Friday, December 25, 2009

New Hope Homes on a Green Christmas Day...

It was green on our first Christmas Day in Rwanda. It was windy, rainy and cloudy. Rain was good because now is the rainy season for Rwanda and it has not been raining for a couple of weeks.

The rain made all trees and grasses greener. It was a green Christmas, a beautiful one. Rwanda's Christmas is relatively quiet with less decoration than in the U.S. Some told me that it was depressing, but I did not feel so. It rather enabled me to observe the Christmas Day with the Christ central to the day.

Indeed, Christmas Day is the day of worshipping the Christ who was born to die for us all, sinlessly and blamelessly.

After the worship service in the morning, Kristin, Joyce and I joined a group of KOICA volunteers to minister to children at New Hope Homes, a family style orphan care place that we started ministering from November. We transported the volunteers and I shared the gospel. We praised together, played games and showed them a movie, like before. It was encoruaging to see them growing up with joyous hearts.

May the Lord bless these parent-less children with strong faith in the heavenly Father and adequate provision for all their needs until they grow up. As Mary confessed to the angel Gabriel who was telling her that she would give birth to Jesus, it was my message for them: "Nothing is impossible with God." Amen! - Jeffrey

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

$1.6 million Credit Facility Secured for 8,000 New Clients in 2010!!!

On Friday, December 18th, 2009, UOB received the first installment of funding in the amount of EUR200,000 (apprximately $300,000) as part of the $1.6 million 4-year credit facility from Oxfam Novib.
Oxfam Novib is a Netherlands NGO as part of Oxfam International that is the confederation of 14 like-minded organizations that work to end the poverty and injustice through various activities from campaigning to responding to emergencies. Lending to microfinance institutions is one of their programs towards the goal.

It was arranged through Triple Jump, a microfinance investment fund manager. This funding was arranged in Rwandan Francs so that we may avoid the foreign exchange exposure.

It was the first external credit facility that UOB has ever borrowed on a commercial basis. I trust the good Lord was at the center of all the work being done and I praise Him for His goodness!

This credit facility will be used to finance part of UOB's micro finance activities in 2010. Based on the average loan size of $200, the credit facility will enable us to help 8,000 new clients to graduate from chronic poverty. Praise the Lord! - Jeffrey

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mountain Gorilla Trekking...

Rwanda is one of a few countries that have mountain gorillas.
These mountain gorillas live only in the Virunga Mountains that spread through Uganda, DR Congo and Rwanda. Thus, trekking gorillas is one of the adventures that any visitors to Rwanda should do. We have been wanting to do it for some time, but frequent travel schedules and heavy workload have made us postpone it for some time. Fortunately, we have been able to do the mountain gorilla trekking before the year 2009 was over.

On Saturday, December 19th, Kristin, Joyce (our younger daughter)and I trekked one of the seven gorilla groups, called Hirwa, in the Virunga (Volcanos) Mountains. This group of gorillas, totaling 12, was led by the male silverback, called Munyinyo, that weighs approximaately 400 pounds. Male gorillas normally have blackbacks, but when they turn 12 years of age, part of their backs changes to silver color, thus being called silverbacks. One silverback carries multiple female gorillas and they form a group. The silverback leads his group to the places where food is available and to new nests everyday. He is the protector of the group and only he is allowed to mate with females within the group, until female gorillas are lured away by other bachelor silverbacks.
[The silverback in the Hirwa group, weighing 400 pounds]
Rwanda has many gorilla groups, but only seven (7) groups are allowed for trekking and each trekking group can have only eight (8) people. So the maximum number of gorilla trekkers per day is 56, requiring advance booking and purchase of the tickets.

Gorilla trekking is not a casual hiking. It is pretty challenging and rigorous because you have to find the place where the target gorilla group is located. It takes climbing narrow paths on muddy hills, crossing bamboo jungles, walking on the bushes cut-down by the guides or scrambling several stiff hills on the way up. A couple of guides make pathways for the group, using machettes, and we followed them, up and down the stiff hills. We all got our clothes and shoes dirty with muds, but we were able to find the gorilla group and had a close encounter with them. Normally they eat bamboo shoots and other vegetables during the day.
At one moment, our group saw a female gorilla, weighing approximately 200 pounds, passing by within a foot distance from the group. Mountain gorillas are vegeterians, but they are wild animals and at times they could ferociously charging at people if they are provoked. I do not believe the evolution theory, but when you see the gorillas that closely, you cannot resist a little strange feeling about their resemblance to human being. It was quite interesting that each gorilla was identifiable by note prints unique to individuals, like unique fingerprints of each human being. These mountain gorillas have very slow reproduction cycles and are categorized as "critically endangered" species according to the U.N. classification.

[A baby gorilla]
Our group had a shocking moment once. The silverback, weighing 400 pounds, is normally sitting at a place overlooking the group. All of a sudden, this silverback started moving swiftly crossing the valley where we were busy taking photos. The guide instructed us to move out of his way, but one Belgian lady did not hear him in time and ended up being pushed aside by the silverback. Although it was a slight push, she fell down and rolled into the bush. We all became frightened, but that was the end of the encounter. It all happened so fast that no one could do anything about it. We all felt relieved. The guide explained that the silverback was not mad and his rush was not a charging at us. He simply decided to move from one hill to another hill for whatever reason and the lady happened to be on his way. He told us that the silverback gorilla's abrupt behavior was his first time experience.

