Enables Congregations to Enhance Partnerships With World’s Largest Christian Microfinance Organization
OAK BROOK, Ill. – (April 24, 2007) – The Presbyterian Foundation of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has named Opportunity International a validated ministry mission, which will increase the opportunities for Presbyterian churches to work with the world’s largest Christian microfinance organization in efforts to help the poorest of the working poor around the world.
“We are very pleased that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has recognized the work we do with many of their congregations, and this partnership announcement paves the way to do even more to help millions of people work their way out of poverty,” said Christopher A. Crane, president and CEO of Opportunity International. “Our missions are aligned, motivated by Jesus Christ’s call to serve the poor. Together, we will have an even greater impact.”
Churches and individual members wishing to support Opportunity International through endowed permanent funds or through deferred gift arrangements can do so by utilizing the services of the Presbyterian Foundation to administer those gifts. More information can be found on the Foundation’s Web site at www.presbyterianfoundation.org.
“The Presbyterian Foundation is excited to have Opportunity International as a validated mission,” said Ryan E. Little, vice president and director of marketing for the Presbyterian Foundation. “As we focus our energy on alleviating poverty around the world, it is important to align ourselves with a microfinance industry leader whose added services and technologies will help bring more of the world’s poor out of poverty.”
During its 36-year history, Opportunity International has worked with many Presbyterian congregations that conduct fundraising activities and join together for missions. Many of Opportunity International’s largest individual supporters and volunteer leaders come from Presbyterian churches.
Edina Church Keeps on Giving
For example, Christ Presbyterian Church (CPC) in Edina, Minn., has been an Opportunity International supporter for more than 10 years. One of CPC’s first gifts was to help launch Opportunity International’s partner in Uganda, Africa. The church has introduced members to Opportunity International and microfinance through adult educational forums, lunches and dinners, and by hosting international visitors, including a choir from Uganda. Giving from CPC’s mission budget has been between $15,000 and $20,000 annually, and individual members made personal gifts of over $125,000 last year. Twenty-nine CPC members are active on Opportunity International’s Board of Governors and many have been on Insight Trips to countries that Opportunity International serves.
Mark Thompson, CPC member and Opportunity International governor, has taken Insight Trips to Guatemala, Poland, Ghana and Zambia with his wife, Kim, and their children. Kim, who serves on CPC’s mission committee, completed an Insight Trip to Nicaragua with her mother-in-law and youngest daughter in 2005.
“What has impressed me most is the clients’ sense of hope and dignity,” Thompson said. “They are empowered, proud and excited to share their achievements. And they seem more satisfied and happier than many of our friends back home. The first thing Opportunity International clients do with their profits after feeding and educating their children is reinvest in their communities and help others take leadership roles.”
CPC has been featuring a charitable organization to be the recipient of a “second offering” every month for several years. In October 2006, Opportunity International was chosen to be the recipient of the second offering proceeds. Opportunity International governors staffed a booth at the Church’s main entrance every Sunday that month, where they made a short presentation and showed a video during a worship service. Senior Pastor John Crosby, who first introduced his congregation to Opportunity International in the 1990s, said from the pulpit that if he had a million dollars, he would give at least 80 percent of it to microfinance organizations such as Opportunity International as a way to alleviate poverty long-term.
“For congregations already involved with African relief efforts, Opportunity International is a meaningful way to further connect with community development efforts there,” Thompson said. “Opportunity International offers a hand-up, not a hand-out, to poor entrepreneurs wanting to start or expand a business, develop a steady income, provide for their families and create jobs for their neighbors.”
Commitment Began with Annual Dinner
Norm and Alice Rubash of First Presbyterian Church of Evanston, Ill have been supporters of Opportunity International since 1985 when, after returning home from 15 years living outside the United States, they were invited to an annual dinner by a member of the Board of Directors. A few years later, when Norm was on both the Opportunity International Board of Directors and his church’s mission team, he brought the pastors and the entire mission team to an annual dinner. Opportunity International has been a mission of the church ever since. In addition to its annual gift, which has ranged between $5,000 and $10,000, the church’s special offering on Palm Sunday has been dedicated to Opportunity International.
Saint Andrews Funds AIDS Program in Malawi
Saint Andrews Presbyterian Church, Newport Beach, Calif., funds a program that provides employees at the Opportunity International Bank of Malawi with confidential HIV/AIDS testing, counseling and treatment. Jim Hamilton, chairman of the church’s Malawi Task Force and an Opportunity International board member, first became aware of the need while serving on the bank’s board. Saint Andrews has been deeply committed to Opportunity International for more than 10 years, giving in the range of $10,000 to $20,000 per year. Approximately 40 church members have visited the Opportunity International Bank of Malawi over the past three years.
Christian Partnerships on the Rise
In September 2006, Opportunity International announced a historic commitment to mobilize $1 billion by 2012 to benefit 100 million poor people in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe by the year 2015. Since then, Compassion International has agreed to give $180,000 to Opportunity International for loans to 1,000 families who provide care for children in Uganda, many of whom are orphans. Through this new partnership, small businesses will flourish, enabling these families to provide food, shelter and education for more Ugandan children.
“In this effort to help 100 million people, we will be greatly aided by entering into more partnerships with fellow Christian organizations,” Crane said. “Through cooperative efforts to serve the poor in His name, we can be a much more powerful force in bringing economic, social and spiritual transformation to families and communities around the world.”
About Opportunity International
Opportunity International provides access to savings, small business loans, insurance and training to over five million people working their way out of poverty in the developing world. Clients in over 20 countries use these financial services to start or expand a business, provide for their families, create jobs for their neighbors and build a safety net for the future. For more information, visit http://www.opportunity.org or join the conversation at http://facebook.com/opportunityintl and http://twitter.com/opportunityintl.
About the Presbyterian Foundation Group
Through the Presbyterian Foundation, New Covenant Funds and New Covenant Trust Company, the Presbyterian Foundation Group offers a wide range of products and services to individuals and institutions. The gift vehicles, investment management services, faith-based mutual funds, and other services and products reflect the principles of faithful stewardship shared by all Presbyterians. The Presbyterian Foundation Group is committed to working with donors and clients according to their needs and circumstances in an effort to help build, grow, preserve and provide financial resources in ways that maximize impact on their chosen mission or ministry. For more information, visit www.PresbyterianFoundationGroup.org.
The Presbyterian Foundation is the sponsor of New Covenant Funds. New Covenant Trust Company, N.A., owns New Covenant Funds Distributor, Inc., the distributor of the funds. A division of New Covenant Trust Company, N.A., is the advisor to New Covenant Funds.