One Million Miles

An M3 Journey

This edition of M3 Weekly is the latest installment in our series called M3 Journeys, highlighting the experiences of various missional enterprise practitioners. This week, we feature our interview with Jim Albert, who has over four decades of experience leading various missional enterprises both in the US and around the world.

The first part of our interview is included below, describing how Jim developed a heart to be a fully committed disciple of Jesus, and then was inspired to build businesses that are platforms for discipling others. The transcript has been edited for clarity.

M3 Weekly: Thanks so much for being willing to share your story! We’d love to start by hearing how God led you to where you are, and particularly how he led you to the approach of missional enterprise.

Jim: The best place to start is in 1971, on Memorial Day weekend. I was under the starry skies of Northern California at a conference with a bunch of crazy guys involved with the Navigators. Having grown up in a Christian home, I was accustomed to being around Christians, and I knew how to lay aside bad habits for a short period to fit in with them. But that Memorial Day weekend in 1971 is when God got a hold of my heart and I literally fell to my knees in what I call a Lordship decision.

Getting in the Battle

I was in the Air Force, and the speaker that weekend was talking about being in a battle. He said that you can know where someone is in the battle by what he talks about. If you ask the guys who are on the front lines dealing with hand-to-hand combat how they are doing, they will say, “We’re taking heavy fire over here . . . We need a Medic over there . . .” But the guys in the back will be talking about how the food is lousy and the coffee is cold.” I knew exactly where I was because my conversation would have been about coffee and food. And that’s when I felt like God got a hold of my heart and said, “Get involved, engage in the battle!” After that weekend mountain retreat, I went back to the base and the guy who had invited me to the retreat began to help me grow in my faith.

Vision for Discipleship in Business

While studying electronics in high school I worked as an auto mechanic and night shift supervisor at the local gas station. Now, as I began to be discipled in my faith, I realized that business was actually a good environment to disciple people in. For example, we want to teach values like having a servant’s heart. Having worked in the service industry, I felt business was a good environment for learning things like that.

Later, I was stationed in Germany, where I continued to be involved with the Navigators and to grow and be mentored. I was also developing a heart for helping other men grow in their walk with God.

That’s also where I got the vision for using my auto mechanic skills to help missionaries with their transportation needs. I had come across a letter from missionaries in Rwanda appealing for bicycles, and I found through some research that it was almost impossible for them to maintain used cars. The idea I formulated was to set up a shop, buy older used vehicles, and make them roadworthy. Then, I could provide them at cost to missionaries throughout Africa and the Middle East.

“We’ll Go!”

I realized that, for me to do that, I would not be able to stay in the military. Therefore, I decided to go back to the US, go to school, and earn a degree in business. While we were living in Colorado Springs and my wife Carol was working at NavPress [the publishing arm of the Navigators], there was a major pivot point. Carol heard someone in the Navigators share that he was looking for an auto mechanic to go to Austria to help missionaries with their transportation needs. Carol was standing there and said, “We’ll go!”

Carol knew that that was on my heart. That was the vision God had given me!

We interviewed and were accepted, moved to Austria, and set up an auto repair facility where I maintained about 35 vehicles collectively traveling about 1,000,000 miles a year.

As I served and interacted with the staff there, one thing kept coming to the forefront of my thinking. We had opened businesses there, but some of those businesses were no thicker than the business card their names were printed on. I kept wondering, “Why don’t we just do business? I mean, let’s not just play at it. Let’s just do business.”

That led to the next phase of my life and work. I’d studied business and wanted to do business and felt like business was a great way to advance the Kingdom of God. It’s not the only way, but it certainly is one way. So I committed to getting more involved at the organizational level of addressing access through business.

In future M3 Weekly articles, we’ll continue hearing about Jim’s experience as he starts several businesses for the purpose of discipling others. We’ll also hear some of the challenges he faced and the lessons he learned along the journey. Stay tuned!

Verse(s) of the Week:

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 2:1-3 (NIV)

A critical turning point in Jim’s journey was a wholehearted commitment to take on a soldier’s mentality as he followed God and helped others do the same. Let’s prayerfully ask God this week to cultivate within us the resolve of a “good soldier of Christ Jesus.”

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