Josina was loaned $5. What she did with it blew me away

Graham Strong could hardly believe the mustard-seed faith in Mozambique

Right now, we all need faith more than ever, to get through a global pandemic that we’ll be living with for some time.

Faith has sustained me and many of the people I serve over three decades of humanitarian work, but no-one has impressed me more than a woman I met in Mozambique called Josina Vicente Mahumana. Her faith blew me away.

These simple utensils gave her family dignity.

Women in these countries often can’t access finance to start small businesses, so World Vision (who I work for) helps women establish savings groups to create cash flow for loans and savings.

I met Josina at one of their meetings in the Gaza province, and she clearly had a story she was burning to tell.

Josina had to borrow around $5 to join the savings group, she told me. She was anxious – some community naysayers had told her it might get stolen and also she’d never touched so much money in her life before! So she buried it.

Even though she was worried, she decided to trust the savings group because she had nothing else. She couldn’t read or write, and I learned later that her husband was sick with AIDs and likely to use the money for alcohol if he found it.

When Josina was loaned some capital to start a small business, she bought sugar and salt and soap at the market and sold it in the community.

She said, “I realised that in the first few days, I had the money to pay back savings group, I had money to pay the interest, and then I had a profit!”

When I asked her what she did with her profit, she took me to her home and showed me the pots and plates and spoons and plates she’d bought.

“My children can now eat off a plate with a spoon. Look, I have two pots! I can cook the rice and the vegetables and we can eat them together. I’ve been able to fix my roof.”

These simple utensils gave her family dignity.

Over four years leading up to the moment I met her, Josina had grown her business and sent her children to school. She was radiant with joy and hope for the future.

What struck me about this was how Josina had needed to put her doubt aside. It was a mindset shift. The word I kept hearing in the community was ‘confienza’ which translates as ‘trust.’

Imagine what we could achieve if we could put aside our fears like Josina did …

Josina did not have much experience or proof to rely on; her decision to hand over that precious, borrowed cash took courage and was akin to a spiritual act of faith. I was so impressed I asked my leadership team to see what Josina and other women in the group had achieved, with so little.

It was living proof of what Christ tells his disciples about faith in Matthew 17:20: “… Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

The mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds found in the Middle East. But in a short time, a mustard seed can grow into a shrub that’s between six and 20 feet tall.

Imagine what we could achieve if we could put aside our fears like Josina did when she asked for a loan from a neighbour, and risked all she had to better the lives of her children.

Even a grain of that faith could transform a family, a community, an organisation – a world.

Graham Strong is acting CEO of World Vision Australia.

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