Sunday, February 20, 2011

Witnessing by Living a Christlike Life ...

Today, February 20th, I preached during the worship service at St. Etien Cathedral. My message was titled "Witnessing by Living a Christlike Life" based on Romans 13: 11-14 and Matthew 10:24-33. For the month of February, the church was focusing on the theme of "Witnessing." Here is the summary of the message.

Jesus remained on earth for 40 days after His resurrection (Acts 1). During this time, He did the following:

1. He showed His disciples that He was indeed risen. His disciples became hopeless and were in despair after the crucifixion of Jesus although Jesus told them that He would rise again. He had to prove that indeed He was risen.

2. He reminded His disciples to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit because without Him they would be powerless. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of Christ (John 14:26) and He would indwell the disciples and all saints so that He could help them through their lives.

3. He urged/commissioned His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19-21) as witnesses of all that happened through Jesus. Witnessing was a mandate to obey, therefore, not an option to consider as Hudson Taylor said.

The most valid and strongest witness is eye witness. Apostles were eye-witnesses of Jesus. What about us who have not seen Jesus with bare eyes?

There are some essential components required for Christians to be effective witnesses:

1. Our witness should be experiential. Our witness should deal with 'Who Jesus is', 'How I was', 'How Jesus worked in me' and 'How I have changed because of Him.' Experience is seeing through our minds, hearts and lives. Without experience, our witness will be powerless and unconvincing.

2. Our witness should be based on a willing desire, not based on obligation. In other words, witnessing should be done not because we have to do but because we want to do.

3. Our witness should be done not by our power and strength but by the power of the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8 reads "...but you will receive the power when the Holy Spirit comes on you..."

4. Our witness should be done not only in words but also in deeds or lifestyles. We will dwell more on this point today.

From the two scriptures read for today, we will be learning three lessons:

1. Acknowledge the urgency: Romans 13:11,12 talk about this urgency. The Kingdom of Heaven is near. John the Baptist, Jesus and all apostles said the same thing. The Kingdom of Heaven is near. The end times are near. The end times are near not only in light of God's salvation plan but also in light of individual salvation. Every day many people perish unexpectedly. I shared briefly that we at UOB lost one of the staff on Friday due to her car accident. It was totally unexpected, but it happened. We as Christians should live with the sense of urgency, making conscious efforts to witnessing/sharing the gospel with others.

2. Attain the Christlikeness: Romans 13:14 reads "Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ..." Christlikeness is to be like Christ. To be like Christ is to imitate Christ's personality and attributes. It is to attain His righteousness and to have compassion for lost souls like Jesus did. Christlikeness is godliness. 1 Tim. 4:7,8 urges us to "train yourself to be godly." "Godliness with contentment is great gain." (1 Tim. 6:6)

Attaining Christlikeness should be done on two principles: Principle of Incarnation and Principle of Sanctification.

John 1:14 says "The Word became flesh..." It means not only that the Christ/God became human to dwell among us but also that the Word became part of the flesh or deeds or behaviors. It is the principle of incarnation.

Sanctification is becoming holy or righteous. It is the present and continuing aspect of God's salvation. We have been saved already, but our salvation has not been completed yet. It is the "already but not yet" theology. We are living this life to attain practical righteousness or purity until the ultimate righteousness or purity is obtained since we have received the positional/imputed righteousness or purity. This is a life long process and cannot be attained over night. How to attain it? Through an on-going process of daily crucifixion of old selves, like Paul confessed, and totally surrendering our lives to the Holy Spirit because the sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit. (2 Thess. 2:13)

3. Anticipate the persecution: The scriptures are pretty clear that if we Christians live the godly lives genuinely, it is inevitable that we will face the worldly persecution. 2 Tim. 3:12 reads "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." Phil. 1:29 reads "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him."

However, today's scripture Matt. 10:28 is encouraging us not to be afraid of those who kill the body but not the soul. Rather we should be afraid of the One who can kill our body and soul in hell.

Matt. 5:10-12 say that those who are persecuted for His righteousness are blessed for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. If people insult you, persecute you and say all evil things against you because of Jesus, rejoice and be glad for great is the reward in heaven. What a statement and how powerful it is ...

We are encouraged to witness Jesus and share the gospel no matter how hard it may be because the reward will be great. Moreover, such troubles or hard times or persecution will be only temporary, but the reward that will be given will be eternal, outweighing all troubles/hardships combined.

