Mission trips have the potential to impact people deeply, both the missionaries and those they are serving. Missions aim not only to provide service and build positive relationships with those in need, but also to help participants gain a greater understanding of the world and themselves.
It was with this goal in mind that Dr. Curt Beck, professor of business administration, and Dr. Shannon Leinen, MBA program director, began designing the Business as Mission trip. “We wanted our business students to have an opportunity to apply their business knowledge and skills to serve the working poor and help spread the Gospel message of Jesus Christ,” says Dr. Beck.
Beck and Leinen reached out to Rev. Dr. Jeff Ehlers ’79, who, with his wife, Cheryl, and three children, began The Garuna Foundation, a recognized service organization of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod that provides prayers and financial support to schools, churches and local communities in Thailand, Cambodia and other surrounding countries. “Garuna” means grace, mercy and compassion in the Thai and Khmer languages.
Less than two percent of the 500 million people in Southeast Asia are Christian. The Garuna Foundation helps provide training for pastors, deaconesses, teachers and leaders, as well as working with Lutheran churches and Christian schools to provide ministry to local communities and develop agricultural projects to improve economic conditions in villages.
On their first trip, in May 2017, Beck, Leinen and four Concordia business students, Jeremy Rodriguez ’17, Caleb Witt ’17, Rebecca Schiffer ’17 and Carly Bueltmann ’18, traveled to Cambodia.
“One of the goals of the schools that Garuna helps build is to make them self-sustainable small businesses,” says Leinen, “to find a way for them to generate enough money, not necessarily by gathering tuition, to be able to continue functioning on their own.”
The Concordia team surveyed the land surrounding the school, researched possible solutions and developed a business plan to help the school build and operate a fish farm.
“My favorite part was that we were helping in a unique way,” says Bueltmann. “It was so different from a typical mission trip, and I loved that we could use the skills we gained in our studies for this project. We used years of learning and months of research that not everyone could do. It felt to me that we had the potential to make a much greater impact.”
Beck and Leinen hope to continue to expand the Business as Mission opportunities in the future, including increasing participation from graduate students in the MBA program. They believe it’s important to use whatever God-given gifts and talents we have to help serve others.
“To work with our students in developing and implementing a business plan that not only impacts them, but will serve others is at the heart of why I am a college professor,” Beck adds. “To see students engage their knowledge and skills with helping others is an amazing experience.”
When you Answer the Call, you support mission trips where students can use their God-given talents to serve and inspire others while spreading His love and Gospel. Make your gift today.