From January 11th until 16th, I attended a Rural Finance Conference in Kampala, Uganda. This conference was organized by Opportunity International Network Service Organization (NSO) to discuss the overall plan to implement an effective rural finance program in five countries: Malawi, Mozambique, Ghana, Uganda and Rwanda. A week-long conference was tiring, but never boring. Rather it was very informative and fruitful in developing collaborative spirits among five countries.
This five-country Rural Finance Program, including credits, savings and transformation, has an ambitious target to outreach more than one million rural farmers by 2013.
In light of various risks and uncertainties related to rural finance, I felt more challenged than encouraged. But the mandate was clear.
I had an opportunity to lead the group in sharing the Word. When the sin entered into humanity, the perfect harmony in relationships was broken: the relationships were with God, self, others and environment. The environment included the ground. The earth. The punishment included God's cursing on the ground that will produce thorns and thisles, and man's painful toil on the ground to eat. (Genesis 3:17-19)
Through the redemtive blood of Christ, however, God showed the only way that the fallen humanity may be saved from permanent destruction, reconciled to Himself and restored for the perfect harmonious relationships with God, self, others and environment, including the earth. (Col. 1:19,20)
I came to realize that the rural finance is a way to participate in this God's salvation or restoration process between people and the ground, through educating the farmers how to prevent soil erosion, how to enhance the yield, how to prevent drought and flood, along with how to save, how to manage the debt, how to manage the seasonality in farming. It is a holistic transformation!
I do not know anything about agriculture. It scares me a lot. But the mandate is clear. Agriculture is an essential component in God's grand salvation plan of restoring harmony in people's relationship with the earth. With the mandate, I must trust in the Lord who gives me strength, power, ability and discernment. Through learning, I can acquire the knowledge and skills. Through cooperation, I can expand the knowledge and skills. Through the principles of stewardship, however, I should balance our deployment of resources against the risks inherent to agriculture finance.
Oh Lord, I know you know that the task is challenging. So I come before you, seeking your guidance and wisdom. May your overflowing grace lead me and us to the right way. - Jeffrey