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

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Zanzibar (2)... The Land of Spices

[From left to right: annatto used for making tandoori... vanilla.... cadarmon (another kind was the root) .... nutmeg...... pineapple...... jackfruits]

Zanzibar is known also for its spices. Based on the influence of the Indians, Zanzibar grew many kinds of spices. Now, it has slowed down quite a bit because of competition from Indonesia and other countries, but in the past, Zanzibar was the place for spices.

While we were in Zanzibar, we visited a spice farm and learned a little about various spices. Here are some examples: nutmeg, ginger, green (white, brown and black) pepper, vanilla, cinnamon, cardamon, green chilly, lemon grass, cloves, annatto (used for tandoori) etc. We also saw and tasted some interesting fruits, such as jackfruit, cocoa (derived from cacao tree), starfruit, pineapple.

Some of the findings were beyond my imagination. For example, until I saw the vanilla tree in Zanzibar, I thought the vanila was a beige color, because of, I suppose, the vanilla icecream. (Please excuse my ignorance.) But the vanilla was made from vanilla pods that are black. Vanilla is known to be the second most expensive spice, behind saffron because of the expensive vanilla plant and manual labor costs for pollination.

Also, I learned that cinnamon is made primarily of the tree's barks and leaves, not fruits or roots. The cinnamon sticks are made of the dried tree barks. If you dry the bark slices, they naturally roll into the sticks. After the barks are cut out, the barks grow again and can be harvested again and again.

The most interesting to me was the jackfruit. As we walked in the farm, we came to a tree that had huge fruits with rugged skins, the sizes of watermelons, hanging on the branches. Usually, big fruits like this grow on the ground, I thought. But, jackfruits were growing up in the air handing from the branches. The taste was quite unusual. I would not say it was sweet, but it was in between pineapple and watermelon. - Jeffrey

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Rwanda jumps in Doing Business Rank to 67th...

It is amazing and it is official!

In just one year, Rwanda has jumped in its World Bank's Doing Business Rankings from 143rd last year to 67th out of 183 countries around the world! There has never been such a leap in a single year in any other country in the world. The World Bank has designated Rwanda as the most reformed country in the world and it is the first time with such designation among all African countries.

World Bank analyzes all countries in the world to determine how easy and friendly each country is for doing business based on 11 criteria, such as starting a new business, tax, employees, contract, closing a business, getting credit, property registration etc. World Bank ranks all countries by each criterion and rank them all in combined rankings. It is called the World Bank 's Doing Business Rankings. To give you a perspective, Singapore is ranked the 1st, U.S. the 4th, Japan the 15th, S. Korea the 19th etc.

Among African countries, there are only four countries that are ahead of Rwanda now. They are Mauritius (17th, this is also impressive), South Africa (34th), Botswana (45th) and Namibia (66th). Yes, Rwanda is now ahead of Kenya (95th), Egypt (106th), Uganda (113th), Tanzania (131th), and Malawi (132th). Please check for more details.

Many countries do not pay attention to these rankings. Rwanda does and makes conscious efforts to improving its business environment. This commitment comes from the leadership and trickles down to the ministers and director general levels. Awareness produces commitment that leads to actions. Actions produce a result, an impressive result.

Rwandans are cool about this result, though. They feel that they could do better and the attitude does not look arrogant.

A few days ago, I had an opportunity to have lunch sitting next to the Minister of Agriculture of Rwanda. An intelligent lady who holds a Ph.D. in Agriculture from a university in the U.S. Her passion for improving the country's agricultural industry and farmers was evident not just in words but in deeds. A good example.

My longing for Rwanda to become the first African tiger economy and an exemplary African country only grows greater. May God bless this country! - Jeffrey