Coffee Farming in Thailand
I come from a background in electronic engineering, and I worked for the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment on the storm surge barrier in the eastern Schelde. After I had been there for a few years, Maaike and I felt called into ministry by the Lord through a sermon on the life of Jonah during a day from the Dutch Mission Alliance. Romans 10:14-15 has also played an important role in our lives when we sought direction for where to go.
In order to have opportunities to share Christ or to build up believers in their faith, you need to have relationships with people. A missional business can be a great help in developing authentic relationships with the people you work with every day, and the people you meet through the business. It gives you a genuine reason to be at a certain place and a good opportunity to live out Christ who lives in us. People will observe you as you lead the business and watch how you deal with life’s problems and difficulties. Colleagues that work with you closely will see your heart; they will see what motivates you and why you do things in a certain way.
To start a business we needed a product and a market. Initially that was a quite a challenge to decide what to choose. We wanted a product that the local people could successfully work with or produce independently. Coffee has been promoted in Thailand for several years but when we started it was not easy for a lot of farmers to have access to a good marketplace.
In hindsight I am happy we went along the route of an agricultural product. Agriculture is still very labour-intensive in much of Asia and because of this it takes more people to produce the product than it would in the western world. The benefit of this is that it brings you in contact with a lot of people! We work very closely with a number of local people and one couple in particular. We’ve known them for a long time and we share the same vision.
I am thrilled to see the hand of the Lord under our company. We have gone through difficult times and we are still in operation. I see our company as an instrument in God’s hand to reach out to those in need, to those with fewer opportunities and to those that seek the truth.
Our prayer now is that people will help us by buying our coffee. We could still use a bigger market. We also need more people to join our team long-term to help us work out more of the potential that we have through the company. We need an agriculturist, a sales person and people to lead community development. There is also always place for short-termers who share the same vision.
If you are thinking about moving to Asia and setting up or being part of a missional business – pray about this, and come with a calling. Setting up a business in the West is already difficult to do, and in an Asian setting it is even harder. It is important to have trustworthy local partners. To identify these, and learn the local language and culture in order to build relationships with them takes time, but is certainly worthwhile.
Rein and Maaike de Bel
Watch videos at: www.omf.org/work
Location: North Thailand
Business type: Agriculture and Produce