The Unity Women’s Desk (UWD) of the Moravian Church is launching a new loan fund to help women in Moravian areas around the globe. And to honor the memory and legacy of selfless giving of two generous Moravians, the Advisory Board of the UWD has named the new loan fund the “Gretta Gene and Irvin Leinbach Loan Fund.”
The Gretta Gene and Irvin Leinbach Loan Fund will continue and expand the work of the UWD in providing low- and no-interest loans to women in Moravian areas around the world. These loans will be made to women who submit a business plan, agree to tithe their profits to their churches and make timely repayment of their loans so that the money may be loaned to other women to help them become self-sustaining with the Lord’s help.
The UWD has already provided loans to start a sewing school and retail business in the Lake Tanganyika Province of Tanzania; to purchase a hammermill and enclosure building for a milling business in Zambia; to start a fishing business, a grocery business and farming business in Zambia; to start a school uniform business in Honduras; and to and to expand a transportation business in Honduras. Two other loans are in process in Tanzania to start a retail business and a tailoring, embroidery and knitting shop in the Western Tanzania Province.
Gretta Gene Leinbach passed away in 2003, followed by Irvin Leinbach in 2005. The Advisory Board believes that in so naming this fund, we will be carrying on the promise that Irvin made to “relieve pain in this world” and to allow women to live and work with dignity and equality. It is our prayer that in contributing to this fund, others will remember the Leinbachs and their unselfish work in the Lord’s name.
About the Leinbachs
Gretta Gene and Irvin were unassuming, humble servants of the Lord serving at Bethania Moravian Church. Because Irvin was a successful businessman and owner of Leinbach Machinery, they were able to be very generous givers to the church. They found numerous ways to serve the church, including purchasing the Oehman House in Bethania across the street from the church to be used as a guest house for visiting missionaries and families of long-term patients at the local hospitals in Winston-Salem. Their good fortune enabled them to fulfill Irvin’s promise “to relieve pain in this world.”
According to minutes and records of mission board meetings of Bethania Moravian church, “In 1967, Irvin and Gretta Gene, along with other Moravians, toured Moravian churches in Czechoslovakia, Germany and Denmark. In Denmark, [Irvin] saw a small shop run by Moravian volunteers selling crafts from around the world (some of which were made by Moravians). The shop was then sending what little profit they made to Moravian missions. He was intrigued by the idea. He talked for years about how [he might] go about starting [something like] this in Bethania. He felt that as mission-minded as Bethania was, they would embrace this mission, too.” He continued to seek out other such projects to learn how they were accomplished.
As their interest in missions grew, the Leinbachs made a trip to the Rajpur Institute in India in 1989. While there, they visited the Kashmir area to see the rug factory. Seeing the lovely rugs being made there and the difficult working conditions of their workers led them to buy a large quantity of the Tibetan rugs. They brought them back to the U.S. to be sold and to raise awareness of the rug industry and to help create a larger market for their rug products.
The India trip, coupled with a trip to Tanzania in 1990 (where they met two Danish missionaries, Jørgen and Ellen Bøytler), changed their lives and their search for ways to serve the Lord. They would combine the rug business with selling crafts from Tanzania—drums, carvings, baskets and fabrics. (Ed. Note: The Rev. Jørgen Bøytler is now Unity Business Manager for the Worldwide Moravian Church.)
Upon returning to the U.S., the Leinbachs were instrumental in establishing the World Mission Gift Shop in Winston-Salem, N.C. From October 1989 to December 2004 the Mission Gift Shop was able to contribute nearly a quarter million dollars to a variety of Moravian mission causes, including: funding church buildings, schools, hospitals, literature and instruments for Moravians in Africa, Asia and Central America; pay for Nicaraguan pastors; support for mission work crews; funds for leadership development in Labrador and the Second Unity Women’s Consultation in 2002; and support of local ministries such as Sunnyside Ministry, King Outreach Ministry and a reserve for future hurricane relief. In addition there was an undetermined amount of farming equipment sent from Leinbach Machinery to help “fill up” five cargo-loads of supplies.
In 2009, the name of the store was changed to “World Villages,” and it became affiliated with the Ten Thousand Villages organization, which provides outlets for crafts people in developing countries around the world, and the shop began selling their products exclusively. In late 2013, the decision was made by the Board of the World Villages store to close the shop. A going-out-of-business sale was held with the intention of distributing the proceeds to some worthy charity. The Unity Women’s Desk was chosen to be the major beneficiary of these proceeds.
The Unity Women’s Desk is pleased to be able to carry on this wonderful work through the Gretta Gene and Irvin Leinbach Loan Fund as we seek to serve our Lord and Savior in this world. The announcement and formal beginning of the Fund was announced at Bethania Moravian Church on Sunday, May 10, 2015.
The UWD plans to build the fund so that $5,000 can be made available to every Province, Mission Province and Mission Area of the Moravian Unity. Thus, we will continue the Leinbachs’ legacy of helping people develop business enterprises to sustain themselves, their families and their communities.
The Rev. Patty Garner is director of the Unity Women’s Desk, based in Winston-Salem, N.C.
From the July/August 2015 Moravian Magazine