Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve 2011

December 24, 2011, it is Christmas Eve. As usual, it is a quiet day and evening. But it is a lot closer to the first Christmas Eve. It was a silent night and holy night.

Kristin and I spent time, after dinner, reflecting on God's overflowing grace poured upon us in 2011. Indeed our experience of God's grace in 2011 has been undeserving and more than we could ever ask for. Of course, we had challenges and hardships. But all the experiences have produced goodness somehow.

* God kept us both healthy ... although I still had a few near-passout experiences on the airplanes.
* God solidified our mutual love and understanding even stronger than ever.
* God kept our children safe and healthy. He brought James (our son-in-law) back safely from Afghanistan.
* God kept using me in preaching and teaching the Word while growing my faith and maturing my trust in Him. He has been transforming a few young people in the Shalom Bible Study, noticeably to others. PTL!
* God prospered UOB by doubling our micro loan portfolio over the year, while maintaining an excellent portfolio quality. Also He enabled us to achieve the operating sustainability. I cannot be thankful enough to Him. He increased the number of clients we serve to over 120,000, an incredible amount of trust in us, and allowed us to scale up client transformation through Holistic Life Improvement modules. We must prove faithful since we have been given the trust. (1 Cor. 4:2)
* God expanded Kristin's sewing project for 20 women and her outreach to the needy.
* God kept our parents healthy while extending the life of Kristin's mother although in bed. We pray that her last days on earth may remain hopeful for the time to see the Lord face to face.
* God allowed me to climb and to stand on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro with four friends of mine. It was a thrilling and unforgettable experience! We called ourselves the Five of the Fifties. We all made it to the top!
* There are numerous more blessings that God gave us throughout 2011...

But, the greatest gift and grace that we have ever received and ever will receive is Jesus who came to earth in human flesh. God's divine incarnation. God made flesh. Eternity came into time and space. Glory turned to sin.  Creator became creation. Unbearable and inconceivable. Simply undeserving. Amazing grace.

So, Christmas Eve can hardly be "Jingle Bell" or "Dashing through the snow" to me. It is a holy night, making me solemn, humble and ever grateful.

This Christmas Eve, though, had a difference. We were reflecting and talking, listening to the music sung by Placid Domingo, Jose Carreras and Diana Ross with the Vienna Symphony on December 23, 1992. Their music was a good company to our dialogue.

On the Christmas Day, we celebrate the birth of the Savior. But His birth is meaningful only when He becomes our Lord as well. His birth and redemptive death on the Cross bear fruits only when our hope for the promised return of our Lord becomes evident in our lives, His return being not as the slain lamb but as the Lion of Judah. As the King of the kings and the Lord of the lords. Not to die again but to judge and reign.

On this Christmas Day, may this confession be ours together! May we worship Him with deep gratitude. Thank you, Lord! - Jeffrey 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New Creation Ministry Graduation

[Gary Scheer... Graduates singing "Jesus loves me"....One of the graduates with Gary and his wife...
UOB Gospel Singers... UOB Gospel Singers leading the praise... Guests at the graduation ceremony]

On Saturday, December 10, New Creation Ministry (NCM) held a graduation ceremony for 18 pastors who completed their 2-year training through NCM's Pastor Training School.

NCM was founded by Gary Scheer, a missionary from Colorado, USA, who has been serving the Lord in Rwanda since 1979. His ministry focus has been on training pastors and church leaders who are influential to so many people in Rwanda.

On December 10, 18 pastors graduated. They included two Burundians and one Ugandan. They all were grateful for the teaching. They sang a song "Jesus loves me this I know." They looked so serious and their seriousness made me smile.

UOB Gospel Singers were invited to lead the praise time. I am so grateful for UOB Gospel Singers because they are so talented, first, but more importantly, their hearts and passions for God are so inspiring.

I was thinking of Gary and his wife Lori's dedicated service for the past 30+ years for Rwanda, and became so humbled. They are good friends of mine and Kristin's, and I became deeply grateful for them to the Lord. Gary has recently filed for a university level accredited school, called "Christian Leadership Institute of Rwanda" or CLIR. Once approved, it would be the first Christian accredited university for leadership education and training.

May their ministry be more abundantly blessed!

Below are some photos. - Jeffrey

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Good Steward's Financial Management...

On December 4 and 11, I led a seminar on "Good Steward's Financial Management" at Agape Korean Church in Rwanda. This 8-hour session dealt with the issues related to our financial matters.

The world is full of a disease, called "Affluenza." Affluenza is contagious and causes high fever to people when infected. It also has serious side effects. It makes people greedy and crave for materials and money. It also makes people fall in love with Hedonism, Materialism and Consumerism. It is a disease.

The most effective cure for Affluenza, particularly for Christians, is stewardship. It means realization that God owns everything and we are only managers or stewards. This is true because God owns mankind two times: once through His creation and twice through His redemption (buy-back) at the expense of Christ.

But, not all stewards are good stewards. Good stewards are those who not only accept God's ownership in everything but also make conscious efforts to managing possessions according to the owner's will.

The following questions may illustrate three types of people well:

1. Most people: "What shall I do with my money?" (my ownership and my desire)
2. Stewards: "What shall I do with God's money?" (God's ownership but my desire)
3. Good stewards: "What does God want me to do with His money?" (God's ownership and God's desire/will)

This good stewardship should be apparent and manifest in four aspects of financial management: Earning, Giving, Saving and Spending. I call them "four pillars of financial management."

Earning should be without greed to make money money. Whenever we feel we should make more money, we may fall into temptation. Earning should be without sacrificing any relationship, particularly family or friends, or health. Earning should also be without 'love of money.'