[Our group, plus 2 more taking photos, with the guides and armed guards]

All in all, we trekked the gorilla group for two and half hours, spent one hour watching them and another one hour to come back down. We all received the gorilla trekking certificates and I bought the wooden stick that I was allowed to use for trekking as a sovenir. It has carvings of three gorillas. It was an once-in-a-lifetime experience, particularly for Kristin who initially suffered greatly from a heart pain. But, she was able to finish it with a lot of help from a porter, Andrew. - Jeffrey

Monday, December 14, 2009

Agricultural Finance and John Magnay

As I wrote in the earlier post, agricultural finance is essential to Rwanda because of its significance to its economy.
So we are getting ourselves prepared to offer the agricultural finance in 2010. But, agricultural finance is a risky business for many reasons. First, the agriculture depends heavily on the weather. Without sufficient mitigating factors, the harvest could fail and the source of repayment also fails. Second, the agriculture is highly seasonal. So the loan needs to be structured in irregular payment schedule, increasing the risk. Third, the agriculture is subject to volatile price fluctuation depending on the level of harvest. A good harvest could mean an over-supply, without proper export mechanism, reducing the sale price. This price volatility also affects the payment ability. Also, the agricultural harvest depends on the exact timing of input supply, such as fertilizer use and water supply. Moreover, many farmers are doing subsistence farming so if you do not profile the farmers properly, you may end up lending to finance their own consumption. In this case, your source of repayment does not exist. These are only part of the reasons. For more, please refer to the left.

Thus, the agricultural lending is a risky business that many banks avoid, causing the farmers to remain underserved. Rwanda is not an exception. Nonetheless, we are entering into this industry, but with extreme caution and a lot of preparation. Part of the preparation is to have an agricultural expert on board.

Opportunity International Africa has John Magnay. He is Special Advisor to OI Africa on Agriculture. He was born to an English farmer. His father ran a huge farm that Henry Ford established to showcase an exemplary farm to eventually promote sales of Ford's tractors. So John grew up with hands-on experience in various aspects of farming. After college, he moved to Uganda in 1977 to help his father start a dairy business, owning 3,000 heads of cow. His experiences expanded to other sectors of agriculture and to other Sub-Sahara African countries, including Rwanda. In total, his direct experiences in African agriculture have been 32 years. He is well connected to government offcials and well familiar with the value chains of the agriculture industry by different types of crop and by geographical regions.

Despite all the preparation and extreme caution, however, we may not be successful without the blessing of the almighty God. We are entering into this market knowing the high risks because the needs are great but have not been served. In other words, we are taking on the responsibility on our shoulders to serve the underserved needs of the poor with faith in the Lord. I trust that the good Lord will bless the heart and intent. Pray with us and for us to the Lord. - Jeffrey

P.S.: While I was talking with him, I have learned an interesting fact about his family. Magnay was a spin-off from MacNay, a Scotish name. His forefather was disowned by the MacNays for political reasons and he settled in England and changed the name to Magnay. Now the Magnays are approximately 400 a half of which is in Australia. It was amazing to hear that they could count all of the family members by name and what they do and where they live. It was the same as the "Jokbo" in Korea.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Green Revolution in Rwanda...

On Monday and Tuesday, December 7th and 8th, 2009, John Magnay, Special Advisor to OI Africa on Agricultural Finance (See another blogpost about him) and I participated in the Post CAADP Compact High Level Stakeholders Meeting held at Serena Hotel in Kigali, Rwanda.

CAADP stands for Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program. Rwanda was the first country to sign the Compact in 2007. It is the initiative made by African countries that emphasize on the Country-initiated, Country-driven, Country-focused agricultural development program. This compares sharply with the traditional methods where donor country-initiated, donor country-driven approaches.

To be able to adopt this methodology, a particular CAADP member country has to prove that its governance is trustworthy, its fiscal management is transparent and the outcome is highly effective. It sounds very challenging in light of the past experiences in African countries.

The meeting was to showcase the Rwanda's success story. The President of Rwanda, His Excellence Paul Kagame was the keynote speaker and also in attendance were his Prime Minister, Chief Justice, all ministers and a dozen ministers of agriculture from other African countries along with many international development partners from the U.S., U.K. Canada, E.U., AfDB, IFAD, KOMESA, World Bank, United Nations, World for Peace etc. Even the special advisor to the U.S. President was present, indicating the importance of the meeting.

If it was only Rwanda's show-off of their success story, it could have been another "Yeah... right." story, but almost all participants congratulated on the Rwadan success and saluted to the government officials. To date, almost everyone who knows Africa has said that the "green revolution" has never materialized in Africa, but at this meeting, many mentioned the green revolution in Rwanda. It was pleasing to my ears.

In 2009, Rwanda, for the first time, saw the production of crops exceed the consumption needs. It was commendable in light of the food insecurity prevalent in most African countries. The impressive result was the combination of many efforts, such as terracing, fertilizer use, input system improvement, irrigation, land consolidation for more effective farming, soil eroision protection, suitable crop farming for the soil quality etc.

Agriculture is essential to Rwandan economy because:

1. It accounts for 35% of the country's GDP;
2. It affects 80% of the country's population, directly or indirectly; and
3. It generates 60% of the country's foreign exchange revenue.

Rwanda's Ministry of Agriculture presented its Strategic Plan for Agriculture Transformation (PSTA II) to the international development partners and showed the gap in funding needs of $325MM for the next three years. And the Ministry of Finance officials presented how the government is monitoring and reporting on the use of the funds. To me, it was pretty transparent and convincing. Apparently so was the case to all other deveopment partners.

