Monday, December 31, 2012

Wraping Up 2012

Sunset in Serengeti
The year 2012 is now fading away.

On the last day of 2012, I look back the first day of the year. New hope, new vision, new resolutions. They centered around "being more like Christ and living more a life worthy of His calling."

365 days have gone by and I have gained one additional year of age. Have I been more like Christ and living more a life worthy of His calling? Well...

A lot of things have happened in 2012.

  • We continued enjoying the privilege of being used in the Lord's ministry. Preaching, teaching, memorizing, thinking, vision casting, implementing, planning, making decisions, leading, following, doing, praying, praising, worshiping, serving, achieving, launching, initiating, scaling up, controlling, reporting, approving, declining, presenting, etc. (no particular order)
  • We also enjoyed traveling, laughing, giggling, playing, eating, drinking, seeing old friends, meeting new people, watching beautiful scenery, visiting historical landmarks. What a life!
  • In the midst, we sense we have moved one step closer to the Lord in faith and His likeness. I know. I know. We are still far off, but trusting in His promise for completion of good work He began in us, we move forward. 
I remember George Bush Senior's statement in paraphrase.

"When you are at the deathbed, what will matter most will not be things or achievements, such as money, fame, degrees, awards, but relationships as represented by three "F's." Faith that defines our spiritual relationship with God Almighty. Family that defines your blood and covenant relationship. And friends that define your societal relationship. I should focus more on enhancing these relationships.

I also remember Jim Eliott's statement:

"He is no fool who gives away what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." 

Jim referred to giving away his physical life to gain a soul to Jesus, but it could also be used as giving away things you cannot keep, such as money, knowledge, skills, to gain relationships or souls to Jesus.

So another year is going away into the past. As I cross the timeline from 2012 to 2013, I reassure myself of the old hope, old vision and old resolution:

"I shall be more like Christ in 2013 and live more a life worthy of His calling."  

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." (2 Corinthians 4:16) 

"Thank you, Lord, for keeping us alive and using us for Your ministry in many capacities. I pray that You will lead us to be more like You and to live more a life worthy of Your calling in 2013." - Jeffrey

First 26 Agents Approved by the Central Bank...

mHose is UOB's mobile banking platform. It provides not only mobile banking transactions, such as cash deposit, cash withdrawal, send and receive, purchase airtime, making remote bill payment etc., but also interest on deposits and free life insurance coverage up to three beneficiaries.

These mobile banking features are pretty attractive to many clients.

These mobile banking features, however, are not so useful without cash access points for the clients. Our branches can serve our clients, but our branch network is not enough to serve all our clients. So we recruit agents that can provide such services for our clients at a fee. The more agents, the more access points our clients will have.

But we cannot increase the number of agents without restriction because if there are too many agents then the business volume each agent will have will be reduced, thus making it an unattractive business for the agents. Thus, the number of agents will have to be balanced against the business volume each agent will be provided for.

So, there is a trade-off between the number of agents and the business volume.

UOB has received approval from the central bank on 26 agents. This is the first batch of agents UOB will work with to carry out its pilot launch of mHose. The agents include mostly retail outlets and petroleum stations. This number will grow continually in 2013 and the type of agents will also be diversified.

Another competitive advantage of mHose is that it is interoperable with other bank mobile agents through mVISA, VISA's mobile banking platform. Currently Bank of Kigali and UOB are the only two banks that participate in mVISA's interoperable solution. This will help us help each other by not duplicating the agent network where the other bank already has agents.

Interoperable mobile and agent banking solution is the first of its kind in the world.

Moreover, mHose offers interest on deposits and free life insurance to clients. It is my prayer that mHose clients will benefit from these additional features to earn interest on their hard-earned money and also to be able to manage their life risk better.

It surely it a good case for financial inclusion. Lord, we seek your favor in this project. - Jeffrey

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Shalom Bible Study 2012

Class on December 28th 2012
As we see the year 2012 now fading away into the past, I reflect on Shalom Bible Study (SBS). SBS has been one of the primary spiritual blessings that I have received in 2012. It has kept me awake and on the tip toe to prepare for the class diligently. For that I am deeply grateful to God and to the SBS members.

I have witnessed substantial changes in the attitudes of SBS members in loving and serving the Lord. I clearly saw increased commitments to their faith among many of them. I trust we all grow together in our faith and maturity in faith.

In 2012, SBS covered several topics including "Beatitudes",  "Believers' Full Armour of God." Currently we are studying "Colossians."

As a group, we also participated in other activities, such as Carol Service at St. Etienne and special song at Agape Korean Church. (Photos). In 2012, we climbed Mt. Kabuye together as part of farewell to four members who left at the same time. Our farewell is not simply saying good-bye. It is a commissioning of them to a new ministry field in Korea. Many are still connected through e-mails and SBS study materials. It is encouraging to see them live a godly life.

