Thursday, May 28, 2009

Everyone Who Loves...

I was privileged to preach at Jubilee Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA on Sunday, May 24th. It was for the first time for me to preach three times a day. Physically pretty tiring, but it was a great blessing and encouragement to me as well as to them, as many said. Praise the Lord!

The sermon title was "Everyone Who Loves" based on 1 John 4:7-12. The sermon is summarized below:

Christianity is love because God is love. We Christians, therefore, feel familiar with "love." But, is it really true? Are you not using the word "love" habitually as a buzz word?

God's love is well explained as unconditional love, by God's sacrificing His one and only Son to save His people. (:9 and 10) John McArthur broke down God's love into two components: mercy and grace. According to him, mercy plays a role of removing the negative aspect of sin related to salvation while grace plays a role of adding the positive aspect of love to salvation. In other words, by mercy, God forgives our sins and justifies our salvation through the righteousness imputed to us while by grace God gives us the eternal life. John 3:16 is more explicit about this structure. "... whoever believes in Him (Jesus) shall not perish (salvation from the penalty of sin by mercy) but have eternal life (by grace)." When we reach the state of glorification with the Lord upon His return, we will be saved from the presence of sin. (oh how eagerly I am looking forward to it... you cannot sin even if you want to!) Until then, we are now being saved from the power of sin, little by little but surely, through the santification process.

It is God's love that is beyond our imagination and any measure.

How about our love? How should our love be in light of His amazing love? Apostle John suggests that we love one another. (:11) It sounds as if we do not have to love God. But, Matthew 22:39-40 explain that we should love God with all our mind, all our life and all our soul, (the first and greatest commandment), and that we should love our neighbors as our own bodies (the second greatest commandment). Our love for God goes without saying. But, it is pragmatically difficult. If we say we love God and hate a brother, the bible says that we are a liar because we cannot love God whom we have not seen if we cannot love a brother whom we have seen! (1 John 4:20) 1 John 4:12 says that if we love one another God's love is made complete. That is right! We should love one another not only to demonstrate our love for God but also to help make God's love complete or perfect!

1 John 3:18 encourages us to stop loving with words and tongues only, but to love with actions and truth.

Do you love God? Do what the lovers do. Listen, read, study, meditate on and memorize the God's love letter (the bible) more intensively and genuinely. Also spend more time in conversing with God through prayer since prayer is our conversation with God.

But, do not stop there. Show the evidence of your love for God by loving one another. It is a command. (1 John 4:21) When you love one another, do it as God does: not only with mercy but also with grace.

When someone annoys you, hurts you, hates you, cheats you, takes advantage of you or uses you for a selfish interest, you should still forgive him/her by the power of His mercy. Forgiveness is a mandate as we confess in the Lord's Prayer that "forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us." A mature Christian, however, would go even further by praying for and blessing the person who has harmed him/her. It is the power of His grace!

I admit and acknowledge that it is a lot easier to be said than done. But I will not give up on it and I would like to encourage everyone not to give up on it, either.

Moreover, when we love one another, we should go beyond the comfort zone of "me-ism." The "me-ism" centers around I, me, mine and myself. Our love should go beyond my family, my friends, my church and even my country. God is greater than all of the above combined. So should our love for our neighbors. We should extend our love to the poor, the sick, the lonely and the isolated. These are the "least of the brethren of the Lord" and "whatever we do for them would have been the same as having done it for the Lord." (Matt. 25:34-40) What a blessing!

May we love one another as much and as well as we confess that we love God! May His unceasing and faithful love fill the hearts of all His people so that His love may be made complete through our love and that His Kingdom may advance on earth quickly! Amen! - Jeffrey

Monday, May 25, 2009

A trip to Memphis, TN...

My three-day trip to Memphis, TN was not for Elvis Presley as many are doing it since the city is home for the so-called "emperor of rock 'n roll." It was to meet many Kingdom people and businesses.