2 Cor. 4:17 read "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all."

Brother and sisters in Christ, let us clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ to live a godly and Christlike life. It would be the best witnessing of Jesus and the gospel of love to the ungodly and unloving world. May this message bless you all! - Jeffrey

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Euginie's Sudden Death in Accident ... Sorrowful and Painful...

On Friday (Feb 18), Gary Sheer was invited to teach about "Shalom" at the staff devotion. After his teaching, there was an announcement time. Emmanuel Ruterana came out and stood behind the podium. Since he is in charge of staff welfares, he frequently stands at the podium to make announcements. So we paid attention to him casually. But his announcement came to all in shock.

"I have a sad news to share with you this morning. Euginie of Rwamagana was on her way to work on a motor taxi and got involved in an accident this morning. She crashed into a bus and died on the spot."

[A file photo closest to Euginie's grave and a wooden cross]

His announcement stunned us all. Some staff members started weeping and others wailing. I too was stunned and asked Jean de Dieu, who was interpreting for me, to confirm who actually died, "Do you mean Euginie of Ngoma?" I asked him the question because I was not aware of Euginie who was working at Rwamagana. Unfortunately he said, "Yes." I fell into a deep sorrow and could not resist weeping. But I could not allow the disturbed scene to continue. I stood up and walked to the podium.

In pain and sorrow, my voice was trembling and cracking. Euginie of Ngoma was the leader of Ngoma EBU. She was the best EBU leader not only in productivity, asset quality, leadership but also transformational impact on clients. I even gave her a small gift personally in appreciation for what and how she does for the clients and UOB.

I started making a few comments. "We all are now in shock and in deep sorrow for the loss of our colleague, our sister in Christ and our friend, Euginie." I continued, "I do not understand why this happened to her and why God had to take her away from us. But, I must still confess that I trust God for what happened to Euginie today." I had to press down the tears and weeping to continue my remarks. "Although we do not understand why this happened to us, I do know that she is now resting in peace with the Lord in paradise. This incident is one of several things that I am going to ask the Lord 'why?' when I get to see him in person. Until then, let us continue to trust Him for His sovereignty and His love because He is good all the time, even when He does not make sense to us." I concluded my short remarks with a prayer for His comfort, His peace and His encouragement.

I could not hold down my tears any more by the time I was done with my remarks. This was the first loss of any staff whom I have been working with for the past 30 plus years. I ended up weeping.

I came up to my office, but I remained in stunned silence for a while still weeping. It was the cry of a question "Why?" Faustin, an executive colleague came into my office, so I asked him, "Do you know what actually happened?"

He was a little cautious and made a statement that shocked me again this time with a mixed feeling.

"Jeffrey, I could not stop you while you were praying, but the Euginie who died today is not Euginie of Ngoma. The dead Euginie is a new employee who has been working at Rwamagana since October 2010." Obviously he did not want to embarrass me while I was speaking.

"What?" His remarks gave me a mixed feeling: a joy and relief of not losing Euginie of Ngoma and a realization of the fact that one staff still died. My joy erupted quickly but I came to sense the reality that we have still lost one staff. Life was life.

Shortly after the discussion, I was informed that her funeral and burial would take place this afternoon. I said, "I would attend it."

She was only 21 years old and was a genocide survivor. She was only 4 years old during the 1994 genocide when she lost both parents. She was adopted along with her younger sister and raised by one of her relatives. She finished her secondary school last year and UOB was her first employer.

At the funeral, several people spoke about her. Her team leader Chantal said that Euginie was always on time to work and very responsible, dependable and pleasant to work with.

The relative who adopted her could not say much. "I do not understand this.... but this is the world."

A young man stood up and introduced himself as Euginie's finance. The last conversation that he had with Euginie was this morning when she said, "I am getting late to work and I am going to take a motor taxi." It was indeed their last conversation.

The motor taxi that she was riding was closely following a bus. The bus driver was supposed to turn left at a point, but he missed a bit. When he was reminded that he missed the turning point, he not only hit the brake to stop the bus but at the same time he put the gear to reverse, assuming there was no one behind the bus since the motor taxi was in the blind spots in the bus driver's eyes. The motor taxi was too close to the bus to avoid the crash. The motor taxi rider saw the bus, in quick reaction jumped off the motor taxi and barely escaped the crash, but Euginie who was behind the rider did not see the bus stopping and reversing, and crashed into the bus head on. And she died on the spot. It all happened in a blink of an eye.

A church member came out and commented how faithful she was despite her young age.

A friend came out and said "She was like my own sister, room-mating together for two years. I feel like I have lost my own body." She could not press down her wailing any more and exploded.

