This post is adapted and excerpted from my recent sermon at First United Methodist Church of Point Richmond in California.
You’ve heard that Chinese proverb that says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” We tend to use the quote as a way to encourage people to focus on the first step rather than the whole huge length of the journey ahead of them. Just take this step and then this step, and then another step.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably know that Spirit in Action’s model is very much in line with this thinking. Our small grants to community grassroots organizations in south eastern Africa are intended to be seed grants, to help people take the first step.
A boy on a farm on the outskirts of Manyamula Village in Malawi. “Start where you are”
Del Anderson, Founder of Spirit in Action said: “Let us promote these attitudes. Start where you are. Use what you already have. Prove to yourself that you have ability and potential. You and God are greater than you know.”
Denis’s first step
I wrote recently about the story of Denis Kasambala and the gift of the piglet he received from the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative in Malawi. The community wanted to give Denis this pig because they both knew his worth and potential AND because they wanted HIM to be able to see and know his own God-given potential and to know that “he and God are greater than he knows.”
I love the way Canaan puts it, “Indeed the Cooperative and the community have taken a firm stand to root Denis into success.” I think we can safely say that Denis is beyond that first step now and is well on his journey toward prosperity and self-sufficiency. [Read the full story here.]
Denis with one of his piglets
Spirit in Action has also been there to witness the first few steps of Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative. Canaan Gondwe and I talked in 2009 about his vision for a community savings and loans cooperative. And in 2010 Spirit in Action granted them a small grant for a poultry project. The profits from the chickens would start to grow the loan fund.
Seeing how far we’ve already come
The quote I started with was, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” You’ll notice that part of it is actually about how the ultimate goal is the full thousand mile journey. Sometimes it’s important to pause and see how far along the journey of single steps you’ve already come.
The Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative started with around 30 members. Now have 180 members, with 49% of them being women! The run the maize mill and a thriving training centre and community centre. Churches and other non-profit organizations rent out the meeting hall space for their gatherings. The group got too big for regular meetings all together so they created a zonal structure, where people would gather in small groups locally to encourage one another and share their challenges.
The community gathers to celebrate the grand opening of the Manyamula COMSIP Training Centre in May 2017.
Taking the next step
They’ve been on a journey these last 8 years and now COMSIP is ready for next big step. So this year I have been working with Canaan and the Manyamula COMSIP executive team to apply for some larger grants from other foundations.
All the cooperative members are also farmers and their next dream is to start a communal agri-business. They want to purchase a peanut oil processing machine to add value to their product so that profit is not lost to middlemen.
Working with Canaan and relaying his proposal to another organization has resulted in success! Earlier this month I learned that Manyamula COMSIP will receive some funds from the Sumar Lakhani Foundation for the peanut oil processing operation! And last weekend, the Spirit in Action board approved another grant to cover more of the amount needed. A Facebook fundraising campaign also raised $500 for the project.
The Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative runs the local maize mill. This provides affordable milling options and also generates money for the loan fund.
When Del said: “Let us promote these attitudes. Start where you are. Use what you already have. Prove to yourself that you have ability and potential. You and God are greater than you know.” He also said, “We are all servant leaders, not to tell others what to do, but to cooperate together.”
This cooperation and ripple of support from COMSIP to Denis and back and around again is part of the beauty, the synchronicity along the way of the long journey out of poverty.
Del wrote, beautifully: “We can, in balance, rhythm, and alignment with God, and in working with others, open ourselves as instruments for God’s symphony, prayer-soaked members with hearts open wide to be used by God, instruments of love and caring.”
This is our calling, as we bravely take the first step and then the next one and the next one, all along the long journey.
Amen and thank you.
A journey through fields in Malawi.