I am privileged to live and work in Kisangani, Democratic Republic of the Congo. I manage a faith-based microfinance instition that gives small loans to help grow tiny family businesses in an effort to help people ease the burden of poverty and ultimately rise out of it permanently. I’m here because I feel a genuine calling to DR Congo to do whatever I can in the battle against severe poverty.
In the few years before I moved here I was blessed to travel to Africa three times leading student mission trips. I witnessed the multifaceted tragedy of severe poverty first hand each time. I made friends and listened to life stories marred by extreme hardship and disease. Sitting under a tree in Mangochi, Malawi talking with a group of adults about HIV/AIDS, a father solemnly posed this question:
“You know Brian; the real heart of the problem is poverty. If I have six children and there is no way that I can provide food for them, what should I do? Should I sit and watch as we all die of starvation? Or should I send my oldest daughter into town to sell her body so that even though she will die with AIDS, the other five will live? What should I do?”
What a tragic question! I kept my composure as I thought of the many parents in this very situation and my heart broke for them. I tried to muster a response:
“Thank you for your honest question. I’m sorry that this question has to exist. There are some who might say it’s best to stay away from hard questions because there are no easy answers. But I believe that there must be a third way. I believe that communities, churches, families can come together and figure out ways to work and earn so that parents can provide food and educate their children.”
That conversation inspired in me a desire to help promote a “third way”, something community based, sustainable, and affirming to local economies. I began to look at various types of development. Hand-out type assistance is often necessary, but when it’s prolonged it becomes like one band-aid after another on a wound that doesn’t heal. Parents of children that are in child sponsorship programs are usually very thankful for the help, but they must long for the kind of economic health in their family that would allow them to support their children rather than foreign donors. My desire to help has brought me to microfinance. Even better, I work for an organization (HOPE International) that combines high-quality professional micro-lending and savings with a positive Christian witness.
Life and work in DR Congo is not always easy, but it is a great blessing. I enjoy the Congolese staff that I lead and I see tremendous potential with them. I love talking with our loan clients and hearing how their businesses are growing and all the kids are now well fed and in school.
If you would like to learn more about my work and our organization, please contact me! If you would like to join with me empowering women and men in the battle against extreme poverty with your time or your resources I invite you to do so. If you know someone who might like to know about what I am doing or who could possibly contribute, please share my story.
The need here is tremendous. So many people here in Congo are daily facing tragic dilemmas prompted by poverty. By the grace of God we’re helping as many of them as we can to find a third way.