Del: “Let us pledge ourselves to be God’s light”

Del loved words. He ruminated on words, contemplated and meditated on words of inspiration, and he wrote many words of encouragement to friends around the world.

Today, to celebrate International Friendship Day, I’m sharing a letter that Del sent to friends over the years. If you have a friend who you haven’t written to (or talked to) in a while, I invite you to take this opportunity to write to them and share some words of encouragement. 

Dear Children of God on the Path of faith:

Never in the history of humankind has there been such an opportunity for us to cooperate with God in re-shaping the history of humankind. We are learning that God’s Presence, Power and Wisdom are available to us NOW.  Let us claim it and live it!

Spirit in Action is a world-wide network of God’s people with caring, sharing concern for each other and a purpose, goal and plan which is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit bringing forth Peace, Joy, Health and Abundance to all creation.

God has made us as God’s instruments and co-creators, so as we take our responsibility to be God’s channels, we are empowered and the fruit of the Spirit is brought forth THROUGH US.

Let us re-affirm today that we shall become God’s Light of sharing, caring partners blessing all those that God brings into our path with examples of Light.

maize farm in Malawi

Seeing God’s abundance at a maize farm in Malawi

Let us start today afresh in expectancy and by example to cultivate every foot of soil around our homes. Let each husband, wife and child plant and care for our gardens. God has made us as representatives of the Holy Spirit, so by our loving examples we inspire and lead our families and villages into a new life of peace, love, joy and abundance.  This is God’s plan and purpose.

God’s loving Spirit of Wisdom and power will help us, but we must, with trust and expectancy, act with patience and perseverance.  We shall be victorious, and God shall be manifested and glorified through our faithfulness.  Let us take control of our lives and of our destiny!

Spirit in Action is here to pray, guide and assist you. You are God’s key to the fulfillment of God’s plan for peace and plenty. God will not do for us what we can and must do for ourselves. With faith, let us pledge ourselves to BE GOD’S LIGHT. Let us move forward in this LIGHT.

A multiple-choice question from Malawi

You are a small-scale farmer in rural Malawi. How would you prefer to sell the maize (corn) you harvest?

  1. Directly from the field for 15¢ per kg
  2. Milled into flour for 61¢ per kg

I promise it’s not a trick question. Clearly, the answer is (b); the value added by a mill is huge, without requiring too much more work! When Boyd and I visited Manyamula village in 2011, they told us that the closest maize mill was over the border in Zambia and so all that value added was being taken away from their village and given to the next village to the west.

The presence of the mill in their village means that women can spend a short time waiting and get increased value for their family's crops.

The presence of the mill in their village means that women can spend a short time waiting and get increased value for their family’s crops.

That is, it was until the beginning of this year when the Manyamula Village Savings and Loans cooperative, MAVISALO, got their milling and shelling machines up and running! The original proposal was for one maize mill but the savvy cooperative leaders were able to use the Spirit in Action Community Grant funds to buy two mills, one for shelling and the other for grinding, because of the devalued local currency.

Shared Ownership

Now, the members of MAVISALO own the mills cooperatively and all are responsible for making sure they are cleaned, maintained, and guarded. As a result, Canaan Gondwe, MAVISALO leader says that, “there is increased relations strengthening the cohesion amongst the members. As members interact to discuss issues of the mill project, there is a lot of mutual sharing of ideas and experiences.”

MAVISALO members work together to plant the maize sheller machine.

MAVISALO members work together to plant the maize sheller machine.

This collective ownership also means that all members have access to the mills for a small use fee. Of course the fees aren’t going to some corporate CEO, but rather they are given back to the cooperative for their loan fund, to provide local, low-interest loans to village members for businesses, school fees, medical emergencies, or house repairs. So far, the maize mills fees have increased MAVISALO’s loan capital by just over $500.

The generosity of MAVSIALO members continually amazes me; a percentage of the profit generated by the mill is diverted to a social fund to provide assistance for widows and village members who are living with HIV/AIDS.

Local leadership = Local impact

The latest report from Canaan and the group confirmed that the mills are making an impact on the families of MAVISALO members, “Our biggest success has been that the maize (which is the staple food) and other grain crops are being processed at reasonable costs.”

The milling machine grinds the maize into flour to make the staple food, Nsima.

The milling machine grinds the maize into flour to make the staple food, Nsima.

By collectively choosing the answer (b), Manyamula village members themselves are driving this process of reducing poverty and building a stronger society. Together they:

  • Prepared grant proposal
  • Purchased mills locally
  • Secured a safe storage place for the mills from the local leaders
  • Collectively use and care for the mills
  • Reap the benefits of higher profits on their crops together
  • Produce local feed for chickens, cows, and pigs
  • Increase loan fund for low-interest loans
  • Build local leadership

It is a pleasure to support such a wonderful, community-based organization! Good work, MAVISALO!

Related stories about MAVISALO:

Some MAVISALO members wearing their matching t-shirts to show solidarity in the community.

Some MAVISALO members wearing their matching t-shirts to show solidarity in the community.

A new movement in local resources

There is a pretty exciting movement happening throughout Africa now, a movement within communities. Giving to the neediest and helping your neighbor are traditions long-established in many countries in Africa and now some of these informal groups are taking on a more official structure, in the form of community foundations!

Margaret's flat tire

The spirit of giving. A man on the street stops to help us change a flat tire in Kenya. Margaret from CIFORD Kenya looks on gratefully!

These community foundations, sometimes also called women’s funds or community grantmakers, use local resources (both money and social capital) in a organized and self-directed manner to reduce poverty and increase social justice in their community.

A Different Kind of Wealth, a 2012 report by the Global Fund for Community Foundations in South Africa, is a baseline study of twenty-one  active African community foundations. I got more and more excited as I read about this empowering movement that is already happening in southern and eastern Africa.

Community foundations are different from NGOs (non-governmental organizations) because they are not implementing projects in their community, but instead they are making small grants, building alliances, advocating to the local authorities for more social services on behalf of community, and taking time to really listening to community members.

Importantly, community foundations employ ‘horizontal’ giving (peer to peer giving), which is often overlooked in the discussions of grants in Africa in favor of ‘vertical’ giving (grants from outside). Community foundations find increased strength through blending this local spirit of generosity with some external resources and knowledge.

A man by his plot in the community garden in Meru, Kenya. (CIFORD Kenya)

A man by his plot in the community garden in Meru, Kenya. (CIFORD Kenya)

Although international sources (larger NGOs or matching funds) still contribute 45% of the foundations’ budgets, local individuals also contribute an impressive 33% of the budgets! Some of the foundations also invite grantees to give back to the fund, similar to Spirit in Action’s Sharing the Gift program, which increases local buy-in and makes the fund feel more and more like a true community resource.

What excites me is that there is such potential here for African resources to drive African development! These budding foundations are working towards each community’s goals for a more equal society, more engagement between local people and authorities, and poverty reduction. I’ll be keeping my eye on community foundations blooming in the places where SIA partners live!

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