I was invited to speak on behalf of UOB also. I said "We all are in shock and deep sorrow because we have lost our beloved Euginie. We at UOB all send our condolences to her family. But I am confident that Euginie is now resting in peace with the Lord and it gives us comfort. We all are reminded that our life is not under our control but is under God's control. We are urged to live each day's life as if it is the last day. May the good Lord comfort Eugnie's family members and all her friends who are mourning over her sudden death. May God bless you all."

Although Euginie worked for UOB only for 4 months, more than 60 members of UOB were there, pragmatically conducting the funeral and the burial. After all, we are another family at UOB, not only through work but also in Christ.

After the funeral service, viewing took place inside the house. Her face was all deformed and her body was all torn up so we could not see her. But we prayed for her restful and everlasting life in the paradise until we will see each other again.

The burial took place right behind the house under the banana trees. A grave hole was dug up and later the coffin was laid down and buried. Dirts were placed back over the coffin and a wooden cross was placed in front of the grave. It was the end of the ceremony. Despite her sudden death and unprepared ceremony, a large crowd gathered and shared the pain and sorrow together.

Euginie's younger sister could not stop the wailing and it all ached the hearts of many people.

"Oh Lord, may she now rest in peace with you. Please give us discernment to know your profound will for something like this in our life. I do not understand frankly. Nonetheless, Lord, I still love you and trust you. Amen." I prayed silently on the way back to Kigali. It was a sad day. - Jeffrey

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Trip to Karongi (Kibuye) and to Mutuntu...

On Thursday, Feb. 17, Orren (Deputy Leader of Banking Network Group), Emmanuel Mugandura, Director of Risk Management primarily for interpretation, and I visited Muhanga EBU and traveled to Karongi Office, next to the Lake Kivu. It was a 3-hour drive. Karongi Office is a 3-man office and has been sluggish for quite some time and we wanted to see how we can help. It has been integrated into Muhanga EBU under Rachel's leadership. We picked her up at Muhanga EBU and traveled together to Karongi.

Karongi Office is covering three districts: Karongi, Ngororero and Rutsiro. Outreach to Ngororero and Rutsiro is fairly new. Rutsiro seems to present potential for growth while Ngororero probably does not at present. It was a pleasant surprise to find out Karongi District is presenting significant growth potential thanks to a new lending staff Emmanuel's outreach. He has been adding 10 new groups over the past 11 months. He is now serving more than 400 clients. Overall, Karongi Office is serving almost 1,000 clients. Emmanuel gave me a hope for the Karongi Office.

After the meeting with staff, we traveled further into the mountain for another one and a half hour drive on the mountainous terrain. It was a rough ride. But we finally arrived at Mutuntu, a sector located in the middle of nowhere, it seemed like. Emmanuel is serving 6 groups totaling 180 clients. Most of them are in their second cycles.

We greeted and thanked the clients who were waiting for us. While Emmanuel and Jean, another lending staff, were disbursing the loan and savings, we met with the sector officials. The sector has a population of 24,000 most of whom are engaged in agriculture and animal farming. They do not have access to any formal financial services within 1 and half hour drive range. So they appreciated our outreach to their people.

But, Emmanuel has to travel this rough terrain on a motor bike for one and a half hour one way every week to serve them. There is no bus coming to this village, thus there is no other means of transportation. I felt appreciative to Emmanuel, but also sorry for him. Nonetheless, I felt so bad because there is nothing much for me to do. Perhaps, we can develop a staff motorcycle loan program so that he can manage to ride the bike himself, rather than riding on a motor taxi that frequently refuses to go unless he gets paid more than a normal fare of RWF10,000 or $18.

On the way back, my feeling for Emmanuel became even deeper than before because we had an unforgettable experience driving on the muddy and slippery road because of the rain. Initially the Toyota Land Cruiser hard body could not make a little uphill road because it was too slippery. Mountain boys and men were all trying to help by pushing the car, but in vain. I prayed to the Lord for His divine wisdom with a deep concern because it was getting dark and it started pouring. Momentarily I was asking myself "Do we have to sleep in the car on the road...?"

God is good all the time. He answered my prayer through Orren. Instantly, Orren shouted: "I have got it!"

We forgot to lock the front wheel to make the 4x4 work. After locking it, the vehicle climbed the uphills without a problem. We paid a little sum of money to the boys and they ran back down the hills shouting "Hooray!!!" We thought the challenge was all over. Well... not quite.