Special Song at Agape Korean Church
In 2012, several people have left SBS to go back to Korea. Isaac, Saangkeub, Min-Jung, Anna, Yurim, Hyosu, Minki. There were several visitors also. Booyeol, Jinbo, Nahae, Jason, Jennifer, In October, I had a reunion with former SBS members over lunch in Seoul and I had great joy of seeing eight of them again. Min-Jung, Anna, Yurim, Hyosu, Isaac, Saangkeub, Jihun and Sangmin. Oh what a joy it was!

We also received many new comers. Jihyun, Youngsup, Jaejoon, Sungeun, Jonghak and Keunwha. They all are lovely people of God and I love them thoroughly.
Christmas Dinner

As usual, we gathered together to celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus on the Christmas Day. We had a fabulous dinner and great fellowship over card game, domino game and others.

Yesterday, December 28th, we had the last class for 2012. All attended the class, except for Se-Jun Park who is visiting his family in
Carol Song at St. Etienne Cathedral
Kenya, and one visitor, Jungwha, also attended. Here is the photo. I am so grateful to God for His unfailing grace in holding us together and growing mature in our faith in 2012. I pray that His grace may continue to be upon us as we put our feet into the new year 2013! Until we will witness God's complete Shalom restored in His Kingdom and on this earth! - Jeffrey  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

English Bibles for Gisenyi Pastors...

UOB has been engaged in distributing 7,000 English bibles to Rwandans in 2012. 1,000 bibles have already been distributed, primarily in Gicumbi and Kigali. Now the rest of the English bibles is being distributed nationwide.

These English bibles have been provided by Bible League in the U.S.

It is great joy to be part of this exciting ministry. One family at a time, Rwandans will have enhanced access to the Word of God more and more.

Our English bible distribution has been primarily to UOB's selected clients, primarily officers of trust groups. This time, we have added another dimension to the bible distribution ministry. We have worked with another missionary who is engaged in teaching the local pastors.

This time, we have worked with Rev. O-Young Kim, who is a missionary from Korea. He has been serving in Rwanda for the past six years.

He has been teaching 30 local pastors in Gisenyi, Rubavu, a most northern district, and he has decided to distribute English bibles to them. He said that the pastors were so delighted to have the English bibles. We are joyful and grateful to hear the news. Missionary Kim has shared a few photos. - Jeffrey

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

DFID Rwanda... Innovation for Education

Nathan and Kamari, Dir of Lending UOB
UOB received approval on its funding proposal to DFID Rwanda under its Innovation for Education (ifE) program. This proposal, approved for GBP610,000 is to introduce an innovative way to promote education in Rwanda through holistic approaches over the next 28 months. This has been made possible because OI UK program team (Deborah and Sally) and Director Edu Finance in Africa (Nathan) have worked tirelessly and selflessly to secure this resource for UOB. Praise the Lord!

DFID stands for Department of Finance for International Development, UK's international development agency.

Under this program, UOB will implement a) school development loans and education for school entrepreneurs or "edupreneurs" as some people call them, b) school tuition fee loans and education for parents and c) children financial education. UOB's program thus is holistic towards innovative education using multi-pronged approaches.

To implement this program effectively, UOB has hired a Manager of EduFinance who has experiences in both banking and education. We are excited about this opportunity to be part of Rwanda's education improvement process.

We praise the Lord who always provides sufficiently to meet the needs. May we seek God's favor in implementing this program effectively. - Jeffrey

Thursday, December 20, 2012

mVISA... now official and UOB

VISA is the world's largest and best known e-payment service provider. But its service has been centering around plastic cards, both debit and credit cards. 

No longer the case.

VISA, on Tuesday, December 10th, 2012, made a formal announcement about the launch of mVISA, its mobile banking solution. Also it stated that it will be launched with Bank of Kigali and UOB. This announcement was made in a soft tone as part of VISA's press release on extending its Charter of Collaboration with the Rwandan government for the next three years. VISA plans to make a further announcement about mVISA at Barcelona mobile banking conference. 

The following is the quote.

Deploying Mobile Solutions To Reach The Under-Served 

Visa has launched a new mobile service designed to meet basic banking needs of Rwanda’s unbanked and underserved population. The service, mVISA, overcomes lack of access to physical bank branches and works across different financial institutions and mobile networks. The offering comes with optional outsourced processing services based on technology from Fundamo, a South African company acquired by Visa in 2011. mVisa is being launched with Bank of Kigali and Urwego Opportunity Bank.

For the full press release, here is the link.

UOB is doing the FUT (Friends and Family User Test) in a live environment and we expect to take over the platform for our own use soon. Agents are being signed up and transactions are being made. Staff training continues and call center training is also gearing up. Marketing materials have been designed and radio campaign will begin in January. Slowly but surely we are making progress. We plan to continue our FUT in December and the commercial launch is expected in January 2013.

