Kevin (not his real name) is an inmate in First Offenders Prison in Gaborone, Botswana. He is also a gifted artist, having taught himself how to draw while serving his sentence. 

Kevin realizes that it will be very difficult for him after he is released. He is Zimbabwean which means that he will be deported back to Zimbabwe as soon as he is released from prison. He understands that it will be very difficult for him to get a job, and his family and friends could very well want nothing to do with him. And so Kevin is facing a choice. 

Kevin could choose to reoffend as soon as he is released so that he can go back to the familiarity and predictability of prison life. Many make that choice. Or, Kevin could choose to take control of his life and do all that he can to make sure he succeeds at life outside of prison. Kevin is making the second choice.

Kevin was one of the men who completed the small business course that I taught at First Offenders Prison in Gaborone at the beginning of March. He was a very active participant in the group discussions and had been working on a business plan even before the course started. 

He is planning to use the artistic skills that he has been honing to start a graphic design business. He plans to offer several different services to his customers and is focusing on providing custom graphics and art for whatever purpose the customer has in mind. 

Kevin will be released in a few months and he told me that one of his goals is to be able to see his daughter when she turns 7 later this year, and to never miss another birthday. 

It was an amazing privilege for me to be able to teach the course in the prison and to meet men like Kevin who are choosing to take control of their future. I'm looking forward to hearing about what some of these men do in the future.

 

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A pencil drawing by Kevin, given to me as a gift at the end of the small business course. 

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AuthorTom Roes

Alexander is a key leader in the fledgling Mennonite church in Cuba. In order to provide for his wife and five children Alexander has joined with a few business partners to start a small business repairing cell phones. This is a new market for Cuba and is growing rapidly. This means that business is good, but it also means that competition is growing rapidly as well.  

Over the coming months the owners of these cell phone repair shops will learn one of the basic lessons of small business - only those businesses that stand apart from the competition will succeed.  

Alexander is taking steps to make sure his business is one of the successful ones. And one way he is doing that illustrates the principle that it is sometimes a good idea to work with competition in a way that is mutually beneficial.  He shared his story in a class that I was teaching in Cuba back in January.

It is difficult to find spare parts for cell phones in Cuba and Alexander's shop doesn't always have the parts necessary to fix a phone. So when a customer comes to his shop with a phone to repair and he doesn't have the necessary parts he calls around to the other shops in the area until he finds one that has the part and then he sends the customer there.

This benefits his competition obviously. But how does it benefit Alexander's business? In a couple of ways: 

1. Alexander's customer leaves happy that phone has been repaired and therefore is more likely to return to Alexander the next time. Good customer service encourages repeat customers. 

2. Alexander's competition is more likely to send customers to Alexander when the competition is unable to fix their phone. This brings more business to Alexander's shop. 

This is one example of the kind of discussions that occur as I am teaching the small business course. Local, personal examples serve to reinforce the principles that I teach. And local examples are much better than examples from Canada that I could share.

 

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Alexander and one of his kids. It was Alexander's birthday! 

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AuthorTom Roes

  This is part 1 in a series of stories about Cubans that I have had connections with. 

Enaudis and his wife live about 160km from Santiago de Cuba. They live in a village on a bay. Enaudis pastors a small Mennonite church and has a small fishing boat that he uses to catch fish in the bay for the local market. His wife was trying to make money with an old, rundown washing machine, taking in laundry from neighbours.

Through a small loan from money provided by MC Canada she was able to buy a new, better quality washing machine, as well as some supplies. They also had enough money left over to buy two small pigs that they will raise and sell for a nice profit. This extra income will allow them to spend more time strengthening God's church in their village.

Enaudis - the most Amish looking Cuban I know! (Sorry for the blurry photo. It's the only one that I have of him) 

Enaudis - the most Amish looking Cuban I know! (Sorry for the blurry photo. It's the only one that I have of him) 

Enaudis and his wife are some of the first in Cuba to receive a loan from this new program. Their experience will help shape the future of the program. I am fortunate to be able to help the Cuban church create this program that will help their people generate more income for their families and their churches. 

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AuthorTom Roes

This Wednesday morning I'll be heading back to Cuba. I'll be reconnecting with the Mennonite church there and continuing to help them develop a micro loan project that is giving people an opportunity to start a small business. I'm hoping to have some stories to share here when I get back.  

I am also going to Botswana later in February to give some entrepreneurship training there. This trip will hopefully be the start of a longer term relationship there as well. 