After about 30 minutes of drive on 4x4, we reached a section of the road that was flattened by bulldozers to make the road better. The road was all muddy. The car quickly lost traction because of the mud and even 4x4 was not working. Even on the flat road, the car was barely advancing because of the slippery surface. It was just like driving on an icy surface.

Whenever the road was tilted, the car was skidding, some times to the brink of a cliff. Ugh... On several spots, there were wooden bridge over ditches and their widths were just a little wider than the vehicle. We had to align the vehicle straight to cross over the bridges. Several times, we had to back out to make the vehicle straight before we attempted to cross the bridges because the vehicle was not aligned straight.

Thank God for His mercy! We managed to drive down from the mountain without a major accident. It took us more than an hour on a distance that would have taken less than 20 minutes normally.

By the time we arrived at the Karongi town, it was dark and it was pouring. We did not have time to eat lunch and it was getting late even for dinner. We all were hungry, but we did not have time to sit down to eat because we still had to drive another 3 hours to get back to Kigali. We all grabbed something to eat at a mini supermarket and we ate them on the way while driving.

By the time we arrived back in Kigali, it was 9:30PM. It was 13 and a half hours since we left Kigali at 8AM. And we were on the roads for a good 11 hours. We prised the Lord for His guidance and protection during the trip.

Throughout the journey, however, we all were joyous and had a great fellowship time, mainly thanks to Orren's humor and Emmanuel Mugandura's stories. After all, this is Africa and this is the field, they said.

For me, I became even more grateful to our field staff who are reaching out to remote areas to serve our clients. Thank you, Lord, for your goodness and never-changing faithfulness! - Jeffrey

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

RIPPS (Rwanda Integrated Payment Processing System) Launched...

Rwanda has finally joined the most of African countries with its official launch of the RTGS (Real Time Gross Settlement) system.

What makes Rwanda a little different from other African countries is that it has also launched ACH (Automated Clearing House) for checks. RTGS and ACH are called together ATS (Automated Transfer System).

ATS, combined with CDS (Central Depository Securities) for handling securities, represents RIPPS or Rwanda Integrated Payment Processing System. This makes Rwanda really unique compared to many other developing countries since not too many countries have taken this integrated approach.

To make it easy and simple, all electronic payments, checks and securities transactions may be handled real time after CDS is fully integrated... perhaps in 2014. Until then, however, at least all electronic payments and checks may be processed real time. That alone is significant. Electronic payments will include payments for utilities and communications as well as interbank direct debits and credits.

Moreover, RIPPS will be integrated with the payment systems of EAC (East Africa Community - 5 countries) and COMESA (Common Market for East and Southern Africa). EAC payment systems will go live in March.

I know... There are far too many acronyms.

I attended the official launch ceremony of the RIPPS today (Feb. 15 2011) at the National Bank of Rwanda, the central bank. Ministers of Finance and ICT were in attendance.

May this RIPPS take the Rwandan e-payment system to a new level! - Jeffrey

Monday, February 14, 2011

Blessed are the Persecuted for His Righteousness...

I shared the Word at the staff devotion on Monday (Feb. 14th). It was the ninth and the last session of the series on the Beautitudes. (Matthew 5:1-12)

Today's message was based on Matt. 5:10-12, titled "Blessed are the Persecuted for His Righteousness." It is a difficult topic to accept, let alone to approve and endorse. Nonetheless, it is the Word of God that is good and truthful.

Who are persecuted? The believers who pursue to live the Kingdom life according to the Beautitudes are to be persecuted. The bible is pretty clear about this point.

"For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him." (Phil. 1:29)

"In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2 Tim. 3:12)

If we were to live a genuine Kingdom life that is evidencing the righteousness of God, then we will draw a reaction from the world. Why? Because the world hated our Lord Jesus Christ first and whoever is identifying himself/herself with Him will also be hated.

"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." (John 15:18,19)

How are we persecuted? Matt. 5:11 lists three ways that the Kingdom citizens are to be persecuted. a) physical persecution: this includes torture, imprisonment. b) insult: verbal abuse with vicious and mocking words. Jesus was mocked on the cross by one of the robbers who were crucified next to Jesus. c) slander: verbal attack with unfounded, untruthful statements.

What is the reward for the persecuted? Those who are persecuted for the sake of God's righteousness are blessed because: 1) they belong to the Kingdom of God and 2) their reward will be great. No matter how hard we may feel about persecution, it is temporary and momentary. Meanwhile, the fruit of living a righteous life is eternal. Human life is like a blink of an eye compared to eternity. James 4:14 says that our life is like a mist that appears briefly in the morning and evaporates when the sun comes out. Time on earth, no matter how long, is far too short compared to eternity.