UOB is using mVISA platform, but mVISA is not the only function that UOB's mobile banking product, called mHose, has. mHose means "mobile everywhere." mHose is competitive against other mobile banking solutions based on its interoperability. An interoperable mobile phone enabled agent banking solution is the first of its kind in the world. Moreover, even within mVISA ecosystem, mHose is competitive based on its additional features, such as interest on the balance and free life insurance provided on the basis of the savings balance.

To be part of this launch, UOB has also received the "Principal Member" status, although somewhat restricted, from VISA. UOB is the first MFI in the word, which has received this status from VISA. We are honored.

We are excited about this relationship with VISA and the opportunity that mVISA and mHose will bring to Rwandans. - Jeffrey 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

COMESA in Africa...

COMESA stands for Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa. It is a union of the central bankers in 19 countries in Africa.

It was created in December 1994 with a big goal, but its reality is now "economic prosperity through regional integration", particularly to promote free trade among the member nations through cooperation and proactive intervention.

Here are some statistics for COMESA countries:
  • 19 countries including Rwanda, Burundi, Egypt, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Libya, Malawi, Swaziland, Sudan etc.
  • 20 central bankers
  • 423 million people
  • 12.8 million square km
  • GDP growth 5.1%
  • Intra-COMESA trade $18.8 billion (2011)
Minister Kanimba Delivering a Speech
I was privileged to attend the COMESA's 18th meeting held at Hotel de Millie Collines in December 2012 in Rwanda. Rwanda's central bank, National Bank of Rwanda, hosted the event. The guest of honor was the Minister of Trade and Commerce, Mr. Francois Kanimba. Mr. Kanimba was Rwanda's central bank governor for 10 years prior to the current post. 

COMESA launched the intra-COMESA affordable settlement system, called REPPS or Regional Electronic Payment and Settlement System. This system settles among central banks within COMESA, thus bypassing the traditional correspondent bank system for international trade transactions. It is not uncommon for a trade business to pay 3-5% fees for an international trade transactions but REPPS can handle the same transaction at 0.25% of the transaction amount. That will be significant cost savings. Moreover, the settlement time will be shorter at T+1 day. REPPS will be secure with transactions communicated through SWIFT and cleared through the central bank in Mauritius.
It sounds like a good idea.
Currently, only Mauritius and Rwanda have signed up. Swaziland, Zambia, Egypt and Kenya are in line to sign up also. I saw a regional cooperative union in action for efficiency and result. May this become a good example of an efficient and effective regional union in Africa and else where. - Jeffrey 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christian Microfinance for Holistic Transformation...

This article is from Opportunity International's Blog.

Serving the Whole Person with Opportunity’s Transformation Program

“It’s the dignity of it” was how one African loan client expressed herself to an off-duty staff member standing in line at an Opportunity International bank. She knew she had achieved success through the work of her own hands. Four million such stories play out each day all over the world as Opportunity strives to provide clients with the products and services they need to achieve economic, personal and social transformation.
Loan officer Valamarthi (right) delivers transformational training to the Roja Trust Group, including loan client Deepa (left) in Chennai, India.
Loan officer Valamarthi (right) delivers transformational training to the Roja Trust Group, including loan client Deepa (left) in Chennai, India.
“Poverty is not just a deficit, not just a lack of resources, it’s a deprivation,” said Daniel Ryumugabe, transformational impact manager for Opportunity Rwanda. “If you offer only one solution — loans — the client cannot get out of the poverty trap because of other environmental problems, such as poor health or financial illiteracy.”
Improved economic status is the most obvious component of Opportunity’s transformation model. With the opportunity to expand a business with a smallloan and training, our clients are able to feed their families and put their children in school. They develop steady incomes and create jobs to help their neighbors improve their lives. Opening asavings account and purchasing insurance exponentially expands their economic choices.
Opportunity also believes in personal transformation — helping people build their capacity not just in business, but in life. Through Trust Groups, Opportunity’s gateway lending model, clients learn life-saving information about HIV prevention and disaster planning, in addition to business skills. They also discover more effective ways to communicate and resolve conflicts with family members and others in their communities.
The support a client enjoys from her Trust Group, and the nurturing she receives from her loan officer, who is equal parts advocate and counselor, lead to an understanding that others are invested in her. This awareness fosters her growing sense of self-worth and confidence. Additionally, the administrative, financial and managerial skills she learns reinforce her determination to plan and save for a better future.
Transformational impact manager Daniel Ryumugabe meets with farming client Felicite Mukandahiro in Kibungo, Rwanda.
Transformational impact manager Daniel Ryumugabe meets with farming client Felicite Mukandahiro in Kibungo, Rwanda.
When businesses and individuals thrive, it strengthens the community’s social fabric, thereby contributing to social transformation. Former loan client Valamarthi became a loan officer for Opportunity India after experiencing transformation in her own life. Moved by the plight of those at the lowest rung of India’s caste system, she resolved to help traditionally stigmatized communities of lepers and gypsies to create better lives for themselves, and convinced Opportunity to offer them loans. Said Valamarthi, “It is our way of telling them, ‘We value you as people. We’re invested in you. You’re as worthy as the rest of us.’”
Opportunity now teaches marginalized groups to make and sell candles and other products, and has partnered with an organization that trains them to refurbish bicycles. Valamarthi said that the gypsies, typically nomadic, have settled, built homes and are sending their children to school — a social upgrade that would have been much more difficult prior to working with Opportunity.
Opportunity’s Code of Conduct — 10 guiding principles posted in each Opportunity branch in the local language — ensures all clients are treated with dignity, fairness and respect. In fulfillment of the code, we strive to make all fees transparent, clearly explain contractual obligations, and support our clients in their transformational life change.
Further, Opportunity encourages clients to live selflessly, embracing a love of community and neighbor, and to care especially for people who are more impoverished or marginalized than they.
At Opportunity, we’re not just about microfinance, we’re about transformation. For our clients’ sakes, we are committed to the creation and delivery of the best financial services possible to help them transform their businesses, their lives and their communities.
This article was the cover story in the fall 2012/winter 2013 issue of Opportunity’s Impactnewsletter.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Ministry Updates - November 2012

