Businesswoman puts Parable into Practice

The Parable of Talents provides a foundation for business development in Bolivia

Esperanza is a mother of 6 children from Bolivia who sells empanadas and flavored ice in the local market.

When she joined a Five Talents savings group, she committed to saving 30 cents per week, sacrificing slightly more than a dollar of her hard earned income each month.

"When I saw the sisters of the church [come] to save together, I thought it was difficult to save for me because there are many expenses that I have to pay: rent, electricity, water, studies of my children, my business supplies, etc."

When her mentor shared the biblical parable of the Five Talents, however, Esperanza took it as a personal challenge.

"The day when we learned about the talents, I received the challenge of working with what the Lord has given me. "

"I saw that it is possible to start a business with very little money because if we are good servants with what the Lord has put in our hands, then He will entrust more. So I accepted the challenge to use some of the money from the group to invest in my business to grow my earnings."

The following week during their regular meeting, Esperanza borrowed a loan of $7.25 from the group. She used this money to expand her business and began increasing her profit each week, paying back her loan and setting aside more money for her business and for savings.

"I invested the money buying more materials for my business, and I went to sell my raspadillos (flavored ice). I [earned] a lot of money and [learned] how to separate some of our profits for everything, offerings, mercy, business supplies, etc. And I was very happy to do so."

Esperanza has experienced much pain and hardship in her life. Kidnapped as a young woman she was forced into early motherhood. Despite all of the challenges, she is grateful for God's provision and protection. She is glad that she can provide for her children and can serve as an example to other women in her community.

Bolivia flavored ice business

"God has truly been good to me, since I received Him in my heart. I have always seen His love and protection. When I did not know the Lord I suffered problem after problem. . .I had many wounds in my heart. Now everyday I'm happy because the Lord shows me that the good Father is with me. When I'm happy we laugh together. . .When I'm worried, He shows me His word to help me; at all times He is taking care of me and I'm grateful for that."

Help more women and men like Esperanza access mentorship, savings, loans, and business development. Make a gift to Five Talents and offer help, hope, and opportunity to families in need.

Starting a Business Has Helped Me Rely More on God


To the children swarming her tiny toy stand in Cileungsi, Indonesia, Melia (R) might as well have been Santa Claus.

The nearby school had let out for lunch, and before parents could corral their kids, some made a beeline Melia's treasure trove of Pokemon cards, Play-Doh packages, Winnie the Pooh books, and toy cars.

One girl settled on some stickers and turned to her mother to ask for money. Moments later, Mom was fishing a couple of bills out of her purse.

Melia is just one of many micro-entrepreneurs I met during my recent visit to our programs in Indonesia and Myanmar (Burma). During the trip, I was reminded of how God is using our micro-enterprise development programs – not only to improve the financial conditions of families, but to strengthen the faith of believers and to extend the work of the local church.

As we celebrate Christmas, the coming of Emmanuel – "God with us," it is my honor to explain how Five Talents is serving as Christ's hands and feet in some of the most downtrodden and impoverished communities in the world.

The slums of Jakarta. The Irrawaddy Delta of Myanmar. The mountains of Peru. The post-conflict regions of South Sudan and Burundi. Five Talents has been called to places like these, and I'm humbled to report that, because of God's blessing, lives are being transformed.


It is easy to consider only the economic impact our beneficiaries feel when they launch a new micro-enterprise, or improve on an existing one. For example, a woman makes crackers out of cassava leaves to put a child through school. A water distribution business provides a community's first regular access to clean water.

Indeed, in each of our programs, parents are creating a steady, sustainable income and learning how to budget their finances. Children are going to school with new uniforms and the required textbooks. Women are making savings deposits and preparing their families for future expenses that might otherwise stall the growth of their micro-enterprise. Communities are growing more united.

But there's more. We've found that women and men, after joining our programs, become more hopeful. Many report that their spiritual lives are maturing, and that their faith is growing.

I remember one such example vividly. I'd just spent the good part of an afternoon running a budgeting workshop for women in the "Phoebe" savings group in Yangon, Myanmar (L).

Near the end of our time together, some of the women shared how their spiritual lives had begun to change since joining a savings group and launching a new micro-enterprise.

"Starting a business has helped me rely more on God," Jean, who sells cosmetics, told me.

Her testimony was echoed by other members in her group.

Investing in a micro-enterprise – or any business, for that matter – can be scary. These women shared how, by taking a risk and seeking to do more with the resources and talents God has given them, they were being blessed far beyond their financial situation. Their spiritual lives were enriched. Their relationship with God was strengthened.

Some of these woman also said they are now able to tithe more to the church and thus are extending its ministry throughout the local community.

Another woman in the group, Lydia, runs a small daycare center. With her savings she was able to buy new pillows and mats for the children under her care.

As we celebrate Christ's birth during this holiday season, I hope you will join with me in prayer for the women, men and children in Five Talents' programs. God is indeed with us.

Please also consider making a transformative gift that will enable our holistic approach – combining services targeting the financial, personal and spiritual – to deliver hope year-around in new communities in Indonesia, Myanmar, Peru, Burundi and beyond.

Savings Groups Making Healthier Families and Churches in Rural Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya -- I saw a miracle yesterday.


I've been in Nairobi attending the second GAFCON Conference with a number of fellow Five Talents Board Members and leaders, meeting many of our clients and partners and making new friends. We took a day away from the conference yesterday to drive up to Thika to visit the Thika Community Development Trust, a savings group sponsored by Five Talents.

Under the guidance and leadership of Bishop Gideon Githiga, and the direction of Peterson Karanja, Program Director, the Trust has grown dramatically from its modest beginnings in 2005. The program now has almost 5,000 members, 41 savings groups, and over $1 million in accumulated savings. The program is being acknowledged a great success, and is already being replicated in one adjacent diocese, with two more dioceses planning to launch similar programs. I spoke briefly this morning with Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, the Primate of Kenya, who spoke highly of the Thika program and said that he hopes that they will eventually have similar programs in every diocese in Kenya!

Exciting as this is, Five Talents has always been about more than numbers. Indeed, there are numerous microfinance programs in existence that can boast growing membership and good financial performance. However, Five Talents has always had a commitment to reach the "riskier, poorer, and smaller" areas that have been underserved by commercial programs, and has maintained a focus on the whole person, rather than just financial performance. And by that standard, this program is even more impressive.

I had visited Thika twice before, and had heard Bishop Gideon state previously his commitment to microfinance as a key part of ministry in his diocese. But yesterday I heard firsthand the testimony of a parish priest, who stated that families in his community had grown stronger as a result of their participation in their savings group, and that their prosperity and well-being had increased to the point that they were able to meet their own needs, and were able to contribute more to the life of the church as a result.

One outcome of this development has been that the congregation is better able to support itself and the diocese, including greater material support. Bishop Gideon had previously told me that he could tell which of the parishes in the diocese had active microfinance programs, because they became healthier parishes. But this firsthand confirmation extended all the way to the individual family! Their goal is to expand until they have a savings group in every parish in the diocese.

I saw Bishop Martyn Minns last night after returning to Nairobi, and told him the story of the day's events in Thika. I reminded him that Five Talents was started at his house just 15 years ago, and has grown from that outlandish vision into a ministry that last year served 72,725 clients around the world, and is living out daily its commitment to "create jobs, fight poverty, and transform lives".

I feel amazingly privileged to be a small part of this ministry, and am thankful beyond words for having been able to witness this miracle unfolding! To God be the glory!

Jim Oakes, a 30-year veteran of the health care information systems industry, is on the Five Talents USA Board of Directors.