For the past few years now one of my primary jobs has been overhauling and then managing CUDA’s micro-finance operations. This sounds really complex, and it probably should be, but for now I’ve kept things simple. Thanks to Greg (research, creativity), Paty (Peruvian connections, business training), and a lot of trial and error we’ve managed to make 31 loans to 29 different Peruvian entrepreneurs. What started out as a useful division of labor has turned in to one of my favorite jobs here in Peru. It has been challenging and frustrating, rewarding and surprising. As I begin the process of searching for a new group (or two) part of me cringes at the time and number of cell phone calls I’ll need to invest to get the groups formed and approved, but a larger part of me is excited and eagerly awaiting the new relationships that will be formed - and that is the most surprising part of our micro-loan program, the relationships.
Going into this project we knew that it would afford us opportunities to meet a lot of new people and make new friends. The potential was there for bible study and converts, but first and foremost we knew that opportunities to bless borrower’s lives (with more than just a loan) would present themselves. I have been blown away by what has happened. Put simply, God has worked. Oh we haven’t had an in-depth bible study with every person or baptized 20% of our borrowers,but we have encountered people struggling to make ends meet, searching for a way to pick themselves and their family up just a little bit, looking for help. On the surface these people, our friends, look like any ordinary person with a business—busy with but a few minutes to spare, if you can find them. Once the loan has been made and regular contact established (via weekly borrower meetings) we discover an incredible amount of openness.
The openness is expressed in numerous ways. Mothers start sharing about their families, both the good and the bad. Group time becomes prayer time as daughters-in-law process the deaths of their mothers-in-law. What starts out as a simple “share about your week” session turns into an hour long discussion on death, heaven, and whether or not we really will have our own mansions in the great by-and-by. A difficult week for a group member turns into a brainstorming session on ways they can improve their business in the coming days. The rainy season and vacationers are blamed for a drop in sales. An upcoming surgery is prayed over. A borderline abusive relationship is counseled against. To summarize, life is shared.
And it is this, life being shared, which sums up our reason for having a micro-loan program. We know it is unconventional. We also know it might not result in overflowing church meetings. What we do know is that it results in relationships being formed and life being shared and in those moments God works. Through this program we’ve been led to a group of Christians needing connection to the family at large and been able to study with a few individuals. We’ve been able to be present and let God work through us to bless the lives of Peruvians. And that is why we are here in the first place.