Saturday, March 03, 2007

Justification

“How can you Biblically justify going and lending money when the Bible says neither a lender nor borrower be?” My brother asks me.

Well actually that is a line from Shakespeare. A quick scan of the Bible and my memory as a Crown coach I can not find where lending is forbidden. Nor is borrowing. But there are blessings and curses to them both. See Deuteronomy 15:5-6 and 28:1,2,12,15,43-45 Ok really read all of chapters 15 and 28 because many times a verse taken out of context can be way skewed. To paraphrase, if you follow the commands of God you will be blessed and one of the blessings is you will lend to many nations by borrow from none. And the curse is the negative of that. So we can lend… and if you have ever been in debt you realize the importance of Proverbs 22:7 “Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender.” Now we lend and we have servants! Please clean my house, and… well maybe not.

In India where we are going there are already microcreditors so why go develop another one? What is the goal of lending? For many it is profit, they charge a 30% interest rate on a 3 month loan. What would that APR be? But Growing Opportunity uses a different approach. They still charge a fairly high interest rate 15%, (this is similar to what a wealthy person would be paying on a large loan.) But as much as possible of that goes back into the loaning pool. Second we require weekly repayment, with a training session at the same time. Reviewing the Opportunity.net material I see that there are formal training sessions on 400 topics, from business improvement, family improvement, to spiritual concerns.

Opportunity International has a triple bottom line goal of transformation, outreach and sustainability. The goal is to change life, many lives, and do it in a self supporting manner, both for the lender and the borrower. Remember the concept of "give a man a fish.. teach a man to fish"? Years of experience has proven out many tools and techniques that can and are doing long term good. And in Chennai India the tsunami was a catalyst for improving the operations of a NGO lending center, IID partnered with OI and transformed to a for profit banking center, still supporting the same clients. Jim Reiff became CEO a year ago the time is set for an infusion of effort by a couple Americans to come in and coach, train, and work hard for a while before going home again. While I have no clue exactly what we will be doing I know that we will be leaving some well equipped Indian nationals to carry on microlending with a transformational goal. They already have 4 banks with 4500 members, and would like to double those numbers in the next couple years.

Having never been to India, we are currently learning much about the culture. We are also learning as much about financing as we can. Third but most important is working to remain very grounded in the Bible and prayer, something I hope will rub off on those around me.

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