I interviewed two businessmen who run their businesses for the Kingdom purposes. They are Tom Phillips (Pictured) and Alan Barnhart. What a blessing to know them and to know there are such people! Meeting with them and learning about their stewardship was great encouragement. (I will write about these businesses and businessmen separately. )

On May 21st, I spoke at Independence Presbyterian Church over lunch. Approximately 200 people gathered and I shared with them what the Lord has done in my life, what the microfinance is and how the Lord is working through UOB. Many came to me and said it was a blessing and challenging. Praise the Lord!
Later on the same day, I spoke to approximately 40 people of "half-timers" or "middle-adults" as they called themselves at Second Presbyterian Church. A lively question-and-answer session followed my 40-minute presentation. All are seeking to serve the Lord more and better than now. May their hearts be filled with passion for God and compassion for people!

I was invited to a dinner at the home of the Barnharts, and witnessed the love and harmony that a beautiful godly family can have. They have six children, including two who have been adopted. The oldest, Nicolas, graduated from U of Tennessee, but he chose not to walk at the ceremony because he wanted to be with his younger brother (Nathan) who graduated from a high school. So the family wanted to hold a family version of the graduation ceremony. We all were invited to give him a few words of wisdom and advice. He was so sincere in listening to them all and he later burst into tears, thanking everyone for the special memory that he was given. What a delight it was to meet such a young man with passion for God and to be with a godly family! Thanks be to you, Lord!

On May 22nd, I had a breakfast meeting with three men of God together with Mike Brassel of OI US. One senior pastor, one Ph.D. in agricultural engineering and one expert in sewer treatment. They all desire to serve the Lord's Kingdom with the talents bestowed upon them. Currently, they are ministering in Ghana and Afghanistan(?), and desire to expand their services. Bless their hearts!

I spent more time with Alan Barnhart and his business facilities in the morning. I could surely say that God was indeed blessing the business as I was listening to the stories being shared. I can't wait to write about it!!!

On the same day, Mike of OI US and I had lunch with Kem Wilson, Jr. who is a strong Christian leader in Memphis. He is one of the sons of Kim Wilson, Sr. who was the founder of the famous Holiday Inn. The franchise has been sold and is now owned by Inter-Continental Hospitality Group, but their legacy still remains. Through the hospitality expertise, he and his businesses desire to serve the Lord's Kingdom. I learned that he will provide the hospitality training for the people in Musanze, Rwanda. Blessings to him!

Over dinner, I spent time with Donnis, Director of Missions of DCI, run by Tom Phillips. Yes! There is someone who is in charge of missions at a business. Indeed, it is a Kingdom Business and a Great Commission company. Praise the Lord!

I was physically exhausted, but my spirit was lifted up high. Thank you, Lord, for your goodness in nurturing such godly people all over the places. May their stories be shared more widely so that more people follow You as good stewards and through them your Kingdom may advance further and faster on earth! - Jeffrey

Joyce's Graduation...

It was a blast to celebrate the graudation of Joyce!

Joyce has graduated from U Penn with two bachelor's degrees: one business degree and the other degree in visual studies. There were two excercises of graduation for two different schools and Joyce was supposed to walk twice. Unfortunately, the hood for the business school (Wharton) did not arrive and she did not want to walk without the hood. Understandable. The keynote speaker for the Wharton School was Professor Yunus and that... I missed. Just in case you may not know him, Professor Muhammad Yunus started the famous Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and received the Nobel Peace Prize together with Grameen Bank in 2006 for his/the bank's contribution to "create economic and social development from below" and expand the peace among people. With it, he made the microfinance known to the world. He is known to be the guru of microcredit in the world.
Interesting is his name. His name is the same as "Jonah" in the Hebrew bible. Yunus or Jonah appears also in Quran with a story very similar to that of Jonah in the bible, but a little twisted. Here is the Quran that depicts Yunus:
His story is recounted in Surah Saaffat (chapter) 37 of the Quran, verses 139 through 148. The English translation below was done by Abdullah Yusuf Ali.
139 So also was Yunus among those sent (by Us).
140 When he ran away (like a slave from captivity) to the ship (fully) laden,
141 He (agreed to) cast lots, and he was condemned:
142 Then the big Fish did swallow him, and he had done acts worthy of blame.
143 Had it not been that he (repented and) glorified Allah,
144 He would certainly have remained inside the Fish till the Day of Resurrection.
145 But We cast him forth on the naked shore in a state of sickness,
146 And We caused to grow, over him, a spreading plant of the gourd kind.
147 And We sent him (on a mission) to a hundred thousand (men) or more.
148 And they believed; so We permitted them to enjoy (their life) for a while.
Not exactly the same as the bible, but I thought it was interesting.

