Friday, December 25, 2015

The Graduation...

The beginning ultimately ends. Sooner or later.

My service with Urwego Opportunity Bank in Rwanda ended on May 1st, 2014.

Then I had a sabbatical year, reading, resting, reflecting and re-focusing.

Meanwhile, I dabbled here and there.

I took a teaching job at a Christian university, Handong, in Korea. But, it has fizzed out.

As part of Opportunity International's governance and regional management team, I have been helping the leadership at Opportunity's micro financial institutions in four African countries: Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and DR Congo. I still am, but it will also fade out.

I have been helping several government organizations and non-government organizations with consulting services. I may still continue this job from time to time, but not as a regular job.

I have been teaching at BAM consultations and BAM academy, mentoring BAM practitioners in several countries. This has been gradually and steadily accelerating.

Meanwhile, the Lord has helped me open my eyes for His plan in store for my life: starting a new ministry to support BAMs in Asia and Africa with resources mobilized from the U.S. and Korea.

So, a new ministry has been born.

This ministry is called SfK Ministries that was established in October 2015. SfK stands for Synergy for the Kingdom (of God.)

This ministry still involves but goes beyond Rwanda.

Thus, this blog is graduating... but only to a new blog.

Graduation signifies commencement. A new beginning.

Thank you all who have read and commented on this blog for your interest. You may continue to follow and read my posts on the new blog: If you want to check out the new blog, Click here. - Jeffrey

Sunday, February 15, 2015

UOB Takes a Human-centered Approach to Rwanda's small holders...

When I was leading UOB, we developed and launched the mHose, an interoperable  mobile banking solution,  in cooperation with mVISA, which is VISA, Inc's solution for delivering financial services in the emerging markets.  I am grateful for the opportunity to have been involved in the project and pray for God's continuing grace in expanding the outreach towards the small holders in Rwanda through this product.

Below is the full article posted on CGAP's webpage.

UOB Takes a Human-Centered Approach to Rwanda’s Smallholders

11 February 2015
As Rwanda’s first and largest microfinance bank, Urwego Opportunity Bank (UOB) is constantly searching for ways to better serve those who lack affordable and reliable access to formal financial services. That is why we are partnering with CGAP, Triple Jump Advisory Services, and Dalberg’s Design Impact Group to use a human-centered approach to designing financial products that better meet the needs of smallholder farmers - one of Rwanda’s most underserved client segments.
Nearly 75% of Rwandans are engaged in smallholder farming, including a disproportionately high percentage of those neglected by the formal financial sector. Some of the barriers to access are well-known: long distances, lacking infrastructure, low population density, etc. And like many financial institutions, UOB has turned to digital branchless banking solutions to overcome the obstacles to serving smallholder families.
By connecting our products to our innovative mobile banking service, mHose –which runs on the mVISA platform - UOB now has a promising channel for delivering financial services to smallholders. As a fully integrated branchless banking service, mHose allows customers to access their bank accounts using a network of agents, in addition to performing a number of other tasks (including P2P money transfers, purchasing airtime, paying electricity bills, and receiving and repaying their UOB loans). Given the versatility of mHose, mobile offerings give us the ability to serve a larger number of customers in more remote areas with a diverse range of digital products and services - all at a much lower cost than was previously possible.

