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Heaven's Family Magazine
January 2015 Issue

The Unemployable Employer

When a Micro-Loan Makes the Impossible Possible

Dan and Terry Steward, Micro-Loan Ministry

samwell

Samwell Juma

Samwell Juma is a smart, young Kenyan man who had run out of options. After graduating from a local college with a degree in computer technology, Samwell applied and interviewed everywhere he could think of, but no one wanted to hire him. As smart as Samwell was, potential employers had misgivings during interviews. Samwell was becoming desperate. He had a wife and baby boy to support.

Providentially, however, Samwell soon met someone who gave him a chance that he never expected. Pastor Cleophas Makona, who directs Heaven’s Family’s largest micro-bank in Africa, was invited to speak at the church Samwell and his wife attend. Conversing with Samwell after the service, Cleophas was impressed with him. If no one would employ Samwell, Cleophas reasoned, he would help this promising young man open his own business. Subsequent conversations led to a loan that Samwell used to open a small produce shop along with a branch office of a popular Kenyan mobile phone banking service called MPesa.

Cleophas’ confidence in Samwell paid off, literally, when Samwell repaid his 12-month loan in half the time. Samwell consequently requested a second loan, this time to relocate his existing, profitable MPesa office to a busier part of town (closing his produce stand), and to use his expertise in computer technology to also open an internet cafe with supporting copy and print services, a 5-station computer training lab, and a computer repair and supplies shop. It was an aggressive plan, but with Samwell’s successful track record and indomitable spirit, Cleophas agreed to extend an unusually large loan.

Impressive, isn’t it? What is even more impressive is that Samwell was able to accomplish all of this without arms. Samwell was born without them.

Landing at Kitale’s airstrip last September, my wife, Terry, and I were met by Cleophas, who drove us in his tattered pickup truck to see Samwell’s operation firsthand. Already knowing his story, I was excited to finally meet him. Although traditional introductions in this part of the world include the familiar handshake—which I knew wouldn’t work with Samwell—I sensed an immediate connection with him after a simple exchange of warm smiles and a nod of our heads.

He gave us a tour of his organized, well-run shop. The unemployable Samwell had two employees, which once again affirmed the power of a loan to create jobs. Samwell happily reported that business was going well and he was making his loan payments on time. The ear-to-ear grin on Cleophas’ face confirmed it. Samwell has become more than a borrower to Cleophas: he’s become like a son, someone whom he can mentor in spiritual as well as business matters.

samwell-at-his-technology-center

At left, Samwell standing with Cleophas in front of his technology center; at right, the current 5 work stations in the room where an additional 20 stations will be installed

I asked Samwell what was next for him. Without hesitation he spelled out his plans to expand his computer training lab from 5 to 25 stations to meet student demand.

samwell-with-two-employees

Samwell, standing with his two employees, ready to train students at his computer training center

Samwell represents just one of the over forty borrowers whom Cleophas currently serves, as well as thousands of other borrowers around the world who have benefitted from Heaven’s Family’s Opportunity Loans. It all begins in the compassionate hearts of those who have contributed to our Micro-Loan Fund!

THE BIGGER PICTURE:

Dan and Terry Steward

Dan and Terry Steward

At Heaven’s Family we’ve been asked over the years why we prefer to offer loans rather than grants, which perhaps appear to be a more compassionate way to help the poor. In our experience and that of many others, grants foster dependency and stifle initiative. Loans, however, promote hard work, responsibility and self-reliance. Additionally, repaid capital can be re-loaned perpetually, so it never stops serving borrowers. For that reason, followers of Christ who love their neighbors as themselves prefer to receive loans rather than grants, because they don’t expect something for nothing, and they want others to share in God’s blessings.

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