Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Elie's Commitment for the poor... Bertirida's story...

Elie is another loan officer, 26 years old. His father is a pastor and his mother is a missionary. He grew up in a poor environment. When he was attending the secondary school (high school) he was thinking he wish he could help out the poor if he were rich. After he graduated from the secondary school, one Sunday he heard of an announcement of a vacancy at Urwego Opportunity Bank. So he joined the bank two years ago.

He shared a story of Bertirida. She was living in a grass-thatched house with a leaky roof. Her husband was a drunkard and a violent man. Bertirida was providing for the family by selling vegetables from the nearby field to the market. 

She wanted to join a community banking group with UOB, but was rejected, not because of her but because of her husband. They were afraid that her husband would take the money and spend it for drinking, resulting in her inability to pay back the loan. She was crying aloud, begging for reconsideration. Elie felt sympathetic with her so he approached her to comfort her. Elie heard of the whole family story and felt obligated to do something for her. He talked to the community banking group and pledged that he will pay back if she fails to pay back. Elie spoke with her husband, explaining that Bertirida was trying to support the family, not just herself and urging him not to be violent. It was a bold move for a young man, because everyone else in the village was afraid of him, even the village president. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Elie said, he was able to be strong and courageous. Surprisingly, her husband promised to be supportive of his wife's borrowing and business. It must have been the work of the Holy Spirit!

So Bertirida was able to borrow RWF20,000, approximately $37. It was one and half years ago. She did not disappoint anyone. She paid back as agreed and kept borrowing more to finance the expansion of her small business, up to RWF150,000. After one and half years, there have been great transformation in her family's life.

She now has a house with an iron-sheet roof so she does not have to worry about the leaking. She now owns a cow and a few goats. There has clearly been an economic transformation. But it was not the end of the transformation story. Amazingly, her husband quit drinking and stopped being violent. Moreover, her husband is now helping his wife's business. Praise the Lord! What a social transformation it is!

It was not only a blessing to Bertirida, but also a testimony to her neighbors who have witnessed the transformation in her husband's life and in their family lives. 

Elie is serving 420 clients through 10 community banking groups, but he has many non-clients waiting to start the community banking with Elie because they have witnessed how godly approach Elie took changed their lives.

What kind of change can you make with $37 in your life? I was so grateful to God for Elie's commitment to help out the poor, even at the risk of his own salary.  - Jeffrey

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