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Cor. 4:17,18)

"Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." (Romans 8:17)

What should we do when persecution comes? We should do at least two things:

a. Be courageous and willing to be persecuted. Our own strength will fail to make us this courageous, but His strength will enable us to be bold and courageous.

b. Pray for those who persecute you. It will be a challenge for a normal person. Nonetheless, it is what the scripture says:

"Bless those who curse you and pray for those who mistreat you." (Luke 6:28)

There is a price to pay when you live the Kingdom life in this wicked world. But we should trust Him and His promises. Although men may take away everything we posses in the world, they cannot touch what God will give us in the next life.

"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of the righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 5:10)

May this scripture immensely bless us all who are committing to living the Kingdom life no matter what the price may be. - Jeffrey

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Daeyang Luke Hospital in Lilongwe, Malawi...

During my trip to Lilongwe, Malawi to attend the OI Africa CEO Conference (Feb. 10th and 11th), I paid a visit to Daeyang Luke Hospital. It was established and opened in 2008 by a Korean female missionary with the financial support of a Korean company, called Daeyang. It is known to be one of only few hospitals in Malawi that have contemporary facilities and modern medical equipment. It is the only hospital in a region that has a population of more than 130,000 people although there are several clinics.

This hospital also has a nursing college that was opened recently. It has first admitted approximately 35 students . These students will begin a 3-year course now, but the school has a plan to change it to a 4-year college program soon. The first dean to this nursing college will be Dr. Susie Kim from S. Korea. She is the wife of the late Dr. Linsu Kim who went home to be with the Lord in peace a few years ago.

He was a special man to me.

He wass an excellent scholar in management policy and technology management, better known internationally than in Korea. He wrote a countless number of books and valuable articles. "Imitation to Innovation" comes to my mind.

Dr. Linsu Kim was an effective teacher with profound contents and effective delivery. Not only was he a good teacher in his academic field but also was he an inspirational teacher of the Word.

He was a godly man with passion for God and compassion for people who were in need: the physical, mental and spiritual needs. He lived a life that was frugal, humble, joyful, peaceful, caring and exemplary to many Christians.

Personally, Dr. Linsu Kim was an influential mentor to me. I sat in only one class when he was an adjunct professor at Yonsei University, while working as a senior researcher at KDI (Korea Development Institute) in 1978, but his influence has shaped the course of my life to be a godly lay person as the salt and light of the world. My deep appreciation to him for his advice goes without saying.

His wife, Dr. Susie Kim, who is equally godly and influential to many as the late Dr. Linsu Kim, will now come to Malawi to help the Malawians learn about nursing.
What a small world it is... What an exemplary life she is also living... My respect for her commitment to living a godly life also goes without saying.

At Daeyang Luke Hospital, another project has been recently launched, namely Project Malawi. Director of Project Malawi is Mr. Jinho Kim who studied international development at Columbia University, NY in the states. I met him in Rwanda when he interned at UOB in 2009 during the summer. He is a bright young man with deep commitment to serving the Lord. Motivated by the call to serve the needy, he has made a proposal to KOICA and has received a significant amount of grant to launch Project Malawi.

For this project, he has also mobilized a variety of resources, including several scholars at Columbia University as advisors and a dozen volunteers from Korea and other countries for the project. The volunteers have impressive backgrounds. All were either medical professionals or graduate students in public health or economics. Dr. Hyunchul Kim's background was most unique. He is a medical doctor, holds a Ph.D. in Economics and also holds a master's degree in public health. He is one of the kind in Korea, I learned. He hopes to be an advocate of helping the poor through creative solutions in a global scale while teaching and researching at a school.

Under this project, Jinho Kim and his team are now conducting a baseline survey in the region where the Daeyang Luke Hospital is serving. Once the survey is done, the team will conduct several programs:

1) Build a shelter for the pregnant women who may stay there for up to one month prior to the delivery date. During their stay, the women will be trained with some business skills for their livelihood and sustainability. Micro credit may also be provided to help them start micro enterprises.

2) Conduct circumcision to men in the region (youth, young children and adults in that order) based on a recently proven research in that circumcision reduces the HIV/ADIS infection by 50%. This is a phenomenal impact to this deadly disease.

I had a short meeting with Jinho and all volunteers. My meeting with them inspired and challenged me greatly. They may not clearly know where they are going, but I trust that the God of goodness will put good hearts in them so that they may be used for His Kingdom beyond their current imagination. I prayed for His guidance in their journeys of life. - Jeffrey

[Note: I lost my camera in Malawi and I am regretful that I cannot share several photos that I took.]

