Microbusiness is ministry

21 Sep, 2017 | International
Patrick Wood
Moldova: Mihael is showing the crop of cauliflower in one of his newly-built greenhouses, which is part of the vegetable farm he is running with the help of the B4T programme. This programme helps Moldovans build up their own business, enabling them to provide for their families without having to leave for work abroad.
As a defining mark of His ministry, Jesus went about teaching the “good news of the kingdom of God” (Luke 8:1; NIV) using essentially a show-and-tell method. He didn’t just talk about the path to abundant life; He placed people on it in active and practical ways: healing the sick, feeding the hungry and restoring the broken-hearted. Likewise, OM aims to affect holistic transformation in people’s lives by providing opportunity to improve their living conditions through microbusiness programmes.

Start small, but start

As a former Soviet state, the small and beaten-down country of Moldova was forbidden private enterprise for 70 years, resulting in unemployment as high as 80 per cent in some towns, an epidemic of alcoholism, child abandonment and orphan exploitation. (The nation ranks sixth in the world on the human trafficking index). But God has not forgotten its people—and neither has OM.

In 2006, OM launched Business for Transformation (B4T), an intensive business course for Moldavians, involving a business plan proposal from each student and a start-up loan for those that met investor approval.

Mihael, a farmer, used his loan to establish several greenhouses. As one of the few in the country who can harvest certain crops during winter, Mihael has expanded his business, hired additional staff, and invested back into the cause that made it all possible.

“As a Christian, my goal is to work for God,” he says. “I believe you can do this through your normal work and your money. My dream is that, with part of what I am making in my business, I will be able to invest in the spread of the gospel.”

Elsewhere in the world, OM positions poor and forgotten people to pursue a productive life in other ways. In the Talamanca region of Costa Rica, OM developed a housing project for the Cabacare people, one of Central America’s few remaining indigenous groups speaking a pre-Columbian language.

Because Talamanca is an indigenous reserve in the country’s remote mountains, the Cabacare are commonly overlooked and have limited access to water, food and healthcare. Each wooden house OM builds invests $12,000 US locally over its four-month construction, with four completed to date. One is now home to Angela and her four disabled children, empowering them to pursue life from a solid foundation. Theirs was supplemented with features for handicap access and a wheelchair for her children, who no longer live day to day looking up at people from a dirty floor.

In Zambia, supported by funds from OM’s Freedom Challenge ministry, the Tabitha Initiative endows at-risk women with entrepreneurial skills. Participants receive initial training in a given craft, such as handmade jewelry or clothing, and then move on to the second phase, called Business Expense Savings Training, on the fundamentals of running a business. In the final stage, each participant is given a small loan of 40 kwacha ($4.14 US) and asked to come up with a creative business idea for making profit based on this small amount. Those who show diligence in their project, like Monica, are asked to prepare business proposals requiring a larger loan. She successfully opened a business for raising chickens and can now pay for her daughter’s education.

Monica’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs? “You cannot start a business without preparation!” Basic though the principle may be, the diligence of practising it completely reshapes these women’s lives and sense of value. One OM worker observed, “There’s a certain confidence in their self-image and attitude that wasn’t there before entering the programme. And seeing this internal transformation in them is as rewarding as seeing their circumstances change.”

The same could be said of participants in OM’s computer literacy programmes. In Bangladesh, 47 per cent of university graduates battle the discouragement of being unemployed. One, a young man named Gopal, worked hard to earn his degree but couldn’t find a decent-paying job to match his credentials—at least, not one that didn’t also require computer proficiency. After completing OM’s three-month training course, he was hired by a garment company for a completely computer-based position.

“I am so grateful,” says Gopal. “I can now help my family and no longer be a burden to them. Thank you, OM, for a wonderful three months of training.”

Born and raised on the mission field throughout Latin America, Patrick Wood serves as a writer and content curator for OM USA. Based in the Atlanta area, his passions include long-distance running, books, TV, caffeine and eating.

Credit: Patrick Wood · © 2017 OM International This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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