Happy International Women’s Day to you strong women (yes, that’s all women)!
It’s International Women’s Day, and while every day is a perfect day to honor and celebrate women, we want to recognize that right now is a great time to start a conversation about gender equality and how this impacts poverty. And hopefully the conversation and the resulting actions continue beyond today.
Historically, women have not been given the same economic opportunities as men, especially in developing countries, and while this has been changing, there is still work to be done. When women are empowered and supported so that they can provide stability for themselves and their families, poverty shrinks, hope is created, and God is glorified.
There are many ways to empower women around the world. Jesus’ Economy is working with an existing program in Bihar, India to do just this.
In Bihar, a state in extreme poverty, families are forced into a repeated cycle of poverty in which their basic needs are not met. But Jesus’ Economy is partnering with a program there that teaches women tailoring and seamstress skills; and then adding innovative business training and microfinance to these efforts. With this program, we will create sustainable jobs for the impoverished.
The day Jesus’ Economy decided to launch this plan is a day CEO John D. Barry will never forget. A woman placed her hands in his and wept. She said, “I can now afford to keep my kids in school, but keeping food on their plates often feels impossible. I am constantly facing the decision of whether to eat or pay for school supplies or clothing for my children. Will you pray for me and my children?” She could pay for her kids to go to school through her sewing work, which she learned via a non-profit sewing school, but her business needed a boost.
Women like this are ready to work hard to offer their children a better life; they just need the opportunity. Together, we can give them this chance for a hopeful future. Jesus’ Economy is offering graduates of the sewing program the chance to learn how to make products for a western market—as well as learn business basics and ethical business practices.
Our partner in Bihar has already taught women how to sew, but they need the additional business skills to become successful and sustainable.
Our business-training program will teach 40 women how to expand their businesses. The training has two phases. First, a trainer will come in and offer a one-week training session on product development, employee management, handling accounts, and running an ethical, fair trade business.
The second phase involves hands-on product development training. This will be a two-week session that guides the women through their own product development cycle and further business ethics training. This trainer will be available for an additional 10 weeks for free consulting to the women. By the end of the training, the women will be equipped to sell high-quality products locally and on the western market. They will have moved from tailors to successful international businesswomen.
After the training, the women will be eligible for a microloan from Jesus’ Economy to purchase supplies for their expanding business. Jesus' Economy also changes the economic paradigm by becoming the guaranteed buyer of the products the women are creating. Jesus' Economy will sell these products in our fair trade shop.
Business-training ultimately fights against the cycle of poverty, and gives women hope of changing the future for generations to come.
International Women’s Day isn’t just about celebrating what women have accomplished. It is also about recognizing what we can still do to empower women and work to put an end to global poverty.
On this International Women’s Day, you can empower a woman in Bihar, India to lift her family out of poverty, and bring positive change to the world.
You might ask yourself, why microloans? Why not just give the women the money for their business straight up and walk away without expecting anything back?
We offer microloans because it helps someone's business become self-sustaining rather quickly. It also gives the business owner the pride that their business is their own and a product of their hard work; as they'll have to eventually pay back their loan. They'll retain a sense of accomplishment. We don't offer a handout; we offer to help women grow their businesses.
Not all the women who've completed our business training program will accept the microloan from Jesus' Economy, but the ones who do will receive up to $500 and have the funds they need to purchase supplies or equipment for their growing business. (And $500 goes a long way in Bihar, India.)
Our microloans are different than typical. We don't just offer a loan, we create economic opportunity. We buy products from the women and sell them on a larger scale than just the local impoverished economy. (This also helps the women repay the loan quickly.)
The women we work with will sell locally and Jesus' Economy will buy some of their products at a fair price and sell them in our fair trade store internationally. This opens up their business to a whole new market, increasing their customer base and helping lift the entire community out of poverty. The commerce isn't limited to their community.
With Jesus' Economy, women are able to create jobs for other people as their business scales. The local economy is renewed with the help of the global marketplace. We connect artisans to global commerce. It's microfinance meets e-commerce.
There is an old proverb that says “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
There is a difference between a handout and a hand up. “Giving a man a fish” is purely charity—just providing money or food. “Teaching a man to fish” does more; it involves respecting the dignity and talents of the person in need of assistance. It might include teaching a skill or trade, providing a useful resource (e.g., grain or chickens), helping someone to find a job or create a business, or even micro-financing. There are times to just meet a basic need for someone (feed them the fish), but we must lean towards teaching.
