North Park Raises $15K for Oaxaca Ministry

Oaxaca woman

Campus Pastor Judy Peterson presents Fuentes Libre with funds donated by students in chapel service

CHICAGO, IL (May 1, 2009) – The leader of a ministry that provides poor women in Oaxaca, Mexico, with microenterprise loans expressed his gratitude for $15,000 given by North Park University Ministries. Students raised $10,000 during a special chapel offering on March 25, and an anonymous donor matched $5,000.

“We are so grateful that people far away from us would take what they have and share it with us,” said Guillermo Conde, the director of Fuentes Libres, who spoke from Oaxaca via Skype during a check presentation in Chicago. Chaplain Judy Peterson and two other representatives from University Ministries presented the funds to the Evangelical Covenant Church Department of World Mission in a ceremony at the denomination’s central offices.

Back in mid-March, Peterson had challenged the students to donate $5,000. It was a great surprise to everyone when they doubled that amount. Evangelical Covenant Church President Gary Walter remarked, “We’re so proud of University Ministries and the students whose hearts are big enough for the whole world.”

Stephanie Lee, a junior Spanish education major who traveled to Oaxaca with a student team during spring break, came up with the idea to raise money for Fuentes Libres. The other students eagerly agreed.

“They figured if they could raise the money to get down there, they could raise the money for the people there,” said Peterson. "They realized they didn’t have to send out letters. They just had to tell people around them.”

Covenant Missionary Nancy Jo Hoover started the ministry in 1997. At first it helped with community projects such as building latrines and developing family gardens. Then the foundation began to look for ways to have an ongoing sustainable ministry and decided to provide loans that people could use to start or grow their own businesses.

They started by providing loans to men, with unsuccessful results, said Cindy Hoover, a Covenant missionary in Oaxaca. In contrast,“The women have just taken off.”

Loans are provided through community banks that offer them at three percent interest, which covers the cost of the person running the bank. They are generally between $100-$150 and paid back within 90 days. The foundation will work with the women for two years to help get the businesses established. Women must also take a percentage of the loan and put it into savings. The money is held in a reserve fund that is available to them after two years.

The students’ donations will fund the start of three new banks, which need $5,000 each to be launched, Hoover said.

Fuentes Libres is one of the Global Partnerships of University Ministries, a program that enables students to minister at sites around the world.

“We can’t wait to send the next group of students to see the ministry,” Peterson said.


Photo: Woman at an Oaxaca market, by Drew Leavy