The School of Arts and Sciences, the largest school in U Penn had John Legend, a famous soul singer with three Gramy Prizes and a U Penn graduate, as the keynote speaker. His speech was pretty good. All things were good and wonderful. Even the individual walk of over 1,300 students was bearable. But, the ceremony was held in the evening (Sunday May 17th) and it was freezing cold. But at the end, it was a great feeling.

On Monday, the University commencement took place. Among the honorary doctors were Professor Yunus and the Google CEO Eric Schumidt along with a few others. Eric Schumidt was the keynote speaker. Undoubtedly, he has made a great contribution to the humanity with Google. As the chief executive of the most popular search engine in the world, he ironically urged the 6,000 Penn graduates to "turn off the computer and cell phone to live in analogue for a while to feel the human touch." Good thought. He was a good speaker.

Kristin and I were grateful that Joyce was able to finish the college within four years at one of the most competitive schools in the world. We were proud of her. More that anything else, though, we were so grateful that the good Lord has been walking with her, holding her hands throughout the journey.

In this tough world of economic uncertainties, getting a job remains a great challenge; however, I trust in the Lord who will guide her in the way that will be the best for her in His eyes. It is my prayer that she will continue her search for a job not following her own desire and interest, but seeking the wisdom from the Lord. I hope she will be led to a job that will help her make contribution to the society and His Kingdom. I trust in the good Lord. Thank you, Lord!
- Jeffrey

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Beautiful Foundation USA Annual Gala 2009...

On Friday, May 15, 2009, The Beautiful Foundation USA (BF USA) held its 3rd annual gala at Double Tree Hotel in Fort Lee, NJ. Approximately 400 gathered to celebrate the event. BF USA is a community foundation. It receives funds from individuals and corporations and distributes them to charitible organizations for the purposes and causes that are attached to the funds given to the foundation. In light of the current economic uncertainties, the gala was a great turnout and great success.

They give Shinhan Beautiful Spirit Awards to those who are giving their time and love to the less fortunate with dedication and commitment, without seeking to be recognized. For example, one senior lady who has given an average of four hours a day for the past 22 years, totaling over 9,000 hours. She is old and weak, but is going for 10,000 hours. A beautiful spirit and mind.

Unlike many organizations, BF USA established the board of ambassadors, comprising next generation young people who will be groomed over time to succeed the spirit of giving through the community foundation. A commendable move by the board that is only three years young. There is no genuine success without successful succession.

I had the honor of delivering the keynote speech. The speech was related to this year's theme "Beyond Charity Toward Change." The speech went basically like this...

Giving is beautiful... because it is coming out of beautiful hearts. Beautiful hearts make the society become more beautiful despite crimes, wrongdoings, wars, frauds, tragedies, etc.

Giving can gain tremendous value and meaning with a clear purpose spelled out in it, leading to substantail change in the lives of people and the society. I would call it Transformational Giving.

Transformational giving takes giving beyond charity. For example, if we give a fish to a hungry man, his hunger will have been satisfied, but only for a meal. If we give him a fish and teach him how to catch fish, he and his family will be able to feed themselves for the rest of their lives. It is a transformational giving.

[L to R: Gala Chair Mr. Cho, BF USA CEO Jennifer Oh, BF Korea Founder Mr. Won Soon Park, Kristin, Jeffrey, Henry Kang and Mrs. Kang]
Transformational giving has four characteristics.

First, it has one's commitment. The commitment to give under any circumstances. The commitment to give not only treasure but also time and talent. The commitment to make a difference through giving.

