My Newest Hero
I had not anticipated boots being required gear for microfinance ...
I first met Stephen this past Sunday morning at the local church Conrad and I attended. He was personable from the first moment.
Yesterday I had the honor of riding with him for his Monday route. Stephen is a loan officer for a microfinance ministry that is very similar to what Mission Resource does but operating under a different organization. I wanted to see how they function before I move to the Mission Resource work in Tema later this week.
I should have known that my assumptions were going to be challenged when Stephen picked me up around 11:00 am and he was wearing a dress shirt, slacks, and ... boots.
The boots were a safety precaution. You see, we were heading 2 hours out of Elmina into some remote villages. And to say that some of the roads aren't so great would be an understatement. Stephen never knew when he might end up ankle-deep in mud, pushing his truck out of a muddy rut.
Here's a photo of one of the better stretches:
In the backseat of his pickup truck, Stephen carries the saving and loan records of everyone he plans to see that day. He meets weekly with 17 different groups in 17 different villages.
That's 500 people altogether!
We made stops in the villages of Teiwankanta, Onomakwa, and Apokwa. The first two groups met in churches.
The final one met under a tree in the village center.
Microfinance offers them a safe, community-centered way to save money and to access small loans. This is what smooths out the tenuous finances of the poor. It makes it possible to buy a larger inventory for your little shop or to visit a doctor when a health crisis hits.
There's a lot of bookkeeping involved, for both Stephen and leaders within the group.
But Stephen says his favorite part - the thing that brings him joy and gets him on the roads day after day - is the chance to preach the Gospel and teach the Bible to each group, each week.
You can see the passion for teaching Truth on Stephen's face. And I could hear it in his voice.
Each meeting took from 90 minutes to 2 hours. Then Stephen and I would jump in his truck and drive - slowly navigating the ravines cut by rains - to the next location. It was dark by the time we got home about 6:30 pm.
This sort of dedication to God's Kingdom work week after week and year after year is pretty rare. And pretty heroic.
It's gotta be the Holy Spirit, because tomorrow Stephen will wake up and do it all over again.