November was another month of experiencing God's overflowing grace. Glory be to the Lord God Almighty!

Relationship Staff training clients on household finance
The following were the highlights of our ministry in November:

1. Jeffrey and Kristin attended the Opportunity International Africa/Eastern Europe CEO Conference held at Zanzibar, Tanzania. (October 31st and November 1st) The conference was for building up on the Strategic Blue Print that was shared at the September Global Leadership Conference held in Oxford, U.K. I had the privilege of presenting about Client Presentation. We had the bonus of enjoying the fantastic beauty of Zanzibar's coastal lines.

2. UOB received high powered visitors in November. They included Harry Turner, CEO of OIN GMO (Global Microfinance Operations, David Simms, Chairman of OIN Global Board, Stanley Tsikirayi, CEO of Opportunity Tanzania, OI US Insight Trip team, Edity board members (Chris, Rodney, Dale), Merry Year International management and Tom Philipps, a Christian Kingdom businessman. They all witnessed how God is working through UOB to empower the underprivileged people of Rwanda.

Harry Turner with COOPAG farmers
3. UOB celebrated the opening of its ninth branch in Ngoma, Eastern Province, which is 42nd business outlet for UOB. Local officials and David Simms, OIN Global Board Chairman helped open the branch. We held a parade in the town with UOB's mobile branch, 25 motorcyclists, 10 roller blade riders and a radio anchor woman promoting the bank's newest branch. UOB is now working on two other branches.

4. God provided additional resources for UOB in November. UOB received approval on in its grant funding proposal for 650,000 British Sterling Pounds ($1 million equivalent!) under DFID's Innovation for Education program. OI UK team (Deborah and Sally) and Nathan Byrd played a significant role in securing this funding. Praise the Lord! OI UK also submitted another proposal to DFID UK for agricultural financing. UOB submitted an Expression of Interest for collaboration to USAID Ejo Heza, led by CHF International. Collaboration produces synergy.

5. UOB held an off-site prudential meeting with BNR (Rwanda's central bank) in November for the third quarter performance. UOB maintained a favorable rating from the central bank based on its safe and sound performance. Excellence by the regulatory guideline is the foundation for the opportunity to point to the Lord who is the real CEO of UOB.

6. UOB project team worked on preparing for the final launch of mHose, an interoperable mobile and agent banking solution. It is scheduled for a soft launch in December. UOB lending staff also worked on finalizing its product design for secondary student tuition fee loan (SSL) to be launched in January 2013. UOB insurance team worked on designing the new premier credit life (to be named in Kinyarwanda) to be launched in January 2013. This will replace its current Enhanced Credit Life.

7. UOB's performance in November remained almost unchanged from October. It is normally a slow season for economic activities after planting crops. Moreover the insecurity in Eastern part of DR Congo that is bordering Rwanda has created fear and uncertainty among many Rwandans. Historically this area has been at the center of many conflicts and please pray with us for this area to regain the peace and stability not in a human way but in a way that clearly evidences God's intervention.

8. UOB and Jeffrey were privileged to be featured in a few video clips produced by OI Canada. Here are the links.

A boy who could benefit from nursery...
9. Kristin visited the Gicumbi Church twice to check the progress of building a nursery for little children. God has provided ample resources for this project through many people He has chosen. A separate report will be made to the supporters. Praise the Lord! Kristin and I also visited a site in Bugesera to explore the possibility of building another nursery in cooperation with a pastor.

