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This past summer, rostered ministers new to service in our church were invited to attend a stewardship retreat, "Love Let(s) Go". Recognizing that generational attitudes toward money and the church have shifted, the retreat discussed the need to re-examine existing models for stewardship. After the retreat, each participant was given $300 to steward in a way of their choosing. In a series of blogs, each participant will write about how they invested the impact of that money. Today, the Rev. Janet Karvonen-Montgomery writes about how she invested the money to help small-business owners around the world.
Receiving a gift of $300 at the Love Let(s) Go stewardship retreat sparked my interest about the ways generosity changes lives. How could it be used to make an impact in someone’s life?
I landed at Kiva. Have you heard of it? It is a micro-lending charity with a mission is "to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty." Kiva is at work in 82 countries and with loans starting at only $25, I could multiply the impact of my $300.
I was drawn to Kiva's spirit of helping women because women around the world have much less access to fair and affordable credit for their businesses or basic needs. I come from a family of small business owners and therefore have an appreciation for people with an entrepreneurial spirit. When I was in my 20s and wanted to start a business, I could not secure a bank loan because I had no credit history. My parents gave me a loan to pursue public speaking and to start a summer basketball camp. That camp is now in its 32nd year. I wouldn't have been able to start my business without this unconventional loan, so I was excited to help even more people begin their journey to small business ownership.
I was eager to tell my kids about Kiva, too. My son Dave said, “That’s great, mom, I’ve been investing in Kiva for several years. My goal is to loan money to people in all 80 countries.” My daughter Sophie knew about Kiva as well. “I love giving money to girls who want to go to school,” she told me. So much for my desire to tell them something they didn’t already know!
After a couple of months, I received an email from Kiva. The subject line read: “You have 10 repayments.” My small loans of only $25 each were combined with others and benefited: Everlyne in Kenya, a single parent establishing a farm; Gladys in Bolivia, starting a bakery; Binh in Vietnam, installing a toilet in her home; Violette in Lebanon, a widow, supporting two children in school; Myriam in Columbia, a widow, buying supplies and repairing the ceiling in her preschool; Ani in Georgia, attending a university; and more!
I decided to reinvest the loan repayments with Kiva to help even more business owners reach their goals. I received another email after doing so that said: “Thanks, Janet, you’re changing lives.”
As these loans are repaid and reinvested in more hopes and dreams, this gift really will keep on giving. It feels great to help create new opportunities and to help others around the world. Thanks be to God.
The Rev. Janet Karvonen-Montgomery
Associate Pastor for Wellness and Generosity
Incarnation Lutheran Church, Shoreview