Photo Credit: Hailey Tucker, 2014 CGAP Photo Contest
Still, even with this promising channel for delivering financial services, driving adoption of digital products among smallholders has been challenging. Despite our best efforts, facilitating the delivery of financial services via mobile has only addressed the supply side of the equation. The missing piece of the puzzle remains how to drive demand for these services; and that has led us to explore the potential of human-centered design.
All of this isn’t to say that UOB has ignored the unmet demand for financial services among smallholders: In 2013, we launched our agricultural lending product, which represented our first entry into the smallholder market and signaled our commitment to serving all Rwandans. During the first year, our agricultural lending product provided 33,000 loans to smallholder farmers, who in turn used the funding to purchase fertilizers and selected seeds. These inputs allowed our clients to increase yields across of a range of crops, including maize, rice and Irish potatoes. Building on this success, UOB also introduced a cow loan to allow customers to benefit from the steady income stream offered by the growing market in milk consumption. More than half of the loan recipients were women, and 40% were youth under the age of 35, representing two of UOB’s core market segments.
While there is little doubt that our agricultural lending products have benefited both UOB and our clients, so far our reach remains limited to farmers who are members of agricultural cooperatives, and therefore already tightly connected to value chains. As we look to expand our outreach, the key challenge will be designing new products that meet the demand of all smallholders, while also taking advantage of mHose and other digital channels. Moving down the pyramid to serve non-commercial farmers and those only loosely connected to value chains will mean rethinking how we approach product design.
While serving smallholder farmers represents a relatively new endeavor for UOB (and most FSPs for that matter), our desire to expand our reach into this market reflects our commitment to serving all Rwandans. In the end, using human-centered design doesn’t necessarily guarantee that we will emerge with a successful new product. But to the extent that it can help us to gain insights into the features and services that smallholders value most, it’s certainly worth a shot.
Nick Meakin is the Director of Project Management at Urwego Opportunity Bank in Rwanda.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reflecting on the year 2014...

The sun setting over Chobe River in Botswana...
As the year 2014 is slowly but surely setting over the horizon, I reflect on all things that God has done through our life, counting the blessings He has bestowed upon us. They are countless, but the following 12 stand out:

1. God allowed me to translate an inspirational book, "Spiritual Danger of Doing Good" by Peter Greer, into Korean. The purpose was to help as many people as possible to read and be challenged by the book that was deeply penetrating into our heart to seek a pure motive for our good work. I have also written a chapter to a book on the Korean mission history. This book is scheduled to published in 2015.

2. We celebrated my father's 90th birthday. Long life is a blessing. It is even a greater blessing for the family to celebrate the long life allowed for my father. Amanda and James were able to join the celebration. We took advantage of this opportunity for a short traveling together in Korea.

3. Kristin and I were able to travel a lot in 2014 with our health sustained. The new counties we traveled to included: Jordan, Egypt, Capetown to Victoria Falls, Ecuador in addition to USA and Korea. I traveled even more for work and ministries to Cambodia, Thailand, Kenya, Tanzania.

4. I was able to complete my service at UOB for more than five years successfully and handed over the leadership to my successor seamlessly. I am so grateful to the Lord for this smooth transition.

5. Amanda and James relocated from New Mexico to Florida after James completed his 18-month training successfully. They were able to purchase a new house and I am grateful for their settling down after a mobile life of 18 months.

6. Joyce completed her 2-year volunteer service with Peace Corps in Senegal in May. She has since been blessed with a new job in San Francisco. It is another reason for me to be grateful to the faithful Lord for her safe return and new job.

7. We had an opportunity to have our own family reunion in Colorado. Amanda and James drove up from New Mexico and Joyce flew in from San Francisco. It was a short but a sweet time period that we treasure a lot.

8. I am grateful for several ministry opportunities in different forms, but am particularly grateful for the opportunity to serve young men and women of God through Shalom Bible Study (SBS), a disciple-making ministry for me. We paused the physical gathering in April, but resumed it on line in October. Now we are studying and meditating on God's Word through Kakao Talk because they are scattered in eight countries. May this opportunity help them grow strong in their faith and mature in their faith lives, like many faithful people who lived their lives like Jesus.

9. I am also grateful for the opportunities to be of service for God's mission particularly through Business As Mission (BAM). I have been expanding the scope of service through learning, teaching, coaching and mentoring. I attended the 3rd BAM Consultation in Korea and also was able to help out several BAMs as they plan to take their BAMs to the next level.

May this methodology gain more traction in the field of world mission to help God's Kingdom advance on earth.

10. After completing the service with UOB in May, Kristin and I have been on a sabbatical leave, seeking to rest, reflect, read and re-focus based on God's guidance. I am grateful for this wonderful opportunity. We set the time limit for one year and I trust He will surely show us the way for us to be used for His Kingdom and purposes.

