Don Larson

Don LarsonGOD WAS CALLING ME TO A HIGHER PLACE

   In my previous life, I was a successful, wealthy businessman living out the American dream.  I was saved at the age of 29 – that’s when I became a Christian.

   For the next 15 years though - God was calling me to a higher place.  But I was kind of steeped in the world….so it was hard to hear Him. I was a model Christian though.

   Towards the end of that 15 years, He started to get louder. And I started to yearn for a deeper relationship with Him.  He also made me discontent with the world.

Mid-Life Crisis

   I reached the ‘Pinnacle of Discontent’ as I sat in the church pew at the age of 44 in a mid-life crisis. My crisis wasn’t success, my crisis was purpose.

   I was disillusioned and unsatisfied – despite my amazing success.

   I decided to ‘step out of the boat’ to pursue Him….by surrendering completely. I was done having Him just be my savior.  I wanted Him as Lord….to be truly following Him.

   I believed the only way to truly follow Him was to enter ministry….so….I started seminary.

   Over the next 18 months I reached a level of intimacy that I didn’t think was possible. That intense new intimate relationship with Him prepared me to go anywhere the Lord asked me to go and do whatever He desired me to do.

   And that’s when He delivered my calling.

Economic Missionary

   It was to go back into business. But it was to do business His way.  Not to be a Pastor, but an Economic Missionary.

   He wasn’t asking me to go back into corporate America. I had been at the top….and was going higher when I made the choice to surrender 18 months earlier.  During that time after surrendering, I had lucrative job offers from some of the best companies.  They were tests….testing my resolve – trying to lead me back into the world. 

   Don’t assume that the world’s best opportunities must be coming from the Lord to bless you. Just remember Satan offering Jesus the world if He would only bow down and worship him.

   God was asking me to move to Mozambique - the 3rd poorest nation in the world at the time - to prove out this new way of doing business.

   So - I readied myself for this calling by selling off and donating everything we owned – including my Porsche and my hot air balloon that I had flown for decades. I eventually sank every bit of my savings, retirement nest egg, and investments into the company.

 

SATtalks 2017 - Don Larson "Economic Missionary Warriors: We Will Change the World!" from Significant Matters on Vimeo.

   That was over 6 years ago when we moved to Mozambique to live.  I was out of the boat all right – going to a foreign land where I knew nobody…. separating from two of my three children…as I took my wife and youngest child away from all family and friends. I gave everything over to Him.

   It’s called obedience. It’s the result of love. I desired no other course in life. It was joyful sacrifice. When you step out of the boat – you step away from your safety and security.

   It was just where the Lord wanted me to be – needing to rely on Him completely.

Sunshine Approach

   My calling is to prove out a business model I developed in that time of prayer and intimacy.

   The business model is named the Sunshine Approach: value based business where dignity, love, and community come together with excellence.  That’s pronounced “Son Shine”.  We desire the Son to shine.

   We build food factories in developing nations to bring lasting economic transformation.

   We produce high quality packaged foods and sell them in the finest retailers of the world.

   Our main focus is to develop an outlet for the crops from smallholder farmers – a market.

   The companies need to profitable – therefore sustainable.

   But with those profits, we give back 90% (a reverse tithe) to jumpstart the transformation by bringing it back into the communities of Africa where we live.

   We positively affect the whole value chain with the love of God.  We are there as a company to transform lives physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

   We are there to be an example of what Christ like life is supposed to be - a witness of our walk and our beliefs – through action.

Sunshine Nut Co

   The first company using this Sunshine Approach business model is the Sunshine Nut Company – out of Mozambique.

   It’s a cashew roasting and packaging factory that provides 50 jobs in Mozambique. That operation generates the need for a 1,000 shelling jobs right up the road to remove those cashews from their shell before we roast and package.  Most importantly, it provides a market for the crops of 50,000 Mozambican cashew farmers.  These people have been exploited for decades.

   Our process has redefined what a cashew should taste like because we capture the crunch in a cashew by packaging right after shelling.  Most other companies have no alternative than to be soggy and stale – waiting months for cashews to be shipped from the Asian shelling operations in plastic bags to start the roasting process.

In just three years since introducing our cashews to the US market, Sunshine Nut Company cashews are in over 3,000 of the best stores and growing.

   Here’s your call to action: Go out and buy them – you’ll be very happy you did…and you’ll be supporting our mission.  If there’s not a store near you – buy them on-line.

   I have appeared on QVC four times over the past 6 months – each time selling out within minutes. These ‘on air live’ segments might continue for years – possibly decades.

   We have lots of interest from other countries – positioning us to be a global brand. Those plans include opening up factories in Cambodia and West Africa.  These two new factories will serve the European and Asian markets while the Mozambican factory will serve the USA market.

