Soon after the Berlin Wall fell, Georges Dubi saw the need to initiate, support, and encourage business in Eastern Europe. Swiss-based Christliche Ostmission gave him the opportunity to do so in Romania. Ever since, the mission has been involved in helping develop the business sector, also in other developing countries. “So much more is possible,” says Georges, “If we are open to be inspired by God, learn to think beyond ourselves, and are willing to take risks.”
Georges is someone who tends to see opportunities, evidenced by the fact that he started businesses while traveling in Morocco in his early twenties. Even though he was successful in Morocco, he felt God had another plan for his life. Georges had come to faith a year before in his home country of Switzerland after walking into a church coffee shop. Georges is a reflective person; he has a strong intuition and an antenna for the spiritual world. “When I walked into that coffee shop, I knew I had come home.”
Back in Switzerland, Georges started working for Christliche Ostmission, one of the larger Swiss mission agencies, and helped with smuggling Bibles into Eastern Europe. While working in that part of the world, he again saw business opportunities and started selling navigation equipment to police departments.
“This company provided a cover and lots of contacts; I knew people, which gave me also insight with who and where to be extra cautious.” After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Georges saw the need to develop the Eastern European business sector. “Shortly after the Wall fell, I went to Romania. At the border, I saw long lines of trucks with relief supplies. I knew: ‘The Romanians shouldn’t start depending on our aid, but get help to start businesses so they can stand on their own feet.’ ”
Like Georges “knew” he had come home when walking into the coffee shop as a teenager, similarly he “knew” what was expected of him this time. “We need to be open for the supernatural,” is Georges’ conviction. It happens to him regularly that he “just knows”; but instead of talking to colleagues and management about divine revelations, he presents a well thought-out plan. “If the plan is adopted, I see that as a confirmation that I heard right.” So shortly after the wall fell, that is what he did. The plan was accepted by the management and board of Ostmission, and they gave him a budget of 150,000 Swiss francs.
Although that was a rather large amount for the mission organization, it was just a drop in the bucket to stimulate the business sector in a country. “It started very, very small,” recalls Georges. “We faced a huge challenge. During the communist era, Christians were being discriminated against; they were hardly trained and had poorly paid jobs. We had to start from scratch. So we developed business training, helped with finding quality, secondhand equipment, which they could buy and pay back becausewe gave them small loans.”
A Brilliant Move
Meanwhile, the Swiss government realized the importance of developing the economic sector of their eastern neighbors and heard about Ostmission’s endeavors. The mission presented a plan to the government but wondered if a secular government would fund a mission organization.
“They knew what we did and liked our plan,” recalls Georges. Over a period of several years, the mission was able to obtain funding for millions, if they promised to not evangelize and would also make the training accessible for non-Christians. Ostmission wondered whether it was right to take the offer. Would they be denying their Christian mission? “At first we argued among our staff that we wouldn’t have to take the limitations literally; after all, we had smuggled Bibles before, which had been illegal also. But that argument didn’t feel right; we wanted to walk in integrity. After much discussion, we decided to accept the offer, keep to the rules, and see how things would work out.”
It proved a brilliant move, because now they came—as Christians—into contact with whole other spheres in society. It is Georges’ experience that business opens doors: “The business world is relational. We had many personal conversations with influential people and operated on an entirely different level.” Meanwhile, they adapted the training, keeping to the content while rephrasing it.
Non-Christians following the training program commented that they liked the “special atmosphere.” A relationship with the Swiss government developed as well. They came to check Ostmission’s activities regularly and liked what they saw. As a result, the mission was asked to explain the principles taught in more detail to the government, since the government wanted to introduce and implement these principles within the department in Switzerland. “It all worked out beyond our expectations,” says Georges. “It was remarkable.”
Meanwhile, a Romanian foundation, ROMCOM, was set up to stimulate business and became independent over time. Georges is still on their board and has since become the director of Ostmission in Switzerland. Stimulating entrepreneurship in developing countries has his keen interest. The experience gained in Romania is helping the mission to know how to stimulate development in other countries. Georges says, “Some entrepreneurs who have attended our courses in Romania in the beginning are now influential businesspeople. What started small has grown enormously. For example, a small Romanian garage owner was asked by a senior executive of Volkswagen to be their representative in Romania. The international board of VW had questions because he was such ‘an insignificant owner of a small garage,’ but he just radiated reliability and integrity. It turned out to be a good choice, because VW has been most successful in Romania of all Eastern European countries.”
Georges stresses the importance to be open to receive supernatural inspiration. “We tend to think too small,” he says in a calm and gentle manner. “We limit ourselves to what we see and think in the natural. We need to think much bigger, because when we step out into the impossible we also become aware how much we need God. I learned that he desires to provide. So much more is possible.”
Reprinted from the book BAM Global Movement: Business as Mission Concept & Stories by Gea Gort and Mats Tunehag, with the kind permission of Hendrickson Publishers.