Seeking ways to mix work, spirituality

Networking: A Howard-based group encourages business people to incorporate principles from the Bible in the workplace.

January 23, 2004|By Anthony A. Mullen | Anthony A. Mullen,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It was a typical business breakfast networking meeting, like any of the dozen or so that are held in Howard County on a weekly or monthly basis. Business leaders and owners met to discuss issues they face and to exchange ideas.

They also seek prayer requests. It may be this feature that makes Praise Partners International different from other business networking groups.

The group, which meets monthly at Bob Evans in the Columbia restaurant park, is composed of business people who are striving to incorporate Bible-based principles into their daily business practices.

Group founder and president Ajom "A.J." Ali started the group nearly three years ago.

"My religious beliefs were a big part of my family life, my church life and my social life," he said. "But for some reason, they were missing from my business life."

Ali runs Eclipse Sports and Entertainment LLC in Columbia, which develops, manages and runs golf outings for businesses and charities.

Ali felt that not including his Christian beliefs in his business life left him with a void. "I, like most people in business, spend a great part of my waking hours at work," he said.

"I wanted my religious belief to be something I practiced every day and did not just reserve for Sundays."

The group is designed to provide support, feedback and business-building sales leads for members. It is open to everyone, is nondenominational and intentionally meets in a commercial location to support the principle of not being affiliated with a specific church.

Monthly meetings feature a speaker who highlights issues of concern to the group and relates those issues to passages in the Bible.

On a recent Tuesday morning, the featured topic focused on the need to combine discipline with character to function in a Bible-based manner in the business world.

The speaker, Kevin Daye, is a principal with Action Delivery Logistics Services, a delivery and logistics company in Landover.

In his talk, Daye explained that "character is defined as wherever I am, and whatever I do, no matter what, it is pleasing to God.

"We as Christians need to take integrity and discipline into the workplace," he said.

"This discipline requires that we strive to always tell the truth and that we draw strength and guidance from the Bible." He drew on passages from Genesis and Psalms as support.

After the talk, members exchanged information about their companies and discussed issues that were troubling them. They shared successes they had had using Bible-based principles at work and requested prayers for new opportunities they were facing or issues they were working to resolve.

Linda Penkala, owner of Corporate Pit Stop LLC, which offers seated massage therapy in the workplace, asked for prayers of guidance regarding a new business project that she is pursuing in the Washington area.

In addition to the monthly meetings, the group has a Web site, www.praisepartners.com; holds an annual golf outing; and helps with community projects.

The group has a chapter that meets monthly in Bel Air, and Ali indicated that interest has been expressed in opening chapters in places as far away as Los Angeles.

"With all the news about Enron, WorldCom and others, we have seen a renewed interest in other ways of doing business," he said.

Members have supported a team for the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life, and they are planning their first business conference in October.

"We will be holding a two-day event with a golf outing, featured speakers, workshops and exhibition booths for local businesses," Ali said. "The event will be at the Marriott in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, and we hope to make it an annual event."

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