At Work & Economics 101 & Public Square

A Missionary with A Mind for Economics

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Aubry at a basketball tournament in Haiti

Mark Aubry is a missionary with a mind for economics. He’s passionate about basketball, sharing the gospel, and creating jobs in Haiti.

Aubry spends his time in Haiti working on small business development projects and teaching “Business as Ministry” classes as an adjunct professor at Emmaus Biblical Seminary. He also started Hoops for Haiti, a basketball ministry that brings a message of love and hope while working on leadership development.

He is currently living with his family in Lexington, Kentucky, where he is also working on his consulting business. He plans to return to Haiti every few months to continue working with Hoops and other small business development projects.

Aubry is also working on a white paper titled “Why Haiti Does Not Need More Missionaries.” Based on his missions experience, Aubry thinks many NGOs and missionaries are doing more harm than good. He believes what Haiti really needs are more Christian entrepreneurs and investors to fund the advancement of the kingdom while at the same time sharing the message of Christ.

Aubry strongly believes that topics on business and economics should be a part of every Christian missionary’s study as they prepare for the mission field.

Why is it important for missionaries to have a good understanding of economics?

Economics is the study of choice. It’s the study of how people choose to use their limited resources to satisfy their unlimited wants. I take umbrage with the Christian missionary or secular, nongovernmental organization that goes into a situation and tells the locals, “this is what is best for you, because it’s what we in America think is best.” So many times this is done without looking at the needs and wants of the individuals at the local level.

 

If missionaries can get a strong understanding of the intended and unintended consequences of choices made before making them, long-term solutions can be found, not simply short-term fixes.

 

Aubry with his basketball team in Haiti.
Aubry with his basketball team in Haiti.

How do you see the connection between work and economics in the mission field in Haiti?

I have had missionaries ask me about Matthew 25. Aren’t we supposed to take care of the “least of these”? Yes, we are. However, the parable right before the “sheep and the goats” [The Parable of the Talents] tells us we are to engage in commerce and provide a return. Can’t we do both?

 

Until I lived in Haiti, I had no idea that there were businesses run by Haitians that provide clean water for purchase. However, many well-intentioned people and organizations send bottled water to Haiti—to give away. This ultimately hurts the individual that sells water. Why would you pay for water—even if it is only pennies on the dollar—if you can go down the street to an aid or missionary organization and get the water for free?

 

If we take a look at the consequences of our actions, doesn’t it make more sense to “partner” with the water business people and let them decide what is best for the market?

Aubry teaching "An Introduction to Business Management."
Aubry teaching “An Introduction to Business as Ministry.”

One of the things I did in Haiti was teaching a class called “Introduction to Business as Ministry.” It was a basic survey course of economics, finance, accounting/budgeting, marketing, and business plan development. What I heard from the students almost every day in class was that they no longer wanted aid. They want jobs.

Is there anyone you met in Haiti that exemplifies the integration of faith, work, and economics?

Junior, a Haitian entrepreneur

My favorite Haitian entrepreneur is Junior. Junior, all at one time, was running an internet service provider, a computer training school, a cyber cafe and was also doing micro-lending. Junior comes from a Christian family where his brother is a pastor. His friends and family are telling him that he needs to leave Haiti and go to America. But Junior wants to stay in Haiti and make Haiti better, as he believes this is his calling. He just needs some help, financially and structurally. We spent most of our time developing a business plan, while he continued to run all of his businesses. It is people like Junior…that are looking to make a difference like this in Haiti. They simply need partners who are willing to come alongside them and provide them support.

What’s the number one reason why Haiti does not need more missionaries?

Jesus gives us the “Great Commandment.” That is, love God with all your being and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus then gives us the Great Commission where he commands us to go and make disciples of all nations…However, the methods employed by these Christian and NGO missionaries [can] end up causing more harm than good.

 

Scripture is very explicit regarding doing too much for the “poor.” Scripture does tell us that we are to defend the weak and the fatherless and maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. However, we are also told, in both the New and Old Testaments, that if people don’t work, they don’t eat. But, because many of us from the “developed economies” look at poverty as a lack of something, we believe that the logical solution is to give stuff to the “poor.” And until 2010, I held those same beliefs.

 

The issue is not that there are areas of the world that are “overloaded” with missionaries; the real issue is that there are too many missionaries (both Christian and NGO missionaries) that are so focused on their own agenda that they fail to see the likely unintended long-term consequences of their actions.

Does Haiti need more missionaries? Leave your comments here.

