Friday, April 29, 2011

Snowy Day in the Rocky Mountains

[Snow falling at The Inn at Silvercreek ................Snow-covered trees making a beautiful scenery]

On the second day in the Rocky Mountains, it snowed the whole day. Thus, I could not continue my planned hiking after yesterday's 3 hour 35 minute hiking. I had to settle for a 6-mile walk on a tread mill in the gym. It was boring...

I am hoping for a sunny day tomorrow to continue my hiking.

Nonetheless, the snowed Rocky Mountains was beautiful. Everything was white. While we were in Rwanda, we could not see the snow, except on the top of the Mt. Karisimbi in December 2010 when I hiked it with a few friends. Even it was just a sprinkling of snow that melted after 11AM.

This snow in the Rocky Mountains is real white snow. Pure and powdery snow. Kristin and I enjoyed the snow very much. - Jeffrey

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Travel to the U.S...

Kristin and I have been traveling from April 21st in the U.S. for a total of five weeks. For the first four weeks, it will be our leave and during the last week I will be attending HOPE International's Leadership Summit in Lancaster, PA while Kristin will take care of her ill mom.

[Road trip]

Kristin and I are spending 5 days in Denver primarily for medical check-ups and many errands. We have also spent good amount of time catching up with the church leadership and friends on what God is doing in Rwanda. It has been a blessing. Our friends, Chuck and Eunice Lee, have let us stay at their home in Littleton and we have
been welcome wholeheartedly. We felt like we were staying at our own home. There have also been many other friends who have been extremely kind and generous to us. Thank you all, friends!

[Chuck and Eunice's home in Littleton]

We will then spend a week in the Rocky Mountains to rest and re-charge. We will be staying at a timeshare condo in Silvercreek, nearby Granby Lake. I will be hiking intensively for six days to prepare for the planned hike on the Mt. Kilimanjaro in August. Otherwise, it will be a time of rest and re-charge, reflecting on what God has in store for us.

We will then travel to Pagosa Springs for a few days. We plan to visit Mesa Verde and Durango.

We will then travel to visit Amanda's home in Clovis, New Mexico, stopping over in Santa Fee, New Mexico. Amanda and James, our daughter and son (in-law), are US Air Force officers and live in Clovis. This is their first home and we are excited to visit them. Unfortunately, James is currently deployed else where and we will miss him dearly.

From Clovis, we will travel to Los Angeles, stopping over in Flagstaff. While we will be staying in Los Angeles from May 11th through 14th, we will be staying at the sweet home of Mindy and Sunghoon Song, our dear friends. We are scheduled to meet many friends and also to share ministry reports at certain places.

We will then drive back to Denver on 15th and 16th. On 16th, we are scheduled to have the last get-together with our church people and we will take off to New York on 17th.

While we are in New York, we need to clean up and close the storage where I have stored my old stuff. Also, we will meet many friends for various purposes. Kristin and I will be traveling to Philadelphia on 21st to see our daughter, Joyce, who is working and living in Philadelphia. From there I will travel to Lancaster, PA to attend HOPE International's conference while Kristin will go back to New York to take care of her mom. We are scheduled to meet Pastor Steve and his wife Mona in Philadelphia, and we are thoroughly thrilled about it.

It will be an exciting trip for us in many ways and we look forward to it. May the good Lord grant us traveling mercy so that our extensive road trip may not wear us down. Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to travel! - Jeffrey

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Resurrection Day in 2011...

Jesus is risen indeed. He is alive. He is in the midst of our lives through His Spirit.

The Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him. Bit you (Christians) know him for he lives with you and will be in you. (John 14:17)

The rise of Jesus from death was resurrection, not resuscitation nor re-incarnation. It was the transformation of earthly body into a glorified body without confinement to space and time. It was a body that will be everlasting.

His resurrection was not resuscitation in that some physical bodies were raised to life temporarily or for an additional extended time period but to die eventually. Lazarus was raised to life again but died eventually, for example. Jesus never die again but live forever.