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

OI Africa CEO Conference in Lilongwe, Malawi

On February 10th and 11th, I attended the OI Africa CEO Conference held in Lilongwe, Malawi. OI Africa has operations in nine countries: South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana and DR Congo. DR Congo began its operations in January this year.

The purpose of the conference was to meet the new Chairman of the OI Network Board, David Simms. He is the top executive of OI Network. He chairs the network board that consists of the CEOs of the five support partners, 3-5 representatives of all implementing partners and 2 independent directors. The CEO of NSO (Network Service Organization), identified by the search committee but pending the board approval, also reports to David. He has been involved with OI for the past 25 years, on and off, as a donor, a board member, the chair of the network board and the OI US board. Over a dinner, I was sitting next to him and had a great fellowship with him. I found him to be a godly man as well as a wise leader and an effective executive.

We all shared how God is working through all implementing partners in serving the poor in our respective countries. All of us were able to report significant improvements except a couple of countries. But even they have now management put in place, thus making progress. We all praised the Lord for His grace and faithfulness.

We also discussed how governance should be changing based on the extensive work for the past 9 months. Lord's willing, they should add much clarity to the current governance system.

We also learned that an extensive amount of work is being made to implement the "Hire, Treat and Train Right (HTTR)" program globally with local contextualization. I found it remarkably resourceful and useful.

Whenever we get together, the meetings involve active discussion and brainstorming. It is a great learning opportunity. Moreover, we pray and share the Word together. It is a wonderful opportunity to be blessed and encouraged. Praise the Lord! - Jeffrey

Monday, February 7, 2011

Blessed are the Peacemakers...

I shared a message on Monday, February 7th about Matthew 5:9 as part of the Beatitudes series.

All humanities seek peace and sign peace treaties. But there is no peace treaty that has not been broken.

True peace is not just absence of conflict. It is only truce. But true peace is active presence of God's righteousness. It is Shalom, the peace of God. Shalom also means perfect harmony, unity and restoration.

At the Garden of Eden, the perfect Shalom existed. But sin entered into humanity and Shalom was disturbed. Humans have since been living in the world of no peace.

But God wanted to show the human beings the way to restore Shalom. Thus, He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as the Prince of Peace. (Isa. 9:6) Whosoever believes in Him as the Savior and Lord who reconciled us to the God of peace through His blood, we could re-enter into His presence or Shalom. (Col. 1:20) We would not be able to experience the perfect Shalom until the Day of the Lord when Jesus will completely restore His Kingdom of Peace, but we will taste and live in the peace of God.

In Judges 6:24, Gideon called Jehovah Shalom. It means the Trinity God of Peace. In other words, Christians know the Prince of Peace and have within them the Spirit of Peace who is given by the God of Peace.
God called us to live in peace (1 Cor. 7:15), but also gave us the ministry of reconciliation (peacemaking) while we are still on earth. (2 Cor. 5:18-20) People who are in this ministry are the messengers of peace and peacemakers.

Peacemakers will:

1. Make peace with God first since no one can have true peace without making peace with God.
2. Help men make peace with God. It is an honor to help people who are at war with God make peace with God because it models after Jesus who reconciled men to restore peace with God.
3. Help men make peace with each other. Peacemaking between people is not easy since you should be a bridge between them and it implies that they may walk over you as a bridge.
4. Find a point of peace/agreement. In every situation, peacemakers will try to find consensus among heated debates and arguments.

Peacemakers will merit God's blessing or happiness because they will be called sons of God. Whenever people identify you as son or daughter of God, it is a blessing and it makes you happy, doesn't it?

Blessed are peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

With this message, may God bless you richly! - Jeffrey

Saturday, February 5, 2011

3 hours at Police Station...An Electric Bike Theft Case

[The bike is now inside a bathroom... The Remera Police Station. I had to take a zoomed photo.]

On Saturday, February 5th, I had a new interesting experience.

In the morning, I found that an electric bike was stolen last night. (in the photo) This was Opportunity International's property developed to help the lending staff in rural areas travel more easily to expand access to the clients in the villages. It is a bike with a battery that is charged by electricity, hence an electric bike. It powers the bike with the battery turned on when riding on the uphills. It flattens even pretty stiff hills. It is worth $700 and probably a rare breed in Rwanda. I brought it home for a test ride and left it parked in front of the door to the house but in the covered area inside the compound.

