Update: This program no longer exists.
Each of us should passionately pursue ways to use our money for the glorification of the kingdom of God.
In 2010, my wife and I challenged each other to get involved in a giving project that involved time and not just money. Since our family was in a position to give more last year, we decided to do something to try and help some local Christians here in Alotua, Papua New Guinea.
The project seemed obvious. Since I was earning an income from a side business and learning a lot about businesses along the way, my wife and I decided that we were going to help as many people as possible to have the opportunity to start their own small business in 2010.
One of the biggest hindrances to starting a business here is having the capital necessary to get started. The solution was to start the small business lending program.
The Small Business Start Up Loan Program
In November we held a small business seminar. About 30 people attended. Immediately after the seminar, we started accepting applications from people who wanted to get funding to start their own small businesses.
The course was an entire day, and anyone who wanted to participate in the lending program was required to attend.
Here are the topics we covered:
- The Biblical Foundation
- God-Given Relationship Between Income and Work
- Reasons Why Christians Work
- Where do Christian blessings come from?
- The Biggest Barrier to Small Business Success in PNG: Wantok System and Limited Means
- Taking Responsibility and Ownership: Personal Development
- Stages of a Business
- Coming Up with Your Business Idea
- Determine the ‘Market’ and Do Some Marketing
- Setting the Right Price
- How to Develop a Business Plan
- SAMPLE BUSINESS FORM
- Basic Accounting
- Needs Vs. Wants
- Business Ethic – deciding what is right and wrong
- What to do with business profit
Slowly, people started submitting their business plans. To date, we have approved 20 loans and helped start the same number of businesses.
So is/was the project a success?
To be honest, it is too early to make that judgment call, but I will get back to you with the final(ish) results later in the year. Still, here are my early reactions:
If you’ve ever lived in a third world country, you know the issue of poverty is so complex. Trying to address poverty is about as fun as sticking your head in an oscillating fan. Seriously. Poverty issues are like an onion, once you find one way to address a situation, you’ll likely find another issue that needs to be resolved.
So far, many of the business seem to be going OK. I had six people who had payments due on December 31st, 2010, and I got one payment back. That’s alright because nothing happens according to deadlines here. I’ve set this up as more of a benevolence thing, and I’m only planning on a 50% repayment rate (just don’t tell anyone in the program ).
Most disconcerting to me has been the amount of family/communal issues that have plagued families because they have started a small business. One family is having constant fights about money and challenging each other’s business plans. Two young men have had to deal constantly with negative reactions from fellow villagers who are jealous of their businesses and are openly critical.
I’ve also been concerned about the impact on our ministry here. I’ve actually closed applications now because I don’t want word to get out that some guy from overseas is giving out small business start up loans to those who are Christians. Giving people an incentive to becoming a Christian to get a loan just doesn’t sound like the right thing to do.
Time will tell how it will all play out.
Still, in the end, I’m so glad we tried something because in the process of trying, we have learned so much. We’ve learned about ourselves, this country, fellow church members, and poverty.
So, do you have any plans to do (or are currently doing) something truly meaningful with your money?