10. Jeffrey continued serving God's people through preaching at St. Etienne Cathedral, Agape Korean Church and UOB staff devotion, and leading the Shalom Bible Study. SBS is still studying the precious and profound epistle of Apostle Paul to the Colossians. We are blessed by these preaching and teaching ministry opportunities.

11. Here are the topics for which we are seeking your prayer support:
  • God's intervention in the DR Congo conflicts. The conflicts affect hundreds of thousands of people, including innocent children and Rwandans living in the border area.
  • Insightful thinking and wise judgment under the uncertain situations as we are working on the 2013 budget and 3-year strategic plan.
  • Long-term perspective and deep commitment to UOB's holistic transformation as we plan to scale up its efforts in 2013, including Holistic Life Improvement training, Spiritual and Social Performance Management system, God Provides DVD resources, financial literacy training radio campaign, children education on financial literacy etc.
  • Successful preparation and launch of mHose, SSL and premier credit life products.
  • Successful construction of Gicumbi nursery, Huye Branch and Gisozi Branch.
  • Peaceful and hopeful lives for our parents
  • Godly lives for our children in service for His Kingdom people
Thank you very much for standing with us in prayer and with support!


Jeffrey and Kristin Lee from Kigali, RWANDA

Monday, November 26, 2012

Rwanda, Inc.

A book titled "Rwanda, Inc." has been published and is now in store.

This book will help you eyewitness how Rwanda has risen from the bottom pit of the genocide and is rising towards becoming an "African lion" country.

For further information, here is the link. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Micro Finance Overview ...

Micro Finance is more than making small loans or micro credit as many understand. Micro finance includes:
  • Credit, 
  • Savings, 
  • Insurance, 
  • Remittances (some people do not include this) and 
  • Training/education.
In recent years, micro finance is now evolving into inclusive finance. Inclusive finance includes financial inclusion that focuses on outreach in terms of breadth (number) and depth (poverty). Inclusive finance may include non-financial services that provide more holistic services for the underprivileged people. These non-financial services may include education, energy, agriculture, health and water sanitation, market connection and even counseling and coaching.

Opportunity International Canada team has captured the explanation that I made in February 2012 in a video clip. Please click the link below to watch a short video. - Jeffrey

Click Here to Watch a Video Clip about Micro Finance

Monday, November 19, 2012

Rwanda in Context ...

Rwanda is on the rise.

Rising from the genocide.
Rising from the chronic poverty.
Rising from the despair and hopelessness.
Rising from one of the poorest countries in Africa.

Rwanda is transforming.
Economically, socially and spiritually.

Rwanda is a country to watch.

Rwanda, Inc. in motion.

Click Here to Watch this Video about Rwanda in Context...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Made in Rwanda Insight Highlights (Feb 2012)

Opportunity International Canada came to Rwanda in a group for an insight trip in February 2012. This group held a Leadership Summit in a joint effort with Wellspring Foundation and Urwego Opportunity Bank. Please refer to the previous post.

A short video has since been produced through interviews with some of the participants.

Click here to watch this video showing highlights of "Made in Rwanda" Insight Trip

The Story of Florence...

Florence is one of UOB's clients. When she first joined UOB's trust groups, she bought milk, pasteurized it and sold it for profit out of her house. She sold five liters before she took the first loan of $30 from UOB. With the loan, she increased the sales volume to 20 liters and more. Her fourth loan was $700. With it, she was able to convert her store to a mini super market. Florence attributes her ability to send her son Johnson to the micro loans she received from UOB.

Micro loans transform many lives. Florence is only one of 44,000 borrowing clients of UOB.

The following link will show you her own explanation in a short video clip. - Jeffrey

Florence's Story

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ngoma Branch Grand Opening Ceremony...

Road Side Sign
On Friday, November 9th, UOB officially opened its ninth branch in Ngoma District, Eastern Province. It was drizzling but the grand opening ceremony was attended by all local officials and many spectators. In Rwanda, it is common to invite Rwandan traditional dancers to celebrate the event after formal speeches, such as opening prayer, welcoming remarks, congratulatory speech, thanksgiving response etc.

Motorcycle Riders
This event was more meaningful because a group of visitors from Opportunity International U.S. also attended the ceremony. They were visiting Rwanda for an insight trip. The team included Chairman of the Opportunity International Network Board, David Simms. He also gave us a congratulatory remark.

The cake was lit and cut by a group of us together with the District official.

After the ceremony, there was a parade in Ngoma town. The parade included UOB's mobile branch, a truck carrying Anita, one of Rwanda's famous and popular radio anchors, 25-30 motorcycle riders wearing UOB T-shirts and a dozen roller blade riders, all wearing UOB T-shirts. It has been UOB's tradition to mobilize these people to let the town people know we are now there to serve the clients. Anita was a young and slim lady and many Rwandans were surprised to find out how young and slim she was. Her radio voice made many people believe she was a middle aged woman.

