StoriesApostle Paul selling tents at discount, 'Gospel free'

Our field associates (and many here at home) are helping in God’s work of transforming lives, health outcomes, improving education, enabling employment for disabled women and more. R, one of our home team, has recently contributed in a developing country whilst being a full-time academic and Christian witness in Australia..

“I have been a tertiary teacher for more than 30 years and He enabled me to excel. A few years ago, I was approached by the management of a missionary senior high school in Southeast Asia to help them design a post-secondary vocational program. With my previous knowledge in curriculum design, my proposal of a Higher Diploma course in Information Technology was accepted and the design completed in early 2021. Towards the end of 2021, their first intake of students came, mainly from rural parts. I contributed to by teaching online, one subject in each semester in 2022.

In teaching these students, God gave me opportunities to bring Christ into the picture. These included: (i) it was Christ who impressed upon my heart to teach them wholeheartedly on a voluntary basis;  (ii)  it is important that they learn well so that they can serve their country, work well in a good career and have a good character; (iii) practical skills in managing their time; and (iv) how to combat their bad habit of procrastination in doing assignments! – I confessed to them that I also had the same problem in the past, as I was a sinner who needed Christ to forgive my sins.

The results were so encouraging! Each student did an internship with an industry partner who has a good opinion of our students. They showed their appreciation to me by cooking a lunch for me in January when I visited; they shared with me about how I have contributed to their lives and learning. A few of them claimed that they have become Christians, through outreach conducted by  churches which worked in conjunction with the school. 

In January 2023, another large developing country in Southeast Asia invited me to share at a strategic national IT conference about my experiences in teaching those IT students there.

I find that the keys to working effectively as a tentmaker (a witness to Jesus, using one’s professional skills) are: practising the scriptural principles of sharpening our skills in the workplace; displaying a godly character before pre-believers; and seeking the right opportunities and God’s wisdom to share Christ with them.”

R commented on the cartoon above (from Working your way to the nations, J.Lewis ed, 1996, IVP/World Evangelical Fellowship). “About selling ‘tents‘ Many years ago, I came across the above sketch, which had a good impact on me. (It is referring to the Apostle Paul as a tentmaker, and reflects what Paul teaches and models about work, life and witness.) First, the ‘tents’ I make and subsequently sell in the marketplace must be of good quality; otherwise, I put God’s name to shame. Second, I need to give my customers some ‘discounts’ on the purchase price to encourage them to buy my products (hence, when teaching in SE Asia recently, I volunteered my efforts so that disadvantaged students could benefit). In the process of selling them, I gain the opportunity to present the gospel to them.”