    This Sunshine Nut company plan (a single company) will positively impact the lives of 250,000 families in the next 7 years. At that 7th year, we will be generating about $10 million in profits per year – and that number will keep growing.  That’s a lot of reverse tithing to do. It is going to be so much fun to see that money transform lives. I could say it’s what I live for….but that’s not correct.  I live for the Lord.

Binario

   So how do we make the “Son……Shine” even more with our cashew business?   Many ways….

   At Sunshine Nut, we hire young men and women – most of who were abandoned or orphaned in their youth and we focus on promoting from within.

   A good example is Binario Fumo

   Binario was orphaned early in life.  He was taken in by his grandparents but they beat him continuously. He had no other choice than to live on the streets. He eventually found a place at an orphanage.

   I hired Binario on our first team of employees just 4 years ago. Binario now runs a world class food factory meeting the highest levels of food safety certification as our Production Manager.  

   The first time I sat Binario down to tell him of all the good traits I saw in him, he started to cry and put his head down. When I asked him why he was crying, he responded “Nobody has ever told me anything good about myself”

   Binario had no hope, no opportunity – now he has no limitations.  He has a new house, a wonderful wife, and two beautiful daughters. He can now see his future – and it’s filled with Sunshine.

   We have many Binario’s in the making. They come from orphanages which - in most instances - breed entitlement and dependence.  It has not been an easy task with our employees at the factory – but they are the ones we’ve been called to help transform.

   This nut company and all our future food companies give a reverse tithe – that’s 90% of shareholder distributions going back to the poor and orphaned.  That reverse tithe of company profits goes to high impact transformative projects. We call them ‘hand ups’. 

Cecilia, Madelena, and Antonio

   What’s one of our transformative projects: We have developed a new way to raise orphans. A way that they can successfully integrate into community.  A way where they become independent as an adult. A way that they have life skills and an occupation. It starts with a family setting.

   In James 1:27, God says True Religion is this: To care for Widows and Orphans in their distress.

   This new way happened through prayer. Three years ago we received a call from one of our employees saying 3 young siblings were out on the streets.  This photo on the left was taken the day I met Cecilia who was 12, Madelena was 6, and Antonio was 3. 

SATtalks 2017 - Don Larson "Economic Missionary Warriors: We Will Change the World!" from Significant Matters on Vimeo.

   Their mother had just committed suicide – largely due to their father’s tragic death. The children were the ones to find their mother hanging in their home. The landlord then kicked them out of their tiny house and they were out on the streets – with nobody to turn to.

   The picture on the right is the children now (3 years later) - we’ve put them in private school.

Zelda

   We didn’t put these 3 children in one of the existing orphanages we support.

   We prayed about it and then bought these three orphans a house. We put the house in the children’s name.  And then we filled the house with furnishings – including a ‘widowed’ woman named Zelda to care for them. We provide monthly for their living expenses and their education needs. Cecilia now describes her life as a fairy tale.

   It’s a family now.  Everyone in that house is really happy.

   This was the beginning of our Sunshine House project – Sunshine House #1.  We have three houses now – with thousands planned for the future.

   The number of orphans in Mozambique is a tragedy estimated at roughly 10% of the population or 2 million children.  But we see an almost equal tragedy in the amount of older women trying to survive after having been widowed or abandoned themselves.

   Bringing orphans and widows together to form family units – that’s the Sunshine Approach.

   We have initiated community programs at our Sunshine Houses to allow them to be “Beacons of Light” to the surrounding neighborhood.

   Zelda – our caretaker for Sunshine House #1 – is on fire bringing the love of Jesus to her surroundings.  She has a daily program for 10 preschoolers in the morning and 15 school aged children in the afternoon (and sometimes their moms too). These are the neediest children from the community around her.

   We have individuals and organizations (who are fans and business partners) wanting to support our Sunshine House program. While we plan to grow this Sunshine House project with our cashew business, we’ll take all the partners we can get.

Award Ceremony

   After all - the mandate is to Go and Make Disciples.  I am finding this being accomplished in ways I never imagined.

   I shared my testimony when I was asked to speak at the World Economic Forum in Africa for 4 straight years.  I’ve also shared at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, 2 TED talks, to various governments, twice at the European Economic Summit, to NGOs, BAM conferences, universities - and many other gatherings. I do church talks regularly about my walk and surrender.

   How do these interactions go….let me share an example of the witnessing the Lord opens up for me. Last year I won a Silver medal at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. It was an award ceremony for businesses of faith who promote peace. It is sponsored by the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation and the United Nations.

   It was the 1st awards ceremony – being timed to happen at the end of every Olympics ceremony. This one was in Rio de Janeiro last summer.