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  • Chris Jordan

    Elise, this is very encouraging! I am beginning to understand this concept more and more as I read the IFWE blogs. However, my heart still wants to share and give, but now without doing damage.

    So where do you go to practically, to come along side and provide support or help in a way that does not do damage?

    • Mark Aubry

      Chris, Elise and the folks at IFWE do a tremendous sharing and challenging their readers on the intersection of faith and work. I have been very encouraged by their work, especially while Haiti.

      If you are looking for a good book to read regarding this subject, you can read When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself by Fikkert and Corbett. I read this book after my first trip to Haiti. It has had a big impact on me and challenged my thinking regarding “charity” and “missions”.

      God called my family and I to Haiti. We went by ourselves and not with the support of a missionary agency. This allowed us to have access to and see things from a very different perspective. A perspective that we never would have gained had we gone under the umbrella of an organization. I don’t encourage people to do what we did, but God had some specific things he wanted me to learn.

      What works in northern Haiti will likely not be the same thing that works in norther Nigeria or western India. We need to get to know people, groups and situations on an individual level.

      I am currently working with business partners to establish a business that partners with, empowers and builds up entrepreneurs and businesses in places like Haiti, Nigeria, India and Peru. It is going to require significant amounts of time and investment, but that is only after a plan is established that is developed in communion with the local leadership.

  • TanyaRossLane

    Thanks to TIFWE for waking me up and introducing me to my need to understand economics. The article could have been written about most American inner cities like Chicago, New Orleans, Akron, and East St. Louis.

    I see the correlation between Haiti and cities that never recovered from the riots of 1968. I was a kid when MLK Jr. was assassinated. I remember
    the riots. Also what Buffalo and Washington DC looked like the day before and
    the day after his killing. I was able to buy fresh fruit at the local grocer and there was a thriving business community after the riots boarded up businesses and nowhere to shop. No entrepreneurs or businesses left to model business 101 or economics. We were left with a generation young people thinking business owners are crooks and cheat their customers. Aubry belief that topics such as business and economics should be a part pre-studies of every Christian missionary touch me to include Sunday school classes too.

    Aubry continue to use your gifts and talents’ helping other Junior’sis to grow where God has planted them. Thanks for confirming and answering a question “What is missing in job seeker programs.” It is an understanding of economics in addition, business 101.

    • Mark Aubry

      I agree with your comment regarding America’s inner cities…unfortunately, there are many similarities in conditions in inner cities and how people treat the “problems”. Long-term solutions need partnerships. The problem, as you identify, whether in inner city Chicago or Cap-Haitien, Haiti or Lagos, Nigeria, is trust…or a lack of it. Trusting relationships and partnerships are very important. Unfortunately, they take time.

      I believe all people (especially Christians) need to have a better understanding of basic economics. It helps us to better understand both life and scripture.

  • Grace

    The work that you are doing is wonderful. Haiti has lots of challenges to be sure. But I am not sure I agree that all of Haiti’s woes are economic. There are medical missionaries there training Haitians. Junior’s brother is a pastor who is also changing Haiti. How did he become a pastor? He also has needed and has gotten training. I find it very commendable what is being done by many organizations in the way of emphasizing business in Haiti and I am so glad God has called you to do that but it is a narrow slice of the picture. My other concern is that it seems like the idea, “Haiti Does Not Need More Missionaries” sounds like someone is speaking for God. God may still want missionaries there. Yes, missions is changing and people can fly in and out of a country and do a great job but that kind of missionary can also do harm. As a missionary living in the country where God called me 20 years ago I have seen that as well. There are different models, different emphases and we need to watch how we evaluate what others are doing for the Kingdom and not lumped all missionaries together in one guilty sum.

    • Mark Aubry

      Hi, Grace.

      I agree that not all of Haiti’s woes are economic. There are some good things happening in Haiti for sure. There are a lot of very good people trying very hard to make things better. There are medical training facilities and there are seminaries training pastors. Our approach is simply trying look at things differently, relative to our experiences.

      Given my experiences and my discussions with many missionaries around the world, there are some major changes that need to be made. To say that Haiti doesn’t need more missionaries may be a bit of an overstatement. But the fact of the matter still remains: most aid organizations – whether Christian missionaries or NGOs – are not efficient and focus too much on short-term fixes and not long-term solutions. My issue is not so much with the missionaries or aid workers themselves, but the organizations that these individuals represent.

      My point: having a better understanding of economics is a great place to start.

  • Mark

    Are u willing to share the material u used on how to do busimess?

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