by Henry Kaestner
I will never forget the time when I first came to know about Hope International. God had started to bless Bandwidth with more success, and I knew that I wanted to get more serious about giving. I became fascinated with the concept of microfinance. God had placed a passion in me for marketplace transformation and I knew that entrepreneurship could create great opportunity for poverty alleviation in the US, but especially overseas. Mohammed Yunus' Book, "Banker to the Poor" had just come out and I couldn't get enough. I read everything I could find on MFI and eventually came across a podcast from Kiva that shared the stories of their member partners and what they did with MFI and where they did it.
After listening to several episodes, I was half way in to another segment when everything changed. The speaker, Peter Greer from Hope International, said that he actually didn't think that it was enough to alleviate financial poverty, but that his organization was also about alleviating spiritual poverty through the Good News of God's gift of His son. I almost wrecked the car. Seriously. I remember exactly what stretch of Rt 751 I was on in Durham, North Carolina. I couldn't believe that Peter was being so bold about his faith on such a secular podcast. I was very, very impressed.
I cold called Peter later that day. I don't know how our conversation went exactly, but it amounted to me admitting that I was his new "fan-boy" and what could I do to help. He invited me to his office in Lancaster PA as much as to offer me an opportunity to learn more I suppose as a way to test how serious I was. Lancaster is beautiful, but not exactly easy to get to. I went. I met Peter and then also his Chairman and the Founder of Hope. I made two decade long friends that day and I got to serve alongside Peter and Jeff part time for the next three years making many trips back up to their office to spend time with their staff and also got a chance to visit their partnerships in the DR and South Asia.
I'll likely highlight Hope's work supporting entrepreneurs among the world's working poor over the coming years. There is no better way to get started than by sharing the story of how Hope International got started. There is SO much here. I hope that you'll come away from this story encouraged and inspired, and that you'll learn (as I did) how trial and error resulted in something great over time. One home builder in central Pennsylvania wanting to love his neighbor overseas took a risk and after some great trial and error has, with the grace of God, landed on something that has been an extraordinary blessing to hundreds of thousands of families.