I had an exciting meeting yesterday with Chris Horst of the microfinance organization Hope International based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Chris recently moved into the Denver area to establish a western presence for this expanding ministry. He stopped by Bud’s Warehouse for a tour and to learn more about our organization. Hope International is exploring starting a domestic business as ministry initiative sometime in the next few years.
Jeff Rutt, the owner of Keystone Custom Homes in Lancaster County, started the faith venture Hope International in 1997. At the time, his church had been involved in providing short-term assistance to a church in the Ukraine. After being challenged by a pastor to find long-term solutions to poverty, Rutt was led to the growing sector of microfinance loans as a creative solution to breaking the cycle of poverty. Hope provides small loans to individuals in poor communities who are unable to obtain loans from bank sources. Over the years, Hope has grown to serve numerous countries throughout Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.
Yesterday, Chris explained to me that what makes Hope unique, as a microenterprise organization, is its strong focus on holistic ministry through its programs. They seek to not only meet physical needs through the development of small businesses but to also develop relationships that help meet the spiritual needs of the community. This approach is similar to the one that Belay Enterprises initially used in its urban Denver microenterprise program 10 years ago. Unfortunately, Belay discovered the difficulties of working in domestic urban settings because of differences in the scale of money needed to make local initiatives succeed. Where $200 may make a big difference in the business of someone in the Ukraine, a domestic microenterprise program may need to loan out $2000 or more. I shared how Belay wants to rebuild its for-profit business development goals but with the aim of providing resources through networking and teambuilding instead of only relying on small loans.
I look forward to further discussions on how Belay Enterprises might be able to partner or assist Hope as they develop domestic business as ministry initiatives. I'm excited that Hope comes from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where my family has been involved in the building industry and the Moravian church since the 1950’s. I’ve always enjoyed the fact that the Moravian church was one of the early originators of the business as ministry movement hundreds of years ago.