Teaching someone to fish recognizes the way God created us. God created us for meaningful pursuits—not for idleness. Proverbs 14:23 says, “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.” ” Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
At a local hospital in Papua New Guinea, I once met a man, his wife, and their infant twin daughters. Both the man and his wife had HIV. Fortunately, neither child was HIV positive, but they were only a few weeks old and had malaria. One of the babies had cerebral malaria and was in pretty poor shape. Over a few weeks, the children recovered and went home with their parents who were then receiving Antiretroviral Therapy.
I didn't hear of the family for about another year, but in that year a local aid agency had provided some basic business training and a small loan (micro-financing) to the father. He had begun a small shop in the market, had grown his business sufficiently, and had just begun renting a storage unit to trade out of (increasing both his security and inventory). He also was in good spirits and in good health.
For these people, their needs were met—they had the fish they needed that day (the medicine for them and their children)—but they were also taught how to fish. And provided the start-up capital to fish themselves. It worked. This is the recipe for success we all should seek.
There is joy and reward in work and productivity. It grants dignity to the impoverished—and to all of us. Work boosts morale, buoys up spirits, and gives us purpose.
There is more to be gained in providing the impoverished with the resources to put food on their own tables, than there is us in simply put the food on their tables for them.
Providing resources—and educating people in how to use them—is how we feed people for a lifetime. This is how we give a gift that keep on giving.
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I regularly wonder if I truly love people. Am I living the entire message of the gospel or just part of it? I think this is one of the most important question Christians should ask.
If I don’t have an income, how will I have time to do anything but survive? If I suffer each day from malnutrition or waterborne illnesses, how will I have time to do anything but pray for salvation from my situation? I may want to serve "the one who saves" but it will be very difficult for me to do so if I am praying for salvation from my daily circumstances.
The idea of truly loving people is why we here at Jesus’ Economy have a holistic model. In each developing world community we serve, we address business issues, spiritual problems, and the needs of a community. We do this through church grants, microloans, and the meeting of basic needs. Our church planters also engage directly with those receiving microloans and business training. This allows for us to bring biblical ethics into business to alleviate corruption.
In addition, we create jobs by providing an online fair trade shop. Through our shop, we not only buy products from artisans from around the world, we also buy products from the people receiving microloans through our holistic projects. We complete the economic cycle by also becoming the guaranteed buyer.
I often wonder if we all practiced loving a whole person, not just their need, how our world would change? And I am not just talking about you donating to Jesus' Economy here; I am talking about truly engaging in relationship with other people, to empower them to overcome the spiritual (a lack of living fully for Jesus) and physical poverty (a lack of resources and access to them) they're facing.
In the instance of our Renew Bihar, India project, we're practicing our holistic model, because we want to see hope, hearts, and home renewed.
Here's how it will work. 18 church planters will receive grants and 18 water wells being drilled in the same regions those planters are serving. In addition, 40 women will be empowered to develop products for the western market—by receiving business training and microloans if they so desire.
With the knowledge of how to develop a product for the western market, these women will then be able to expand the businesses they own and hire others. We will become their buyer at the end of the microloan cycle to further jumpstart their business and economy—we will then sell those products to you right in our fair trade shop and reinvest any profit.
We will also establish a medical clinic for the impoverished. We’re creating jobs and churches, while meeting basic needs.
I want to have the same level of care I have for the people of Bihar with everyone I meet, every day. How can I empower them to live for Jesus? How can you do the same?
I believe that God cares as much about a person’s daily income as he does their spirituality, because work life is connected to spiritual life. Above that, work itself is spiritual—everything we do is. We may not acknowledge it, but every decision we make affects others, in some way or another—either by what we are doing or by what we aren’t doing.
God loves a whole person—not just the person when they’re praying, or when they're going to church, but also when they’re living the rest of their life. Our aim here at Jesus’ Economy is to do the same.
Jesus' Economy is about holistic community transformation. Our model incorporates each part of the life of a community: creating jobs, planting churches, meeting needs, and training leaders. We believe that all of these efforts are connected. In addition, we believe in keeping the global economy in mind: This is why we sell fair trade products online and offer microloans, as part of our process.
See the full-size version of the infographic explaining our model.
Selling locally is wonderful, but when products are also sold online, the amount of income coming into an economy drastically changes, allowing for sustainable change to occur faster.
But even with an online marketplace available, if job creation efforts face the difficulties of corruption, they will be hindered. Healthy churches can alleviate corruption by providing ethical guidance to communities.
