Here at IFWE, we are often asked if it is biblical to make a profit. Many Christian employers and employees alike experience guilt when they prosper at work, and they struggle to discover a biblical way to view their success. Firefighter-turned-businessman Ken Petersen is using profits and prosperity to transform his community and culture.
Petersen’s passion is to invest in others to fight injustice in an innovative and inspiring way. “Jobs” and “ministry” have become synonymous for Petersen, a firefighter turned entrepreneur who is using his company as a platform to fight sex trafficking.
After falling through a roof as a California firefighter, Petersen decided to go into business for himself. “I was faced with either retiring or taking a desk job for the rest of my firefighting career. I decided I would rather work behind my own desk with my own staff and budget and see if I could create a successful business model that could be franchised,” he explains.
Petersen is now CEO of Country Visions, Inc. , which oversees a line of high-end boutiques with over one hundred locations across the country. He learned early in his career that a business doesn’t need to have a Christian fish in the logo to be a biblically-based business.
“God is our Chairman of the Board,” he says. “We try to take not just the big things to him, but the little things, too. Proverbs 21:21 sets the stage for our principles of operation: ‘Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity, and honor.’ Love and integrity together serve as our bedrock.”
“I would describe what I do as helping people be successful in business,” Petersen explains. He helps others start their own businesses and franchises, and empowers them to be successful both professionally and personally. This is driven by how Petersen views his job as an extension of his calling:
My job is my ministry. Each day is an adventure. I start with asking God to join my day and direct my path and plans according to his will, regardless of what my plans are.
The franchise owners Petersen establishes are given the flexibility to tailor their merchandise to the market they serve, as well as the flexibility to work within their own schedule. He empowers franchise owners in this way because of how his faith impacts his view of profession and skills. “God gives us all gifts, skills, and talents. I believe when we match those to Kingdom purposes, we find life and honor,” he comments.
One of Petersen’s overarching goals is using his business acumen to transform culture. “I believe in lifting the moral compass in a culture, community, or business by the way we live and love,” he says. Ken is lifting the moral compass of the culture on an international scale.
One Sunday in church, Ken and his wife learned about the horror of sex trafficking in Cambodia, where it is common for young girls and boys to be sold by their parents to pay off debt. The Petersen family opened up their home to a young Cambodian who was rescued from sex trafficking. Her story of strength and courage transformed Petersen’s family.
When he learned that one of the main ways women are being rescued from human trafficking is through finding employment, Peterson decided to use his knack for doing business in the free market to give dignity and meaning to girls halfway around the globe. Speaking of how he came to start 3Strands Global, a for-profit company that sells handcrafted jewelry made by freed Cambodian women, Petersen shares:
We had an opportunity to host a victim of human trafficking from Cambodia in our home. That opened up my eyes to the worldwide evil of trafficking. I asked Don Brewster of Agape International Missions, a ministry rescuing and restoring trafficking victims, what he needed. “Jobs!” he said. “It is what gives the girls dignity and hope for a future. 3Strands Global was created to bring these needed jobs.
A portion of 3Strand’s proceeds go to organizations already involved in the fight against global human trafficking. The Cambodian girl who came to stay with the Petersens never left. Saved from a life of exploitation, she is now living the life of a typical American teenager. She is preparing for college, and Petersen is teaching her how to drive.
Whether it is helping a mom in Minneapolis open her own clothing store, or keeping a young woman in Cambodia off the street by giving her a job, Petersen uses his calling and his career to change lives.
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