New Beginnings From Chance Meeting
It all began when Bill Wingenroth met former FARMS International Executive Director Joe Richter in a chance encounter at a missions conference. At the time, Wingenroth was working with a different organization and had been ministering in Cuba for several years. Outreach already included teaching, training pastors, and growing churches, but Wingenroth wanted to do more to improve the lives of believers and was encountering roadblocks.
“We felt overwhelmed with what we saw, how poor the people were and how they were totally dependent on government rations,” Wingenroth says.
Purchases were limited, government programs had failed, and many were without work, Wingenroth says. (Learn more about Cuba’s current economic challenges here.) The will was there but the inability to get bank loans stood as a major hurdle to Cubans trying to improve their lives.
“They just needed some support, to be able to make some investment to start their own business,” Wingenroth says.
By providing interest-free loans through churches, FARMS International gave potential business owners exactly the opportunity they needed. Wingenroth, now a FARMS Board Member himself, considers the encounter almost a miracle.
Loans bring growth for the Cuban People
The effect of FARMS International’s involvement is already visible and Wingenroth is thrilled with the impact. The loans provided through FARMS have helped feed and support families, businesses, and churches alike.
“We started business after business after business. It’s been a very successful program in Cuba. FARMS International has just been an answer to my prayer, for the Cuban people to be able to take pride and be able to build up their church, and also be able to provide jobs for people within the church.”
Churches have grown and congregations have multiplied thanks to funds from FARMS programs, Wingenroth says. The impact continues to spread.
Impact of Local Church
In the province of Artemisa, a loan of several thousand dollars has already changed lives. With FARMS funds, a small house church rented 26 acres of land and hired 6-8 residents to work the plot. Half the crops were sold to pay back the initial loan and provide a profit, but the other half is being used in the church to feed the elderly who may only have a retirement of $10 a month, Wingenroth says.
“They’re feeding two meals a day for about 75 people in this little church.”
The elderly receive one noon meal and, after a worship service, go home with a supper.
“When I saw that I just had to cry because I thought, oh my gosh, how the Lord has blessed this program,” Wingenroth says.
Through the FARMS loans programs, close to $60,000 has been invested in Cuba. But more generosity is needed to continue to improve the lives of communities and believers. Currently, there are more programs than there is funding to support them. FARMS international is not just servin in Cuba; they’re present all over the world including in Moldova, Ecuador, and the Philippines.
Will you join FARMS International in providing empowerment opportunities? Help communities in Cuba and around the world through a one time or recurring donation.
Wingenroth also asks for prayers. Pray for the success of the loan programs to build churches and communities to their full potential. Pray for the committees that oversee the loan programs and guidance in their decision making. Also, pray for wisdom among training leaders as they work to overcome the hurdle of teaching small business.
Header photo courtesy of Chandler Cruttenden via Unsplash.