Please pray for Magagi, our loan administrator in Niger. His church was attacked and burned this morning by Muslims. A man who has administered hundreds of interest free loans to Muslims so that they can get out of poverty. Many other churches have been burned in Niger this morning. He is safe physically. Please pray for him, his church, his family and all Christians in Niger.
We are pleased to learn that six loans in Rugarama, Uganda have been paid back and six new loans were made with these funds. Twenty-three loans were paid back in Bodol, Niger and twenty-five new loans have been made in this village. Six loans have been paid back in Fayre, Niger and seven new loans have been made. In all of these locations every single loan was paid back at 100% with no delinquencies. We continue to be blessed with upstanding administrators in these countries and we thank God for them. Please pray that we would have continued success throughout the new year. Thank you for all of your support over this last year.
In this post I will both summarize what we have shown as the benefits from The Gemach Project at the same time showing you what I consider being the most amazing benefit of all, the cost at which we are performing all of these benefits.
We have shown that we enable the poor to realize a monthly income, in many instances, of twice the national average while at the same time feeling a sense of self worth and accomplishment. Not of having received a handout but a sense of doing this on their own. A feeling of ownership and interest in what they are doing, of not being told what to do. Enabling them to provide food, educational and medical needs. We have increased the income of local churches so that they can expand. Their pastors can be freed up to spread the Gospel. The Gemach Project has opened doors for these pastors where they may not have been allowed. Those that have not been exposed to the Gospel are not only hearing it but seeing the actions of a God that loves them and provides for them. We have uplifted the communities by providing goods and services that may not have been available while bringing peace to communities and tribes that have not had peace for decades. And after seven cycles of loans we plan on providing things that the community need and can afford to maintain. We provide opportunities for US churches and donors to become involved. All this while honoring God’s word by not charging interest, helping the widows and orphans and forgiving our debts after seven years. While keeping God’s Word at the heart of what e are doing.
Before we look at our costs let’s look at what the costs are to other organizations. Save the children wants $25 a month to provide a child with two meals a day. Compassion International wants $35 a month to provide food, spiritual guidance and water to a child for a month. Samaritan’s Purse wants you to buy an animal thus dictating what they will do and not requiring repayment thus only affecting one family with your donation. Hope International gives loans and charges 20%-40% interest while we charge none. Other micro-lending institutions charge up to 80% interest. Some of these organizations may be good organizations and by all means if God has put it upon your heart to donate to them then you should always honor what God wants you t do. I have volunteered with Samaritans Purse and like what they do but as far as helping the poor in Africa I submit that we do a better job at a much lower rate that any of these organizations.
So let’s look at what it costs us to do all that we are doing. Throughout Africa it is costing us $64.70 to provide these services per family. This is a one time cost not a monthly cost. This provides these benefits for a life time not or a month. If we look at Niger and Benin where the majority of our loans are at the costs are even more amazing. In Benin it is costing us $9.16 per person per lifespan. In Niger it is costing us $6.61 per person per lifetime. These figures are based on the average number of children there are in each family per country. It does not take into account extended family members or orphans or other family members they are taking care of.
The Gemach Project gives 94% of all funds received directly to the poor. 5% of all funds go to the local in Africa administrators to cover costs such as printing and petrol. 1% of all funds are kept by The Gemach Project in the US to cover money wire fees, printer cartridges and other miscellaneous expenses. This enables us to provide information and photos of all those that you help with your donations. So as we go into this Christmas season I am sure some are thinking where you might give. Please consider The Gemach Projecct. I assure you it is money well spent.
There are three future benefits that I hope to see happen with The Gemach Project. The first two deal with those here in the US and the third with those in Africa.
With the US part of my vision is to provide an easy access for new churches to start working with global outreach. To introduce them to areas that need the gospel and to work with worthy pastors. Helping with Gemach loans will give them a chance to familiarize themselves with the area they want to work in and how to correctly help. Secondly I hope to one day be able to travel to Africa more and to take donors with me. That we they can have first hand knowledge of the good we are doing.
