Sunday, March 28, 2010

New Bishop Rev. Dr. Laurent Mbanda Consecrated...

[St. John Cathedral that Bishop Rucyahana built (Top Left)... Bishop Mbanda delivering speech after the consecration (Top Right) ..... President Kagame delivering speech in the heavy rain (Bottom Left) .... People participating in the ceremony even in the rain (Bottom Right)]
On March 28th, Sunday, Rev. Dr. Larent Mbanda has been consecrated as the Bishop of Shyira Diocese in northern Rwanda, to succeed Bishop John Rucyahana who is retiring this year.

Kristin and I, having been invited by the new Bishop Mbanda couple to attend the consecration ceremony, left home at 6AM and drove to Ruhengeri for two hours. We were advised to arrive by 8AM. The ceremony began at 9AM and lasted for almost 6 hours!!! A lot of praises, a lot of speeches and a lot of ceremonial programs filled the event.

What amazed me was that the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame attended the ceremony and sat through for over 3 hours. It was very unusual for the President to attend a private function for such a long time. But, considering that Bishop Rucyahana is a member of PAC (President's Advisory Counsil) and has been helping Rwanda exposed to the world greatly, his attendance was understandable.

Heavy rain started from 1:30PM and lasted until the ceremony was over, close to 3PM. Nonetheless, the ceremony continued and people kept sitting and standing until the end.

Bishop Rucyahana is an amazing enterpreneur as well as an inspiring spiritual leader. Whoever is listening to him will sense the pulse from him and be motivated to do what he is suggesting. He wrote a book titled "The Bishop of Rwanda." It was foreworded by Pastor Rick Warren.
Ministry-wise, he has, since he was elected as the Bishop of Shyira in 1977, helped not only grow his own Diocese Shyira but also found 140 plus churches in the U.S. under the leadership of the Province of Rwanda. Amazing...
Enterprise-wise, he established Sonrise School initially for the orphans. Now it is one of the top schools in the nation where even wealthy and non-Christian people want to send their children for high quality education at Sonrise. He also helped Opportunity International come to Rwanda and invest in microfinance, resulting in now UOB. He is a member of the UOB's board. He also started a hotel to help build the tourism industry for Rwanda. He has been involved in prison ministry, healing and reconciliation ministry, evangelical crusade ministry, education ministry. In whatever he has been involved, he has done a marvelous job. His heart is always beating to help bring Rwanda to become a better and exemplary country in Africa. I am certain he will play a bigger and more important role after he retires from the Diocese.

New Bishop Mbanda is an impressive servant of God. He is still Vice President of Compassion International's Africa Region, but will hand it over to a Kenyan successor in a couple of months. Also, he founded and has been leading Christian African Leadership Ministry or CALM since 1990 when he was studying in the U.S. Prior to joining Compassion in 1993, he had been in various capacities with several ministries, such as Country Director for Campus Crusade for Christ in Burundi and Africa Director for Christian Aid Mission.
He studied at a Bible College, received a master's degree in missiology from Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, received a master's degree in Christian Education from the Denver Seminary, and received a doctorate degree from Trinity International University in Deerfield, IL.
His wife, Chantal is Director of New Hope Homes that is a family-style orphan care ministry with three family homes at present. Kristin is involved in this ministry.

It was a very long six-hour ceremony, but it was worthwhile to experience the culture and to witness how seriously people are taking the bishop consecration. When we arrived back to Kigali, it was 6PM. It was a 12-hour journey since we left home in the morning and it was even not counting the reception that we decided to skip. Whew.... - Jeffrey

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Delicious Lunch on Moving Day...

On Friday, March 26th, we moved to a different house in Kacyiru. We were planning to move on Saturday, but the last Saturday of every month is "Umuganda" or "community work." On Umuganda, every resident in Rwanda must participate in a community work in the morning. Pedestrians and automibles are alike stopped by the police until noon. So we ended up moving on Friday.

It was a fine day without too much sun. Young friends from KOICA have helped us with moving. Their power of youth was amazing. I could not imagine how we could have moved without them. Most of them were our bible study members, but there were a few who were not.

After the hard labor, any meal would have been delicious, but the buckwheat noodle mixed with vegetables and red pepper paste was almost like honey. We all gobbled it up in silence. Nobody talked for a while. We all were hungry and it was delicious.

Today, Saturday, the original moving day, it has been raining the whole day. Apparently it is the beginning of the rainy season. We would not have been able to move in this rain. God's unceasing grace is always amazing beyond our imagination. Praise the Lord! - Jeffrey

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Study on Ephesians Completed. PTL!!!

Today, March 24th, we have completed the study on the book of Ephesians. It has taken more than four months since we have had an in-depth study. The book of Ephesians was the second book that we studied after the book of Romans.

First of all, it was God's grace that all members have been attending the bible study almost without absence. We all have experienced His grace although each has had it in different ways. One thing for sure was that His grace has been so graciously abundant.

