You probably know the story of the Magi who followed a mysterious star to the town of Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago.
In late November 2010, our Director of Program, Suzanne Schultz, found a "Christmas star" in a place where she least expected it – among a community of women in India.
She had flown to India for a routine program visit. But what she experienced on one particular afternoon made the trip unforgettable.
"I was sitting in a savings and loan group meeting of women who produced baskets, and I was admiring their products and talking with them, when one woman stepped up from the back and gave me a hand-made star, woven from Palmira leaves," Suzanne said.
"I asked through the translator if it was something they made frequently. They said no, and that they really made this for me because they knew that I, as a Christian, would soon be celebrating Christmas."
Five Talents partners with the local church but works all over the world with people of all faiths. In every place, however, we pray that the love of Christ shines through. The story of this basket-weaving savings and loan group in India is a perfect example. And it's just one of the countless stories of hope that you make possible by supporting Five Talents.
The women in this community certainly needed hope back in 2004 when a devastating tsunami wiped out a quarter of a million people in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and India. Shortly thereafter, many non-profit organizations rushed to the scene to provide stability on the ground. But over the next two years, most packed their bags and left. Five Talents prides itself on working in places where few organizations go (or stay), such as Myanmar, Burundi, South Sudan and this region in India.
Five Talents currently has programs in 11 developing countries that promote the formation of savings groups. These programs make small loans and provide business skills training as a way to create jobs and help whole communities to move from poverty to self-sustainability.
"When you say someone has value, and when you're willing to loan them money when they have never been loaned money before, you're inspiring them and giving them a whole different vision for what tomorrow can be," said Suzanne, recalling her trip to India.
This is, after all, the thrust of the Christmas story. A promised Redeemer bringing hope to the world. A beautiful star pointing the way for all of us.
We all need inspiration and hope – perhaps none as much as the poor women and men living in impoverished communities in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Five Talents provides hope, but we cannot do it without you. Your prayers, your friendship, your pledges – they are growing businesses, creating jobs, empowering women and transforming communities.
Thank you for supporting our work, and have a merry Christmas and a happy new year.
"Share" this story on your Facebook page and you will be entered into a contest to win one of the hand-made stars mentioned in the story. Just go to our Facebook page and click the "share" link next to this story. Thank you for helping us spread the word about Five Talents International during this holiday season!