11. Even during this sabbatical leave, God has continued providing to meet our needs in His own way. I have been asked to assist several organizations through consulting and advisory services. Also, He has placed me into a Christian university in S. Korea as a visiting professor. His way is always better than and beyond our imagination.

12. We were able to sell our home in Colorado at a good price and simplify our financial life, thankfully to the Lord. We acknowledge that we are only His stewards of the time, talents, treasure and relationships which we are entrusted with, and strive to be good stewards in all under our management responsibility to bring glory to Him.

As the year 2014 is setting, I trust that a new year 2015 will come around. I am excited about the new year, joyously wondering how God will reveal His will, how He will advance His Kingdom and how we will be used for His Kingdom.

Each new day is God's gift to us. What we do with each day, God's gift, is our gift to God.

Also, each day is a brand new day that has never been lived before and is the first day of the future that God has bestowed upon us. We should make a good start of the future by living each day fully with our best efforts as if it is the last day of our earthly life and with our full trust in the Lord who is the sovereign Creator and Sustainer of the entire universe. Then, our life would be an abundant life that comes only through Jesus Christ.

May you be blessed richly in 2015 and become a great blessing to all around you!

Thy Kingdom come and Thy will be done on earth as in the heaven. Amen and amen! - Jeffrey  

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Ministry Update - Sabbatical Leave Six Months

I left Urwego Opportunity Bank of Rwanda (UOB) as of April 30th, 2014 after 63 months of service as its CEO. And I declared to be on a sabbatical leave.

The dictionary defines sabbatical leave as a leave from a regular job while remaining employed. According to this definition, I have not been on the sabbatical leave because I did not remain employed.

But, if it is defined as a time period to break away from your routine work and discern what God's will is for the next chapter of life, I will take it.

Any way, six months have since passed as of today. So I wanted to update you of what has transpired during this past six-month period.

The following summarizes what has happened for the past six months:

Do we look like a nomad couple?

Group photo after the trip

Majestic aerial view of the Victoria Falls

Picture perfect scenery at Okavango Delta
1. We took a three-week overland trip from Cape Town, South African to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The trip had a total of 18 people including two couples of our friends from New York and went through Namibia and Botswana. It was rough at times, particularly dusts in Namibia, but overall it was a fantastic and memorable experience. Namibian deserts, Himba tribes, Okavango Delta in Botswana, Moremi crossing, Chobe river safari in Botswana and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe were the highlights. (May/June) If you are interested in reading more about this trip, please click here.

2. We had a family reunion in Colorado. All our children came and enjoyed our time together up in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. In May, Joyce finished her volunteer service with Peace Corps in Senegal and joined us right after she accepted an offer for employment with a high tech company in San Francisco. We also visited with our friends in Denver, New York and Atlanta. (July/August)
Selfie for our family

3. I agreed to assist Access to Finance Rwanda (AFR) and Association of Microfinance Institutions of Rwanda (AMIR) in making recommendation on improving regulatory environment for microfinance institutions in Rwanda. This project commenced in June and has continued on and off up to even today. I was glad to be of help. (June - November)

4. I attended the Third Business As Mission (BAM) Consultation held at Mt. Seorak in Korea in September. It was the second time attendance for me and I was able to meet a lot more people than last year. It is always encouraging to meet up with the like-minded people on creative world mission. (September)

5. I taught 26 students from 18 countries for two weeks at Handong Global University, Pohang, Korea on the subject of "Microfinance for Sustainable Development." It was an intensive teaching for these students studying for a master's degree in global development and entrepreneurship. The teaching experience was uplifting and I was named a visiting professor for Handong. (September/October)

With 26 students from 18 countries

6. I ministered to the young adults and adults at Gimhae First Church in Gimhae over the weekend while I was teaching at Handong. This church is shpherded by Pastor Yongsik Ahn, who was the senior pastor of Emmanuel Mission Church in Los Angeles where I was a founding member in 1993. Our reunion was joyous and their hospitality was warm and welcoming. (September)
With Rev. and Mrs. Yongsik Ahn