When we began this I felt that we not only needed to follow the instructions of God not to charge interest but to also honor the teachings in Leviticus about what is called the Jubilee. One of those teachings is that after seven years you forget debts owed to you. In keeping with that we will turn over funds to our local administrators in Africa after they have been used to fund seven cycles of loans. We just ask that they use the funds to expand God’s Kingdom and somehow benefit the local communities where the loans were given. One administrator told us that they will build a school in the village with the funds. He advised that most charities come in and build the school first but most fail as the village can not afford to pay a teacher. This way after their businesses are succeeding they will be able to hire the teacher. We have not gone through seven cycles in any of our areas but we are getting close. In Benin we have just issued our fifth cycle of loans in some areas.
Next post I will wrap this all us by looking at the most amazing benefit that we see from God’s blessing with The Gemach Project.
True Religion. Jesus told us that true religion is helping widows and orphans. The benefit for this falls not only to the widows and orphans but to us. It gives us a chance to honor God by doing what he asks. Both to me, our administrators and our donors. A few examples of how we are helping widows and orphans.
Widows- In Burkina Faso we have begun giving loans to the widows of pastors. In many instances they lived with their husbands on church property. When their husbands died they then had nothing. The church in Burkina Faso came to us for help for these widows and we envision being able to help literally hundreds of widows in Burkina Faso. In Kenya we gave a group loan to twenty widows to start a group business. Not only is it succeeding but they paid the loan back early.
Orphans – In Kenya we are giving loans to caregivers who have taken in orphans to raise. In The Democratic Republic of the Congo we have done the same. There we have given loans also directly to the orphans. Some as young as Henri who was twelve years old. I am happy to say that he started a business and completely repaid his loan.
There is no greater joy than God using us to further his will. One of my favorite songs talks about being part of God’s plan. I truly believe that The Gemach Project is part of God’s plan and the blessings that come from it we may never know but I have no doubt that the blessings are many.
The 7th benefit is PEACE.
We have seen The Gemach Project bring peace in three different ways;
The first is peace between husband and wife. As a wife in Benin told us. There was constant tension between her and her husband because of their extreme poverty. Since she has received a Gemach loan and she has been able to contribute to the family there is now peace in the family.
There is also peace between different religions within a village. In many places such as Niger and Benin we have given group loans that are made up of individuals who may be animists, Muslims and Christians. There individuals have had to look to each other for cooperation to make their businesses work.
The third way is peace between different ethnic groups. In Kenhancha, Kenya there are four different tribes that have been fighting with each other for generations. They raid each other to steal cattle and at times burn each other’s houses. We have given several group loans in this area. Our loan administrator has made groups comprised of members of these different tribes. This way they are forced to communicate with and get to know each other as a person not as a member of the other tribe. His goal is to bring peace between these tribes. These groups are working well together and all have either paid back or are paying back their loans. These group businesses are also succeeding.
Another benefit that we are seeing with The Gemach Project is the benefits to the community as a whole. In some cases it changes the availability of products and in others it saves time and energy. Two examples.
In Benin a woman received a loan for a business. Being aware that medicine was hard to find in the village she started her own pharmacy. Medicine for malaria and other ailments are now readily available perhaps even saving lives.
In Kenya a group of widows had to walk miles with their grain to get it milled into flour. Realizing this need they pooled their loans and bought a grist mill. They then paid to have electricity brought in to run the mill. The use by the local village was so great they paid their loans back before they were due. This availability has saved many people in the village time and energy as they now can get their grain milled locally.
In our next post we will see how the Gemach loans are bringing peace between villages.
Some of the unanticipated results we have seen from The Gemach Project are benefits being seen by the local African churches.
We have seen church attendance actually increase in areas. We have been very careful how we give loans through churches. We did not want people to come to the church and profess a belief in Jesus Christ just so they could get a loan. We have seen church attendance increase even after they have been told that there is no more money for loans. Why of course is speculation. We believe hat it is because they have witnessed a church that cares about them, that is active in the community and has exhibited God’s love for them and they want to be a part of it.