After all presentations, the Minister of Finance asked for any pledge or commitment of new capital to bridge the gap. Most of the international development partners pledged their commitments for continuing support with some indicating the specific amount. E.U. pledged the most significant amount of $150MM in new capital for the country.

I was proud of the Rwandan government officials for presenting their exemplary cases calmly, logically and straightforwardly. Their presentations were impressive and their transparency was so apparent. It was not just I who felt that way. Even ministers of other countries did not spare their compliments to the Rwandan government. A country's minister said that they could use Rwanda's case for their own country.

In summary, Rwanda showed the world what they resolved to do, what they actually did, how they implemented the plan, how impressive the results were, how accountable and transparent they are in using the aid money, what the additional funding needs are, and they asked for the international development partners' support. What a way to provide opportunities for the international development partners to make good and effective use of the development dollars. So much money has been poured into African countries, yet so many countries are poorer than before. Now Rwanda is showing a difference. I sincerely prayed that Rwanda would remain on the course of the current development to be an exemplary African nation to be recognized by the world as well as other African countries.

The two-day meeting was very informative to me in witnessing, although extremely fractional, how the international development partners think, approach and measure the performance of the countries that are in need of foreign aid. - Jeffrey

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hope Through the Eyes of Children...

On Saturday, December 5th, there was a photo exhibition organized by a ministry called "Hope Through the Eyes of Children." This was started by a couple of Christian ladies, namely Linda Smith and Angela Kim. Both are from New York, U.S.A.

They visit primary and secondary schools and have the children identify those in financially difficult and seemingly hopeless situations. They then lend these needy children cameras to take photos of other people and/or things. The photos are developed for sale directly to other people or through exhibition in Kigali or in other cities in the U.S. The ministry provides camera and printing for free for the needy children so that they can generate income for their family.

Almost all of them are victims of the 1994 genocide, directly or indirectly, and/or the HIV/AIDS. These needly children learn not only how to generate income but also how to have hope in seeminly hopeless circumstances through the sharing of the Gospel. It is a mission, a holistic one.

Kristin and I were invited to this photo exhibition and saw many photoes taken with hope through the eyes of (seemingly hopeless) children.

Let me share a story among many at the exhibition.

[A photo taken by Odila]

Odila Umuziranenge is a 15-year old boy attending Gilomero Secondary School. He lost his dad in 1996 and his mom in 2004. Both died of AIDS. He is the youngest of 8 children and lives with the HIV/AIDS. They own no house, no piece of land. His older brothers and sisters all work to make a living. Odila earns some money to buy food and to pay for the tuition through the photography. But, he finds hope in Jesus Christ. --- Jeffrey

Thursday, December 3, 2009 Partnership Approved...!!! is an web-based person-to-person micro credit lending platform. In other words, any individual or business in the world may lend his/her money, as little as $25, to the economically active poor people around the world through Kiva's implementing partners. You can view and review all the needs of the prospective micro businesses by country or by implementing partners on the internet. You choose the businesses you want to support and click to lend the amount of money that you want to. will send you notices of repayment and advise you of the money availability for re-lending or for return of the money if you choose to do so.

Why am I talking about it?
Today, UOB has just been approved as one of Kiva's implementing partners. It has been a long and rigorous process, but this approval news has made all the efforts worthwhile. We praise the Lord for His grace and provision.

Now, those who want to help the poor graduate from the chronic poverty, but somehow could not do, now can do it all at your fingertips. You do not need to travel a long distance to do it. You do not need to have a large sum of money to do it. You do not need to worry about accounting and collection, either. What a way to participate in the microfinance to help transform the lives of the poor! --- Jeffrey

Thursday, November 26, 2009

First Thanksgiving Day in Rwanda...

Traditionally, our family got together on the Thanksgiving Day and shared with each other the blessings that we received from the Lord throughout the year.

[We did not have this feast (<-), but we had a good meal.]
This year, we all are scattered. Kris and I are in Rwanda. Amanda is in Arkansas. Joyce is in Pennsylvania. Today, we had a dinner together with Sillas who is our Kinyarwanda teacher.

This year's Thanksgiving Day, as usual, we have so many reasons to be thankful for to the Lord, but we are sharing the partial list of them as follows:

1. We are thankful for the opportunity for Kris and me to live, work and minister in Rwanda.
2. We are thankful for the marriage of our daughter Amanda to James.
3. We are thankful for their graduation from intelligence school and pilot school, respectively.
4. We are thankful for the graduation of our daughter Joyce from college.
5. We are thankful for the Joyce's employment despite the tough job market.
6. We are thankful for all friends and supporters with prayer, time and talents to stand with us.
7. We are thankful for the wonderful people at UOB with whom Jeffrey works to serve the poor.
8. We are thankful for the underprivileged people of Rwanda whom we get to serve.
9. We are thankful for the health that we have enjoyed, including a few occassions of sickness.
10. We are thankful for the bible study group that we have been leading.
11. We are thankful for the local church where we worship and fellowship.
12. We are thankful for some conflicts that Jeffrey faced initially, which humbled him deeply.
13. We are thankful for the transformational progress within UOB and with the clients.
14. We are thankful for the opportunities to meet new people who are like-minded in the Lord.
15. We are thankful for the laughs, giggles and agonies that we shared together in our lives.
16. We are thankful for the traveling opportunities to various African countries.
17. We are thankful for the spiritual growth that the Lord allowed us to experience.
18. We are thankful for the opportunity to study and learn the Rwandan language and culture.
19. We are thankful for our parents who have lived with decent health.
20. We are thankful for the privilege of documenting and sharing our lives through this blog.
21. We are thankful for the blessing of memorizing the scriptural passages.
22. We are thankful for the growing list of prayer requests for others as well as ourselves.
23. We are thankful for His amazing grace that we experience more deeply everyday.
24. We are thankful for the hope to which we have been called to witness to others.
25. We are thankful for the Habaneros who are our committed prayer partners.
26. We are thankful for the opportunities to share the Word at UOB and other churches.
27. We are thankful for Elder and Mrs. Ham who are sharing our family administrative burden.
28. We are thankful for Chuck and Eunice Lee who are our remote medical and dental doctors.
29. We are thankful for Hwayoung, Sammy, Mike, Hyunjoo who have been reliable supporters.
30. We are thankful for all other reasons that we are unable or fail to remember and list.
(The order is random and not of importance or significance.)