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AuthorTom Roes

I'm finding it really difficult to put into words my reflections about my trip to Cuba and Colombia. There are stories to tell: amazing new friends, epic car rides, delicious fruit, hot weather, immigration police adventures, airport security interrogations, stereotypical digestive system malfunctions, future plans, heated discussions, lots of laughter, sweet children, mangoes, and more.

As I tend to do, I've spent lots of time since I came back processing everything that happened and thinking about future trips. And there will be future trips! The church leaders in both Cuba and Colombia seem to be eager to have me return to help them implement projects to help generate income and increase their ability to do mission. 

But I think one thing has stuck with me as I have processed this trip. And that is how much the issues that the churches in Cuba and Colombia are facing are the same as the issues that churches in Canada are facing in this post-Christian culture.

We are all struggling to find new ways to engage a society around us that is increasingly ambivalent to the message we are preaching. We are all struggling to find creative ways to use our decreasing resources that to have a larger impact for God's kingdom. 

And this is why I am excited to be a part of this. I get to walk with church leaders from many parts of the world, including Canada as we all try to figure these things out. And I get to spread the creative solutions across borders so that we can all learn from each other. And that is really exciting. 

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AuthorTom Roes

Here are a few pictures from my trip.

Old car and street view in Santiago de Cuba

Old car and street view in Santiago de Cuba

Mmmmm bacon!

Mmmmm bacon!

Pastors and church leaders in Cuba

Pastors and church leaders in Cuba

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New friends in Cuba

New friends in Cuba

Cuba from the air

Cuba from the air

New friends in Colombia

New friends in Colombia

Colombian Mennonite pastors and leaders

Colombian Mennonite pastors and leaders

Bogota from Montserrat 

Bogota from Montserrat 

Main square in Bogota

Main square in Bogota

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AuthorTom Roes

Tomorrow evening I will board an Air Canada flight to Havana, Cuba. This is my first trip in my new role as the Mission Capacity Builder for Mennonite Church Canada. I know, that's a rather unwieldy title, but it's what they gave me! 

I will be spending 6 days in Cuba celebrating the 6th anniversary of the Mennonite Church in Cuba and teaching a 2 day entrepreneurship seminar to a group of leaders there. Then I will fly to Bogota, Colombia for a further 5 days, again teaching the seminar to a group of pastors and leaders.

I hope to be able to post some updates here while I'm gone, depending on internet access, and also on FaceBook. If you are not my friend yet and would like to be just ask! 

Please pray for me while I am away, and also for Lynette and the kids at home.

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AuthorTom Roes

Over the next few months I'll be heading to several international destinations in a new role with Mennonite Church Canada. I'll be connecting with various partner churches to help them find ways to generate income in order to increase financial independence in a sustainable way. Check back here for updates and stories!

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AuthorTom Roes

Keith Miller critiquing the current trend in church planting to elevate urban planting to a place of greater strategic importance over planting in smaller towns or rural areas.

Money Quote:

Maybe this is because the metro-evangelicals are not counter-cultural, but rather a baptized version of New Urbanism. In a culture that idolizes living in a loft in a gentrifying art district, a church planter is not exactly bearing a cross in deciding to "rough it" under such conditions.

I agree wholeheartedly with Miller's critique, but that could be largely because I am working in a decidedly non-urban area and thus prefer to elevate rural-centric church planting!

In the end churches need to be planted wherever people aren't following Jesus and the last time I checked that was both in rural and urban areas.

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AuthorTom Roes
CategoriesUncategorized

From the late great Michael Spencer:Preaching Grace is Risky Business

Money quote:

We really don't believe grace can conform our lives to Christ more effectively than law. I mean we don't. We think we need the law to keep us in line. Especially, we think we need the terrors of the law to frighten us into being good Christians. It's the "law/grace/law" model. This kind of legalism just overruns Christianity.

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AuthorTom Roes
CategoriesUncategorized

From David Fitch: Is Missional Doomed? Money Quote:

We, the missional church, its thought leaders and practicioners, are in danger of allowing “Missional” to become another commercialized program we overlay on top of existing American church structures. The result is that nothing really changes. It just sounds better. The labels have been changed but everything remains the same.

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AuthorTom Roes
CategoriesUncategorized

From Daryl Dash: The Cost of Church Revitalization Money Quote:

Talk about sobering! Church revitalization is possible, but it's rare. According to statistics, most existing churches are in a state of plateau or decline. The good news is that these churches can be turned around, at least in theory. The bad news is that most of them will never pull out of their decline.

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AuthorTom Roes
CategoriesUncategorized

Just a quick note. I am rebooting the site. The old site will be offline soon, and all the content gone unless I decide to repost some of the stuff here. Cheers!

Tom

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AuthorTom Roes
CategoriesUncategorized