7. I have agreed to provide a diagnostic evaluation of Rz Manna Rwanda's financial management and internal control. Rz Manna Rwanda was established as a social enterprise by Handong Global University, sponsored by KOICA. It has been recognized as a top quality bakery and cafe in Kigali operationally, but it has lacked transparency in financial management associated with internal control. This pro bono service still continues with a hope that it will continue to operate as a thriving social enterprise even after the KOICA's support ends. (October/November)

8. While we were traveling, we were able to see many old friends and meet new friends. We are always thrilled about these opportunities. The photos below are with Shalom Bible Study members.

9. I have also agreed to serve as board members of a few Opportunity International's microfinance institutions in Africa. I have accepted this responsibility at Opportunity Kenya and Opportunity Tanzania, and I will consider up to two more locations. (September and on-going)

10. Kristin has started teaching English for preschoolers and first grade students at 2 & 5 Nursery that was established and is being run by Korean missionaries.

Even during our intended leave, God has kept us pretty busy with various ministry opportunities. We are slowly but surely seeing where God is leading us for our next chapter of life, but we remain still prayerfully trying to discern His will.

Thank you for reading this update and your continuing to stand with us.

Gratefully in His service,

Jeffrey and Kristin Lee from Kigali, Rwanda

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Last Ministry Updates in Rwanda - March/April 2014

Ah... Rwanda... the land of thousand hills...
In March, Kristin and I have been taking our annual leave, the last one while I am affiliated with UOB. Even while we have been traveling, the work continued and I have had to be involved in the activities remotely.

The following are the highlights of March 2014:

1. Since we left Rwanda in February, Kristin and I have been privileged to travel to Jordan, Egypt, Denver and Korea. Now we are in Los Angeles. After a 5-day visit and another night stay in Denver, we will return to Rwanda. We look forward to coming home in Rwanda. God has blessed us with His traveling grace and we are grateful for the traveling opportunity.

2. Our trip to Jordan and Egypt helped us bring the bible to come alive. Many historical sites and facts helped us understand the bible better.

3. Jeffrey shared the message at Logos Central Chapel, Denver on Friday and Sunday. God inspired and challenges us all for the Great Commission to be His disciples and the light of the world until the Lord returns.

4. While we were in Denver, the primary objective was to take physical and dental examination. With God's grace, we received a clean bill of health, mostly. Praise the Lord!

5. Amanda and James joined us in Korea, primarily to celebrate the 90th birthday of Jeffrey's father. His long life on earth has been a blessing to us all as well as to him. We also traveled to Jeju Island, Busan and DMZ, particularly for James who visited Korea for the first time.
Celebrating my father's 90th birthday...

We traveled to Korea with Amanda and James

6. Kristin and I had a reunion with Shalom Bible Study alumni and Seoul and Busan. Although brief, our reunion was greatly encouraging and uplifting. Now the question is how to continue SBS Off-Line effectively.

7. T24 R12 model bank migration project go-live date has been rescheduled for May 1st. Many projects are moving along in parallel and there still are several critical projects to be carried out to meet the deadline. Please pray with us for diligent process in every front to meet the deadline seamlessly.

8. Throughout the journey, we have been meeting new people and seeing old friends/colleagues. Each and every meeting has been a blessing and inspiration. God has been working through human relationships and I trust all relationships will surely bear the fruit of God's goodness.

Also, a lot has been happening in April after we returned to Rwanda.

Tineyi Mawocha
1. Foremost, God has sent UOB a new CEO. His name is Tineyi Mawocha. He is a seasoned banker from Zimbabwe, but has worked in may African countries. He is also a man of faith who has strong love and passion for the Lord. Moreover, he desires strongly to serve the underprivileged people and has a gentle heart that I felt I have been lacking. I think he is an ideal fit for the position that I have left as of April 30th. God indeed provides! In His perfect time! Praise the Lord!