Giving should be made in priority. The first portion of the fruits should be dedicated to giving. It is a grace of giving. Giving means allotment according to God's will: God's portion, Neighbor's portion, Government's portion and my portion. This allotment means responsible giving. Moreover, sacrificial and generous giving has been encouraged because the best antidote to 'Affluenza' is giving.

Saving should be made in preparation for unproductive times and unpredictable events. Excessive accumulation of wealth without consideration for the owner is foolish, according to the Scriptures. The world tries to fool us with false calculation for the retirement needs. Retiring is re-tiring, a process to change the tire and keep going.

Spending is critical to all aspects of Good Steward's Financial Management. Uncontrolled spending will likely put pressure to all other aspects of financial life. It will tempt you to earn more, to give less and to save less. One should be cautious about "lifestyle creep" where your spending increases in anticipation of an increase in earning. Rockefeller suggested a 10-10-80 rule in that giving the first 10%, saving the next 10% and spending within the remaining 80%.

"One who gives away what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose is a no feel." (Jim Elliot)

It is my prayer that all who participated in the seminar may put a few lessons into their practical use. - Jeffrey

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ministry Updates - November 2011

Dear friends, family and fellow Kingdom workers,

The month of November was another slow month at UOB due again to the seasonality, but the month was yet full of excitements. Here were the highlights

1. UOB will distribute 7,000 English bibles to the leaders of trust groups so that their children may have English bibles and the Word of God may be passed unto the next generations. World Bible Translation Center is sponsoring these bibles. UOB received the first supply of 1,000 bibles and 480 bibles have been distributed in Gicumbi. It is our prayer that God's Living Word may impact young people of Rwanda. This was done as part of my plan to visit field staff at least once a year.

2. Mona Park from Philadelphia, PA, Kristin and I had an opportunity to visit one of Savings Circles HOPE International is supporting in cooperation with Rwanda's Anglican Churches. These Savings Circle are informal groups where they save regularly and lend to other members through which they grow their wealth gradually. UOB is exploring the possibility of providing linkage loans and services to help them graduate up to the formal financial services sector.

3. Korean missionaries in Rwanda continued the monthly prayer fellowship and it was a blessing to us all.

4. UOB signed a loan agreement to use Rwf575 million (approximately $1 million) from Rwanda Development Bank (BRD). With this funding, UOB has now secured a total of $5 million for 2012. Along with equity capital and deposits, this should be sufficient to cover all funding needs in 2012. Praise the Lord!

5. Kristin and Jeffrey received and had fellowship with several visitors, including Mona Park, wife of the senior pastor for Jubilee Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Byungsan Chung, a missionary with YWAM UK and Young Chun Byun, a missionary based in the Philippines. Their visits are always encouraging and uplifting.
6. UOB received the final report that documented UOB's Social Performance using CERISE format. It was the first time that we received such a report on social performance. It has provided a good guidance on what we should improve.

7. In November, UOB received several audits, including EU audit, Gates/Master Card Mid-term audit and Earnst & Young external audit for the third quarter. Audits are good in a sense they establish accountability, but too many at the same time create a significant burden. Nonetheless, our team has handled them pretty effectively.

7. As of November 30th, UOB's loan portfolio remained pretty flat Rwf6.9 billion, slightly lower than October 31st. This slight decline reflects the low seasonality in October and November.

8. UOB's outreach, however, continued to expand with its borrowing clients totaling 39,765, a few hundreds clients more than October 31st. This is wonderful in light of the challenges that we face in the field, particularly competition from new banks.

9. We continued our preparation to offer the third-party remittance services, including Western Union, Money Gram and RIA This will enhance UOB's product offering, in addition to the US dollar, wire transfer services and FX services that have been launched recently.

10. Meanwhile, PAR (Portfolio At Risk) > 30 days increased to 1.2% from 0.72% a month earlier, an undesirable move but this level still represented a very healthy level. We shall closely monitor how it moves.

11. We provided a 2-day credit training for approximately 18 staff on micro business lending (MBL). This group of people included 10 people who were selected out of the last month training group of 20 plus Loan Underwriting Team and other related staff. We trust that these training will provide competence in serving our clients who desire to graduate to individual loans from group loans.

12. A group of four graduate students from Johns Hopkins University will be working with UOB on a project related to agent banking. We had the first telephone conference in October and they will work off site until January when they will be on site for three weeks to produce a white paper proposing an effective implementation plan on agent banking. We look forward to working with them. Also we are in contact with St. Mary University in California and George Washington University MBA students on different projects.

12. The Kininya sewing project that Kristin is handling continues to progress well. Out of 20 women who have been trained for the past six months, 10 are able to produce simple products in commercial quality. They keep practicing their skills through pilot testing work. From January 2012, they will be able to generate income out of sewing. Later next year, they plan to form a cooperative to be more formal and to be able to bid for bigger contracts. We are excited!

13. Jeffrey continued serving God's saints through preaching at UOB staff devotion and Agape Korean Church in Rwanda under establishment. He also led the weekly Shalom Bible Study, studying the Sermon on the Mount. It is a mutually blessing time.

14. We have the following Prayer Requests: Please...

* Pray for the UOB's continuing holistic transformational development through Christian micro finance in Rwanda.
* Pray for the scheduled pilot testing for mobile and agent banking in December
* Pray for a scaled-up progress in UOB's agricultural lending program.
* Pray for a mission team who will arrive in December with a focus on Business As Mission (BAM) products for Rwanda
* Pray for God's wisdom and guidance in designing effective educational finance products that will benefit many students in Rwanda
* Pray for our children (Amanda + James, and Joyce) who are still trying to figure out what God has in store for their lives on earth.
* Pray for God's peacefulness in the heart of Kristin's mom during her last days of life on earth

We appreciate your partnership with us through prayer and support.

Gratefully and joyfully in His service,

Jeffrey and Kristin Lee from Kigali, RWANDA,