In southern Rwanda, Jean Marie and his wife own and operate the only restaurant in their small town. They also have a successful farm producing an abundance of crops. Their newfound financial stability has allowed the couple to support 11 orphans in addition to their own 5 children. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a young widow named Mama Atiya has a thriving fish business that has granted her financial security, allowing her to adopt 4 orphans from her community into her family and making her the mother of 10 children. Yet just a few years ago, Jean Marie and Mama Atiya were struggling to provide even for their own families, much less vulnerable children. What changed?
Through the work of HOPE International, an organization focused on Christ-centered microenterprise development, Jean Marie and Mama Atiya were able to strengthen and improve the lives of their vulnerable families. HOPE International’s mission is to invest in the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities as they proclaim and live the Gospel. They accomplish this through two models—microfinance institutions and savings and credit associations—to provide men and women with discipleship, biblically based business training, savings services, and small loans.
Microfinance institutions (MFIs) are banks designed to serve entrepreneurs in poverty by providing small loans, a safe place to save, and other financial services to help men and women invest in their businesses and provide for their families.
Savings and credit associations (SCAs) are groups of individuals who save their money together in partnership with the local church. As they build a secure sum of money, members often take out loans from their group to pay for household expenses or invest in businesses.
Together, MFIs and SCAs form the core of HOPE’s Christ-centered microenterprise development services.
Jean Marie and Mama Atiya are both examples of the types of individuals who daily receive small loans through their local MFI. Their initial loans were the first steps on their journeys toward financial security. However, it was HOPE International’s holistic approach to alleviating poverty that not only empowered their families, but also provided the means and the encouragement to respond to the needs of their communities, including caring for orphans and vulnerable children. Many of HOPE’s clients reach financial security, but also see a personal, social, and spiritual impact, which can inspire a desire to share their newfound blessings with others in their communities.
For Jean Marie and Mama Atiya, access to holistic financial services and support allowed them to respond to their call to care for orphans. In doing so, they joined in a long tradition of Christians fulfilling God’s command to take up the cause of the fatherless (Isaiah 1:17). In passages such as Exodus 22:22 and James 1:27, God’s people are charged with the social responsibility to care for orphans and widows. However, for many impoverished Christians living in the developing world today, this social responsibility carries with it a heavy financial burden. Through the stories of HOPE’s clients it is clear that the willingness to help is abundant, but the financial capital needed to do so is scarce. Organizations such as HOPE International are coming alongside these men and women, providing holistic services that empower them to not only to provide for their own children, but also experience the joy of participating in God’s call by welcoming orphans into their families.
In the case of Jean Marie and Mama Atiya, responding to the call to care for orphans meant opening their homes and expanding their families. For each Christian, the response to God’s call will look different. God is continually providing ways for his church to take up the cause of the fatherless. Explore Faith to Action’s Journey of Faith Study Series to discover effective ways to engage in orphan care, or consider leading a Journey of Faith Study group that will help equip and guide you and others to live out God’s call to care for orphans and vulnerable children.