Second, it is giving forward, beyond giving back. Giving forward implies a proactive investment into the future.

Third, it is sacrificial. Sacrifice is not giving what is left over, but giving what is precious to me. Sacrifice comes from total commitment.

Fourth, it is continuing and sustainable. Transformational giving is not a 50-meter dash but a marathon. It is not an one-time activity or transaction for a selfish reason, but it is a continuing event no matter what the circumstance may be.

Yes, we can. We can decide, We can change. We can transform. We can give transformationally. Now and here. Only if we choose to.

Thank you for listening. - Jeffrey Lee

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Trip to the U.S...

On May 13th, Kristin and I left Kigali to travel to the U.S. Currently we are staying in New Jersey. The primary purpose of our trip is to celebrate Joyce's graduation from U Penn in Philadelphia on May 17th and 18th, and to celebrate Amanda's wedding to take place in Colorado on May 30th. I will be leaving New York on June 1st to come back to Rwanda, but Kristin will stay a little longer to finish her medical project with University of Colorado until July 10th.

When Kristin returns, she will be working with the nursing staff at King Faisal Hospital in Kigali to help them upgrade the occupational health program and infectional disease control program. She will work on building up the capacity of the staff fto develop sustainable programs. Please pray with us for her new ministry.

While we are in the states, I will be speaking to various groups of people. They are:

* Keynote speech at Beautiful Foundation's annual gala in Fort Lee, NJ (May 15th)
* Speech at two Presbyterian churches in Memphis, TN (May 21st and 22nd)
* Speech to a banker's group in Memphis, TN (May 22nd)
* Speech to a group of professionals and "half-timers" in Memphis, TN (May 21st)
* Speech to a few small groups in Memphis, TN (May 22nd and 23rd)
* Preaching to Jubilee Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA (May 24th)

We are grateful to the Lord for His guidance and protection that Joyce has had for the past four years. We are also deeply grateful for His nurturing of Amanda to grow up to get married. But, Joyce is still looking for a job and Amanda will need a lot of guidance in her new journey in Little Rock, Arkansas where she has been assigned to work. For Joyce and Amanda, may I seek your intercession?

Please pray also for the traveling grace upon us, His divine wisdom for me to say the right words when I speak to different peopole, and the Holy Spirit's strong impact on the people to who I will be speaking. - Jeffrey

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Trip to Rusizi (f.k.a. Cyangugu)...

On Thursday and Friday, May 7th and 8th, 2009, I traveled with a couple of staff to Rusizi, the farthest from Kigali. It normally takes 5-6 hours by car, depending on the weather condition in Nyungwe Forest, a rain forest which we had to pass through to get to Rusizi. (I will be writing about Nyungwe Forest later.) The lowest point is approximately 1,500 feet from the sea level and the height point is as high as 2,500 meters in the forest. It rained heavily in Kigali, but when we entered into the forest, the rain stopped. Because of earlier rain, however, the forest was pretty foggy and the driving condition was pretty challenging.

We experienced the Lord's grace of protection twice on the way to Rusizi.

The first was before we entered the forest. When we were passing through a village, an old man all of a sudden started crossing the street running without looking at all, about five meteres in front of our vehicle. Since there were many people on both sides of the road, there was no room to avoid hitting the old man. The only option was hitting the brake. With a long loud sqeaky noise, the car was brought to an abrupt stop. The car avoided hitting the old man barely barely. Thank God!

The second was in the forest. It is pretty dangerous to drive through the forest when it is raining. We prayed for a safe journey before we left, but we did not know how thoughtful and gracious He was until we got out of the forest. While we were in the forest, we did not have any rain other than fog. Right after we passed through the exit gate of the forest, however, it started raining. I mean pouring. We praise the Lord for answering our prayer!

Rusizi is a district located at the south western tip of Rwanda and at the southern tip of the Lake Kivu. Across the lake, there is a DR Congo's city, called Bavuga, a fairly large city looking from a distance.

