Not every IAS microfinance story is one of success, but sometimes failure teaches us important lessons that we would otherwise never learn. This month I would like to share with you the story of Comfort Asante, a member of the IAS/Africa Assistance Plan’s microfinance program in Ghana. The following story is in Comfort’s own words:
“I joined the IAS/AAP microfinance program in 2007. My initial loan amount was for one hundred and fifty Ghana Cedis ($80.00). As I was a loan group leader, my loan was for fifty Cedis more than my group members as a way to motivate me as a leader. I operated a drugstore with my late husband, Augustine, and we invested our loan into over-the-counter drugs to add to the store’s existing stock.
All was well until my husband became sick one year later. This was around the time our group received its second cycle loan from IAS/AAP. As my husband’s illness became worse, I had to use all of my funds to take care of his medical bills. I owed so much to so many people, including IAS/AAP. But what’s even more embarrassing was how much I owed the members of my own loan group.
You see, the members of my group felt so bad for me, that we all broke the conditional rules of our loans. They gave all of their money to me – with the understanding that I would pay it back in full. Of course, this backfired after my first installment. I couldn’t make additional payments and didn’t have the courage to talk to the IAS/AAP leaders, because I was afraid they would punish my dishonesty. As my husband’s situation grew worse, so did my financial situation.
Finally, with medical bills overcoming me, I entered into an unfavorable arrangement with a family member to help meet my immediate financial needs. Unfortunately, this agreement resulted in the loss of the family drugstore.
“If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
– Psalm 130:3, NIV
Penniless and without a job, I decided to confront my fear and talk to the IAS/AAP management about my situation. Although they initially felt unhappy and betrayed, they decided to give me another chance. Following the death of my husband, I was called back to the IAS/AAP office and was given the amount of five hundred Cedis ($260) in order to start a charcoal and corn business, which I had proposed earlier.
Now I buy corn in large bags, sell it in smaller quantities, and make reasonable profits. My business is doing well, and I am paying back my loans to IAS/AAP on time. I’m even putting money aside monthly to help settle my outstanding debt. I really do want to thank IAS/AAP and all of those who have supported this work, to help me get back on my feet and to keep my dreams alive.”
While many would have thought it was too risky to give Comfort another chance at achieving her goals, it was the right thing to do. Comfort is now succeeding and paying back her debts. And, the IAS/AAP team has learned that showing grace to someone who has fallen can often prove to be the most practical and beneficial way forward for all involved.
Just as Comfort Asante was thankful for her second chance, I too am glad that we serve a God of second chances. Thank you, IAS partners, for giving Comfort another opportunity to succeed.
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Andy Warhol once said, “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” I’ve found that sentiment to hold true in my life. Certainly there have been times when twists and turns took me by surprise or God’s providence opened a door that I didn’t see in front of me. [...] Read story