[the africa diaries] day three: visiting the clients

Written by Dan King

Christ-follower. husband. father. author of the unlikely missionary: from pew-warmer to poverty-fighter. co-author of activist faith: from him and for him. school of ministry and missions instructor. president of fistbump media, llc.

August 17, 2009

This was the big day that I had been waiting for!

Today our plan was to meet with the people at the offices of Thika Community Development Trust (TCDT). They are the Five Talents partner that runs the local microfinance program. After that, we were going to go out and meet some of the existing program clients… people who are currently benefiting from microloans to help their businesses.

petersonWhile the TCDT offices were small, and (by Western standards) inadequate, their people and programs were amazing! The program at TCDT was set up as a ‘savings and credit’ program.

The way it works is that groups of at least 25 people would get together and each person would commit to saving a few dollars per month. As the balance grew, members of the group would then loan their own money to each other. Each group would elect officials, and meet regularly after church services to do transactions.

But the real secret to this program’s success was the people from the TCDT office who ran it. People like Peterson, Mary, Thomas, and Lilian meet with these groups on a regular basis to help keep them on track and accountable. One of the most amazing things that I learned about this program is that they boast an impressive 99% on-time payment rate with virtually no defaults on the loans!

After our trip to the office to meet the staff and learn about the programs, we then set out to meet some of the loan clients in their workplaces. I don’t know that I was really prepared for what I was about to experience…

convenience-store-africaWe met guys like Stephen. He runs a small shop comparable to a 7-11 store (or other convenience store) here in the U.S. He has a great location right next to a factory, and he tells us that the opportunity to run that shop means that his family can have a better life. It is important to him that his kids get a decent education. The problem is that his shop is basically a small (approximately 6’x6′) metal box that he works in all day in the hot Africa sun.

We also met women like Irene. She runs a small second-hand clothing shop. Often when Westerners donate their old clothing to charity, they can end up overseas in shops like hers. I asked her what it meant to her to have the opportunity (via a microloan) to run her shop. She told me that she now has the extra money to buy things for her children.

As a father I could totally identify with that! I love to buy things for my son! But somehow I knew that we were thinking of different things. So when I asked her what kinds of things she could now buy for them she simply responded, “you know… meat… and bread.”

wow.

While it was easy for me to focus on all of the things that they didn’t have, I also started to discover something that they DID have… and that was a strong sense of community. 

african-kitchenI got to see typical African kitchens. While they don’t feature the latest appliances or fancy granite countertops, they do represent a place where family (and friends) gather to talk and have fellowship with each other while their meal is cooking.

I met pastors who were actively involved in economic development and job creation in their communities. This is something that we just don’t see very much in the United States. Pastors in the States these days have been pigeon-holed into only being Spiritual leaders. In Africa, they are actively involved in every aspect of life.

This was a day of amazing revelation for me. I was overwhelmingly moved by some of the things that I saw. I was touched deeply by the widespread poverty and how little people had. And I was moved by the Spirit within the people… one that truly understood what it meant to live in community with each other.

I was also challenged to serve in ministry in ways that are not typical for Christians in the United States. It’s great to feed the homeless, but what would it be like if more of us helped them get jobs in addition to simply feeding them?

Finally, I started to wonder what in the world I was going to be able to offer these people that I traveled so far to see. Tomorrow we start our teaching…

 

Check out more from this series in the africa diaries.

11 Comments

  1. mikesgateway

    Man I agree, it is overwhelming when you realize that we have limited ability to do much for the people we minister to, but then lucky for us that is where we stop and He begins. My clients at times tell me something I said that profoundly affected them, but IT IS NEVER something I remember saying or rarely something I felt was “profound”. Its nice that He shows up despite our efforts to be “helpful” for those we minister to!

    Reply
  2. BibleDude

    Ministry in such a foriegn environment was an amazing experience… These experiences really shaped how I will probably do ministry for a long time!

    You are right when you say that it is nice when He shows up! I couldn't have done this trip without Him!

    Reply
  3. jessegiglio

    “Pastors in the States these days have been pigeon-holed into only being Spiritual leaders. In Africa, they are actively involved in every aspect of life.” Great line, I was at a world relief conference a few years back and that was one of my big take-aways. If a town needs clean water donʻt staff around a great music program, staff around clean water! I think that idea still applies here but it takes a little more ingenuity.

