In the early 1990s I, J. Wyatt George, operated a business in Illinois, during an interim between pastorates. It failed in the end. "Why was that?" I asked the Lord.
In '97, when invited to Uganda to teach at a family conference, Ed Kasaija, here pictured, a Ugandan pastor, leveled with me about the abysmal poverty their village pastors were enduring. His advice: "Do not go home to America to raise funds to pay our men. That would make them worse off in the end than now, making us dependent." That was wisdom then, and it still is.
After that we discussed a lending service and decided to cautiously attempt a modest start. My church, Grace Presbyterian, sent me back to Uganda in '99 with $1600 to see what could be done.
I had little clue what to do, little cultural awareness and even a failed business experience. Ugandan elders from within the churches led me. We wrote up sketchy policy. They insisted we not start in any one of their own churches to avoid biased leadership. More wisdom. They sent me to an unexpecting church. There I asked about their businesses, owners, business climate, philosophy of money, private enterprise and if micro-loans would help any of them? They thought loans might help but worried about debt. It was worth a try. We prayed and got to work.
We wrote up an application form and put it out. 12 came back completed and 11 were approved. The total requested came to $1575, or $143 average. A wonder! We did not have to choose "winners" that first go-round.
By '09 58% of those businesses were still going, which is higher than the US 10-year average of sustainability. We lost few loans. Church tithes went up. People reported success.
That experience enabled TMP to tweak policy and expand to other churches. The number of loans are in the hundreds. Our operation is in Kampala, a few related towns, and in isolated villages in Mukono and Buikwe Districts east of Kampala.
In the early 90s in America I learned some hard lessons about business. Some of those lessons have been worked into our program in Uganda. Not a full answer to my question 20 years ago, but it contributes.
~J. Wyatt George, Executive Secretary