Ekstrand Loan Association?

That’s the question– did we start our own Ekstrand loan association? Sometimes it seems like it and honestly sometimes we, Pete more than Cindy, tire of dealing with loans and keeping track of their repayment, but that’s life here. Here’s the kind of situations that sometimes bring us to see ourselves as a loan association:

There is a team of 5 workers that are employed around our house; 2 night sentries, a gardener, our cook and a laundryman/sentry for the afternoons. Two of them, the cook and gardener, we knew from the 1980s when they worked for us. The others are new employees. Each are faithful, conscientious and good workers. They all have families and kids in school and medical care. It is normal to give an advance on their salary through the month. These are easy to keep track of. But then there is the emergency need – death in the family, school fees, house repairs – that cannot be repaid the same month and suddenly you have an advance or loan to spread over the next month or two. Then along comes a desire to improve the house or do some major repairs or buy land for your own house instead of renting or buy a bicycle to go to & from work and suddenly you’re now talking about a loan over several months, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6… Our American questions are: How large an advance are we willing to give? How much of their salary do we think is reasonable for them to have committed to a loan repayment every month? How many months are we willing to have them constantly repaying a loan? We ask ourselves, what is reasonable, what is fair, what do we want to do, what can we afford to lose (give away)? How much money can we afford to have out on loans and maybe lose some of it? “They” didn’t teach about these things in orientation for mission!

We’re also learning that there are other cultural differences at work here. In our American or Western culture for most of us there are a number of ways that we use to borrow money or get cash advances for things we need/want to do: banks, savings and loan associations, credit cards, pawn shops, to name just a few. For the most part these institutions are separate from our place of employment, but we are asked what our monthly salary is and that is used to evaluate whether the loan will be granted. They are also separate from our family and friend relationships. In Congo and much of Africa those same means are not readily available, if at all, for getting a loan. In these cultures family and friends and employers are the loan “agencies.” That is where we come in, as we are employers.

What is the collateral for the loans? The relationship, “I promise to repay.” And, my future work. “As long as I’m working for you, you can continue to subtract the payment from my wages.” So then can I also view a loan as job security for the employee because if I as the employer want the loan repaid I need to keep the person in my employ?

The questions remain, how much of their salary are we willing to loan over what period of time and how much money do we have to loan out? There are no easy answers, no formulas, no real parameters for deciding. We decide based on what we think is reasonable, not wanting the employee to have more than 1/3 of their salary taken each month and not wanting to go beyond a 6 month commitment. Yes, we anticipate the person being employed by us for longer than that, but we’re uncomfortable planning to have money out for that long. Others may make larger loans for longer periods of time, but this is our approach for now. It happens that we have loaned out for longer because life happens and there are catastrophes and other emergency needs and….you name it.  We certainly don’t want it to end up like this:

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