Bethsaba & Dale Nafziger
I grew up in Vincent Mennonite Church, Spring City, Pa. I first went to Nepal, the land of Mt. Everest, under Mennonite Central Committee in 1979. Bethsaba, a native of Darjeeling, and I were married there in 1994 – where we currently continue to serve under Mennonite Mission Network. Until 2003 we happily served in various capacities under the United Mission to Nepal. Around that time, however, UMN had a number of entrepreneurial projects that they were looking to “spin off” into small private enterprises. Bethsaba “latched onto” one of those as an opportunity for providing jobs and employment to women living in our village. The opportunity was that of making frozen french fries. Our new company’s name was, appropriately, “Top of the World.”
Reena was one of our first Top of the World employees. She entered this life with “three strikes” against her: first she was a girl, second she was low caste, and third she had a hearing defect. While she worked Reena simply observed us. Then she began to ask questions…questions not at all of the nature one would expect to hear from an “uneducated” village girl. To make a long story short: Reena is now one of the key members of our local congregation.
In 2007 we added frozen pizzas to our product line. During that same year we added on coffee and re-registered our small company under the name “Top of the World Coffee.” A busy year and a half passed between company restructuring and the time we first began selling coffee. This time was occupied learning the coffee business, acquiring the necessary equipment, sourcing coffee, etc. Nepal is a landlocked country so everything either needs to be imported via airfreight, at considerable cost, or via India, at considerable risk. On November 16, 2008 we finally roasted and sold our first bags of coffee. It was a joyous occasion!
Frank A. Clark once said, “If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.” That statement nicely summarizes our experiences in practicing “business as mission” here over the past seven years. Nepal is a stunningly beautiful country – given that it contains the highest mountains on earth how could it possibly be otherwise? The people are friendly, the culture is exotic…and the church here is growing at an amazing pace. Economically, however, it is also one of the most rigorous business environments possibly found on the face of planet earth. In addition to the issues that arise from Nepal being land locked, we currently struggle making and selling frozen foods with 12 hours “loadshedding” (daily lack-of-electricity), political instability, and perpetual shortages of essential supplies.
If economic problems alone are not sufficient, however, possibly our greatest area of challenge is that of business ethics. Fortunately, we are not alone in confronting these issues. We are part of a supportive network of national and expatriate Christian business women and men who call ourselves “Great Commission Companies – Nepal.” We meet weekly for prayer and also have regular monthly meetings. Luci Swindoll stated, “In God’s economy you will be hard-pressed to find many examples of successful ‘Lone Rangers.’” Based upon our situation here in Nepal, I couldn’t agree more! One of the issues that we regularly deliberate here is, “How do we define ‘business success?’” If one narrowly defines it on the basis of the teaching found in a traditional MBA…one may as well pack up and go home…or never even come to Nepal in the first place. Looking at success from a Kingdom perspective, however, makes the whole effort worthwhile. Just look at Reena!
Friends and well-wishers occasionally ask how they can access our products – as a way of supporting our efforts. Regrettably, they are not available in the USA…nor will they realistically be available there in the foreseeable future. Something that everyone can do, however, is pray. Beyond that people are most welcome to contribute to our continuing lives and service here under Mennonite Mission Network. Giving fills a very real need. Finally, our Top of the World Coffee does have business goals that I be happy to communicate via personal e-mail correspondence.
We are grateful to you, the churches of the Franconia Mennonite Conference, for your faithfulness in helping us to redefine business success here at the top of the world!