The history of the current directors began in the early 1980’s. In 1986 Brett and Lyn Johnson moved to the USA from South Africa. Brett simultaneously worked at Price Waterhouse, having a tri-vocational career, as they consulted to missions organizations in South Africa, South America and Europe.
When they arrived in the US, the Johnson family began to explore the possibility of forming an organization that served at the intersection of business, church and NGOs. When in early 1992 Brett began planning to proceed with the launch of the new organization he met Ken Spear, Rick Thrasher and Milan Telian. They spent many hours brainstorming the new organization and decided to put it under the administrative and tax banner of Vine Associates.
In October 1992 Brett and Lyn gathered with a group of friends to “birth” the new organization. They traveled to the cabin of friends in Mendocino and started “Professionals for Christ” or PFC. The original logo was a black and white rendition of the current rēp logo. We began the work of profiling businesspeople and matching them with opportunities to serve missions organizations. We soon began monthly Entrepreneur evenings to equip business owners to integrate work and faith. We took trips to Hawaii and the Ukraine to encourage marketplace ministers and consult to missions and localchurches. In time we changed the name of our small entity that operated under Vine Associates from PFC to equip as there was much debate what exactly a “professional” was and when Brett went to the Ukraine there were challenges with being openly religious. We kept the name equip for many years. Over time CMUG and other entities operating under Vine Associates, Inc. moved on, and we remained as the only organization within Vine, so we took over the directorship and administration when Ken Spear moved to Florida.
Meanwhile, Brett and Lyn had formed a company called The Institute for Innovation, Integration & Impact, Inc. It quickly developed the consulting frameworks needed to work with all forms of organizations, and was soon consulting to a wide range of businesses and non-profits. The activities of equip were quiet in this season, but Vine continued to provide periodic service to churches and mission organizations.
In 2001 Brett and Lyn met with an enthusiastic group (Corey Cleek, Bart Munro and Kim Daus) who had started an organization called Silicon Valley Fellowship. Their dream was to see a transformation in the way business was done in Silicon Valley. Bearing in mind that this was at the height of the dot.com era, we encouraged them to first be changed, then to become agents of change. Spontaneously Brett said, “Why don’t I take you to Africa where you can see a more real view of business, and once you are transformed, you can come back and transform Silicon Valley.” A year later Brett received a call from Corey Cleek: “We are ready to go to Africa,” he said, and he replied, “First we will have to train you.”
So, in October 2002, The Institute began putting the training materials together for the first training which would begin in January 2003. The training materials were based largely on the methodologies and foundational principles of The Institute. From the outset we developed the training products in a manner that could scale or grow.
The teams that we took overseas were a combined effort of The Institute and Vine Associates, DBA as equip. The Institute contributed the training materials and expertise, and Vine handled the finances and was instrumental in mobilizing volunteers. Our first training began in January 2003. We trained 10 consultants and then traveled with them to Cape Town in April 2003 for our first Venture. At that time we announced that we would be back for 9 more Ventures in Cape Town—two a year—which is what we did.
Vine has since mobilized hundreds of working professionals who have volunteered their time serving in South Africa, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Madagascar. Vine has also supported other missionaries working directly in the USA and abroad.