Oh, Lord, there are so many blessings that we have received from You throughout this year. We are deeply and greatly thankful to You for all of them. May Your name be praised and honored eternally! Amen. - Jeffrey and Kristin

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Care Package.... What a Joyous Gift!

Kristin and I received two care packages back to back on Monday and Tuesday. One was from my friends in New York (Mamokhwe)and the other from a church small group, called Habaneros, who are our prayer supporters at the Logos Central Chapel in Denver, CO. What a great joy it was to receive such surprise gifts!

They were full of precious goodies, kitchen necessities, children's clothes that can be used for our outreach to the orphans and books that will enrich our minds. It took one of the packages several weeks to arrive, but we were so grateful that they both arrived! Praise the Lord! Rwanda's mail system is still under development and it is not reliable.

Thank you, my friends in New York and the Habaneros, for your love! We much appreciated the contents, but your caring hearts were even more appreciated. THANK YOU! - Jeffrey

Sunday, November 15, 2009

UOB Gospel Singers at St. Etentien Cathedral...

On Sunday, November 15th, UOB Gospel Singers intorduced their first album CD. It has taken them three and half years.

UOB Gospel Singers are 15-18 members of UOB staff who love to praise the Lord and to sing the gospel. They practice twice a week after work and hold an overnight prayer meeting once a month. They lead the praise during UOB's devotion times on Mondays and Fridays. They are, to me, music evangelists.
[Their pictures will be posted later when I receive some photo images from the members.]

Why does a bank have a choir or a gospel singing group? Because UOB is not an ordinary bank, but a bank dedicated to the Kingdom purpose. So it is a Kingdom Business. It is a business with a clear mission and the business is a mission. It is Business As Mission or BAM.

On Sunday, November 15th, UOB Gospel Singers shared their music evangelism at St. Etentien Cathedral (the picture) where Kristin and I worship and fellowshop. The church has its own choir, called "The Prince of Peace", but to me UOB Gospel Singers have a better harmony and sing more spirited songs. (I may be biased, but a few others made the same comments.)

I had the honor of preaching God's word during the worship. The message was titled "The Coming of the Messiah: In Isaiah's Eyes" based on Isaiah 9:1-7. While the Israelites were seeking peace that was without war, conflicts and opporession, God desired to see His people restore their peace with God and fully enjoy the peace of God: the peace of God that the world cannot know or give. The peace with God can be restored only with justification that comes through faith in Jesus who is the Prince of Peace. (Romans 5:1) With the genuine peace of God in us, we should strive to be peace-makers, as Jesus modeled for us. We would then be blessed for we will be called "sons of God." (Matt. 5:9) During the Advent prior to the Christmas, the first coming of the Messiah, two kingdoms clash: The Kingdom of God and the Godless Kingdom. We as people of God belonging to the Kingdom of God should be alerted to this clash and should be faithful to the first coming of the Messiah.

I am so grateful for the passion and sacrifices that the UOB Gospel Singers have. It is truly a blessing to share the yoke of the ministry with those who love the Lord and love to sing His gospel. --- Jeffrey

Friday, November 13, 2009

Banking Network Group Leaders Workshop...

We held a whole day workshop for the Banking Network Group (BNG) leaders. It includes all credit business unit leaders and branch banking division leader. This group's staff totals approximately 140.

We began the workshop with a time of devotion. We praised the Lord and listened to God's message spoken through the Chief Relationship Officer, leading the BNG.

We discussed the bank's 5-year business plan and 2010 budget. Each business unit leader shared his/her business plan for 2010. It is going to be a challenging year, but we lifted it up to the Lord.

I showed and shared three components of transformational competency: i.e. Christ-centered Client-focused service, triple bottom line management and triple transformational impact models.

[The picture is of the Leadership Retreat held earlier this year.]

I also talked about our goal to be the best bank in Rwanda in five areas: asset quality, creative solutions, operating efficiency, customer care and transformational impact. Again, these goals are challenging, but we resolved to strive for the goal.

Our Transformational Impact Manager talked about the Code of Conduct on Customer Care. All staff will be required to review and sign a statement that shows the bank's Vision, Mission, Values and this Code of Conduct.

Chief Operating Officer discussed about several risks that the bank is facing and Director of Credit Support shared the information about the bank's asset quality trend and some of the steps that we are taking to tighten the control.

We finished the workshop with a collective prayer, seeking His guidance. - Jeffrey

Saturday, November 7, 2009

New Hope Homes...

New Hope Homes is a ministry of Christian African Leadership Ministry or CALM in Rwanda. New Hope Homes is ministering to orphans, but in a Christian family environment. Each house has a mom and three aunts who take care of them like their own children. The children are treated like they are growing up in their own homes. Currently, New Hope Homes has three houses and plan to build two more in 2010.

