Can residents of poor urban neighborhoods build wealth? Absolutely. Our Tenfold ministry proves it.
Tenfold, for those of you who don’t know, is our micro-finance ministry in the 14613 area. It follows New Life Toys, our seasonal toy store in the neighborhood, as the next step in poverty alleviation. The aim of Tenfold is to help residents of 14613 to build and manage wealth through micro-loans, bible teaching on finances, and incentives.
Six weeks ago we made a promise to four trainees from New Life Toys: if they set a savings goal we’d match their savings 2:1 up to $200. One person’s goal was to save $600 toward a smoker so he could expand his small business selling barbecued chicken. Another’s goal was to save $500 toward a laptop computer so she could create greeting cards and poems for friends. And a third person’s goal was to save $300 to build a fence to keep pedestrians from using her yard as a shortcut. In six weeks one person saved an amazing $375 toward her goal.
We did encounter typical challenges, though. We started with four trainees from New Life Toys, but only two finished the course. One student failed to return the $20.00 starter loan and was disqualified from future loans. And one student’s medical condition seems likely to torpedo his savings goal and his hope to expand his small business.
But there are other kinds of riches that come with this kind of ministry. One woman found faith in Christ; another renewed her faith; yet another found strength to ask her dependent adult son to move out and stop bleeding her financially. There are many such stories even in this small group of students. This is kingdom ministry in all its messiness, drama, and hope.
Climbing out of poverty is hard, long work. And partnering with those climbing out of poverty is also hard, long work. But it's something our church is gaining more and more savvy about how to do.