This was a great year for many of us who work in the house of worship (HOW) market. I was blessed to be able to work on five continents. The jet age has shrunk the world a bit; today, from the United States, we can be almost anywhere on earth within 24 hours.
For the past few years, I have focused on discovering and understanding developing markets in Africa, Asia and South America. I have found that HOWs of all faiths are growing at a rapid pace. In the Christian faith, there is significant desire to use media technologies to enhance the worship and teaching experience. Here is a brief look at some of the activity that took me around the world in 2016.
In Africa, we built a Christian FM radio station in Monrovia, Liberia (West Africa). Elsewhere in Africa, we are working with a number of HOWs in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Malawi and Kenya to install formidable media systems in their worship spaces. In Siberia (Russia, East Asia), we built a very nice audio and video production studio for a HOW. We also designed and installed lights, sound and video in HOWs in Cambodia, China, Myanmar, Philippines and Thailand. Closer to home, we can now say that we have been working in a nonprofit capacity with HOWs in Cuba since 2001.
My point in sharing some of our experiences from 2016 is that I hope you will realize that there is a significant demand for media technologies in houses of worship in all parts of the world. However, before you get out your machetes to begin blazing your new trails into these developing markets, you should understand a few important ideas. Particularly, you should understand that working in these emerging markets is not for the faint of heart.
First: Most of Southeast Asia (except for Singapore and Thailand) does not have dealers or shops where you can buy the quality of gear (and in quantities) that we take for granted here in the United States. The gear that you find locally is usually not good, although there are a few exceptions. For example, in Cambodia, at one shop that claims to be a JBL dealer, you can look at two identical JBL speakers. Both look great. But one is the real product and one is a Chinese knockoff. You can also check out two identical Chauvet or Martin moving lights…and one is real and one is a Chinese knockoff.
Of course, the prices are significantly different. The real product is very expensive. The knockoff looks good and is also expensive, but the internal components are low quality. We actually purchased a fake JBL monitor. We turned it on and, within five minutes of use at a medium SPL, the monitor quit working.
So, if you even find some gear in these countries, the quality usually is very poor. In countries such as Cuba, Liberia and Ethiopia, there is nearly no gear available for purchase at all. In fact, Liberia does not have dependable electricity anywhere in the nation, except for the wealthy. As a result, all of the gear that we used in these countries was imported.
Second: Because gear isn’t always available, and when it is, it’s usually poor quality or expensive, the gear must be imported. The challenge is that there is no definitive process that makes it easy to import this equipment into these developing and often corrupt countries. We are blessed to have met an import/export agent based in Singapore who has done amazing things to help us import the gear into these countries without paying huge import taxes.
Third: The profit margins are not huge. Thus far, however, we have not lost money. Although we are not yet making huge profits in these emerging markets, we see these adventures as opportunities to blaze new trails into these developing nations in order to create business in the HOW market and possibly in other markets.
As we end 2016, I would like to encourage you to blaze new trails wherever you are serving houses of worship.
On a personal note, please allow me to say, “Take time to stop and smell the roses.” Life is short. Live it to the max and be sure to do your best to make the world a better place. Finally, thank you for letting me share a little piece of my worldview with you in this amazing publication. I am cheering all of us onward to a magnificent 2017.