   I was among 17 CEO finalists of various faiths from around the world.  All faiths. The criteria for selection – faith filled companies instrumental in helping to change the world for the better. But it was the next day after the awards ceremony that I want to tell you about.  We were taken sightseeing as a large group up to the Christ the Redeemer statue at the top of the mountain overlooking Rio.

    The senior UN official on the trip purposely sat next to me on the tram ride up. She asked me to tell her my story in depth.  I shared my work being an act of obedience and love for my Lord. At the top of the mountain after 30 minutes of testimony, she wiped the tears which had formed in her eyes as she said: “We at the UN only get to hear the negative side of religion – the strife and wars that it causes.  We need you to come and speak to the UN and tell us of the good that comes in the name of your God.”

   I will tell you that her response is so typical of the Holy Spirit’s work. The most common response I get from countless individuals who are not yet lovers of Jesus is this: “Thank you for walking the talk”. 

  I have seen our work change many – like many in the government of Mozambique…..our suppliers, distributors, and retailers.  And also the consumers who buy our products off the shelves. 

Mozambique

When we moved to Mozambique in 2011, it was ranked as the 3rd poorest nation in the world by the Poverty Index.

   Just this year, it was ranked the 2nd worst country in the world for Ex-Patriate Living – meaning for foreigners living there - your health, safety, and lifestyle.

   Now…another recent ranking: Mozambique is ranked 2nd Worst in the world for “Doing Business” or “Competitiveness”

   Running Sunshine Nut Company is not an easy task. Just about everyone told me it was impossible to do.  But God told me that anything is possible with Him.  I believed Him….and I obeyed Him by stepping out.

   We are succeeding where everyone said it would fail.

   We stop injustice and corruption. We model ethical business practices.

   We are proving that we not only will compete in the world marketplace, but we will win. We offer the best tasting cashew in the best package at a competitive price – and we do a lot of good in the process.

   Other cashew producing countries want us to come help their country.  They want us to transform their cashew crop and also transform their people who need hope and opportunity.  Most are war torn countries trying to recover.

   The opportunities for this Godly business model are endless. The economic missionary warriors need to be awakened.

Family

   So you are probably wondering how I got my family to go along with this.

   My wife, Terri, had the perfect job teaching in a great Christian School. My kids had a good education there and wonderful friends.

   My wife stepped out with me. She’s the rarest gem in the world. That’s why God gave her to me 31 years ago. He knew I would need her by my side – acting together as one. Terri handles the philanthropic work for the company. She is in the villages every day – being the hands and feet of Jesus.

   My kids – their lives have changed radically – and they themselves have changed for the better.

   Do you want to have an eternal impact on your family? Step out of the boat and live fully surrendered to God.  Your kids will be watching. Actions speak louder than words.

   Those actions are to do what God tells me to do. To be obedient. To please Him with my work. My wife and I regularly feel His pleasure.  It is usually at a high point in the transformation of people’s lives.  I will look over into my wife’s eyes as we share the moment. We usually break into tears.  Tears of joy.  It’s as if God is right there with us. 

   We feel God’s pleasure with our work. It is the greatest feeling on earth. It has gladly replaced anything the world has to offer.

   Who needs to lead this movement of economic missionary warriors? 

The Church

   The churches have armies of economic warriors sitting in their pews.  Many are going through the same struggle for God’s purpose that I went through ten years ago.  Trust me – I speak to large groups full of those who are searching – I talk with and get e-mails from many of them.

   The church must encourage them.  The church must equip them.  The church must send them.  The church must fund this movement as a mission.

   You cannot count on the world to fund these efforts…..trust me.

   The financial system is corrupt.

   It profits from exploitation. On one end are the poor cashew farmers who have been bullied to sell their meager harvests for a fraction of their value – on the other end are those who have all the money in the world and continue to want more – just watch any episode of SHARK TANK.

   Money is the root of all evil.  And evil has its roots deep in every area of society.

   The church must support this movement – free of greed, full of the Holy Spirit!

All I have is Yours

   This larger movement must be led and supported by the church.

   The smaller movement must be the commitment of ourselves as living sacrifices – putting our God given skills and experiences to work for Him.

   God is continually asking me “Do you trust me?” I say “Yes….of course Lord.”  And then He takes me deeper into a level of faith than I had been previously.  I think the rest of my life He will be asking me “Do you trust me?”  And I know that I am being prepared (or refined) to get to that next level of faith.

   John 10:10 is so amazing: Jesus says: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

   The abundant life…. It’s not about eternal life.  It’s not material possessions either. It’s about trust that God has something incredible for you to live out. An abundance that can only be achieved by trusting Him to be your Lord and having the courage and faith to step out of the boat and realize that He is.

http://sattalks.org/don-larson-sunshine-nut-co-economic-missionary-warriors/

Don Larson Hearing His Voice Testimony

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