    Reply
  4. angelakerns

    You are totally right on with this —- “If a town needs clean water donʻt staff around a great music program, staff around clean water!”
    We have neighbors who needed a new house. They finally got a new/ used manufactured home. I want to throw them a housewarming party… I don't know how, or who will come, but it seems like the right thing to do! I would love it if my brothers and sisters in Christ who live nearby would join in the fun… I've got to get the word out, but don't know how… Lord help me!

    Reply
  5. BibleDude

    To me this was one of the most striking differences between our cultures. And I'm not sure how it happened, but certainly points to how the church in America has become less relevant. I often wonder what our communities would look like if more pastors and church leaders invested time into real economic and community development.

    As someone who is very active in church ministry, it really challenged me in how I think about doing ministry.

    I think that you are doing some great work Jesse! And it encourages me to know that this is something that you identify with! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Reply
  6. angelakerns

    I think Christians, by and large, in these United States, are pigeon-holed in our thinking… we don't know how to get out and be real with people, to grow a genuine sense of community like they have in countries that seem to suffer with more poverty or oppression (like Africa, or China). I want to grow a sense of community, right where I live… but honestly, I don't know how to break the barriers that keep things status quo… I've got the want to, now I just need the how to… and the power of the Holy Spirit to breathe life into it!
    Does anyone know how to order a whole box of The Monkey and The Fish for less than the regular cost? I want to hand them out… but don't have the money myself to order fifty copies…

    Reply
  7. thomasnzau

    This is real Africa.Community development starts at the cultural point.If you dont go out to the people in our small village where Obama was born we believe you do think that your mother knows how to cook than any other mother but the moment you get out of your locality the things you see makes you think otherwise.I know Dan is a witness to this after visiting this small village that gave birth to the president of the most powerful nation of the world.Americans i challenge you to practice the culture of togetherness .the one that made you become so powerful but which is drifting slowly from a community spirit to a selfish culture.Only then you will re-embrace community development and then help the church to get back to her call.

    Reply
  8. BibleDude

    I think that growing a REAL sense of community is difficult sometimes, but I think that the secret is to build it on common ground. People should have a connection point… something that other people can relate to. And one common place to connect with others (as pointed out in The Monkey and The Fish) is in our pain. This just requires us as Christians to be open and transparent about our imperfections. And because of pride, that is difficult for people sometimes.

    Thanks for sharing your heart here Angela!

    Reply
  9. BibleDude

    I was on a prayer walk in the local community recently, and one thing that I noticed was a strong sense of individualism. I agree that America is drifting into a culture of self-centeredness, and think that the church is our only hope to leading it back into a culture of selflessness and community.

    Thanks for following along all the way from Kenya, Thomas! It's great to hear from you again! I'll try to talk more about you in other posts in this series!

    Reply
  10. BibleDude

    I think that growing a REAL sense of community is difficult sometimes, but I think that the secret is to build it on common ground. People should have a connection point… something that other people can relate to. And one common place to connect with others (as pointed out in The Monkey and The Fish) is in our pain. This just requires us as Christians to be open and transparent about our imperfections. And because of pride, that is difficult for people sometimes.

    Thanks for sharing your heart here Angela!

    Reply
  11. BibleDude

    I was on a prayer walk in the local community recently, and one thing that I noticed was a strong sense of individualism. I agree that America is drifting into a culture of self-centeredness, and think that the church is our only hope to leading it back into a culture of selflessness and community.

    Thanks for following along all the way from Kenya, Thomas! It's great to hear from you again! I'll try to talk more about you in other posts in this series!

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [the africa diaries] day ten: the road to kasese : BibleDude.net - [...] the Five Talents Uganda national office. The program here was set up a little different than the program in Kenya.…
  2. [the africa diaries] day eleven: a walk in the clouds : BibleDude.net - [...] out to meet the clients is exciting because we get to meet them where they work. This part of…
  3. the africa diaries by Dan King – BibleDude.net - [...] day three: visiting the clients [...]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

[the africa diaries] day three: visiting the clients

by Dan King time to read: 4 min
14