About Open Hands

Open Hands is an Anabaptist non-profit organization combating poverty by forming, teaching and mentoring savings and credit groups. Our vision is to see the financially vulnerable stabilized and growing, standing together in Christian community.

Why Savings Groups?


We work to empower the financially vulnerable by helping them form savings and credit groups. These groups are a powerful form of self-help which brings dignity to those who previously felt powerless and trapped.


The groups provide community where members are supported by each other. The groups are a safe place to save money and receive loans for things like small business, school fees, and emergencies. They receive Bible-based teaching from our facilitators in how to operate the groups, leadership, and small business.


We do not loan any outside funds but rather facilitate saving and loaning from within the groups. We help set up the groups to be self-governing. Group members are not dependant on us.

How Savings Groups Work

Savings Group Life Cycle

group life cycle diagram

Our goal is to restore people’s dignity while avoiding dependancy. Our local facilitators search for church and community leaders interested in a savings group ministry.


We then provide an orientation for the leaders and potential group members. They are taught about the benefits of savings groups, and how savings groups work.


Our facilitators then meet with the new group members and guide them through group formation. The group elects their own leaders, drafts their own policies, chooses their savings cycle length, and what type of savings group they will be. The groups are self-governing.


The groups then meet weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. The group meetings normally begin with devotions and prayer. Our facilitator is also given a time slot where they teach Bible-based lessons on topics including how to run a good savings group, leadership, personal finance, and small business. After receiving teaching, the group conducts their saving and loaning.


At the end of the savings cycle, typically one year, each group member receives back the money they
saved. The group then works to reform and improve their policies and chooses when their next savings cycle will begin. 

Merle and Edith Burkholder, staff pastor
Edith and Merle Burkholder

Edith and I have spent most of our lives involved in missions. Part of our mission experience was spending a year in rural Haiti. Through our years of mission experience, we have become committed to indigenous principles and have seen the long-term effects of mission aid pro- grams which create a debilitating dependency. We realized that a church where 50% or more of the congregation is unemployed would never be a self-supporting indigenous church. It will always be dependent on outside funds. We recognized the need for economic development as well as theological teaching. The vision for a Savings Group program started in 2007. We started with a small program in Haiti with about 12 savings groups which now has become more widespread and larger than what we had originally envisioned. This is a result of God’s blessing and guidance, a faithful staff team who have committed themselves to the work, and financial and prayer supporters who have made it possible to carry on the work.

Now Open Hands stands on the verge of new growth and possibilities. With a full-time administrator and a solid, experienced leadership team, the organization is poised to respond to more of the opportunities that exist. The Open Hands story is not finished; it is moving on to an exciting new chapter.

– Merle Burkholder, founder, staff pastor

Open Hands Timeline

Merle Burkholder develops a burden to help those needing financial services and Christ-centered financial teaching in developing countries. Merle with the help of others begins doing some research surrounding the vision.
Open Hands, under the umbrella of Anabaptist Financial, and in partnership with Hope International, launches its first program in Haiti. Lyndon Swarey moves to Cadiac, Haiti to lead the program.
Open Hands partners with Hope International to launch a program in an undisclosed country. Meanwhile, the Haiti program sees good growth and positive impact.
Open Hands launches a program in Kenya in partnership with Amish Mennonite Aid. Lyndon Swarey works remotely to provide supervision for the program.
Open Hands registers as a 501(c)(3) and becomes independent from Anabaptist Financial. The Joe Kuepfer family joins Open Hands where Joe takes a short-term assignment as a liaison in Haiti with plans to transition elsewhere longer-term.
Open Hands launches the Latin America program in partnership with Mennonite Air Missions in Guatemala, and Amish Mennonite Aid in El Salvador. Darin Hershberger supervises the program remotely but eventually moves to El Salvador. Joe Kuepfer and his family move to Kenya to grow the East Africa program.
Open Hands launches a program in Nepal in partnership with EQUIP. Delvin Zimmerman joins Open Hands to lead the Asia program and serve as a liaison in East Africa. Delvin is initially based in Kenya but eventually moves to Thailand.
Jason Croutch joins Open Hands as the office manager and communications coordinator. Delvin Zimmerman starts an additional program in the undisclosed country.
Open Hands launches a program in Thailand through collaboration with IGo. Paul Smucker joins Open Hands as the communications coordinator for the western half of the United States.
Merle Burkholder retires from his role of leading the organization for 13 years and Joe Kuepfer is trained into the role of administrator/executive director. An administrative team is formed consisting of Joe Kuepfer, Lyndon Swarey and Jason Croutch. Open Hands launches a program in Colombia in partnership with Plain Compassion, which then spreads across the border into Venezuela. The US based Faith and Finances program is launched.
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