For two and one-half years after college, Ted Olsen and Alexis Beggs were separated by 10,000 miles. While Ted worked at Christianity Today and Christian History, Alexis worked in Australia for Opportunity International, a 30-year-old network of microeconomic development ministries. They used e-mail not only to keep their friendship up, but also to turn friendship into a well-documented courtship.
Alexis now works in Opportunity International's suburban Chicago headquarters. But since their marriage in October 2000, she has continued to travel overseas.
Early last year she was told she was going to have to be in Zambia for six-and-one-half weeks. Having had enough separations for awhile, Ted worked out a cost-sharing arrangement with CT: he could spend personal time with Alexis and do some reporting from one of the world's few officially Christian countries.
You can read about Ted's discoveries later in this issue. Let me use the rest of this space to tell you about the mission that took Alexis to Zambia.
Opportunity International works with "implementing partners" in 24 countries, including the Christian Enterprise Trust of Zambia (CETZAM). When Alexis first went to Zambia in May 1999, CETZAM had 1,700 clients. When she went again in March 2001, it had 17,000. With such rapid growth, CETZAM needed to revise its operating manuals and learn from successes in other countries. Alexis went to help.
Typically, clients are organized into "trust banks," groups of 15 to 40 (mostly) women who start with very small loans. In Zambia, the initial loans are the equivalent of $18 to $30. Most clients sell fish or produce and need a small infusion of cash to help them set up market stalls (so they no longer have to walk about balancing their ...1
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