On Saturday, November 7, 2009, Kristin started to visit New Hope Homes to minister to the orphans together with young volunteers from S. Korea. They played with them, making baloons, painting on their faces, making paperkrafts. They also told them bible stories and showed them movies. More than anything, they needed love. They needed someone who plays with them. Young Korean volunteers (KOICA) were sincerely ministering to them. What a bright smile they had after they spent several hours together!
Kristin plans to continue ministering to them regularly. She is also considering getting involved in other CALM ministries. Please pray for many orphans in Rwanda who need someone else's caring until they grow up to be self-sustainable. - Jeffrey

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ministry Updates October 2009

[Tea fields on the hills in Rwanda]

Dear friends and fellow Kingdom citizens

Usually, October is a slow month to many Rwandans and it was indeed a challenge to UOB as well. Nonetheless, God's grace was sufficient. I have put together the monthly ministry updates as follows:

1. During October, UOB's loan balance decreased by $140 thousands to $6.6 millions, evidencing the challenges. Many rural farmers go hungry as they get into a new agricultural cycle. Many farmers also suffered from the flood particularly in Rubavu.

2. Nonetheless, we were able to add 829 borrowing clients to total 33,116 as of the month-end. Almost 91% of these clients were women. Praise the Lord for increasing our outreach to the poor!

3. We opened a new rural branch in Rwamagana in October. This will be a regional hub serving the clients in the Eastern Province. (Please refer to a blogpost on this.

4. I met with our staff of the EBUs (Enterpreneurial Business Units) in Ngoma, Rwamagana, Gatsibo and Musanze to discuss effective ways to serve our clients.

5. We finally ended our study on the Book of Romans in five months. (Please refer to a blogspot on this.) We have begun another study on Ephesians. This will again take 4-5 months to complete our study.

6. Two of our lending staff riding on motorcycles were attacked back to back over two days. One of them was able to avoid the attack, but the other was robbed of the money that he was carrying. By God's grace, he was not injured. One of the three robbers was caught on the same day and part of the money was recoverd. But two others are still at large. Please pray for the security of our lending staff in serving the poor.

7. Kristin and I attended a conference for Opportunity International Africa Region CEOs in Cape Town, South Africa. Along with this two-day conference, we took a holiday weekend in Cape Town. On the way, there were some fiascos in our return trip, but the good Lord led us to meet an Indian missionary. It was a blessing! (Please refer to two blogposts on this.)

8. We received approval for a credit facility of EUR1.1 millions ($1.6 millions) from Oxfam. This will be used to expand our activities in 2010. We are also working with a few other creditors for credit facilities.

9. We have continued our efforts to expanding our alliances with other organizations/ministries, such as Techno Serv, Dutch Embassy, CompuScan, IFAD's PPPMER, PDCRE, CRB Africa. Beneficial strategic alliances lead to synergy.

10. We conducted another training for 20 trainers of EBUs on HLI (Holistic Life Improvement) modules. There will be two more trainings to equip our EBU lending staff to provide transformational training for our clients in the rural areas.

11. We continued our study on Kinyarwanda and finally we finished the lessons on all 10 noun classes. These 10 classes of nouns require different conjugation on noun prefixes, adjectives, some verbs and possessive prefixes also differently by singulars and plurals. This was a big hurdle, but by God's grace we have overcome it. Praise the Lord.

Prayer Requests:

1. Please pray for the security of our lending staff. It is a growing concern, but the Lord has inspired us to come up creative solutions. It will take some time before the new solution is implemented so the lending staff's security remains a concern. Please pray for God's mercy.

2. Many of our clients are suffering from hunger and natural disasters, like flood, particularly during this rainy season. Some choose to borrow less or not to borrow at all, and others face challenges in making loan payments. Please pray that the faithful Lord will be gracious to them during this difficult period.

3. We are working on securing a few funding sources for 2010. Please pray that these funding sources will be secured adequately so that we do not end up being unable to serve the growing needs of the Rwandan poor.

4. We are preparing to launch a mobile branch in December. It will be the first of its kind in Rwanda, so there are many challenges in the construction process. Please pray that it will be launched successfully and it will accelerate our outreach to the rural poor.

5. During October, I got injured with my right leg and got sick with severe nose bleeding. Thanks to the fervent prayer of many of you, to the grace of God and to the wonderful care of Kristin, a long-time private nurse for me, it stopped only after 5 bleedings. We witnessed the power of prayer again. The workload has been overwhelming and is expected to continue so for some time. Please pray that we may maintain the balance among all works to be done and not lose the health of the body that is the temple of the Holy Spirit. (Please refer to a blogpost.)

Thank you all for standing with us with your interest in, attention to or prayer for our ministries in Rwanda.

Jeffrey and Kristin from Kigali, Rwanda

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Power of Prayer...

I had serious nose bleedings over the past week. Five times. I had never had such bleeding before.
My wife is a nurse and she has not seen any such serious bleeding since 1990 when she was working in the Emergency Room at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles. It was that serious.

Kristin consulted with our doctor, Chuck Lee in Colorado, over the skype and has given me treatments. But, she also sent e-mails to our prayer partners a few days ago. God's grace is never short of abundance! The bleeding stopped immediately and the past two days have been without the bleeding.

Praise the Lord who is gracious and faithful in answering the prayers of His people!
Praise the Lord for Kristin, Chuck and all prayer partners!

I would like to express my sincere and deep appreciation to all who have prayed for me. Your prayer support has been tremendously helpful! - Jeffrey Lee

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cape of Good Hope...Cape Point...

