By Dr. John Mulford // Originally Published January 19th, 2012
Been so busy the last ten days, I’m just now coming up for air to write a few thoughts.
I don’t know why I’m always amazed to see God show up in a miraculous way. It happens every time I come to Rwanda. I’m overwhelmed with thankfulness and joy. We have so many reasons to be thankful.
Bangalore Connection in Rwanda
So much to share. I’ll start with Bangalore, India. David and Jonathan arrived Sunday and Monday from India to observe Week One and get trained as facilitators of the 14-week entrepreneurship program. They are two of a five-person team that will launch the first RCE-licensed Business Development Center in May, 2012 in Bangalore. I couldn’t be more excited. Super-sharp young guys with energy, vision, and instant rapport with the learners. If we could recruit more like them, we would change the world fast!
I felt an instant bond with both David and Jonathan. Good thing, or I would have felt a little embarrassed by their seeing the chaos at the start of Cohort 4. It was kind of like someone dropping in at your house when it is in shambles and you are in your pajamas. Fortunately, all the good things well outweighed the chaos.
Our Largest Class Ever!
Cohort 4 is our largest yet—51 dynamite learners! I was worried about recruiting this class when we lost our only full-time employee in Rwanda a month and a half before the start of this cohort. But our team extends well beyond that employee. Jason Benedict, co-founder of BDC Rwanda and strategist for RCE, jumped into the void with a multi-faceted recruiting program. He engaged graduates of Cohorts 1-3 to recruit their friends, set up a “street team” to generate new leads, and contracted with a vendor to place brochures strategically around Kigali. Jason and Brittany ran the process from Virginia Beach, skyping with Dona and Barbra in Kigali daily and personally calling many applicants. Dona told me that “applicants knew we had a ‘serious’ program when they got calls from the U.S.” [When Rwandans want to compliment you on a good program, they call it “serious”.]
What a blast to have an overflowing classroom. We meet in a board room used by others during the day, so the room has to be rearranged (15 chairs added) every day before our 6 p.m. start. High-energy, enthusiastic students, many of whom say their passion is Jesus.
The first few days’ discussions were amazing. When I asked the class “What is the purpose of business?” virtually everyone gave some version of the economics textbook answer—maximizing profits. After I gave them my “Business from the Heart” presentation (my “plain glass” version of business guided by the Holy Spirit) we had a great discussion. I told them that profits were a vital by-product of an excellent business, but not the purpose. The next night many testified that their thinking had been totally changed. I have never seen that many people make a 180-degree change in their thinking in one day. I know it wasn’t me. God visited them. They were excited to learn that they could pursue their faith in business to change the world.
When It Rains, It Pours!
Facilitator training had to wait a few days while Dona and I hustled around town visiting large companies we were pursuing for in-house training contracts. The leads came from the super-successful Leadership and Customer Service seminar our Chick-Fil-A/Winshape partners conducted Oct, 2011. (If you haven’t seen them yet, you have to check out the videos here.)
Three of the potential contracts were extremely promising. The HR executive at a holding company with 10 large operating companies handed me a list of about 100 topics in seven categories and asked me to bid on as many as we wanted. The only catch is that all the training must be completed by June.
MTN, the dominant telecommunications company in Rwanda, asked us to bid on sales training for 70 customer service reps, to be completed within about a month.
Finally, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) asked us to bid on a contract to train 4 50-person cohorts of Information Technology entrepreneurs in our full program before the end of the year. Even though it is a competitive bidding situation, the program director told me that we had by far the strongest team of anyone who might bid. We combine a local company presence with stellar international IT entrepreneurs. To top it off, the chairman of Rwanda’s ICT (information & communication technology) chamber of commerce joined our team (a huge coup according to RDB—more on that later).
After my last meeting, I was elated with the interest and somewhat discouraged by the overwhelming challenge of delivering the training on their rushed timetables. We targeted this type of training in order to generate enough revenue to make the BDC sustainable. Part of the challenge is the short lead time, though, since we are trying to recruit Visiting Executives to deliver much of the training.
Adding to my discouragement was the fact that we scheduled three 14-week cohorts for 2012 without any confirmed facilitators other than Jason and me. How could the two of us even begin to tackle this mountain of work? We couldn’t, so it was time for God to intervene.
Manna From Heaven
The first e-mail I received when I returned to my room at Solace guest house was from Renier in South Africa. I had e-mailed him in early December to see if he would take on a few 2-week blocks as the Facilitator. He had been on Holiday, so he just saw my e-mail. He wrote that he wanted to be lead facilitator for both the second and third cohorts this year. I called him immediately to learn what that meant. He told me that God told him to relieve Jason and me by facilitating all eight 2-week blocks of the second and third cohorts this year. I cried tears of joy.
Jason and I are exchanging drafts of training proposals even as I write this at 1 a.m. We don’t know how we will deliver all the training we are bidding, but I can’t wait to see what God will do. As He has always done, He will enable us to meet every and any opportunity in our path.
More Manna in the Form of Facilitators
Jonathan and David were chomping at the bit for facilitator training to start. God had a reason for the delay. Late Monday I got an e-mail from Patrick Kabagema, an IT entrepreneur who has become our friend in Kigali. He said he was coming to the U.S. in February and wondered if he could visit Regent and get training to become a volunteer Facilitator in Rwanda. I told him I was conducting the training in Kigali and asked if he could carve out four half days on short notice. He said he could start Wednesday afternoon. At my meeting with RDB on Tuesday, I was able to announce that Patrick, chairman of Rwanda ICT Chamber, was joining our team as a Facilitator.
Dona, our national director, rounded out the training group of four. It went great. Fabulous mix of skills, experience, and local knowledge. I can already see how Jonathan and David could train trainers in the future. What fun to have them in the classes. I felt completely comfortable turning the class over to them, even without any warning.
That’s all for now, but there will be more to come in a few days!