopped on our motorcycle the next morning for the next important Christmas gathering.
Christmas in Chiang Mai, a large city in Northern Thailand, is pretty different than Christmas in the Midwest. It might be a little bit chilly during the nights, but it ain’t winter by a long shot. Palm trees festoon the yards and there’s not a lick of snow or frost to be found anywhere. Carolers don’t come to your door, and if they did, they wouldn’t be bundled up.. Somehow eating Christmas cookies just isn’t the same when you’re sweating.
But Christmas is really about the Person, and he was there. Christmas is also about friends, and they were there. To our friends in Chiang Mai, Rachel and I think fondly of past Christmas’ with you. We are aware that you can’t spend time with you extended families. But even though we can, we miss you, our family in the big city.
Whether palm trees or snow flakes–Merry Christmas!
Posted by Craig in Foundational, Methods
on Dec 21st, 2012 | Comments Off on Losing Your Job: How to be a Useful Missionary
Today I’d like to take a look at what constitutes a useful missionary. Before we really get into it though, I do want to remind you that pure obedience to Jesus is the foundation of missions. So, even if you are a missionary that doesn’t fit into my more pragmatic description of a useful missionary, if you are being obedient, that’s what counts.
In short, a useful missionary is one who is meeting a need in a community that would otherwise go unmet. As I said in the prior post, the locals in some areas of the world are not getting the job done. Now this is not a put down in order to put ourselves up. As J commented, its ethnocentric arrogance that has given missionaries a bad rap in our post-colonial era. In fact, if we are to be honest, there are unmet needs in our home communities as well. So this isn’t about who’s superior. Its about getting the job done.
The goal of a missionary is to be temporary. I don’t mean that we should only be missionaries for two years and then resume our posh lifestyle. Rather, what I mean is that the missionary should do his absolute best to work himself out of a job. If a national could do your job, he probably should. If he could do it with some training, train him. If he could do it with some encouragement, encourage him. If he could do it with some more money, develop a solution. I think as missionaries can be appropriate to directly meet needs. That said, the main goal should focus on empowering nationals.
So take a look at what you’re doing. Are there things you could delegate to nationals? As a missionary, its your responsibility to lose your job.
Posted by Craig in Foundational
on Dec 19th, 2012 | 3 comments
A while ago a Kansan who has been living for many years in another country gave an interesting talk at our church. I talked with him afterward. It was interesting that while he took a dim view of Americans going to be missionaries in other countries, he still felt his expatriate presence justified. Hmm.
Should there be missionaries? If you’re reading this blog its probably because you think the answer is yes.
I’ve struggled at times to know what a missionary’s role should be. After all, if all Christians did local missions energetically, that would negate the need for foreign missionaries. Therefore, there should be no foreign missionaries.
Here’s why I believe foreign missions are valid:
A. The New Testament
We see in the Great Commission the command to spread the gospel, presumably beyond the confines of our preexisting relationships. Also we have the examples of Paul and others who deliberately traveled to spread the Good News.
B. There are un-evangelized places
The reality is that the locals in some areas of the world are not getting the job done. This might be because of a lack of training, passion, or money. Where this is the case, I think international assistance is warranted.
Coming soon: How to Know if I’m Being a Useful Missionary