Economic and spiritual hope for North Africa
By John Stuart | North Africa
July 18 used to be a difficult date for Miriam. On that day years ago her husband walked out on her and their two children. It has been a painful reminder each year since — until now.
Miriam raised her children on her own, while struggling financially in this North African country where unemployment is high. But at 50 years old, she now has her first job.
Her first day on the job? July 18.
"Usually on this day, I am very sad as I reflect on a failed marriage, hopes lost, and how hard my life has been as a result,” Miriam says. “But now, on this day I have started a new life and I can start making new memories. This can only be from God."
Miriam is one of the first employees of a transformational business. SIM workers Charis and Bill were involved in establishing this business, which provides locals with much needed employment, as well as ministry opportunities to those they work with.
“One of the greatest felt needs in our country is to have gainful employment so that people can take care of their families,” Bill says. “You typically see streets lined with men with nothing to do, devoid of hope.
“Our business gives us an opportunity to be a small part of restoring hope and dignity to their lives by providing legitimate work in an environment where employees are valued, and encouraged to develop their skills,” he says.
In a region where there are virtually no Christians, the business is a natural avenue to make local friends.
“There are several advantages of operating a business,” Bill says. “The people you work with, both employees and professional contacts, are there eight hours a day. That's much more time for discipleship, for speaking into their lives. Whereas you might meet once or twice a week for discipleship, we have that opportunity every day.”
But there are many challenges for starting a new business, from the language barrier to government regulations. Theirs, like many missional businesses, are slow-growing and require patience, endurance and prayer. There are additional challenges as the culture is extremely closed to Christian teachings.
“Where we serve, the church is close to nonexistent,” Charis says. “There are four believers in our area that we know of, three of whom have come to faith since our arrival. A church, as defined where two or three people gather together, has taken shape over the last few months, as we've seen these new believers study the Word and pray together.
The church here has been described to us as a sand dune, ever changing,” she says. Likewise these meetings phase in and out, but we long to see this fellowship grow, and to see whole households come to faith.”
Today Miriam’s life is radically different than before. With her two children still depending on her financially, she can provide for her whole family and has gained esteem in the community.
“Miriam is well-loved by our whole team,” Charis says. “She feels like a sister to us, and we have shared many experiences together. She joins us for special events and birthdays.
Recently we just hired a few new employees, some of whom are women. Miriam has really taken them under her wing and is orienting them into the company culture. She leads with a strong and efficient work ethic.”
Serve with SIM
Come serve with this transformational business for 2-6 months, or more. The following skills are particularly needed: engineering, administration, finance, marketing, photography, graphic design, web design.
• whole households to come to faith (to see a church formed and a safe place for believers to gather in a home).
• people to find deep and lasting healing from grief, by bringing their pain to the cross, and finding freedom to forgive others.
• the lives of our employees, clients, distributors and customers being transformed as this business is established through hard work.