I had to come back right after the ceremony but I learned that the parade drew a lot of attention from the town people.

May the Lord bless us with His divine wisdom to find out the best ways to serve the Rwandans in the Ngoma area. This branch will also be used as a hub for satellite branches, credit offices and branchless agents in the area and neighboring districts. - Jeffrey

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Opportunity International Network

With Harry Turner, GMO CEO
Opportunity International Network (OIN) is a global Christian micro finance network that comprises more than 50 organizations that are involved in various aspects of micro finance. It serves more than 5,000,000 underprivileged people with the Christian values and mission.

The OIN has 40 some implementing members, including UOB in Rwanda and six supporting members. Supporting members raise funding to support the activities and programs of implementing members. Supporting members are based in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Australia, Canada and Singapore. Implementing members are all over the world with nine members operating in Africa: Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, DR Congo, Mozambique, Malawi and S. Africa. OIN has GMO or Global Microfinance Operations that provides shared services for all implementing members in such areas as IT, Audit, Finance, Risk, H.R. etc.

Dinner with US Ambassador Donald Koran and David Simms
OIN has a global board of which membership consists of chairmen of all supporting members, GMO CEO and some independent directors. OIN's board chairman serves full time while all other board chairmen are volunteers.

David Simms at Ngoma Branch
Ngoma Branch Cake
OIN has a total staff of approximately 13,000 scattered around the world. OIN's unique character is that it focuses on establishing and operating regulated micro finance institutions, wherever and whenever possible. The purpose is to establish the base for collecting deposits from the public so that the institutions may be self-sustainable as far as the funding resources are concerned. For example, UOB is a regulated MFI in Rwanda, the first and largest micro finance bank.

During the week of November 5th, UOB received two of the top executives of OIN. On 5th and 6th, UOB received Harry Turner, OIN GMO's CEO. From 7th, UOB received David Simms, OIN Board Chairman who came as part of OI US Insight Trip team. It was an honor to have them not only come but also share the messages at UOB staff devotions on Monday and Friday, respectively. Moreover, David Simms participated in the Ngoma Branch Grand Open Dedication Service and delivered his remarks. It was a significant week for UOB. They both said that they were encouraged and impressed by the work being done at UOB. Praise the Lord!

It has been my privilege to have been part of Opportunity International in serving the poor. - Jeffrey

Monday, November 12, 2012

Opportunity International CEO Conference, Oct. 2012

Kristin and I attended Opportunity International CEO Conference held in Zanzibar, Tanzania. (October 31-November 1, 2012) Zanzibar is a beautiful island. It used to be an independent state but decided to be part of the union with Tanganika, thus forming Tanzania. But Zanzibar has tried to become independent again for quite some time.
Jetty Lounge, a breath-taking view...

Zanzibar used to be part of Oman, even its capital for decades under 11 Sultans. So its population is predominantly Muslims. But they embrace other religions openly. Its major town is Zanzibar Town, but its old town, called Stone Town, has many historic landmarks. We traveled to the Stone Town about three years ago so we stayed in the east coast where the conference took place.

The CEO Conference is mainly for Africa CEOs but two Eastern Europe CEOs are also invited. Opportunity International has a network shared service organization, called GMO or Global Microfinance Operations. GMO has several support staff, including Chief Risk, Chief Financial, Chief Auditor, Chief Information, Chief Human Resources Officers under the GMO's CEO. All these staff also attend along with African regional directors for all functions. 

This conference was to build upon the Strategic Blue Print that was presented at the Oxford OI Global Leadership Conference in September. I was asked to lead a 2-hour session on Transformation. I presented Holistic Transformational Development with the focus on providing services to meet the holistic needs of clients, primarily non-financial services.

Unfortunately, Kristin and I were not feeling well. So our leisure time was all for resting. The panoramic  and breath-taking views of Zanzibar were sufficient for our enjoyment. We were grateful for the opportunity. - Jeffrey

Sunday, November 11, 2012

First Aid Training for Women in Kanagi...

On November 8, 2012, Thursday, I (Kristin) had an opportunity to provide training on First Aid for Rwandan women at a 3-day seminar for women in a village called Kanagi, Bugesera District, Eastern Province. 

The seminar, organized by a Korean missionary, was mainly for the wives of pastors ministering in the area. The seminar included praise, the Word, prayer, seminars and sharing in order to provide  encouragement. They shared their joy and pain coming from their ministries, thus touching and healing each other.  

In addition to the planned training on First Aid, we had a fellowship session over zucchini chocolate cake that I baked for them. Some of them said that it was their first time to taste something like it. It was great joy to see their smile over a little treat like it. May the Lord bless them with the divine peace! - Kristin

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Opportunity International and Habitat for Humanity

The following article was posted on Opportunity International's blog. The home improvement loan is a great way to help the poor improve their well-being. Rwanda is not included, but UOB plans to offer similar products with its own resources.

