Dear Global Neighbour
Today is the first day of Lent and we are now on the journey to Easter Sunday. The forty days of Lent are meant to be a time of repentance; that’s not a feeling of shame, but an awareness of what separates us from God and of what it cost him to be reunited with us. These forty days are set aside to praise and worship the Lord, to read the Bible more, and to pray more often. I would like to share a few verses with you from John 2 that I have been thinking a lot about recently, this is where we see Jesus clearing the temple.
John 2:14-15: “In the temple courts Jesus found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords and drove all from the temple courts both sheep and cattle, he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.” (NIV)
This is one of the times that we see Jesus showing anger and his anger here is justified – he is witnessing the poor being conned and excluded by the temple tax, the coin changer’s exchange rate, and the fee of the sacrifice inspectors. At Signpost International we can relate to the anger of Jesus at seeing the poor being taken advantage of and cut off by those with power. More than two thousand years have passed since Jesus cleared the temple but two thousand years later the poor are still being swindled and excluded. In many of the communities we work in throughout the world we see the poor being rejected and exiled. At Signpost International our mission is to model Jesus’ example of walking alongside people experiencing poverty and injustice. We want everyone to have an opportunity to achieve their full potential in life and for nobody to be excluded. I want to share with you the story of Stella, a member of Ebumakinos Farmers and Savings group from Kapelebyong district in Uganda. Stella knows what it is like to be excluded from the rest of society as a result of being poor.
“For the past year I have been part of Ebumakinos Farmers and Savings group run by Voluntary Action for Development [our partners in Uganda] and Signpost International. Before joining the savings group life was very difficult because access to knowledge and skills was a nightmare. There were some money lenders that I could have gone to but their interest rates were so high that I could never have paid them back and I would have ended up in trouble. This meant there was no accessible money lending institutions where I could go and borrow money from, meaning I wasn’t able to start up my own business. For one to own the equipment needed to farm and to have your own business you need to have saved money for that particular item over a long period of time. We had very little money and no savings so I could not acquire the items needed to farm. Life was very hard and my family missed meals most of the time. My school going children were chased out of school because of unpaid fees.”
Stella with two of her children.
In 2020, life then changed for Stella when she was invited to join the local farmers and savings group. As a member of the group Stella learned how to start a business and gained skills and knowledge in farming methods. However the biggest benefit to Stella and other group members is that they are given an accessible loan which they are able to pay back quickly without paying interest. The loan means that group members are able to purchase the required equipment to start their own business.
“Since joining the farming group I have gained the necessary skills to become a Pig farmer. I go to market three times a week, where I sell pork, at the end of every day at market I have always sold out of pork. The money I am earning through my business means I am now able to feed my large family of ten members, we are now in a position to have two meals a day and we are able to pay the fees so my children can attend school. The knowledge and skills attained through the farmers and savings group has allowed me to support new members so they can get the help they need to start their own business and can provide for their families.”
Stella cleaning beans to prepare for her household meal.
It is great hearing Stella’s story of how her life has changed since joining the farmers and savings group, but it is awful that before as a result of no opportunities and support, she and her children were excluded from society. Jesus in the temple was angry that the poor were being marginalised and mistreated by those with power and authority and he challenged this, but sadly this is still happening today.
We at Signpost International want to follow Jesus’ example and challenge this as we believe that every individual, especially those who are most vulnerable, should have the opportunity to be able to earn an income and work in order to improve their own situation in life.
As we have seen through Stella’s story all that many people need is an opportunity, and we want to give as many people as possible that opportunity in life.
We are asking you to take the time during Lent to prayerfully consider whether you can partner with us to walk alongside those experiencing poverty and injustice to give them an opportunity in life.
Thank you for your continued support.
Signpost International, Communications Officer