During the first week of October 2020, about a dozen Samburu pastors and leaders met together for five full days of classes on how to start and run a small business as a part of their Christian ministry. The class and trained teachers were sponsored by an organization called Global Disciples, along with Indiana Yearly Meeting. Each person who completed the class then had the opportunity to develop a business plan and apply for a no-interest loan (from a couple of generous FUM donors) to start their business. Personal loans and small business loans are very difficult to obtain in Kenya, especially without significant collateral—like the title deed on a piece of property. Even then, re-payment interest is around 20%. So a no-interest loan is a pretty big life-changing deal! All of the loan payments from this initial group of ministry entrepreneurs will go back into a development fund to become seed money for whoever next becomes eligible.
During our recent trip to Samburu Friends Mission, we were excited to visit with six of the loan recipients to see their new business ventures and interview them about how it was going and what they were learning so far. They are each only three months into their new business, and if you have ever started a new business yourself, you will know that this is not much time in which to expect results. But here is what we did see: proud, hopeful smiles. Each person was thrilled to tell us their story and show us what they have started so far.
A few of the recipients used their loans to purchase motorbikes which will help them in a variety of ways. Pastor Jackson uses his motorbike for business at least three days per week. He can earn money by hauling people and supplies on market days around his area, as well as purchase and haul his own supplies for the little shop his wife Miriam runs out of their home. On other days, he is able to use his motorbike to facilitate his ministry. The church where Jackson pastors is about five km (just over three miles) from his home. In the past he and his family had to either walk or hire a motorbike taxi in order to get to church or visit the congregation, and this used valuable time and money. Today, he is so pleased to be able to quickly and easily reach his church.
Pastor Zakayo also bought a motorbike with his loan, and uses it in much the same way as Pastor Jackson. In addition to the motorbike, Zakayo and his wife, Lucy, have a small butchery in their community. They started the butchery a short time before the small business training, but previously Pastor Zakayo didn’t understand how to keep financial records for his business. He had a general idea of what was going out and coming in, but no specific details. Since the training, he has started recording all of his income, expenses, and outstanding debts from neighbors who might owe him money. Keeping better records is giving him more information about how much he can save, spend, and reinvest in his business.
A different type of business we visited is called “fattening.” Florence Lekisima (a church member) and her pastor, Mary Lamatan, each used their loans to purchase young sheep or cows which they will herd and feed until they are ready to be sold for butchering. Both Florence and Mary have been helping with herds since they were girls, so they seem quite natural at it. Mary is proud that her profits will help her to pay school fees for her four children. Florence says that from her profits, she saves half for the future and uses half for her family.
During the Global Disciples training, Pastor Pamela was impressed to learn how many unreached people there still are in the world, and has been motivated to use her business to help reach the people in her community. Pamela has rented a small barber shop in her town, and also bought thirty chickens to raise at home for selling eggs. Both businesses are doing well. The church where Pamela pastors is also several kilometers away from the community where she lives, but she is now dreaming about using her growing community business connections to someday plant a Friends church near her home.
Samburu Friends Mission receives a steady fixed monthly income from Friends United Meeting. From that income, they pay their director, all of their employees, and the varied costs to run the mission. The Samburu pastors are grateful for the small salaries they receive, but most of them still struggle with basic living expenses such as food, housing, and school fees for their children. Small business training for the pastors is just one way that the mission can improve the lives of their pastors without increasing dependency on foreign donors. And SFM wants to grow and plant more churches and have more pastors. This is just one of many small steps that will move Friends in Samburu along the road to growth and sustainability together.
—Katrina and Shawn McConaughey