The physical needs of a group of people must also be met. This is why the meeting of basic needs, like providing clean water and access to medical care, is also part of Jesus' Economy's model.
However, meeting basic needs will not take care of the long-term problems: You may be able to feed a person today, but they need a sustainable solution. This also gives a person the dignity of choice, instead of forcing them to take a handout. That's where job creation comes in, bringing things full circle.
Yet there is still one more component to alleviating poverty: Job creation and church planting both require training. Training that is ethical in nature, and paired with mentorship and accountability, can create lasting positive change for communities. Training is the key to unlocking the potential of a person and a community.
Jesus' Economy's model of community development feeds itself, once it gets going. We help communities overcome major economic and spiritual hurdles, so that they may continue the effort. All of our efforts are designed by locals and implemented by them.
We believe that the world can, and will, be a better place once we implement this model. And that starts with our Renew Bihar, India project. Together, we can tackle the reason why poverty exists, both the spiritual and physical reasons.
I have never felt more selfish than when writing a Christmas wish list. I know these lists are meant to help others find gifts we really want—and in that way, I guess they're fine—but isn’t thinking about ourselves the opposite of what Christmas is about?
Christmas is about God coming to earth to be among us—as His Son, living as a person, in the flesh (Luke 1–3). And Jesus takes on human form with full knowledge that He will suffer and die at the end of it all (Isaiah 52:13–53:12).
God makes the ultimate investment in us by coming to earth—boldly proclaiming in spectacular action that He believes that we are worth redeeming.
Our response to Christmas should first be repentance and belief in Jesus, but second, investing in others as He did (and does) with us.
Today you have an opportunity to invest in someone else. Today, you can go out of your way to find someone who needs mentorship—a hand up in the world.
Although meeting someone’s basic needs is a moving action, I’m talking about a longer investment.
Who do you know that you could teach and serve? Perhaps this means finally getting involved in youth or college ministry, to invest in younger people, or maybe it just means reaching out to that younger friend or new Christian and being intentional about having coffee with them regularly to talk about life.
After you have thought about what you can do locally, take a minute to consider what you can also do globally.
Could you invest in microloans? Could you use some skills you have to teach another person overseas that same skill set? Here at Jesus’ Economy, investing in others is a core principle of what we're about. To help you think globally about investing in others, we created several infographics.
Now, go make it happen. Invest in someone. You could be the person that someone cites for the rest of their life as the reason they were able to overcome that horrific time, get back on their feet again, or simply succeed. Show someone the power of Jesus here and now.
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Jesus' Economy is dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. In 60 seconds, we explain how we plan to do so.
You can help make the world a better place. Donate today:
Thank you for your prayer and support.
(P.S. We've been quieter than usual lately because we've been busy assembling an incredible product line that will fund life transformation. We will let you know as soon as it's ready.)
Microloans are extremely effective. At one point, they were even believed to be the “silver bullet” for helping others. However, even a great idea can be improved upon. Here are five reasons why a new kind of microloan is needed.
One of the best things about microloans is that a person who receives a loan becomes self-sustaining rather quickly. But, this does not mean that they have moved out of poverty. If one poor tomato farmer sells their product to one poor butcher, the money is just exchanging hands and/or the profit margins are very slim for each. Their lives are significantly better, but not exponentially better. It’s exponential growth that needs to happen in the developing world.
In Western world culture, we wouldn’t dream of launching a product-based business without an online presence. It’s likely that we would even attempt to sell online, perhaps even exclusively. It is not logical to think that a business in the developing world will grow quickly that is not doing the same. By connecting a developing world business to online ecommerce, their business could become big, fast; and that means more jobs.
A product line is stronger when it is exposed to a larger market sector. Typically, the larger your market sector, the better your product needs to be, because there are more demands on your company from consumers. This puts the necessary pressure on a company to become stronger, faster, and thus more sustainable.
If job creation is what microloans are really all about, then being in the business of creating very small (often family) companies is not sufficient. These micro enterprises are not in the position to hire more people; their business model doesn’t allow for it. A business model connected to the Internet would.
A large customer base is necessary for a company to grow rapidly. When many products are brought into one market place, in an elegant way, the amount of buying power of the customer base generally increases. This is part of why Amazon.com is such a successful company. If a set of quality products from the developing world were brought into one place, the customer base would also likely increase, creating a better chance of collective success.