His resurrection was not re-incarnation in that some religions believe as the re-birth of a former life into a different form of life, transcending all forms of lives including animals. These believe that Jesus was born again into another Jesus, re-incarnated, in other words. This is not true at all.

His resurrection was the first fruit of all resurrections to come in the future. It is the promise. Because of this promise, we have hope. The hope for our bodily resurrection and the hope for our everlasting life together with Jesus.

His resurrection is "new life everlasting" and far greater than just renewal and far more than "egg hunt" or rabbit decoration.

His resurrection is the message of the empty tomb. He is alive in our midst!

We greatly rejoice and celebrate, therefore, with Him and all saints in His resurrection today and forever! Hallelujah!!! - Jeffrey

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

God Provides - Additional Resources Made Available!!!

God provides... Jehovah Jireh.

We always come to realization of this truth only after fact. Here is another one.

UOB has been blessed with rapid growth in 2011. While a few credit arrangements have been in the works for a while, none of them was getting wrapped up to be actually available. After a rapid growth in March, we were heading to April, usually another month of growth in loan demand. If we were to continue the growth rate, we would definitely run into cash crunch and possibly not able to fund some loans. It was a concern.

In the midst, God sent us two lenders in March almost at the same time: ResponsAbility and Triple Jump. Both are respected lenders to the micro finance industry. Their visits were arranged previously but their interests in establishing credit facilities for UOB were politely declined because I thought we made all credit arrangements necessary for 2011 and part of 2012. Their visits were supposed to be courtesy calls.

But because of unexpected rapid growth in loan demand and the delay in other credit arrangements, I asked them if they could process the loan request with extreme speed. I was talking about their credit due diligence, underwriting, approval, loan documentation and disbursement being handled within 3-4 weeks time. Normally, it is impossible.

Both agreed to try. We had to act fast also in providing all the information they needed. Our staff all worked together as a great team and provided all the information they asked for in time. They conducted the due diligence in a few days by calling in the regional manager and they pulled through. Amazing!

ResponsAbility approved and actually even funded $1 million in less than 4 weeks! That was their first loan to any MFI in the sub-Saharan African countries and they handled it at the record speed! Unbelievable! This has helped us prepared to respond to the increasing loan demand without difficulty. Hallelujah!

Also, Triple Jump approved the loan of $1.5 million and we were able to sign the loan agreement before I left on Thursday, April 21st. This is the second loan from Triple Jump so the process was somewhat easier, but nonetheless the entire process was the record speed at Triple Jump.

What appears to be coincidence in our life is God's providence in God's eyes. It was God who worked behind all these, we trust. He is indeed the Provider of all. We all praised how good He is.

Thank you, Lord, for providing us with additional resources extremely fast to continue to help the people in need whom you cared for and mandated us to help! We praise your name! - Jeffrey

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Trip to Bugesera EBU ...

On Monday, April 18th, I made a trip to Bugesera EBU, south of Kigali City. Bugesera was one of the areas that were most severely affected by the genocide and is one of the poorest areas. We have been reaching out to the poor in this area since 2000.

Ironically, in this poor area, we have one of the most transforming clients. She is Beatrice.

She started borrowing from Urwego Community Banking, as was called then, with $38 in 2002. She has transitioned from community banking to solidarity group and to micro business loan over time and she kept growing her business. She used to sell drinks at home. Now she is wholesaling a variety of grocery items to retail businesses in the surrounding areas. The most recent borrowing was $15,000. Other commercial banks try to solicit her, but she chooses to stay with UOB because she appreciates UOB's help when she needed help most.

Recently, she bought a retail store building where she will relocate her business because the current landlord wanted to squeeze her business by doubling the rent.

I wanted to meet her. I thanked her for being our client and asked how we can improve our service. She was grateful for the education/training that she is getting and she promised that she would not let us down. I smiled and said that we would not let her down. Let us grow together. She smiled back and said, "Praise the Lord!" We prayed for her and left since there was a queue of five clients behind us.

