Everywhere I traveled in Kenya, I witnessed small economic miracles that have changed the lives of widows who were once desperately poor. All have been helped though Heaven’s Family micro-loans, which have enabled them to lift themselves to self-sufficiency through their own enterprising small businesses.
Widowhood is tragically all too common in many parts of Africa. If a man manages to survive epidemic diseases such as AIDS, malaria, and typhoid, there are also traffic accidents, tribal skirmishes, and civil war that rob families of husbands and fathers. And if that were not enough, many African cultures encourage in-laws to rob widows of all their earthly possessions—even their children. All the widows whom I met on my trip are followers of Jesus. I’d like to tell you about one of them.
Agnes was one of the first widows I met during my two-day stop in the city of Nakuru. After the usual introductions, Agnes told me her story.
For 11 years she and her husband operated a small bakery. It was never very successful, and Agnes was unable to keep it going after her husband died of pneumonia 3 years ago. In her late 30s with two boys, ages 3 and 11, Agnes was desperate. She had no way to earn the $100 a month she needed to continue paying for rent, food, clothing and school tuition for her oldest boy.
Thankfully, Agnes’ pastor is also a Heaven’s Family micro-banker. Serving his flock as both spiritual leader and, when necessary, business counselor, he worked with her to develop a business plan. In June of last year, Agnes was ready. She borrowed $125 from her pastor’s micro-bank and started a retail charcoal business. Charcoal is commonly used by the poor all around the world to fuel cooking fires, and Agnes’ loan helped her buy large bags of charcoal in volume and sell it to her neighbors in smaller quantities.
Agnes’ business has done well, and her ten-month loan is nearly paid off. But, as was the case with many of the widows I met during my two-week visit, Agnes needed to adjust her business model. Seeing her success, others have entered the local charcoal market, driving down prices and profits. I was able to offer Agnes a little business advice. As a result, she now intends to utilize her next loan, which will be larger than the first one, to purchase charcoal in greater volume, reducing her costs to increase her profit margin. Her new strategy, hard work, and thrift will surely pay off.
Just like with Agnes, I found myself helping many other Christian widows with simple solutions to help their businesses grow so they can continue to enjoy their new-found freedom as self-sufficient entrepreneurs. What a joy it was to see the lives of so many widows transformed—both by the power of the gospel, and by simple economic tools that not only empower them, but also help them realize that they are loved by their spiritual family around the world. Thank you for caring. “This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress…” (James 1:27).