Across Pacific & Asia
Missionaries Find Business Loans
Better In Long-term Than "Relief"

SMALL BUSINESS LOANS can return a more important kind of interest - of non-Christians wanting to hear more about the gospel - than just money, according to missionaries working in a poor rural farming community.

Helping people to stand on their own feet financially is providing an opportunity to demonstrate as well as talk about God's love and care to villagers untouched by traditional evangelism.

Start-up funds have been used to buy fertilizer for rice fields, raise pigs, and
purchase a motor cycle and noodle-making equipment since Youth With A Mission
launched a micro-credit program in the Taphraya district, near the Cambodian
border, two years ago.

The loan project is run by YWAM workers in cooperation with a local church born out of the mission's long-standing work in two former refugee camps in the area. Money is available to Christians and non-Christians alike, with each application considered by members of a small local committee.

Loans, usually running to a few hundred dollars, are made with a monthly repayment rate of 1.5 per cent - far below the typical market rate, which runs more than 60 per cent per year. One group which used borrowed money to buy 30 piglets made a $700 profit within just four months.

Eighty-three loans have been completed, with another 106 ongoing. Lenders receive ongoing advice and support from fund organizers. The program is run through YWAM's Project Life Foundation, established in 1983 to oversee a wide range of relief and development projects in the country.

"If assistance is being given where people can do things for themselves, traditional 'relief' can create dependency, hopelessness and a fatalistic approach to life," said Steve Goode, YWAM's Thailand director, based in Bangkok, and international director of mercy ministries. "Recipients of relief are sometimes made to feel that they can't do anything themselves to become self-sufficient, and so they develop
a mentality of dependence.

"Micro-credit tackles this by freeing the individual, enabling them to take care of
themselves and releasing them to believe in themselves so they can provide for their families. This is especially important in Thailand where an estimated 80 per cent of rural Thais live in debt."

With donations from churches and individual supporters, and some grants from the
Australian government, the micro-credit fund currently stands at around $15,000. Completed loans total $8,000, with the interest earned helping provide for the next round of loans.

"We started this because we had a strong desire to see people break out of poverty, become more productive and improve their livelihoods," said Goode. "It also provides a natural opportunity for ongoing interaction with the poor and needy where Christians can portray Jesus through their actions."

Source: YWAM International News Digest:

December 1998