The bible study family has increased to seven in number from five when we studied the book of Romans. This was also a blessing!
We will have a break next week because of my overseas trip and we will resume the bible study the following week. We are still prayerfully considering several options for the next bible study subject.
Thank you, Lord, for your teaching over the past four months and for your guidance over our study. We also thank you for the spiritual growth that each of us has experienced through the study. All honors and praises are yours. Praise the Lord! - Jeffrey

Saturday, March 20, 2010

DFID and Access to Finance Rwanda (AFR) ...

[DFID]................................... [The World Bank]

On March 18th, DFID launched a new development program in Rwanda, called Access to Finance Rwanda or AFR. DFID stands for Department for International Development and is the U.K.'s international development agency.

AFR is an independent non-profit organization that will work at macro, meso and micro levels to help expand the access to finance for the people of Rwanda. Surely their focus is on the poor since 65% of the resources will be allocated to the micro level.

AFR is different from other programs in that it may be funded by other NGOs and governments. Initially, AFR is funded 10 million sterling pounds by DFID and co-funded $1 million by World Bank.

I had an opportunity to present what UOB is doing to overcome the challenges that we are facing in helping the poor. My presentation was focused on five challenges and UOB's creative solutions in response to the challenges: i.e. financial illiteracy, inherent risks to agricultural finance, limited cash access points, poor infrastructure and lack of capital and assets (collateral.) Care International was also presenting what it is doing to serve the informal sectors through the voluntary savings and loan (VSL) program. The presentation was very well received by the group that comprised representatives of the Rwandan government, NGOs, banks, MFIs and international development agencies. Praise the Lord!

We are hoping and anticipating to take some initiatives in serving the poor with the financial assistance of AFR. May the good Lord help us go through the process well! - Jeffrey

Saturday, March 13, 2010

UOB Approved as Insurance Agency!

On Friday, March 12th, UOB has been approved as insurance agency by the National Bank of Rwanda. It is the first official license for any bank in Rwanda. Historically, banks have been engaged in insurance business, primarily bancassurance on life, without license. From 2010, they should now have to be licensed if they want to continue the business. UOB is the first bank to be approved by the central bank.

UOB will work with MicroEnsure, Opportunity International's micro insurance business unit, and SORAS, the second largest insurance company in Rwanda. MicroEnsure is the world's largest micro insurance broker. It has secured a special permission from Hollard, South Africa, to form a captive cell that can design microinsurance products and process the insurance claims with full delegated authority. The insurance book will then be re-insured to AfricaRe.

Microinsurance is new to Rwanda. So we are excited to be the first institution that brings the risk management tools to the Rwandan poor.

Lord, may this opportunity bring many Rwandan poor the equal access to various insurance products as the well-off! - Jeffrey

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Banana and Rice Cooperatives in Kirehe...

On March 3, I (Jeffrey) went out to Kirehe, Eastern Province, to visit two agricultural cooperatives: Banana and Rice. This trip was part of John Magnay's three-day trip to Rwanda to explore the Rwandan opportunities in agricultural finance, following the London meeting. (Feb. 22-24) John Magnay is the Special Advisor to OI Africa on Agriculture. (Please refer to previous posts on London meeting and John Magnay.)

The banana cooperative has approximately 4,000 members in the sector and many members have a cow primarily for the purpose of producing organic manure for the bananas.

The rice cooperative has 1,865 active members and 2,500 potential members. All grow rice with flooded water in the swamp. The size of their paddy rice field was quite small, but through crop intensification they have been increasing the yields.
The road to successful agricultural finance is long and challenging, but with careful persistence we trust that we will get there. - Jeffrey

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Agric Finance Planning Meeting in London...

During February 22-24, Opportunity International's Agricultural Finance Planning Meeting took place in London.

The meeting was primarily for five African implementing partners, including UOB from Rwanda, to give presentation about their business cases on 1) agricultural finance, 2) rural savings and 3) rural points of delivery. Along with the business case, each implementing partner was to present its funding needs as well.

These funding needs and business cases will be taken into account in making the final decision on distributing the grant funding received from Gates/Master Card Foundations, plus other discretionary funding, over the next four years.

All countries are uniquely different with opportunities and challenges, but in general
Rwanda is perceived to have more challenges than opportunities, primarily because of its small land size and rough terrain. I had to make a business case that will help change the perception and draw attention. It was by God's grace that UOB and Rwandan case drew great response and compliments. Praise the Lord!

We do not know yet how much funding will be allocated to Rwanda, but that is not what I should be concerned about. Howmuchever it may be, now the next challenge is how to materialize it into reality with the maximum impact. Again, I have no choice but go to the Lord on my knees for His grace and guidance.

Overall, the meeting was fruitful. But the journey was grueling because of red eye flights on both ways. I suppose my physical body is waning faster than my heart. - Jeffrey