Mission work - Northsider uses talents and time to establish business program in Africa
Business courses aren’t usually what comes to mind when someone mentions missionary work, but for Matt Glover, that’s what combined his love of business with his desire to share God’s word and do His work.
Now an audit manager, Matt has been working at BKD in Jackson for seven years, since he obtained his undergraduate and master’s degrees in accountancy at the University of Mississippi. He’s also a deacon at his life-long church, First Presbyterian.
First Presbyterian has participated in multiple mission trips both nationally and internationally, and has been involved with and supported African Bible Colleges (ABC) for more than 40 years. The home office for ABC is located at the Reform Theological Seminary (RTS) in Clinton.
“I started every year or every other year going on short mission trips with our church,” Matt said. “Then I saw where our church has always been involved with and supported ABC. I’ve always known about them, and they have college campuses in Malawi, Uganda and Liberia. It’s a four-year university, a Christian college.”
Two and a half years ago, in 2014, Matt noticed First Presbyterian was sending a team to the Malawi campus for a week-long mission trip.
“I signed up and said, ‘Yeah I want to go.’ We had some doctors and vacation Bible school teachers, and me and another local businessman, Randy Abraham, taught a business course at the college for a week.”
The rest is history.
“It was like an intersession-type course,” Matt described. “So this counted for college credit as an elective for the ABC students, and I absolutely loved it. It was amazing. I’m a businessman; here I was actually helping people using my own skills.”
Students at ABC mainly major in education, mass communication or biblical studies.
Matt and his associate said they could handle 20 to 25 students for the week. When the sign-up sheet was presented to senior students for the course, the sheet was full within 15 minutes.
“So then they opened it up to 40 people, and that all filled up. Then the juniors and sophomores came knocking at the Malawian campus president’s door and said, ‘We want to do it.’ So within, like, an hour, we had over 60 people signed up for two people teaching for a week.”
Matt said the course was an entrepreneurship class that taught students basic business knowledge and how to write their own business plan.
“We would look at it and review it with them,” he said. “The class was a couple hours each day.”
Matt taught again at the Uganda campus a year later. In the meantime, however, Matt’s biggest project yet had already been put into motion.
Following Matt’s first course in Malawi, the president of ABC’s three campuses, Paul Chinchen, connected Matt with Jun Shiomitsu.
Shiomitsu is a graduate from the MBA program at Cambridge University and has worked in international banking for 13 years. He stepped down from his work to help Matt found what is now known as African Business Institute (ABI), the official business program for ABC.
“We wanted to actually start a business program for ABC. Both he and I have been working on this project for over two and a half years now.”
Matt has continued to work for BKD while jumpstarting the one-year, post-graduate program.
The program, which began at the Uganda campus this past January, has 26 students participating from all three campuses.
“When I’ve been over there teaching, the students soak up every word you say. They want to know so much of what’s going on. They have these great ideas but they don’t know how to put it in action or on paper.”
The first six months of the program, which is a full year of three-hour night classes five days a week, includes courses in accounting, finance, marketing, and other business topics.
“For the first six months, it’s intense classroom education,” Matt said. “They’re classes you’d see at any business school.”
The second six months is comprised of teaching the students how to apply those courses and to write a business plan.
“We get them to form teams. They write a business plan and present it, then they go out and start testing the market to see what works and what doesn’t, and then they’ll revise it,” Matt said.
Matt and his associates will connect their most outstanding graduating students with investors, allowing them to acquire grants and capital, and implement their business plans.
“We’re also making contact with businesses there in Uganda, where we can plug in our graduates for jobs.”
Besides Matt (director of finance for ABI) and Shiomitsu (president of ABI), Marcello Vieira has played a large role in the program.
Vieira serves as the director of academics for ABI, and will be present for the entirety of the program’s first year in Uganda. Vieira earned his MBA from Millsaps College.
“It’s the most unlikely people with me, Jun and Marcello,” Matt said. “You can really see God’s hand at work.”
Chinchen, ABC president, is also chairman of ABI.
To figure out the curriculum, Matt, Shiomitsu and Vieria spoke with Steve Walton, professor of information systems and operations management at Goizueta Business School at Emory University.
Matt said the three worked on the curriculum and sent it to Walton for review. With the curriculum in place, all four and other businessmen take turns teaching two-week courses throughout the year.
“We just had the right people at the right time… We know what we’re going to do and we can then send (the curriculum) to whomever we want to bring in. That person can adapt it to his own style and use that as the bones of his teaching… We can also fill in the gaps where we don’t have someone coming over to teach.”
Students qualify for the program by graduating from one of the three ABC campuses or an approved Christian college.
Once they’ve turned in their application and essay, each potential student completes two rounds of interviews.
“Who they are, their testimonies, prior business experience, and what they hope to gain from the program are part of the interview process,” Matt said.
Matt will visit Uganda with his wife, Catherine, for three months beginning in April. They will return in June.
Catherine has been instrumental in helping Matt raise money for the new program. The couple, who married in November, has raised more than $300,000 in donations and pledges over the past two and a half years.
“We’re kind of the main fund-raisers,” he said.
Much of the money has assisted the 26 students with scholarships. Tuition alone costs $1,800 per year. Room and board, if a student lives on campus, costs $50 per month, and eating on campus costs $75 per month.
Each student’s health insurance has also been covered for each year. Health insurance costs $700 per year for each student.
Matt has even paid for students’ plane tickets out of his own pocket to get them from Malawi or Liberia to Uganda for the year.
Jackson Preparatory School is working to donate 20 old laptops for students to use. Although the laptops are at least 10 years old, the students will be able to study and work more efficiently and use them as a means of networking for their business.
Matt attended Jackson Prep through his 10th-grade year before finishing high school at Parklane Academy in McComb and attending Ole Miss.
Matt’s company, BKD, has already donated five computers as well.
In 2018, the program will be set in Malawi, and Matt and his associates expect 50 to 60 students to be able to join the program. In 2019, the program will return to Uganda.
One day, Matt hopes to have the program set up at all three campuses, but doesn’t have a timeline for that yet.
“The Ugandans can change Uganda; Malawians can change Malawi; Liberians can change Liberia. We’re hoping to give them the tools to start a business, change their lives, and change the lives of their community.”
To find out more about ABC and ABI or to donate, visit www.africanbusiness.institute.