Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Jesus Boat Story - The Entrepeneur's Reward


........and How I Brought a Little Prosperity to the Middle East

People know me for helping startups shape their stories and find investors. They often ask and what else do you do? I always reply that is what I do, it is just a little more than you realize.

How much more, they ask and I am always tempted to answer that it is somehow, well, divine.

How much so, depends what you make of this story…….

It begins in my wandering youth days when I felt the need to experience kibbutz life. So I hitchhiked through Europe and decamped to Tel Aviv where I headed over to the kibbutz office to sign up as a volunteer. When they asked which kibbutz I wanted I looked at the map and, since I hate the desert, found one in the greenest area –– and near a nice big lake.

That turned out to be a well-known kibbutz called Ginosar and that lake it faced was the Galilee.

I found the life there so idyllic that I soon settled into a cushy job which included my own tractor. Once set up, I decided stay for a lot longer than I originally expected.
Over time, I befriend the two brothers who ran the fishing boat on the lake. I never saw them catch many fish but they were always taking their friends and especially, the young female volunteers on boatrides. Eventually, I was invited for a ride with them.

Once on the boat in the lazy haze of the Galilee, we got to talking about the real life on the kibbutz. They gave me a litany of complaints. Problems were everywhere. Most of the farm divisions - the chickens, the cows, the bananas, the grapefruit and so on were barely profitable. The one area that made the kibbutz money, was its slightly rundown lakeside guest house.

But even that wasnt making enough because friends and family of the kibbutz were always trying to come for free or at deep discounts and the Israelis generally, treated it as a local vacation spot that happened to be on a lake.

I thought about it a bit and said you know, you are not seeing this place properly. To Israelis its just a cheap getaway but to Christians, this is hallowed ground facing the Galilee where Jesus performed miracles with fishes and bread, walking on water while frequenting the nearby towns of Tiberias and Capernaum.

"Why dont you go after the Christian pilgrim market," I said. "They will pay full price for everything. Quibbling would be a kind of sacrilege. They celebrate Sundays while you only come for Shabat. Youll be here for Passover but theyll come flooding in for Easter and Christmas and so on.

My host shrugged and said something along the lines of What! No. We are a Jewish kibbutz. This is not a place for Christians. They dont want to be here.

I said, no, youre wrong, you want them there. And theyll want to come.

Nothing happened and I forgot all about it.

Years later, my family visited Israel. We rented a car and of course I wanted to take everyone up to see this idyllic kibbutz of my adventurous youth.

As we pulled up to the kibbutz I couldnt believe my eyes. It looked nothing like the slightly ramshackle place I left behind. Our rustic bungalows had been replaced by mediterannean-style townhouses and the entire kibbutz resembled a gated California community. Then, we drove over to the Guest House, and what once looked like a tired old Econolodge was a now a gleaming edifice. As we drove to the front we saw a sign and nearby, a large wooden boat with the inscription: The Jesus Boat.

It turns out that several years after I left the kibbutz, there had been a drought and the water level in the Galilee fell dramatically, revealing acres of mud. In the mush, the 2 brothers stumbled upon the remains of an ancient boat. They summoned paleontologists, of which Israel has many, who tested the boat and declared it to be about 2,000 years old. Just the kind of boat that Jesus must have sailed upon - and so a new era was born.




Today, Ginosar not only thrives as a destination for Christian pilgrims from all over the world but Israel has actually declared a pathway of cities from Jerusalem to the Galilee as The Jesus Trail.

So..can I take credit for this?

On the one hand, regardless of my advice, none of this would have happened without this boat miraculously appearing. On the other hand, was this a case of someone actualy listening? As in, from my lips to Gods ear? Or maybe, the Sons ear....

There is no question that I have made a lot of people very rich and almost always, in ways that seem to require no special thank you. Like the millionaire who became a billionaire thanks to me getting him a keynote spot at the Broadcasters convention, the virtual beauty salon that picked up a million from my investors, or the delivery service that snagged $400K on a quiet night of pitching in Philadelphia. The list goes on.

So if your idea is right it appears that someone is always listening……

The real question is do you have a Jesus Boat story? Something that you have asked for but that appears at a time least expected, out of nowhere and even in an unfamiliar form?

And this thing changes everything.

I think that most entrepreneurs – the real ones, those who dedicate themselves and remain open and flexible – will have this experience. The only question is whether they can stay the course and be resilient enough to embrace it when it appears.

If you have had an experience like this, please share it with us. Wed like to hear.