Mission Adolescence - President's Note, October 2022

Parenting a 10-year-old child is vastly different than parenting a 17-year-old teenager. From the child’s perspective, the parent who knew everything suddenly knows nothing. It is part of the normal process for a child to differentiate from their parents into an independent adult. The best advice I got as the parent of teenagers was:

1. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

2. Don’t take it personally even if it is meant personally.

3. Even if they act like they don’t want your encouragement, they are actually very attuned to what you think about them. Encourage them more than ever.

It was also helpful to remember that “my” child was created by God for purposes He determined long before either of us were born (Ephesians 2:10). I am a steward of God’s possession. That perspective made it easier when things got rough and I could say, “God, this is YOUR teenager. YOU take care of this.” When my children reached their 20s I began asking them for advice first about technology, and later about much more. It won’t be long before they will have strength that I have lost and they will be making significant life decisions for me that I can no longer make.

The metaphor of adolescence applied to equipping leaders cross-culturally is inadequate and could feel condescending. But it can also convey some wisdom. Seventy percent of BGU students and graduates live outside of North America. Many of these locations don’t have economic maturity, nor do they have the breadth of organized Christian equipping for as long as the US. Yet, in most cases globalism has created fast economic growth. The seeds of past decades of missionary work have bloomed into strong, growing schools, churches, denominations, organizations, government influence and Christian businesses.

BGU is uniquely positioned to equip advanced leaders in these countries to take the reins of mission leadership in their own nations. These advanced leaders have asked for accredited degree credentials which are so important in their nations to gain influence with their governments, to buy land, change policies, influence their denominations and impact their cities. These leaders seek peer-learning from others in their region so they can gain the knowledge, skills and confidence to replace the western approaches learned from missionaries with more effective solutions for their cultures. These advanced leaders want to raise donations in their own nations through understanding how to initiate trusting relationships that develop into a healthy ongoing communion of giving and receiving.

A dollar given to a US-based organization to feed a child in Ethiopia is a wonderful thing. A dollar given to train an Ethiopian leader to create sustainable farms, raise local money, equip local churches to make disciples, and to feed children with local leadership is more efficient, effective and long-lasting.

Matt Mbanga, a recent BGU graduate, has trained sustainable farming methods in Zimbabwe to impact 8 million people. His organization has proved that Zimbabwe can feed itself on 1/20th of the landmass previously cultivated using simple, manageable, applicable, long-lasting (SMALL field-more yield) methodology. He has developed distribution hubs, a video training series and a wireless transmission tool (Raspberry Pi) capable of disseminating and teaching sustainable agriculture and message of hope in Jesus Christ throughout Africa.

Virginia Juan, also a graduate of BGU, has created a micro-lending organization in the Philippines employing 100,000 lending agents who are loaning money from banks in the Philippines. Accountability and reporting is accomplished through innovative telephone app technology. Over 5 million loan recipients have been able to leverage loans to start businesses, which is the first step to overcome generations of poverty.

Both Matthew and Virginia now serve on BGU’s Board of Regents. Former students are now my bosses. Graduates are now the faculty. Matt and a current BGU MBA student, Fred Billings, who was formerly the largest certified producer of organic vegetables in Texas, are working together to build sustainable farms and distribution networks for the Salish first nations tribe of Montana as part of Fred’s MBA project. Africans and Filipinos are leading and teaching Americans. It is a natural progression in God’s healthy global family.

Parenting a teenager to adulthood often takes additional money but eventually they get a job, become independent, and may even contribute back to the family. Some BGU graduates have become independent of western funding, but most are not there yet. And most students are early in the process.

BGU serves many in non-developed economies who cannot yet pay fully for their own education, but all students are trained, mentored, connected, and held accountable to learn how to raise local money so that by the time of graduation, they are not only more confident in God’s calling to be indigenous leaders, they are also more experienced at seeing God’s monetary provision through relationships in their own nation.

Nearly 70% of BGU’s income is through student fees, often provided sacrificially from their families, churches and in-country donors. Yet, we must raise $250,000 each year to provide what they cannot pay …… yet. A large percentage of these donations come in November and December. As you consider year end gifts please pray if God is leading you to give to BGU. Donations are strategically leveraged by BGU’s advanced leaders to provide dividends for years to come.

Thank you for considering this request.

Brad Smith