There are two districts in this region: Rusizi and Nyamasheke. We have operations in both districts with three offices. Theodorsie and Eunice are the bank officers working with eight lending staff serving 2,500 clients. When I met them for the first time, I felt really good and assured of their strong and godly leadership. Eunice's husband is a bishop of a pentecostal church. I praised the Lord for allowing me to work with these wonderful people.

From early Friday morning, we had a series of meetings with our staff and two client groups. I was impressed first by the fine report that Theodorsie and Eunice put together. But I did not know how much more I will be impressed by our clients.

The first meeting with 15 clients has given us a little different experience than other areas of Rwanda. The people of Rusizi were pleasant, outgoing and pretty vocal about their needs and requests. We all had a good and productive meeting, with promises of taking care of some of their needs that have not been met. I offered to end the meeting with a prayer and I was asked to wait for a few minutes. About half of 15 people left the room and each came back in with a gift! I was stunned and got so embarrassed by the amount of gift they brought in and gave to us. They were fruit baskets, a bottle of juice in a gift box, tomato salsas contained in the Rwandan peace basket (I will write about peace basket later), a small picture frame, a letter of appreciation, tangerine oranges wrapped in a box, etc. They all are from their gardens or their stores, but it was just an unbelievable and moving experience! We all gave thanks to the Lord and to them for their generous hospitality. I could not resist some tears in my eyes. This meeting was in the office located in Kamembe City.

The second meeting was at a deep village of Nyamirundi in the Nyamasheke District. The road to get to the village was really challenging. I have never ridden a car on any off-road like it. With a 4x4 vehicle, we could not go any faster than 10 km an hour. If it rains, no vehicle could dare to drive on it. It was a surprise, but the real surprise was when we arrived at a school building. All of a sudden, we were greeted by 40-50 people, mostly women, fully dressed up with colorful Rwandan dresses, singing welcome songs waving their hands. I was asking Theodorsie what I was supposed to do. I was expecting a small group of people to talk with and to listen to. With 40-50 people, such conversation would be close to impossible, I thought. I was advised to act naturally and be responsive to their greeting. So I waved at them and hugged each and every one of them, as is the custom here in Rwanda rubbing cheeks three times as a sign of respect and hospitability.

When I went into the building, I was treated like a local authority. They all stood while I sat down. We started with a prayer, as usual, and three group representatives stood and read their speech and made their requests. I responded. Then they brought three peace baskets, full of dried isambasa (small fish caught in the Lake Kivu), peanuts and soy beans. While the gifts were presented to us, the ladies started dancing with arms stretched and mouths making interesting sounds that I remembered hearing in the African warrior movies. I was invited to dance with them and I could not refuse it. I ended up dancing with them. Fortunately I was wearing a Rwandan shirt that I got custom-made at the Kimironko Market.

Several others shared their testomonials and also made requests. One of the ladies stood up and showed three passbooks. She said that with the first one she changed her roof, with the second one she bought a cow and with the third one she sent her children to school. "They all have been paid off!", she shouted. What an example of economic transformation! She was proud of and thankful to UOB. For me, I was proud of her and thankful to the Lord.

As we were leaving the place, they all came out singing and dancing, waving their hands again and inviting us back. Their hospitality was incredible and unforgettable. I do not recall any such welcome and greeting that I have ever received from anyone in my life.

The people of Rusizi are a little different from the rest of Rwanda, mainly because of their proximity to DR Congo. They are outgoing, pleasant and very generous. Rwandans are typically shy, reserved and introverts. Not in Rusizi.

The return trip was rather smooth. All together, however, on Friday, we drove a total of 9 hours, including off-road driving. It was a long and tiring journey, but a wonderful one. Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity of working and serving these people of Rwanda. I thought I came to help, but I ended up receiving their generous hospitality. Love... is giving. They already know how to love others despite their poverty. May we learn and apply how to love others more in our lives... Amen. - Jeffrey

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Church used for the Genocide...

A beautiful Roman Catholic Church... overlooking the Lake Kivu.... peaceful... spectacular...