It was a mysterious feeling to stand at the south western tip of the African continent. For a moment, I was thinking of the people who turned around this tip from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean, such as Bartolomew, the first explorer. They must have traveled with the land on the left hand side all along. Then after passing this Cape of Good Hope, formerly known as Cape of the Storms, they could no longer see the land on the left hand side. They must have sensed a different weather as well as a different water. What an excitement they must have had!

It is now a mute point because of the Suez Canal that connects the Europe and the Asia, but before the Suez Canal all ships had to go all the way around this Cape of Good Hope. It must have been a long journey.

The surroundings of the Cape of Good Hope were pretty simple, but it was meaningful enough to stand at that tip of the continent. (I learned that the most southern tip of the African continent was approximately 300 km away, but this is the first turning point from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean.)

We also hiked to the lighthouse at the top of the Cape Point nearby. This lighthouse apparently had a very strong light that used to be seen from 56 km away; however, it was placed far too high (over 220m) that it was frequently covered by the mist, fog and cloud, resulting in very low visibility. Later, the current lighthouse was built at approximately 85 meters from the sea level. - Jeffrey

Sunday, October 25, 2009

God's Providential Encounter...

On the way back from Cape Town to Kigali, we had to come through Joburg. The flight from Cape Town to Joburg got delayed and the check-in counter for the connecting flight was closed earlier than scheduled. We tried to find the office of this tiny airline of Rwanda (Rwandair Express) for hours going back and forth between A and B Terminals of the Joburg's huge O.R. Tambo International Airport.... without success. I ended up calling our staff at the bank to make contact with them. Frustrated, we had to sleep one night in Joburg unexpectedly.

The next day, we were arranged to be on another airline's flight (Kenya Airlines). But, the gate agent could not find our names. After making a couple of additional unsuccessful attempts to find Rwandair Express office, we finally figured out that they switched our first names and last names. So the gate agent could not find our names in the system.

Finally relieved, we checked in and were waiting in the gate area for boarding to Nairobi, Kenya to be continuing to travel to Kigali after a few hours of waiting. Tired but we were relieved and grateful that we finally were able to get on the flight to come back to Kigali. Kristin and I were discussing that we should not be annoyed too much by the unexpected circumstances because we do not have any control over them. But we could control over how we respond to such unexpected circumstances. We should not suffer from our own frustration and anxiety when the external circumstances are difficult enough.

That was when I met Rev. Billa Wilson Babu. He is from India and living in India. He was on his way back to India via Nairobi, Kenya after he attended a leadership conference in Joburg. He is a missionary from Bangalore, India to reach out to his fellow Indians in the Chennai area, southern India, who, however, speak different dialects than brother Wilson. He was a Hindu himself and he is now ministering to other Hindus. He is an educated man with a bachelor's degree, two master's degrees and a ThM degree. He is a pastor, a teacher, a husband and a father of three children. He is shepherding a small church, Bible Baptist Church, that has 10 families, but it took him six years to win these 10 families to the Lord. He also has Doulos Ministries through which he serves the sick people and provides education and training for the pastors and leaders of small rural churches in the surrounding areas.

I could sense that he was charged with a strong calling to serve his fellow Indians with the love that our Lord Jesus Christ has demonstrated to us and commanded us to live with. I could clearly feel his passion for God and compassion for his people. I was grateful to the Lord who has led us to meet each other.

So I said, "Brother Wilson, you and I are meeting today because we missed the flight yesterday. I trust it was God's will that you and I are meeting. Let us stay in touch for continuing our fellowship through prayer and support. Let us see what the Lord has in mind for us to do together." On site, we prayed and rejoiced together. It was God's providential encounter. -Jeffrey

Saturday, October 24, 2009

466/64 Section B Cell 7 ... Robben Island, S. Africa

[Robben Island entrace...............466/64 (Nelson Mandela's ID) ............Nelson Mandela's cell]

There was an Opportunity International Africa CEO Conference in Cape Town during October 19-21. Kristin and I took Friday off and spent two days in Cape Town.

One of the first things we did was visiting The Robbene Island where the maximum security prison was located. South Africa's former president and a Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela spent 18 years at this maximum security prison doing hard labor. His prison life was because of the "Apartheid" that was prevailing in South Africa until 1994.

Anyone who is a South African or interested in Nelson Mandela knows what "466/64" means. It is the identity number for Nelson Mandela. His prison cell was in Section B Cell 7.

A small island, Robben Island, located approximately one hour by ship had many former political prisoners. Now it is closed, but it remains the World's Heritage Site, showing the cruel human mistake of "Apartheid." Our tour guide was a former political prisoner who spent 8 years at this Robben Island. I prayed that such a cruel human mistake like "Apartheid" should never happen again. - Jeffrey

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Book of Romans in Five Months !!!

Today, Wednesday October 14th, we have completed the study on the book of Romans. Praise the Lord!

The joy was great because we have been studying it for the past five months. Who are we?

[me, Kristin, Jooheum, Jihoon and Sangmin]

We are a bible study group of five, including three members of Korean international volunteers (KOICA), Kristin and myself. They are Jooheum, Sangmin and Jinhoon. Jooheum is a PhD candidate in Knowledge Science, Sangmin is a college student and Jihoon is also a college student in Korea. They came for the international service in lieu of their military service. They all work at RITA or Rwanda Information Technology Authority, the Rwandan government agency overseeing the ICT industry. They all assist the government in developing the ICT industry in Rwanda. Excellent young people!

