Their accents put the sound of Arkansas into the air. But Christian businessmen Dale Dawson, Dabbs Cavin, and Todd Brogdon are half a world away from Little Rock. They are in the garden of Des Milles Collines, better known as Hotel Rwanda and featured in the film by that name. These three are here on a life-changing mission: to help build Rwanda's largest bank for the poorest of the poor.
How these men got from Arkansas to Rwanda is a story they eagerly retold to Christianity Today during their recent trip to this East African nationone still recovering from the 1994 war and genocide.
Economics of transformation
Dawson spent the first half of his life in investment banking and later went into the truck-parts business. By the time Dawson sold his firm to the AutoZone retail chain, it was the largest in the U.S. He was 46 and well-off beyond his dreams. He went back into investment banking, but sensed that something was missing. "I had lost the passion," he said. "I was in the wilderness." Dawson envied friends who could "surrender everything and go to serve God in Africa." Finally, it clicked. "I needed to make myself available to God."
Dawson prayerfully did so, and things began to happen. He found himself at an event hosted by Opportunity International, the Chicago-area ministry that specializes in microenterprise development.
Microenterprise makes small loans to organized groups of entrepreneurs, helping them build sustainable local businesses such as dressmaking or selling produce. Last year, this poverty-fighting strategy grabbed global headlines when Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank from Bangladesh won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. Microenterprise is designed to reach the chronically poor. In many nations, 90 percent ...