But, this holy place was used for the genocide. Approximately 14,000 people were massacred inside this church. The church remains open, but only for the tourists.
Inside the church, the walls have the biblical scenes drawn with small tiles, such as Jesus carrying the cross. On another wall, there was the Jesus on the cross agonizing over excruciating pains, physical and spiritual. He must have been overlooking all the massacres taking place within the building. How painful and sorrowful He must have been over the horror! A deep sigh.
While praying within the building, I could not resist a chill feeling. Would it have been only because of the breeze? I am not sure...
Outside, there was a place that displayed some of the skulls of the victims. Death cannot overpower the new life of God's beloved ones because it is eternal, but death came upon many innocent people unexpectedly and horribly. I was hoping they are in the paradise with the Lord despite the cruel physical death. Our life on earth may also come to an end unexpectedly. I was also praying for those who I know have not personally accepted Jesus into their lives. He is the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. (John 14:6) - Jeffrey

Saturday, May 2, 2009

26th Anniversary Celebration at Lake Kivu...

April 25th was our 26th wedding anniversary. We decided to celebrate it over this weekend because May 1 is the national holiday (Labor Day) in Rwanda.

Kristin and I made a short trip to Lake Kivu, about two and a half hours drive to the West from Kigali. We stayed at the Bethanie Center, a retreat center for Presbyterian Denomination.

The trip was short but sweet. After we cheked in, we sat out on the balcony outside our room. The breeze was so smooth and comforting that it reminded me of the Hawaiian trade wind. Kris and I sat out there until it became dark, enjoying the breeze. We had a dinner at a nearby restaurant located at Moria Hill Resort.

In the morning, the sunrise was spectacular, as seen in the picture. The breeze was so caressing as usual. Ahhhh... We enjoyed our quiet time over the bible in such a wonderful morning breeze and in such a spectacular sunrise scenery. We prayed for the Lord's hand-holding with us for the rest of our life together. We could easily forget the fight we had at night against the mosquitos. Nobody likes bug bites, but over here people are far more sensitive to mosquito bites than anywhere else because of the concern over Malaria and Dengi that mosquitos are known to spread.

Even though we changed our plan to come down after one night, rather than two nights, we felt great about the short trip. Before we started driving back, we rode a boat to a tiny islet, called "Amahoro (Peace) Island and Camp." There, one family and a couple of workers were living to rent the camp sites for visitors and sell food and drinks. People visit there for a quiet retreat in the middle of the lake. There was only one animal on the island, a monkey. (the picture) I talked to the owner of the island and called him the Umuwami or King of the island. He laughed, slightly nodding. I said it because whoever visits the island has to pay RWF500, a little less than $1.00 as a duty. Well... now you know why I called him a king.

The Lake Kivu is a long lake from north to south. Its length is 55 miles (89 km) and its maximum width is 30 miles (48 km). Its catchment is 2,700 sq. miles (7,000 square km). Its average depth is 787 feet (240 m) and the maximum depth is 1,575 feet (480 m).

As I wrote earlier in my previous blogpost regarding the visit to Karongi Office, the Lake Kivu is sitting on a valley that is tearing apart so volcanic activities are suspected in the lake. Probably because of this volcanic activity, the Lake Kivu is known to contain 72 billion cubi yards (55 billion cubic meter) of methane gas stored at the depth of 300 meters.

This methane gas poses a great danger to the people living at the shore, estimated to be millions. Once the lake overturns, believed to occur every 1,000 years, the gas leaks out and creates a great hazard to people. A similar incident occurred in Cameroon, killing approximately 10,000 people. The Rwandan government is trying to extract the methane gas to generate power. Once successfully done, it could surge the country's power generation capacity by 20 times and could export the power to the neighboring countries. That would be great! May that happen!

On the way back, we picked up three young Janapense ladies who are volunteers from Japan. One was working in Kibuye and we dropped her in Kibuye town. Two were staying in Kigali so we have given them a ride all the way to Kigali. The two ladies we rode with were helping street children in Kigali and deaf children. (I will talk more about Korean volunteers and Japanese volunteers later.)

We were grateful to have completed the trip safely. It was our first long distance driving trip in Rwanda. - Jeffrey