It has been there for several weeks, but disappeared all of a sudden last night.

I reported it to the police on the phone, 112. No English. So I asked a Rwandan to report it for me. We were advised to report it to the Remera Police Station. Along with the house guard, I went there to report the case. I was the only non-Rwandan. First we had to wait for 30 minutes to register the case and spent 15 minutes for the initial reporting. The police officer looked very tired and it was obvious that he did not like my case. He kept asking if I wanted to just report the case or if I wanted an investigation done.

I said, "I would like to ask the police to help me get the bike back."

He reluctantly took the case to the police station chief. The chief assigned the case to the police officer (let me call him police officer A) who took the registration. The chief told me to write a "declaration."

"May I write it in English?" I asked. "Surely" he replied.

This instruction made the police officer A even unhappier. We came out of his office and he went into another office without a word to me and did not show up for one hour. I stood outside for an hour, waiting for him to show up. I was still trying to be patient, reminding myself "Buhoro buhoro..." (Slow slow in Kinyarwanda)

Another police officer approached me asking "Are you being helped? You seem to be waiting far too long." So I explained the situation. Voluntarily he went to the police officer A to find out what was needed. He came back and said that the police officer A was not sure what the value of a "declaration" was... Not much of help... It was even more obvious that the police officer A did not want to handle my case. I was getting uneasy. I felt I had to be more aggressive.

I decided to look for the station chief. I found him passing by another building and grabbed him.

"Excuse me, sir. Am I supposed to write the "declaration" on a certain form or on any piece of paper?" I asked him.

He replied "On any piece of paper" without any facial expression. I was not getting any sympathy for not getting any help sooner.

I took a piece of paper from a reading material that I brought with me and wrote on the back of it a simple "declaration" without forgetting to write "I would like to ask the Rwanda National Police to help me get the bike back."

I took it to the police officer A while he was talking to someone else and handed it over to him without saying a word. I was planning to leave after handing it over.

The police officer A looked a little shaken up for some reason. He quickly read what I wrote and he hurriedly said "Two minutes please." So I said, "Fine."

So he and I sat down again. He pulled out a piece of paper written in Kinyarwanda. It must be an investigation report. There he and I spent an hour for him to ask questions and for me to answer them in English, and he was writing it in Kinyarwanda. This was a process that he tried to evade himself from. My persistence must have out-powered him. Without a choice, he had to handle my case when I turned in my declaration. He needed more information than what I wrote on a piece of paper.

After the investigation, so to speak, I was getting tired myself. The police officer A looked really tired. Through the conversation, we felt a little easier with each other. I felt sorry for him. So I said,

"My father was a police officer. So I understand how tough the police officer's job could be."

His face turned brighter and said, "Oh was your father a police officer? Then you must know how tough it could be. I am really tired. Besides I am sick. But I cannot take a day off because there is too much work." But he never admitted that he did not want to handle my case. That was fine with me.

After he finished his investigation report, he asked me to sign the report. Well... I was not sure if I should put my signature on it without knowing what he wrote in light of the preceding circumstances, although he seemed to be genuine while he was writing. So I called the bank's legal counsel, Patrick, for help. Fortunately he answered the phone and he was home. Even more fortunately, he said he was living in Remera. Wow... he said he could come to the police station in 5 minutes.

"Could you come and help me validate the report?" I asked. "No problem" he replied. How nice!

Patrick validated the report and I signed it. Even Patrick signed it to add more credibility.

That evening, I received a call from the police officer A. "I have a good news for you. We have found the bike and can you come here now?" It was 7PM and I was at someone's house for a dinner. "May I come tomorrow?" He said it was fine so I agreed to come to the station at 3PM.

But, at 3PM on Sunday, the police officer did not show up. He was sick. Well...

On Monday, the house guard was supposed to come to the police station as a witness. They released the bike to him and he had fun riding the bike back home.

Now the bike is inside a bathroom that we are not using frequently. It was indeed an interesting experience. - Jeffrey

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Queuing Method for Election...

February 4th was an election day for Rwandan local authorities. "So what?" you may say. Well... when I heard how they elect their local authorities, I thought it was quite interesting.

All the candidates will line up in a row in the front and the voters line up behind the candidate whom they vote for. It is a way to save the election costs, but obviously there is lack of privacy. Since they are local people they know each other. At least the voters line up behind the candidates so that the candidates cannot (?) see who is NOT supporting him or her. ???

The national election commission personnel along with the national police will check the ID one at a time before they do the final counting. I have heard that some incumbent candidates who are not re-elected sometimes make commotion.

