POVERTY AND DEVELOPMENT
A Matter of Trust:
La Trinidad Savings & Loan Cooperative
SAMS missionaries Tom and Linda Waddell, in partnership with Five Talents International, were invited to Bolivia by Bishop Frank Lyons to undertake a ministry to the poor. Living in Cochabamba, Tom presented a series of workshops at the local parish, La Trinidad, showing how a church-centered approach to savings could be used to meet the material and spiritual needs of those whose meager earnings shut them out of traditional financial institutions.
Tom utilized the principles and practices of Christian Microfinance and Microenterprise Development, adapting them to a well-known model in Bolivian culture called pasanaku, a Quechua word implying “rotation.” In these rotating savings groups, each member contributes a set amount of money to “the pot,” and at the end of each meeting a different member takes the entire pool of capital. The rotation continues until each member has had the opportunity to take the lump sum of money.
Clearly, such an arrangement is based on trust; the person who will take the last pot of money must have total confidence that the person who takes the first pot will still be a faithful contributor through the end of the rotation.
In addition to providing a safe place to save and an opportunity to acquire a lump sum of money that would otherwise be impossible for these individuals, Tom and Linda taught business skills, personal money management, and a Biblical worldview. Each meeting was also dedicated to sharing and praying for one another. All the while, community and interpersonal relationships were being built, as the Kingdom of God was declared in all its wonder and power.
The two initial groups merged to form La Trinidad Savings & Loan Cooperative. It was agreed that: no loans would be issued until after the first 6 months of operation; the amount of loans would be linked to the size of the member’s savings; interest rates on loans would be at 12% annually; dividends would be distributed to members based on their savings history; and that the life of the cooperative would be fixed at three years.
Tom and Linda Waddell, SAMS Associate Missionaries
Serving globally from Flintstone, GA, USA
- Children under age 18 make up nearly 48 percent of the population of the world's least developed countries, compared with 21 percent of the population of the world's industrialized nations.
- More than 1.6 billion people lack access to electricity and modern forms of energy.
- Over 1.4 billion people in the developing world live below the poverty line (U.S.$1.25 per day).
Annual world economy breaks down like this:
1. Low Income, $935 or less: 37
2. Lower Middle Income, $936 to $3,705: 38
3. Upper Middle Income, $3,706 to $11,455: 9%
4. High Income, $11,456 or more: 16% In developing countries,
- Approximately 130 million children and teens — age 17 or under — have lost one or both parents. More than 9 million children under age 5 die each year. Two-thirds of these deaths — more than 6 million every year — are preventable.
If you receive a blessing… Bless someone else!
The following interview was conducted in November 2007 by Stewart Wicker with Mery Wise, President of the Cooperative.
Mery, how did the cooperative begin?
First, Tom Waddell started with a group of about 15 people who had never saved in their lives. Many did not know that they had the capacity to save and others lacked the opportunity. Then each person made a commitment to begin the process by bringing $10 each month to a monthly meeting. This money would be placed in a pot ($150) that one person would take each month. We were learning how to be responsible, invest wisely, and, most importantly, trust each other by bringing this money each month. Over the 15 months of this group we built family in Christ.
What was the biggest obstacle you faced in starting up the cooperative?
Trusting others with our money was the biggest obstacle. Bringing the money each month was a challenge for most since the average salary of the participants was around $100 per month. There was fear that others would not fulfill their commitment. Yet, we succeeded and that prepared us for the next step.
So, how was the cooperative put together?
For about 6 to 8 weeks Tom carefully trained 13 of us to form the cooperative. Officers were selected. I started as the Treasurer. Even though I had worked at a bank, this position stretched me because of the big responsibility. Each person paid a $1 initiation fee and then began to give $10 a month. We needed to build a reserve of funds before beginning loans.
What kind of loans have you made?
