The Board for our education center in Africa recently had to make a fairly big decision. Should we borrow money to lend in the new micro loan program we were launching? It looked like the offer was an answer to prayers…but was it really?
Most of the Board thought Bintu had found the greatest option at perfect timing. An organization was willing to lend us, Future Hope Africa, $11K at only 10% interest over the next three years. Did you know that many of the places offering micro loans to people in 3rd world countries charge between 20 and 80% interest? To me that’s highway robbery, and to the Bible it’s called “usury.” It’s no wonder so many start-ups in places of desperate need fail with that kind of interest hanging over the borrowers head.
One member of the board was concerned that we might be entering an Ishmael situation. When Abraham didn’t see God answering his prayers or God’s promise for an heir, he slept with his wife’s handmaiden to get the job done and thus Ishmael was born even though an heir was coming from Abraham’s wife in the future. When we get impatient for God to get things done and take matters into our own hands, we might be creating an Ishmael situation.
Was this loan the way God wanted us to proceed to fulfill what He gave us to do?
We tabled the decision, and I began doing more research. I had a good handle on what the Bible says about going into debt (see C is for Cursed), but starting a business is one of the gray areas, plus the fact we were making loans for others who came to us with needs, were educated by our partnership on starting and running a Christian business.
For my husband and me, the scriptures on loaning money could not have been clearer.
If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, you are not to act as a creditor to him; you shall not charge him interest. (Exodus 22:25 NASB)
It is well with the man who is gracious and lends, he will maintain his cause in judgement. (Psalm 112:5)
“Suppose there is a righteous man who does what is just and right….He does not oppress anyone, but returns what he took in pledge for a loan….He does not lend to them at interest or take a profit from them….He follows my decrees and faithfully keeps my laws. That man is righteous; he will surely live”, (Ezekiel 18:5, 7a, 8-9).
When I read these verses to Ryan, he agreed that even 10% interest was too much. We emailed the Board which soon came to the unanimous decision to turn down the loan offer. (I should also note that the scripture makes a difference between loans to God’s people versus other people.)
Perhaps the Lord wanted individuals to rise up to answer the calls of brothers and sisters in Congo. I always like to guess at what God’s about even though I know His thinking is so far above my own that I’ll never understand. Regardless, God is answering in his own timing. Monday a woman who wants to start a Chicken for Eggs business will be meeting with our Congo team to set down how to begin.
Who will support the young man wanting to sell water at the hospital? Who will make the dream of Chickens for Meat family business come alive for a woman? Or the university student wanting to copy the successful business of a friend elsewhere selling stylish shirts at school? Or the Computer Serviceman who wants to buy better computers than are available locally to fix up and sell? Or the agriculture hopes of a family to grow potatoes when most in the area are imported from countries as far as China?
I could go on, but you get the picture. Others will join Ryan and me to become people blessed to be a blessing in the near future, and they’ll have that opportunity because we, the Board of FHA, turned to God’s word for guidance.
(I’ll add the links later–gotta run kid errands now–you can also visit FHA on FB at Friends of Future Hope Africa)