The Basel Mission Trading Company started as a training school for missionaries called the Basel Evangelsitic Mission Society sending missionaries. One of those missionaries to India was an able and experienced businessman by the name of Gottlob Pfleiderer who made a noticeable difference in the success of the missionary venture. Under his experienced guidance both trade and industry prospered as well.
This led in 1859 to the founding of a separate Mission Trading Company. General mission offerings could not be used for commercial enterprises so capital was needed (capitalism). So 100 shares in the company were sold bearing 6% interest. After the interest was paid any remaining profit was divided between the investors and the mission, however any loss was born by the investors. It was recognized that this was an experimental approach to funding missions so a ten-year trial period was set. Success bred another ten-year charter and their mission statement became:
“to promote the work of the Basel Evangelistic Mission Society by supplying its stations and workshops with needed European provisions, by introducing the converted Christians and heathen to Christian commerce, and through financial support”
As stated another major focus for the Basel Mission was to create employment opportunities for the people of the area where each mission is located. To this end the society taught printing, tile manufacturing, weaving and employed people in many fields using the local resources available.
The mission trading company continued to provide very substantial income for the mission treasuries. The original 100 shares had been sold at 2000 Swiss Francs each. When the Trading Company celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1909, it contributed out of its annual profits 354,760 francs to the mission treasury that year, plus a special Jubilee gift of 150,000 francs for the pension fund, from which retired or invalid missionaries and widows were supported. Astonishingly…the mission society received 15 million Swiss Francs from the trading company in the company’s first 100 years of existence (not corrected for inflation).
Sometimes the Trading Company paved the way for the establishment of mission stations. It was able to use its economic leverage at times to persuade African chieftains to keep peace so that Moravian missionaries could safely come. Sometimes when the Mission Society could not afford to open a mission station, the company would open a trading post, where its employees would witness to the gospel. Amazing.
Profit for the Lord – Economic Activities in Moravian Missions and the Basel Mission Trading Company (1971). Prof. William J. Danker