2. Jeffrey has been undergoing a handover process with full documentation of all matters that he would need to know. He was introduced to staff at Home Office on Friday, April 11, and has since met UOB executive officers over dinner, introduced to expanded leadership team and met senior officers individually. Also, he has been introduced to key stakeholders in Rwanda mostly in person as well as globally via e-mail. He has also been introduced to key clients, such as KOICA and Korean Embassy. He took office on April 17th and I have been assisting him in shadow.

3. Meanwhile, T24 R12 model bank project has been progressing, but unfortunately the go-live date has been postponed again to June 1st. Sadly, I will have to hand over the project to Tineyi and his team.

4. OI UK has submitted its proposal to DFID for a grant to support UOB's agricultural program in Rwanda.

5. GIZ EnDev project has also progressed. Now the Grant Agreement and Operations Procedures Manual have been signed and UOB team has begun to take implementing actions. Praise the Lord!

6. UOB's agricultural program has been brisk with more than 8,000 farmers having benefited from UOB's production loan program during the first quarter 2014. Also, UOB is gearing up with a new product, called Post-Harvest Bridge Loan to help cooperatives and farmers who need the cash before they actually receive the sales proceeds from the buyers of their crops.  UOB is also exploring the Dairy Cow loans and community development loans.

Cutting a cake with Kristin on the farewell gathering
7. On April 30th, despite the day being the last business day of the busiest month of the year, UOB staff and the board held a farewell gathering primarily to give thanks to the Lord who has been gracious to us for the past five years or so. My wife and I felt humbled and honored to receive such a warm farewell gathering. Many bank MDs and CEOs also participated in the event. I shared a brief message about Luke 17:9,10 that urges Jesus disciples to say "we are unworthy servants; we have only done what we have been told to do." I felt exactly so. "The Kingdom enterprise much move on under the new leader as the unworthy servant leaves."

My family, friends and fellow Kingdom workers, as of yesterday, our ministries in Rwanda came to an end. I am certain that we will be called to different ministries in His time, but for now, we desire to enter into a pause, as many call it gloriously "sabbatical leave." We will discern His voice and His will for our next ministries.

Below this post, I have shown some of the photos that highlighted our life and ministries for the past 63 months in Rwanda.

I would like to thank God for all of you and thank you for all your prayer and support during the past 63 months of service. We certainly know that we could not have done our ministries without your support. For that, we sincerely thank you.

Until we talk again in whatever form it may be, may the Lord bless you, keep you and make His face shine upon you and extend His peace and grace to you, your family and all you do for Him and His Kingdom. Shalom! - Jeffrey
Kigali Genocide Memorial... 250K people buried 

Mountain Gorillas... unique to Rwanda, DR Congo and Uganda
H.E. Paul Kagame, the frontier of Rwandan renaissance
Group Lending, UOB's main line of micro credit
UOB's mobile branch, the first and innovative solution
Road side signs installed all over Rwanda

UOB Grace Cards

mVISA, the world's first interoperable mobile banking

mHose, an enhanced version built on mVISA
Gisozi Branch Grand Open... 

Delivering UOB's 3 P's of difference

Leadership Retreat with expanded leadership team

Working with the small group

UOB Day... celebrating God with colleagues

After UOB Day...
Solar energy loans to rural farmers...

Rice field... agricultural production loan is a strategic product for UOB

God Provides DVD translated into Kinyarwanda... part of spiritual transformation program

UOB Staff Devotion provides spiritual foundation for staff...

UOB board of directors,,, the body of governance

UOB benefited from many borrowed talents like these people
UOB Home Office...
Agape Church Rwanda...

Preaching the Word of God...

Ministering to God's people at churches

Yaramba Nursery in Gicumbi... for 60 students

Four of them on the grand opening day...

Shalom Bible Study was a disciple-making ministry

Korean version of "The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good"

John, David, Chantia and Sarah... recipients of scholarship

On top of Mt. Kilimanjaro on Sept. 1, 2011...

We were blessed with many travels to many countries...

The most favorite place in the universe is... the planet Earth...
a precious gift from God for us to enjoy before leaving it...