Opportunity International and Habitat for Humanity Partner to Improve African Lives through Better Housing

Pretoria, South Africa, Oct. 25, 2012 — Answering the call of a mounting housing crisis in Africa, Habitat for Humanity and Opportunity International have formed a partnership to increase access to better housing for people living in poverty throughout Africa. The two organizations will work together to provide home improvement financing, housing support services and construction technical assistance to impoverished people, beginning in Ghana, followed by Malawi and Uganda.
The joint program will offer the following products and services:
  • Access to a full package of financial services, including access to loans, money transfers, payments, savings, cash, and insurance, to people unserved by conventional banks
  • Short-term loans for land purchase, home improvement and incremental home construction
  • Financial literacy training to include, where appropriate, training on construction quality, efficiency and the benefits of building safely
  • Housing support services (including construction technical assistance) to ensure quality and durability of buildings, plus monitoring/supervision and training
“The collaboration between Opportunity International and Habitat is a natural extension of our financial services work in Africa, and our mission to invest in one to impact many,” said Vicki Escarra, CEO of Opportunity International. “Together with Habitat, Opportunity International will fill the gap to provide a more secure future for impoverished families in this incredibly needy region.”
It is expected that Africa will have the world’s highest urbanization rate, with 50 percent of the population living in cities by 2030. UN Habitat statistics indicate that about 40.3 percent currently live in slums with inadequate and overcrowded dwellings, mostly without clean water, electricity and proper sanitation. Rural families also suffer from a serious lack of these services.
Impoverished and even middle-class households in pursuit of better shelter often turn to financing to improve their situation. However, conventional banks generally fail or ignore the financing of low-cost shelter, as the perceived risks and costs outweigh benefits. Mortgage markets in the region are small, providing access to only an elite segment of the population. This problem is further accentuated by ambiguous property rights and legal precedents that constrain conventional ways of financing shelter. Consequently, impoverished households are often driven into the informal financial sector.
Opportunity International has more than 40 years of experience in serving the unbanked with financial products, including loans, savings, and insurance, as well as services related to transformation and financial literacy. For over 36 years, Habitat for Humanity has been providing construction services, acquiring land, and developing housing, housing support services and home improvement skills for people living in poverty.
Opportunity International currently has operations in nine African countries, including five where Habitat is also active. The on-the-ground teams will combine resources to provide cost-effective, complementary services to families in need.

About Habitat for Humanity International

Habitat for Humanity International is a global nonprofit Christian housing organization that seeks to put God’s love into action by bringing people together to build homes, communities and hope. Since 1976, Habitat has served more than 500,000 families by welcoming people of all races, religions and nationalities to construct, rehabilitate or maintain homes; by advocating for fair and just housing policies; and by providing training and access to resources to help families improve their shelter conditions. In Africa and the Middle East, Habitat for Humanity is active in 15 countries. For more information, please visit

About Opportunity International

Opportunity International provides financial services and opportunity for transformation to more than four million people working their way out of poverty in the developing world. Clients in more than 20 countries use Opportunity’s services to reach their God-given potential, bringing change that reverberates through families, villages and entire countries. For more information, visit or join the conversation at

Monday, November 5, 2012

Ministry Updates - October 2012

Praying with clients is a privilege...
Dear family, friends and fellow Kingdom workers

This month, this update is a little late because I was traveling over the month-end with little access to internet. 

October was another month of experiencing God's unceasing and overflowing grace. We praise the Lord for His goodness and faithfulness.

1. I had an opportunity to make a short trip to Korea. The primary reason for the trip was to look after my father whose health was deteriorating rapidly. But I found him to have improved quite a bit and I was able to leave Korea with grateful heart. But I also saw many long time friends in joyous reunion and met many new people who are brothers and sisters in Christ. I had a chance to meet Rev. Dong Ho Kim and Dr. Young Gil Kim, President of Handong Global University. I gave a lecture to 110 students at Handong.

2. We successfully completed our SME lending project in cooperation with Triple Jump. The project included basic research, sector analysis, credit scoring model development, training, operational procedures manual development etc. Particularly this project helped us develop (B-CAT or Business Credit Assessment Tool) that will be operating on the clouds (computing) to expedite the process for clients in remote areas.

3. We have successfully branded our mobile banking solution. It has been named mHose. Hose means "everywhere." Indeed it is our prayer that banking services may be available to all Rwandans wherever they are, even in the rural areas. Moreover, our product will pay interest on their savings and provide life insurance tied to their savings balance. May this product be useful for lifting up may underprivileged people of Rwanda out of chronic poverty.