One of the first loans we gave was to a single mother so that she could buy a cart to sell hamburgers. She was so successful in her business that she was able to take out two more loans later, one for dentures and the other to purchase electrical equipment to resell. The cooperative also made loans to directly help people. For example, one loan helped a boy to have important eye surgery.
How is it going now?
We now have 38 people who are saving with a total of $7650.  of these people have loans outstanding, totaling $3750. I am now the president.
What role do others play?
Jack McDonald (another SAMS missionary involved in microfinance) drew up the papers for us. And Tom made sure everything was straight before he left. He does keep in touch though. Thanks to Tom; we couldn’t have made it without him.
What happens during the monthly meetings?
One core of the meeting is the Bible study. We learn about stewardship and through fellowship we continue to build trust with one another.
Aren’t there other opportunities for savings or loans through banks?
Sadly, most of us could not afford to save at a bank because of the minimum deposit requirements and the fees.
How do you feel about your role?
It is a lot of work and I do not receive any reimbursement for the expenses I have, but I enjoy doing something good. If you are receiving a blessing, please don’t keep it. Bless someone else!
Who participates in your group?
We opened the membership beyond the walls of the church. The devotions and Bible studies have led people to the Lord and to the church.
What are your challenges?
I have a greater empathy for how people are stretched. Initially, I was tempted to be angry with those who would not repay on time. Yet, God has given me patience and the ability to help people to spread their payments over a longer period. He shows me how to put myself in their shoes to understand them. Being Bolivian helps me to identify with their life struggles.
Do new people struggle with the system as they enter the cooperative?
No, we train each new person in the same way we were all trained in the beginning. Each new person must demonstrate a track record by coming to the monthly meetings and giving monthly before they can get a loan.
What does the future hold?
The Cooperative has an established life cycle. At the end of three years it will dissolve. And then it can reform. This keeps people in a defined commitment to the cooperative. We are looking forward to Tom returning for a fiesta and celebration of what God has done.
[Note by the interviewer: Mery lived in the USA for 25 years gaining experience in the financial arena. She returned to Bolivia 10 years ago and has found a place to serve the poor in the name of Jesus. Please pray for Mery as she faithfully ministers while battling Lupus and the lasting effects of severe frostbite.]
How you can help
The first thing you can do is PRAY about your involvement in this ministry. The Lord will show you His will for your involvement in the lives of so many who need to experience His love.
People who have been called to be involved in ministering to the poor globally need prayer and financial support, too. SAMS will help you connect to a missionary who is involved in ministry to the poor. Your praying, giving, and practical support will help those who are already ministering or it will help raise up new SAMS missionaries enabling the church to SEND many more laborers for the ripe harvest.
GIVE to help ministry to the poor globally. Create opportunities for raising funds within your church, workplace or neighborhood. Giving toward clean water, worm treatment, and mosquito nets are very cost effective ways to increase help the poor. You may also consider participating in micro-enterprise development efforts through SAMS collaborative partner Five Talents.
GO! There are many opportunities to minister to the poor. If the Lord is calling you to missionary service, we have a place for you. Consider serving as a career missionary or as a Missionary Bridger from a month up to one year. If you are interested in putting together a short-term missionn team to come alongside missionaries who are serving the poor, SAMS can connect you in a variety of ways to fulfill God’s calling of you and your church.
Missionaries Ministering Primarily with the Poor
- Malcolm Alexander
- Mike and Linda Chapman
- David and Lucy Chaves
- Townsend and Dawn Cooper
- Michael and Anita Dohn
- Dotti Gleason
- Janine LeGrand
- Grant and Wendy LeMarquand
- Jeannie Loving
- Juan and Maria Marentes
- Jack and Mary McDonald
- Kym McDaniel
- Todd and Patsy McGregor
- Ron and Debby McKeon
- Jack Melvin
- Mike and Kim Miller
- Susan Morris
- Ana Reid
- Mike and Kris Reid
- Vicki Robertson
- Summer Twyman
- Roberto and Cameron Vivanco
- Tom and Linda Waddell
- Gregory and Heidi Whitaker