The government has been making conscious efforts to building up Bugesera. The new Bugesera International Airport that the government is building is one evidence. This new airport is projected for completion in 2015 and will be in compliance with the international security standard. If done properly, this airport could be an alternative to Kenya International Airport that is substantially larger but not in compliance with the international security standard.

Also, the government is building a train station for cargo shipments that will connect to Tanzania for the cargo movements from the Tanzania port, Dar es Salaam. In other words, Bugesera is expected to be the gateway to Rwanda.

For UOB, Bugesera EBU went through significant makeover last year. Its portfolio at risk was high and the morale was low. We have changed the leadership and under Joyce it has cleaned up the portfolio and has started a strong growth in 2011. We thanked the Lord for the turnaround and encouraged the staff to continue the good work. They were upbeat about where the bank is heading and where the EBU is heading. - Jeffrey

A New Sewing Project at Kininya Church

God allowed me to start a new sewing project at Kininya Church.

The sewing project is to help 19 women, including singles and widows aging from 18 to 43, at Kininya Church nearby the Kigali City. The church pastor Muhizi and Missionary Ineza helped secure a very good sewing instructor. I found her to be excellent in skills and well prepared to teach. She will teach the students how to do hand-sewing for the first month. This is expected to help them learn how to repair torn clothes, initially for their family. After the initial training, they will be split into two groups and receive training for 5-7 additional months.

Everybody was excited about the opportunity and committed to studying hard during the training period. We are praying that, after the training, they will have learned commercially useful skills, get some work and help support their families.

To help fund this project, God allowed me to work and earn some money from teaching new KOICA volunteers for the last 2 months. It provided not only the funding for the sewing project but also a great opportunity for me to get to know and fellowship with young adults. I was able to learn about their thinking and behavioral patterns, which enhanced my understanding of them. I am grateful to God for the KOICA office that gave me the opportunity and for my new young friends.

Please pray for those 19 women to experience God’s grace through the training period and to take advantage of this opportunity to equip themselves with new vocational skills to help themselves and to be a blessing to others. May the good Lord bless them! Amen. - Kristin

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Open-Armed Love Despite Disobedience...

On Palm Sunday, I was asked to preach at St. Etien Cathedral. I titled my message "Open-Armed Love Despite Disobedience."

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, people welcomed him,
shouting "Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!" They were not aware exactly what they were shouting, but they were doing the right thing. Unfortunately, their welcoming ended short-living because they were shouting "Crucify him! Crucify him!" in just a few days. They were a fickle crowd. But Jesus was gracious to them, as evidenced by converting 3,000 once and 5,000 on another occasion when they repented and received Jesus as their Savior and Lord. It was an open-armed love of Jesus.

Among them were religious leaders who were in conspiracy to kill Jesus without clear charges. They were proud of their religious activities, arrogant about their piety and angry about Jesus claim to be the son of God. They stirred up the crowd to put Jesus on the cross without a convincing charge. They were mocking and taunting him on the cross, by yelling "If you are the son of God, come down from the cross, then we will believe." We know that they would not believe no matter what because they were used by the Satan and his demonic forces. Yes, Jesus extended his grace even to these religious leaders. Acts 6:7 reads, "So the word of God spread. The member of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith." How gracious he is indeed! It was an open-armed love of Jesus.

There were Roman soldiers and governing people. They did not care about Jews claim that Jesus was a blasphemy to them. They did not care about Jesus claim either. They were ignorant. Nonetheless, they were rejecting Jesus as the Savior and Lord because the scripture says, "If you are not for me, your are against me." But, God was gracious enough that a centurion who was leading the Roman soldiers at the site of crucifixion confessed, "Truly truly he was the son of God" at the natural disasters happening when Jesus was surrendering his last breath into God's hands. Jesus even extended his grace to the ignorant Roman soldiers who nailed him to the cross. It was an open-armed love of Jesus.

There were approximately 120 believers who were faithfully following Jesus. After approximately 56 days from Palm Sunday about 2,000 years ago, the Holy Spirit came down upon the believers when they were praying on the Day of Pentecost. But even these disciples or believers were scattered when Jesus was captured and put to torture because they were afraid. But these believers were empowered by the Holy Spirit and became the driving forces behind the evangelical movement among the believers at that time. It was an open-armed love of Jesus.