In addition to their expertise in IT, they all have other specialty. Sangmin plays the guitar and leads us in praising the Lord. Jihoon is a photographer and takes excellent photos. Also he is very good at electronic gadgets. Jooheum is an expert in coffee, briliant with venture development and a guru in e-trade. What a group of talented young people!

We are meeting on Wednesdays and it is an exciting time for us to grow in the knowledge of God and our Lord Jesus Christ through this time. We pray that we will also grow mature in our faith and love in our lives to be reflecting the light of Jesus to our friends, relatives, colleagues and the world.

In a couple of weeks, we will begin the study on the book of Ephesians.

We are excited to hear that a few more people may join us for the bible study. Praise the Lord!

Please pray for us so that our bible study may bear many fruits in our lives as the witnesses of the gospel of the Kingdom. Thank you, Lord, for your grace upon us for the past five months. I pray that you will continue to be gracious to us as we continue the bible study on the book of Ephesians. Amen! - Jeffrey

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Rwamagana Branch Open!!!

On Friday, October 9th, we opened the Rwamagana Branch.
[<-- This is an earlier photo before the construction was completed. I forgot to take the camera.]

It is a regional hub branch to serve the entire Eastern Province for now. Actually, it looks bigger and nicer than the home office! It will house the Rwamagana EBU (Entrepreneurial Business Unit), Regional Support Center and one mobile branch when launched in December. The RSC will provide support for Ngoma EBU and Gatsibo NMO (New Market Office) as well. As we open smaller "spoke" branches or "points of delivery", as I prefer to call them, they will be served out of this regional hub. So it was a big celebration internally. Many staff members could not resis their joyful tears.

This was the third new branch that we opening this year. The first was opened in Nyanza, the south of Kigali, and the second one was in Muhanga (f.k.a. Gitarama), the west of Kigali City. Rwamagana is in the east of Kigali. So gradually we are expanding the network externally into the rural areas.

It was a soft-opening, celebrating the opening ourselves with a dozen clients. We praised God for His providence and prayed for His continuing grace. A few clients shared their testimonials. One of them said that she started with a $26 small loan that she used for retail trade as well as her school fee. It was 10 years ago. Now she owns two retail shops and is able to borrow and pay back $3,800. She is the leader for a group and is coaching others with business management skills. She also actively participates in the community and her church programs. She is also helping with orphans and widows. I thanked Him for His blessings on her.

In my turn, I thanked the Lord for His grace in the rough journey until the opening. I also thanked Him for the clients because of whom we exist. I thanked Him for all the staff I am privileged of working with. And I thanked Him for the transformation that He is achieving in the lives of our clients. I promised that UOB will not only be a bank that provides credit and savings, but it will also be providing micro insurance that will help our clients manage their life risks better. I also promised that UOB will continue to provide education and training so that their life quality will continue to improve transformationally in all aspects of their lives holistically.

We are planning to hold the grand opening ceremony early November with the guest of honor , most likely the central bank governor of the Eastern Province Governor, and the bank's board members. Praise the Lord! - Jeffrey

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Talk with Young Adults on Money Matters...

On Friday, September 18th, I was asked to speak with a group of young adults on money matters at Christian Life Assembly. This group is called "Sparks" and the program was called the "Spark Talk." Approximately 50 young adults attended.

We talked about the ownership of money, dangers related to money, giving, saving, spending, debt management and how to resist the worldly temptation.

As some of you know, I was leading workshops and seminars on "Good Steward's Financial Management" back in the states. The topic is dear to my heart and it was a blessing to be able to speak on this topic to young adults who are exposed to the world temptations and misconcepts on money matters in many aspects.

According to Luke 12:15, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abudance of his possessions." Yet, we put too much value on the quantity of money we make and we have.

1 Timothy 6:9,10 says, "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." Yet, we see so many people around us who ignore this warning.

Hebrews 13:5 is a little more direct saying, "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'" Yet, we find it so difficult to live with contentment.

Money is a necessity for buying goods and services, and for storing some to prepare for contingencies, including unproductive olden days. But, its importance has been so elevated that it seems to have become the purpose of the lives of so many people. It is a disease: I call it "Affluenza." This disease is contagious and drives people to seek money or affluence with all their minds, all their hearts and all their strengths. They often compromise the value and ethics to achieve the goal. They are willing to use people to obtain the money. Sadly, even the Jesus followers frequently fall into this trap.

There is a cure for it. It is the stewardship. Once you acknowledge that the creator God and the redeemer Christ owns the heaven and earth and everything in between, you know that you no longer own anything. Nothing. Nada. Zip. He owns everything and we are only His stewards or managers.

But not all stewards are good stewards because there have been many bad stewards as shown in the bible. Good stewards not only know who the owner is but also use the money entrusted with them according to the owner's will. To illustrate this, there will be three types of questions people will ask as far as spending money is concerned:

First, "What do I want to do with my money?" --- This question is for those who think they own the money. The world is full of these people.

Second, "What do I want to do with God's money?" --- This question belongs to those who at least acknowledge who the owner is, but still desire to follow their own judgment and will when it comes to spending.

Third, "What does God want me to do with His money?" --- This question belongs to those who not only understand who the owner is but also try to discern the owner's will in deploying the resources entrusted with them.

I have seen so many people who are good stewards. They find joy and satisfaction from giving away the money for God's purposes. They are content with what they have been provided. They do not love the money. Instead they love to give away the money.

It is my desire to see more and more good stewards who are managing God-entrusted resources for His will and His Kingdom.