We have seen tithing increase in the local churches. Businesses are succeeding and with an increased income they are giving more to the church. This of course enables the local church to expand their efforts and even make new church plants. The Pastor has more time to devote to evangelism as his needs are being met.
Church members are realizing their need to help others now that they are able to do so. A pastor’s wife in Senegal told us how she is reaching out to those in need. She gives a needy family a piglet to raise. Once this piglet is grown and has it’s own brood the recipient keeps one of the piglets from the brood and gives the rest back to the pastor’s wife. The person in need is now on their way to making a better life for the family and the pastor’s wife can help others.
What we are doing with The Gemach Project, as you can see, has far reaching benefits beyond just helping one family out of poverty. In our next post we will look at unanticipated benefits to the local villages.
I apologize for the delay in getting this post out. We had a holiday and then my computer crashed. I think we are back to normal and hopefully back on track.
The three previous benefit talked about bringing the poor out of poverty, giving the recipients a sense of self worth and accomplishment and the benefits given to the loan administrators by having self control. In this post we will look at the fourth benefit and that is the benefit that the loan recipient receives by having self control.
Many organizations try to tell them what they are to do. They decide what business they want them to do. We don’t do that. We don’t give them ten chickens that we tell them to raise. They may not know anything about raising chickens or have feed. We do not give them money and tell them that we want them to make soap. They may not have access to the raw materials to make soap. Unfortunately this is exactly what many organizations do.
Instead, we want to know what they know how to do or what they have an interest in. In so doing we find that the will usually do one of four things; if they have land they may want to grow crops or raise animals, if they have a skill but not the tools they may choose to buy the tools needed. For instance they may know carpentry but not have the tools or they may know how to make clothing but not have a sewing machine. So they use the loan to buy the needed items to utilize their skills. The fourth thing we see is that they buy in bulk and sell piecemeal thus making a profit.
Regardless of what they choose it is their choice. They then own it and have no one to blame but themselves should they fail. Thus them having ownership becomes a very important factor in determining if the businesses succeed or fail. So the fourth benefit is true ownership and control of their own future. Limits are not set on them and they can take it as far as they want. We have seen many start a second or third business from the profits of the first.
In our next post we will look at the benefits realized by the local churches because of the Gemach loans.
I touched on it a little in the previous post. The third benefit that we provide is local self control.
Our local administrators are all African. Our administrators are responsible for identifying village or area where the loans are most needed. They then decide the individual families that are in the greatest need that will make the most of the opportunity. The administrator makes sure that their business ideas are viable and then he makes the loans. We try to use a local administrator who is respected in the community thus ensuring repayment of the loans.
We are never present when the funds are given. Thus we avoid the appearance of it being a handout and not a loan. For this reason we will not work through a western missionary. We do not know what business is viable or the local market. Too many organizations try to dictate these types of things and thus they results are poor.
The loan administrator is then in charge of collecting the loan payments and once the loans are paid back they then redistribute the funds as new loans.
So the the control over all aspects are in the hands of Africans. Thus giving them ownership and nurturing dedication. This ensure that the funds go to the right people and a greater success rate and the administrators get to help personally those that they know to be suffering.
This ownership goes beyond the administrators to the loan recipients.
Many organizations try to tell them what they are to do. We don’t tell them that we are going to give them ten chickens that we want them to raise. Se don’t tell them to make soap. The may know nothing about raising chickens or may not have access to the raw materials to make soap. Yet this is exactly what many organizations do. Instead we want to know what they want to do, what they know to do, and what they have an interest in. In so doing we find that they typically do one of four things. If they have land they will either grow crops or raise animals. If they have a skill they may buy equipment or tools so that they can capitalize on that skill or lastly they will buy product in bulk and piecemeal it thus making a profit.
No matter what they decide to do it is their choice. They then own it and have no one to blame but themselves should they fail. This ownership becomes an extremely important factor that determines if the business succeeds or fails.
In my next post after Thanksgiving we will look at the benefits to the African churches.