We may have gone or currently go through many challenges in life. Some may never understand the extent of pain and sorrow that others may have gone through. But Jesus knows them because he has already experienced them directly from his life on earth.

It is the week to commemorate the passion of Christ that was behind God's passionate and open-armed love for us. The pain of the cross that Jesus endured was multi-folded. It included the excruciating physical pain coming from Romans professional torture, emotional pain related to the extreme humiliation coming from human mockery of their creator God, psychological pain coming from the betrayal of his disciples when Jesus was arrested and spiritual pain coming from his separation, although temporary and short, from God the Father to become the sin for all humanity. All these pains combined which Jesus endured exceed all the pains of all humanity of all ages. He is our Lord and our high priest. Thus, we know for sure that our high priest knows what we go through and can intercede for us when we are in such circumstances.

Let us put our trust in the Lord and be thankful for his grace during this time of passion week.

During this passion week, may we go beyond our own problems of life but instead may we reflect deeply on how Jesus was gracious to us and what he has endured to save the sinners, like you and me. His love is widely open-armed to be stretched even to the severe sinners, like you and me. May his name be lifted up for the glory of the Father! - Jeffrey

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Christlike Life - Practical Righteousness...

A group of Koreans, primarily KOICA members, held a retreat for two nights/three days on April 15-17th. It was the first of this kind in Rwanda among Koreans. The theme was "Restoration."

I was asked to talk about "Christlike Life - Practical Righteousness." This topic is so dear to me since I believe we Christians should live a more godly life with the Word and deeds more holistically integrated in life to be effective witnesses in the world. Christlikeness is godliness, a natural attribute to have as men and women of God.

I used a passage of Romans 14:17-19 as the basis for my 90-minute lecture.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (Romans 14:17-19)

It was a blessing to challenge myself and others to be more consciously pursuing practical righteousness through training (1 Timothy 4:7,8), perfecting our holiness in reverence for God (2 Corinthians 7:1) as we are being built together in the Lord (Ephesians 2:22) until the Lord returns (1 Timothy 6:14). Amen! - Jeffrey

Thursday, April 14, 2011

$200,000 Grant Proposal Approved!!!

UNCDF stands for United National Capital Development Fund. It has launched a program called BIFSIR or Building an Inclusive Financial Sector In Rwanda. It is a 4 year program established in 2010 to produce outreach to under-served Rwandans particularly with innovative solutions.

Among several contenders, UOB has been selected to receive $200,000 in grant! Praise the Lord!

This fund will be used to finance part of mobile banking solutions and agency banking solutions to accelerate outreach to 13,500 rural Rwandans over the next 4 years.

Noteworthy is that this funding proposal was put together by Marius Twite who has been lending his talent to UOB over the past two months for free. He is from the U.K. and holds a Ph.D. in Material Science. His superb writing and analysis skills shined over this proposal and we are so grateful for his willingness to help us on this proposal. - Jeffrey

Thursday, April 7, 2011

17th Genocide Memorial Day...

April 7th is the day to commemorate the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis. It is the 17th year in 2011. How long this sentiment of sad and gloomy remembrance will continue is unknown, but for now, it still remains vivid among the Rwandans. It is a time to look back at the country's bad history and the impact left behind by the tragedy. People march with silence to the Amahoro Stadium where the formal events take place. "Never again" is the catch phrase. Never again. Never again.

The remains of 6,000 genocide victims were accorded a decent burial at Nyanza Memorial Center in Kicukiro District. (Photo left) Similar events happen every year at several places in the country. The survivors and their families appreciate it because they cannot afford to do anything on their own. Their relatives and
neighbors also appreciate it because the country pays attention to them. The government has established several funds to support the survivors and their children. There are housing projects and vocational training projects.

It is my prayer that all these programs and projects combined produce genuine reconciliation and unity among Rwandans.

Never again, Lord, should this kind of genocide happen not only in Rwanda but also in any other place on the planet earth. - Jeffrey