God did not make a table; He made trees
By Mercy Kambura
What does the story of the Good Samaritan have to do with Missional Business? Or any business at all? Johnson Asare, the Founder and National Director of Markaz Al Bishara ministries in Tamale, Ghana, draws an eye-opening teaching from the Good Samaritan about what a Christian needs to do successful business as missions.
Johnson, who refers to himself as the Chief Servant of the ministries, knows too well the importance of business in missions. The former science teacher, who was led to Christ by an SIM missionary, has been doing missions for 30 years and now teaches MB in colleges. He’s also completing his doctorate in Faith, Work and Economics at Asbury Seminary in Kentucky, USA.
For Johnson, everything is holy as unto the Lord. And this is the attitude with which he started Markaz Al Bishara, which means ‘The Center of Good News’. With 28 projects aimed at spreading the gospel and more in the works, this ministry is indeed the epitome of missions and business walking hand in hand.
Markaz Al Bishara offers children’s camps, digs wells, airs gospel radio broadcasts, and provides micro-loans for people to start their own businesses. It is also immersed in relief ministry and a rural housing scheme for low income families. Over 220 low-cost homes have been built. Being a scholar himself, Johnson Asare has also established the Africa College, which offers a biannual training program for church planters and workers from 30 African countries.
The ministry also distributes literature, coupled with a literacy program. The Bible is used as the main primer to teach reading and writing in villages, some with over 90 per cent rate of illiteracy.
The Radach Lodge and Conference Center, the biggest department of Markaz Al Bishara, hosts more than 500,000 people annually for various conferences. Over 90 per cent of the guests are not of the Christian faith. The Radach Lodge and Conference Center is the golden goose that finances 90 per cent of the activities of the ministry.
Having worked alongside SIM for more than 30 years, Johnson is a bubbling brook of wisdom and laughter. “I have made lots of mistakes, and those mistakes have made me very rich in experience. The Lord has used all my mistakes to do so many things,” he says.
Twenty-five years ago, Johnson shared his idea of starting a project that would finance mission work. At the time, it didn’t seem like a viable idea for the ministry. Therefore, he took it upon himself to do it. He started small businesses to garner capital for this huge venture, buying and selling rice, peanuts, kola nuts, and other cereals.
Many local Christians also helped to raise 75 percent of the money to start a project that would sustain the gospel. Of the 2 million dollars needed, Johnson only raised 500,000 dollars from foreign aid; 1.5 million was generated locally.
Lessons from the Good Samaritan
When Johnson was feeling a deep conviction to do business with the aim of supporting the spread of the gospel, the parable of the Good Samaritan spoke volumes to him. From it he drew four C’s that the Good Samaritan possessed, making him a perfect example of demonstrating love.
- The Good Samaritan was compassionate. Of all the people who came across the man who was beaten and left for dead, only the Samaritan was moved. This compassion compelled him to drop everything, take a detour, and rush to attend to this victim of violence and mugging.
- He was competent in his dealings. He cleaned and dressed the wounds of this man and stabilized him enough to continue the journey until he could come to an inn.
- Capability (economic). He had money to pay the innkeeper, and even asked to be billed for any other expenses incurred.
- He was courageous enough to stop and help this Jew who, in normal circumstances, would have despised him and avoided association with him. A Samaritan stopped to help a Jew. That was breaking news!
Of the four, Johnson felt that most missionaries lacked the third C – economic capability. And he sought to cater for this need with all he had. This handicap was leading many mission agencies to rely heavily on foreign aid. As a result, most were dying at a fast rate. He needed something indigenous and sustainable.
“Africa is capable of doing what is done in the West. We have relied on the West for so long; we need to preserve our dignity,” he says.
Contrasting the spread of Christianity and Islam in Ghana was the light bulb moment for Johnson. He narrates how Muslim teachers came to Ghana as merchants 450 years ago. They traded in kola nuts, pepper, salt and gold in the Volta basin. They grew rich and, subsequently, became advisers to the chiefs.
Christians, on the other hand, arrived in the south of Ghana with money from the West, ultimately creating a dependence. More than 95 per cent of the organisations that depended on funding from abroad died. ‘Generate your own money and it will grow,’ advises Johnson. ‘Development is slow; go step by step, and God will bless.’
The love of God can be spread in many ways, often without words. With 168 staff and over 300 volunteers in Tamale, located in one of the poorest states of Ghana, the ministry is spreading the love of Christ like an Australian wildfire.
For Johnson, work is an act of worship.
“I’m a farmer, pastor, businessman and writer. God is the reason for everything I do. There is no holy and secular work. Everything is holy as unto the Lord. Business is an act of worship,” he says. “We should not separate faith and business. We have to put them together and find ways of having them complement each other.”
“God did not make a table,” says Johnson. “He made trees. He wants us to use our brains.”
Rev. Johnson Asare is the Director of the Radach Conference Centre in Tamale, Ghana and the Founder and National Director of Markaz Al Bishara Ministries. He has authored books and speaks widely on the topic of doing business as missions.