One disadvantage of this system is that they have to wait for quite long until the election is over. So all work places will start late today. Even banks will open at 1PM, instead of 8AM.

It was reported that 95% of the eligible voters turned up to vote and 62% represented young people to 25 years of age. From this election, 74,190 local leaders have been elected from 14,838 villages and cells nationwide.

Please note that this is the election system for local authorities, not for the president or parliament members. It is done through a secret ballot system.

It is a different system from what we know and it is interesting. - Jeffrey

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Another New Year (Lunar New Year)...

[Top to bottom, Left to right: Sliced rice cake soup... Girls playing on the panel (Nul-Ddwi-Ghi) ... Grandparent giving "blessing money" to a grandson... Little children bowing to the seniors... A boy playing "Jeghi" in front of two girls]

February 3rd is the New Year's Day in lunar calendar. The date changes every year since lunar calendar does not move regularly in parallel with solar calendar.

So what is the big deal? Well... at least 30-35% of the world population observes Lunar New Year. The Chinese people call it Chinese New Year as if they own it. They do not even observe the solar New Year at all. Koreans observe both, but people celebrate more on lunar New Year's Day, probably because many traditional customs are more observed on the lunar New Year's Day.

Different people have different customs in their celebrations, but Koreans eat sliced rice cake soup (Dduk-guk) and younger people make big bows to older people saying best wishes. The number of sliced rice cake soups you eat in the morning of the New Year's Day adds up to your age. Not really... but it is true that people make a joke out of it. Really. When children bow to their parents, uncles, aunts and even older neighbors, they receive some money. They call it "blessing money" or "Bok-don." So New Year's Day is one of a few times of the year children can collect a good sum of money. When men and women, boys and girls wear Korean traditional clothes. They may not be practical but surely are colorful. (In the photo)

Boys play a game of "Jeghi" made of sliced paper with an old coin or something slightly heavy as the head wrapped by the paper so that the head may fall first towards the ground. They kick it with the inside of their foot to see how many times they can kick without dropping the "Jeghi." Boys also fly the kites. Girls play the "Nul-ddwi-ghi." It is a game in that two girls jumping on two ends of a thick panel with something placed underneath the panel at the center, creating an angle so that two girls can take turn to see who can jump higher. It requires good skills in kicking the ground in a right timing.

Many people also prepare foods for their ancestors and bow to them in the photos as well. They even pour drinks. They pay respect to them and ask for their blessings. It was well depicted in a cartoon movie "Moolan."

Well... many of the customs may have faded away since the urbanization has accelerated, but there is an effort to restore the traditional customs also. Anyway, they are fond memories and I miss them. - Jeffrey

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

February 1st... Hero's Day ... Our 2nd Anniversary in Rwanda

February 1st of every year is Hero's Day in Rwanda. It is the day to commemorate the heroes Rwanda has had in the past. This year, the country observed the day without any large crowd gatherings or parades, unlike in the past. They gathered at the village levels to discuss more in depth what the heroism meant, which were ended with the President's message broadcast via the national radio. The theme for this year was "How to be brave in determination to develop Rwanda."

February 1st is also a day that is dearer to Kristin and me. It is the day we arrived in Rwanda two years ago.

We had to arrive in Rwanda on February 1st, only one month after the last day of work in New York (December 31st 2008), since I made a promise to do so with the UOB Board. Why? Because UOB board chose to wait for me and put an interim CEO for 8 months. You make a promise to keep, not to break as we are promise-keepers.

On the second day of February, Kristin looked around houses and picked one. We signed the contract the same day. That fast, we were settling down. I had an overlapping time with my predecessor, a 40-year veteran banker, for 4 and a half days. And I was on my own at UOB without any experience in micro finance and in Africa, let alone in Rwanda. I have since been driving at 85 miles an hour, it seems like. Looking back, I must confess it has been God's grace that has led our lives so far.

We ate pumpkin noodles mixed with vegetables for dinner and celebrated His detailed guidance, His overflowing grace and His protection of our health to date. "How longer will you stay in Rwanda?" people ask. "I do not know. I have not asked my boss up there yet" I respond. And true it is indeed. We do not know how longer we will be here. We do know, however, we will continue to do our best in serving His Kingdom and His people in Rwanda, whether they have been saved or not yet. They are definitely part of "the least of His brethren" depicted in Matthew 25:40.

We were reminded of a familiar scripture and we said "Amen!"

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." (Colossians 3:23,24)

"Amen, indeed." - Jeffrey