We just finished our fiscal year, so we have been summarizing annual program reports this week. I knew that we were exceeding our goals in several areas, but the final numbers were a bit of a surprise.
We had planned to plant 2.1 million trees during the year – we exceeded that by 50%. Our partnering farmers planted 3.3 million trees this year! (To give some perspective, I still remember in 1995 having to sheepishly tell Tony Campolo that after 11 years we had planted a TOTAL of 600K trees. It took us until 2007 to cumulatively plant 3.3 million trees.)
Of course in 1997 we were serving 150 families in 3 or 4 villages, and today we are serving 133,000 people in 411 villages in 7 countries.
This past year we also started partnerships with over 100 new churches and now have active partnerships with 388 local churches.
Finally, we launched 206 new Village Savings and Loan Associations. We are now working with 841 VSLAs, nearly 10 times as many as we were working with just 4 years ago. These groups have a combined net worth of $1.65 million. That is $1.65M that belongs to the villagers, that they themselves have generated. That money is growing and being continually reinvested in their communities in the ways that they choose (There are currently over $1M in loans out, while savers are earning an average of 20% on their accounts.)
As exciting as these numbers are, they still only tell a partial story, because the real “magic” occurs when these three elements: environmental restoration, economic empowerment and spiritual renewal are integrated, and reinforce one another. People often focus on only one of the elements, but there are other organizations that plant more trees than we do. There are other organizations with larger savings and loan programs than the one we operate. And there are certainly programs that share the Gospel more broadly. But what excites me is when all three of those come together, and people not only become more prosperous, but also become better stewards of God’s creation and better neighbors to one another. We are seeing more and more direct evidence of this transformation.
One outside evaluator and savings group expert observed that with our long-term commitment to the groups and our ocus on equipping them with agricultural and spiritual tools, we were “starting a movement.”
All of this is cause for celebration. God is truly multiplying our work.