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Close Scrutiny – Insights from running a business in Asia

‘I had to take my son to kindergarten so I was late for work. I stayed later over lunch-time to make up for this but their accountant still docked my pay. I left. Mai yisi “Meaningless”’.

Edith had been working with us at our business for a year before she told us this. We had known her and her prominent family members for years, but no one had ever mentioned that she had once worked for another business owned by Christians.

What we had suspected was right! Edith and other locals, both believers and non-believers, had been scrutinising us (and our business) to see if we were worth working for.

Three years later, we MAY have passed the first test because Edith and two others of the original team are still with us. Getting to know one another however was and continues to be a process of second-guessing and stumbling in the dark.

We run a café in an ancient watering hole along an equally ancient trading route. Our staff and customers come from proudly different cultural and religious backgrounds. Conflict in the community is on the rise and our stand and our witness has been strategically based on the Lord’s command from John 13:35;

‘…by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’

Yet after years of working in cross-cultural teams, the Lord’s simple promise still seems out of reach. Disobedience would mean failure in our witness here. It could even mean our message of the Good News becomes a self-deceiving, hypocritical lie.

How do we deal with cultural and value differences? Are ethics immutable? We believe that Paul gave the answer in 1 Corinthians 2:2; ‘For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.’

While we are here, we give up our right to be right. We offer as a sacrifice our cultural values and our need to vindicate ourselves or prove ourselves right to those who disagree with us.

Very often, an ethical value that we held sacred and quarrelled over with others, has proved to be much more of a problem than we could have humanly conceived. So we have learnt to be humble and to trust nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified. This approach has had its high points. Old and new customers have told us that the café is their home away from home.

Some have mentioned that there is a presence of warmth and welcome when they enter; others say that they can see that our food has been prepared with love. The next step now is how and when to share verbally about the source of this love. Please pray for us.

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