Mark Aubry is a missionary with a mind for economics. He’s passionate about basketball, sharing the gospel, and creating jobs in Haiti.
Aubry spends his time in Haiti working on small business development projects and teaching “Business as Ministry” classes as an adjunct professor at Emmaus Biblical Seminary. He also started Hoops for Haiti, a basketball ministry that brings a message of love and hope while working on leadership development.
He is currently living with his family in Lexington, Kentucky, where he is also working on his consulting business. He plans to return to Haiti every few months to continue working with Hoops and other small business development projects.
Aubry is also working on a white paper titled “Why Haiti Does Not Need More Missionaries.” Based on his missions experience, Aubry thinks many NGOs and missionaries are doing more harm than good. He believes what Haiti really needs are more Christian entrepreneurs and investors to fund the advancement of the kingdom while at the same time sharing the message of Christ.
Aubry strongly believes that topics on business and economics should be a part of every Christian missionary’s study as they prepare for the mission field.
Why is it important for missionaries to have a good understanding of economics?
Economics is the study of choice. It’s the study of how people choose to use their limited resources to satisfy their unlimited wants. I take umbrage with the Christian missionary or secular, nongovernmental organization that goes into a situation and tells the locals, “this is what is best for you, because it’s what we in America think is best.” So many times this is done without looking at the needs and wants of the individuals at the local level.
If missionaries can get a strong understanding of the intended and unintended consequences of choices made before making them, long-term solutions can be found, not simply short-term fixes.
How do you see the connection between work and economics in the mission field in Haiti?
I have had missionaries ask me about Matthew 25. Aren’t we supposed to take care of the “least of these”? Yes, we are. However, the parable right before the “sheep and the goats” [The Parable of the Talents] tells us we are to engage in commerce and provide a return. Can’t we do both?
Until I lived in Haiti, I had no idea that there were businesses run by Haitians that provide clean water for purchase. However, many well-intentioned people and organizations send bottled water to Haiti—to give away. This ultimately hurts the individual that sells water. Why would you pay for water—even if it is only pennies on the dollar—if you can go down the street to an aid or missionary organization and get the water for free?
If we take a look at the consequences of our actions, doesn’t it make more sense to “partner” with the water business people and let them decide what is best for the market?
One of the things I did in Haiti was teaching a class called “Introduction to Business as Ministry.” It was a basic survey course of economics, finance, accounting/budgeting, marketing, and business plan development. What I heard from the students almost every day in class was that they no longer wanted aid. They want jobs.
Is there anyone you met in Haiti that exemplifies the integration of faith, work, and economics?
My favorite Haitian entrepreneur is Junior. Junior, all at one time, was running an internet service provider, a computer training school, a cyber cafe and was also doing micro-lending. Junior comes from a Christian family where his brother is a pastor. His friends and family are telling him that he needs to leave Haiti and go to America. But Junior wants to stay in Haiti and make Haiti better, as he believes this is his calling. He just needs some help, financially and structurally. We spent most of our time developing a business plan, while he continued to run all of his businesses. It is people like Junior…that are looking to make a difference like this in Haiti. They simply need partners who are willing to come alongside them and provide them support.
What’s the number one reason why Haiti does not need more missionaries?
Jesus gives us the “Great Commandment.” That is, love God with all your being and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus then gives us the Great Commission where he commands us to go and make disciples of all nations…However, the methods employed by these Christian and NGO missionaries [can] end up causing more harm than good.
Scripture is very explicit regarding doing too much for the “poor.” Scripture does tell us that we are to defend the weak and the fatherless and maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. However, we are also told, in both the New and Old Testaments, that if people don’t work, they don’t eat. But, because many of us from the “developed economies” look at poverty as a lack of something, we believe that the logical solution is to give stuff to the “poor.” And until 2010, I held those same beliefs.
The issue is not that there are areas of the world that are “overloaded” with missionaries; the real issue is that there are too many missionaries (both Christian and NGO missionaries) that are so focused on their own agenda that they fail to see the likely unintended long-term consequences of their actions.
*This interview was originally published at the Creativity. Purpose. Freedom. blog.
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