Jesus’ Economy envisions creating a large microloan program with ecommerce in mind. We’re going to supplement this with training of entrepreneurs, including biblical ethics training to ensure that corruption does not destroy the investments we make. We plan to bring together entrepreneurs’ products into one large marketplace—to create a network effect that is good for the fair-trade minded customer and for the businesses. All proceeds will be automatically reinvested in the work of Jesus’ Economy. We believe that this will create economic change in communities; it will create jobs.
An economist named Jeffrey Sachs identifies four ways that family income per capita can increase—here are two of the four he mentions. The other two are in yesterday's post. This list is adapted from his book, The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. The explanations are my own, based on his ideas.
When someone receives access to new technology, it can completely transform their life. Most of us have heard technology spoken about as disruptive: One of the advantages of disruptive technology is that it can disrupt the usual patterns of poverty.
We are all limited by our potential resources. When you change a person's level of access to resources, as technology does, you can increase their earning potential exponentially. What if you could take any business and plug it into new technology and ideas that worked? In the process of doing so, you would change the way that business functions for the better. Just like a farmer who learns a new, better method for farming crops can rapidly change their place in an economy, a shirt manufacturer connected to global ecommerce and other technology will have a more successful business.
This is part of the model of Jesus’ Economy—this is why we connect entrepreneurs to global ecommerce. By plugging them into our technology and marketing capability, we can unlock the potential of their business. In addition, part of our microloan process involves helping entrepreneurs get set up with technology to make their manufacturing process smoother. We can make it easier for them to produce more, faster.
A resource boom occurs when a major, ongoing problem plaguing the life of an entrepreneur is suddenly handled and under control. This often occurs at the regional level, as many of these problems involve disease spreading insects or the meeting of basic needs. Sachs uses farming to explain this:
"The farm household is able to move to a much larger and more fertile farm after the government's success in controlling the breeding of black flies, which spread African river blindness. Suddenly there are thousand of hectares of new farmland and a significant expansion of production capacity as a result. Incomes rise and huger falls as each household in the newly opened region is able to triple its previous food output."
Although Jesus' Economy is not the kind of organization that would be able to take on a problem like black flies, we are the type of organization who sees the necessity of meeting basic needs in the process of helping a region recover economically. We plan to fund this work; we don't do it ourselves. When basic needs are met, people are healthy, can work consistently, and have greater opportunity. What good are jobs without clean water?
In a very real and tangible way, we can bring economic hope to others. It doesn’t take much to get there. It’s just a matter of creativity and implementation. You can fund holistic regional transformation today. Donate to Jesus’ Economy regional transformation.
An economist named Jeffrey Sachs identifies four ways that family income per capita can increase—here are two of the four he mentions. The next two will be in tomorrow’s post. This list is adapted from his book, The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. The explanations are my own, based on his ideas.
When people save resources—whether it is money, goods, or livestock—rather than spend it all, they are given the economic freedom to invest. They’re also given an economic buffer against moving back into poverty. Once this savings is invested (at least in part) in something other than their primary business, they have the potential to have a greater yield the next year—they’re creating an additional income stream. That extra yield becomes a buffer against moving back into poverty and creates a larger investment pool, and thus potential larger earnings the following year. Sachs remarks, “In economic jargon, the saving has led to capital accumulation … which in turn has raised household productivity.”
It’s often overlooked that one of the primary problems of poverty is a lack of buffer to recover from basic economic pitfalls: any small dip can send someone in poverty deeper into poverty. Thus, people need a more sustainable source of income—one that can produce enough wealth in the beginning to invest in multiple streams of potential income and/or have savings. This is in many ways part of the model of Jesus’ Economy—this is why we connect entrepreneurs to global ecommerce and work with them directly to develop product for an international market.
When a person learns a new trade, especially when it involves learning a new way to use their current assets, they have the potential for a larger income than ever before. In a very practical sense, this is like a person who manufactures fishing nets learning that if they changed their method and material, they could manufacture mosquito nets and have a larger market potential. Teaching people a new type of trade—based on their current one—is one of the best ways to alleviate poverty.
Sachs notes: “This pattern exemplifies Adam Smith’s insight into the two-way link from specialization to expanded markets back to increased specialization.” Jesus’ Economy model for working with entrepreneurs reflects this idea: we believe that people learning new potential for their current skill is a great way to help their income increase and thus see their lives changed for the better.
In a very real and tangible way, we can bring economic hope to others. It doesn’t take much to get there. It’s just a matter of creativity and implementation. You can help fund entrepreneurs in the developing world today, and be a part of household incomes increasing. Donate to Jesus’ Economy microloans.