Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Long Overdue Update

My Colleagues and I, Hudson, Prisca, and Charles

Dear Friends and Family,

I pray this finds you all doing well! I apologize for not updating you sooner on all my adventures here in Zambia. Things are going well. The Lord is teaching me a lot about Himself and also about trusting Him when things aren’t as I expected.
I want to catch you up on how the year ended and then let you in on some new things going on! At the end of the year I was involved in doing surveys and checkups on all of the original micro loan recipients. The most encouraging thing I learned from those visits and surveys was the impact the loans make, regardless of how well their businesses were going. He is working through these loans, which is very exciting. I want to share at least one story with you, just so you can see some of the progress that is happening here.

Meet Charity Kaoma
Charity has been a part of our loan program for six years. She is a mother, wife, teacher, and businesswoman. She was one of the first recipients of a loan back in 2007, and since then she has received six loans and paid all of them back. Her first loan was for 50,000K ($10) and her last loan she took out was for 1,000,000K ($200). When she first started in this program, she was able to start a garden. This first served as her family’s only income and now helps her in feeding a new business involving chickens. The garden produces corn and soya beans, which feed the chicks. As the chicks grow to full-size birds, they are sold in the market place. This past year, she invested 8,125,000K ($1,625) into buying 250 chicks. Her total profit after selling 5 batches of chicks was 40,625,000K ($8,125). She was able to put 3,360,000K ($672) from that into savings for the year. So her total spendable income for the year, not including savings, was 37,265,000K ($7,453). This is a great source of income. It provides over 50% profit and paid off her investment of buying the chicks. 

 Along with this farming business she is also a teacher at a tailoring school. She helps the ladies there learn basic skills and is also able to do tailoring as a side business.

Now her family is able to get another loan to increase the chicken business. Through these loans her family life has improved immensely.  She is able to send all her children to school and even some are now going into college. They are now able to eat three meals a day, compared to one. Her family is also well clothed, and is able to save money that they put in a bank for times when they are in need. She hopes one day that her children will take on the family business. From her successful business she is also able to start giving back more to the church through her time and tithing. 

She is very thankful for what the loans have helped her family to accomplish! Without them she says she would not have had this chance to grow in life and to grow in her spiritual walk.

Charity and her student at Tailoring School
She is one of those rare individuals who use what they have and make the most of it! Charity and her husband work hard, but they are also soaking in all that they can learn. She is a wonderful encouragement and many who see her not only see how the Lord has blessed her but can also see the light that is shining in her heart. She is very involved at her church; she assists in the women’s ministries, and is a part of the choir. She also helps with the Sunday School program since her children are still younger. She says that being a part of the loan program definitely helped her family desire to attend church more and give back to the church what they can. They also have been able to tithe more since receiving a loan. So I look forward to sharing more of these kinds of stories with you as I meet people like Charity.

My colleague Prisca helping pound cassava while doing visitations to our loan clients
New Goals, New Strategies, New Places

 Now as we are in a new year, our goal is to visit our many loan recipients and encourage them to pay back the loans they have received.  Many get discouraged, and think that there is no way they can pay their loans back, so we try and set up goals for them to accomplish and see the good that comes when they actually do pay back the loans.
As more loans are paid back, we are then able to start new loan programs with new families.  Others are then able to have this opportunity to grow just like Charity (women from first story) did. A great aspect of this ministry is it can effect multiple generations. When a parent such as Charity learns how to provide for her family she can pass the business on to her children who can then pass it on to their children! So the children are also seeing the ways the Lord is providing for their family and choosing to follow Him in their own lives.  As we do house visits and see the different loan beneficiaries, it’s encouraging to see there are others like Charity Kaoma that are excited and involved in this opportunity. But like all opportunities, there are also some difficulties.
A mother and grandmother pounding cassava as their
families livelihood.
One thing that we face as a constant struggle is partly due to the Zambian culture - that many see the loans as gifts from the church that do not need to be paid back. It is difficult to help them understand the concept of a loan, since it is money given in the same way as a gift (money received with no work done).

Picture of a family we were trying to encourage, as their harvest
season was not successful.
Daily, I see a lot of people struggling. For example, some of the crops they planted did not produce like they planned or expected. Much of the problem is that they are not using any fertilizer but relying solely on the rain and sunshine to bring a good harvest. Unfortunately the fertilizer 
is expensive so they decide to do without it. They need a lot of prayer, and encouragement. That has been a lot of what I and my partner Prisca have been involved doing. She and I go to their homes. We like to visit with them and talk through the different things that they are going through. We try and deal with their pressing issues and then we encourage them with prayer and the Word.  It is so easy for us as Westerners to say, “You need to pay!” but the things that they are going through are much harder than that! The issues we face are applying these truths and seeking the best steps to take as we move forward. 

A mother with her children at a home visit.

Regardless, Jesus is the only one who is going to revive this ministry. At the end of the day, we stand on the promise that the Lord is caring for their needs and providing for them in ways we can never meet.

So as we see the struggles that so many are facing, we as a department are now trying to figure out the next step. What is our goal? So, we have decided to suspend the giving of any more money to the churches to give out any more loans. We want their goal to be to revive what ministry they have now and reach out to the ones who previously received loans. Instead of continuously giving the program money we want to get to a point where we see them working with what they have, because we will be more apt to start giving more money into the program when we see some change.

As a department we are now looking into the idea of savings and helping people start up programs where they input their own money and from   that we can provide trainings on different businesses they want to start. But as for providing the funding, these kinds of endeavors are very difficult to sustain coming from churches. We have a new area where the people want help, so we are planning on implementing this savings plan. Please pray as we seek the Lords guidance during this time.

One way I see his provision is that I have had the privilege of starting a small Bible study of 15 ladies who live close to me here in Samfya. Every Wednesday night we meet in my home and we talk about a woman in the Bible. I started in Genesis and have been blown away by the way He has challenged me through this time of studying.

A boy from the village called Kasuba,  an area where basic necessities are hard to come by! His family is  struggling financially to send him to school!

 The women in the Bible that Jesus is helping me learn from, are also challenging these ladies in their walks of life. I have a wonderful translator and after we are done with the study, we go around and share how the story has impacted each one individually. At our last study, after I was finished, one lady took over talking in Bemba, the local language. I sat listening for about an hour and it was amazing to see how she had completely taken the story and related it to things that happen in their culture here with women and men. And it was awesome to see Jesus use that story to reach these women who are yearning for a personal walk with the Lord and who are pursuing Him. So, to have a story that can reach them to a core issue that they deal with in their marriages as women in this culture was so encouraging. Of course, I was oblivious to the way Jesus was going to use this story, but I am just so amazed and thankful that He took over and used this story to meet these ladies where they were and in their hearts. What a mighty God we serve!

I cannot tell you thank you enough for all your continued support and prayers. The Lord has been so faithful. He has been teaching me to rely on Him more and more. I have recently been thinking and praying about what The Lord has for me in the next year I am here in Africa. From the beginning I planned to be in Zambia for two years but as of now, I don't know if that will be the plan I follow or not.