Habakkuk said, "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior." (H. 3:17,18)

May this confession be ours as well! - Jeffrey

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Umuganda (2) in Rwamagana...

Umuganda is "community work" in Kinyarwanda. The last Saturday of each month is Umuganda. From 8AM to 11AM, all citizens of Rwanda are expected to participate in Umuganda. After the work, they gather together to hold a meeting to evaluate the work done and to acknowledge the participation.

Today, 57 members of UOB participated in the Umuganda in Rwamaga, Eastern Province. UOB has been operating in Rwamagana for the past 10 + years, but without a branch. We will open a regional branch next week. So it was a good opportunity to show UOB's support for the community.

Today's Umuganda was to help build classrooms for one of the primary schools in Rwamagana. We, meaning UOB staff and the local Umuganda participants estimated to be 300 in total, laid the foundation for three classrooms and made 400 cement blocks. The work involved digging, hoeing, shoveling, carrying cements and rocks, mixing cement and gravels. UOB also contributed 50 bags of cement that can produce 2,000 blocks.

The chief of the sector, called Executive Secretary, said that they will dedicate one classroom to UOB. We praised the Lord!

It was a great turnout for UOB and they all appreciated our participation. Without exception, there were people who were once prisoned, have been pardoned afterwards and are required to participate in the community work twice a week. Their participation helps them work together with the people of the community to which they belong. Most of them were involved in the genocide, normally suffering from the guilt and hatred. It is a great way of reintegrating them into the community.

At the end, they circled around and danced together their traditional dance to celebrate the work and to boost the morale.

Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity for us to work together through Umuganda! - Jeffrey

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ahhh... Kilimanjaro...

One of the dreams that I had when we decided to relocate to Rwanda was climbing the Mt. Kilimanjaro. Mt. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa with the elelvation of 19,331 feet and the fourth highest in the world. It is only a dream at present since I do not have a concrete plan, but it is a dream that is still well alive.

On the way back from Zanzibar, I had a wonderful opportunity to take a few shots of the Kilimanjaro from the airplane. The peaks were standing proudly above the sea of white clouds. What a scenery!

Ahhh... Kilimanjaro... Lord's willing, may I have the life-time experience of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, the roof of Africa, before its snow cap melts away! - Jeffrey

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Anyone Interested in Kingdom Business in Rwanda?

Kingdom Business is a business that is dedicated to the Lord's Kingdom. You may take the nominal and legal ownership, but the purpose, mission and vision of the business is all for the Kingdom. Deeply rooted to the principles of Jesus Christ, a Kingdom Business aims to be run in a godly way with all profit dedicated to the Kingdom.

Microfinance is to assist microenterprise owners to graduate from chronic poverty. The main objective is to achieve an economic transformation.

Christian microfinance is to assist microenterprise owners not only to graduate from chrinic poverty (ecnomic transformation) but also to restore his/her relationship with self and others (social transformation) and to restore his/her authentic relationship with the Creator God and subsequently with neighbors. (spiritual transformation)

Microenterprise owners often get stuck with their retail trade businesses, such as selling fruits and vegetables on market days or by the streets, selling limited grocery items in a tiny store. This is primarily because they do not know any other businesses or because, even if they do, most of them are afraid of trying any other business. There is a great need to help develop and introduce other viable business opportunities for these poor people. This process is called "microenterprise development" or MED.

If the MED is conducted by a Christian and for the glory of the Christ, it is called Christian MED or CMED. This work may be carried out by NGOs. I desire to see that this CMED is carried out by a Kingdom businessman through a Kingdom Business because it would be signficantly more effective than otherwise.

At UOB, more than 80% of the 33,000 borrowing microenterprise clients are involved in retail trade services. I am prayerfully waiting for God's sending us some Kingdom businessmen and businesswomen who desire to serve the Lord through Kingdom Businesses. There are a lot of opportunities that can be done for the poor and ultimately for His glory. Moreover, the Kingdom businessmen and businesswomen would experience the divine blessings in the process through the heavenly peace and joy.

Is there anyone out there who hears God's calling? - Jeffrey

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Images of Zanzibar (4)

[A giant boabab tree................. A black and white goat couple ..............A tree growing on the Old Fort wall because of black algae from coral reefs used for building materials.]

[A cow with hump back (all cows had the humpbacks and they are all miscles ........... A pair of beautiful bright green bugs ........ A red colobus monkey native to Zanzibar. She came close to a lady and played with a cell phone]

[Tortoises or land turtles living on the Prison Island... eating vegetables.......... A man peeling the hard-skinned coconut using an iron rod ...] - Jeffrey

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Zanzibar (3) ... Incredible Beaches...

I had heard wonderful things about the white sand, emerald water, coral reef, cobalt sky and quiet beaches of Zanzibar. So I had high expectations. But when I saw the beaches on the East Coast of the Zanzibar, ahhhh.... It was beyond my expectations. It was so picturesque that it was just a post card. A fantabulous one. (My children's expression when they were little.)

The panoramic scenery alone made our trip to Zanzibar worthwhile.

The water near the shore was a clean emeral color and you could see the sand through the water. That clean emerald water stretched quite far out and you could see the blue color Indian ocean. In between, the ocean wave was breaking. There must be the coral reefs. It was so far out that you could barely see the breaking white water. I had never seen anything like it before. Wow... could not close my mouth for a while.
I felt sorry that I could not put all the purity, beauty and serenity into a pragmatically functional digital camera. But I praised the wonderful God who is the creator of all beauty and goodness. - Jeffrey