4. Financially, UOB reported another month of record in monthly revenues, loan portfolio and active clients being served. Loan portfolio increased to Rwf10.7Billion, up 3% from the previous month and the borrowing client number increased substantially to 44,150. PAR>30 remained strong at 1.34%. Glory be to God Almighty!

Children are precious treasure for Rwanda's future
5. God has also provided many resources for UOB. DFID Rwandan approved our initial concept note on Innovation for Education and we successfully submitted our full application for 650,000 sterling pounds. IFC conducted its due diligence and wholehearted agreed to increase its funding for us. Praise the Lord! We were also approved by AFR and also by DFID UK on our concepts.We will submit full proposals to both institutions in November. October was a month of many blessings in resources. God provides! Amen.

6. We conducted focus group meetings with 165 clients on four new products: Premier Credit Life, Home Improvement Loan, Emergency Loan and Secondary Student Loan. The results were encouraging. We will gradually implement these products to help our client transform their economic lives better.

7. UOB signed an MOU with Handong Global University, Korea's Christian university to collaborate on multiple fronts. God is providing a couple of bridges between Rwandan and Korea, along with the MOU with Merry Year International.

8. UOB started issuing UOB Grace Cards (Chip and PIN debit cards) to its clients. We will have issued 50,000 cards by the year-end. Clients then will be able to access to cash service points through 240 ATMs and even 200 additional agents of another bank that is providing banking on POS. I am deeply grateful for all these delivery channels that are being made available to our clients.

9. I continued serving the saints of Christ through preaching at St. Etienne Cathedral, Agape Korean Church and UOB staff devotion, and Shalom Bible Study. SBS continues the study in the epistle to the Colossians. It is a blessing to be able to serve God's people through the Word.

Kristin with Gicumbi pastor
10. Kristin started a church nursery project in Gicumbi. It will cost $15,000 and at this time we have opened the door of support to our friends. The support has been overwhelming. Praise the Lord! Indeed it was an another example of God's promise of providing for His people on His work. 

10.  November will be full of activities. We will receive seven groups of people, including the OI GMO CEO, OI US Insight Trip, OIN Board Chairman, Merry Year International team etc. Besides, we will submit two funding proposals and prepare for the board meeting to take place in early December. We will begin the preliminary external audit from Earnst & Young and work on 2013 budget and 2013-2015 strategic plan. It makes me dizzy to even think about them, but we will move forward with trust in the Lord who provides strengths.

11. We have the request for your prayers for the following:
  • mHose project will be launched successfully in November. There are some time-pressing needs to be addressed.
  • 2013 budget and planning process will move forward smoothly.
  • Premier Credit Life and Secondary Student Loan programs will be successfully launched.
  • UOB Grace Card projects will be progressing without system glitches.
  • Several funding proposals will progress without falling into cracks.
  • Kristin's Gicumbi nursery project will move forward progressively.
  • Our parents will live the rest of their lives peacefully and hopefully.
  • Our children will find strong foundation in Jesus Christ in all they do and plan to do.
  • Our health will remain safe and sound to be able to carry out the responsibilities bestowed upon us.
Thank you all for your faithfully standing with us in a variety of ways for the ministry to Rwandans.

Gratefully in His service,

Jeffrey and Kristin Lee from Kigali, RWANDA

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Kingdom of God

The following is the summary of the sermon that I preached at Agape Korean Church in Rwanda on October 14th, 2012.

Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven is not a geographical kingdom. It is God's dominion. Kingdom of God was at the center of the ministries of Jesus. He said that the purpose of his coming was to preach the good news of the Kingdom of God. (Luke 4:43) Also, Jesus focused on speaking about the Kingdom of God for approximately 40 days while He was still on earth after His resurrection and before His ascension to the heaven. (Acts 1:3) John the Baptist proclaimed tat the Kingdom of God was near and all apostles focused on the Kingdom of God.

God Himself wanted to be and became the King of Israel. He led the Israelis out of Egypt through Moses and provided them with food and guidance for 40 years. They entered into the promised land under the leadership of Joshua and settled down. God sent Judges to His people to lead them out of trouble whenever they repented their sins and asked for help. When Samuel was the judge and the prophet, the Israelis came to Samuel and asked for a human king like others countries. God was sad because effectively He was denied as their King. But God gave them a king, called Saul. (1 Samuel 8:4-9)

Saul disobeyed God's instruction and was dethroned. God anointed David as the next king. God liked King David because David was "a man after God's heart." (Acts 13:22,23) So, God promised to establish His own eternal Kingdom through an offspring of King David. This offspring was Jesus.

The Kingdom of God belongs to Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said that He was King and His Kingdom was not of this world in His response to Pontius Pilate's question. (John 18:36,37)

The world has had 21-22 empires, human kingdoms. Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Mongolia, France, Ottoman ,Russia, Germany, United Kingdom etc. One common theme among all these once  powerful human kingdoms was that they all rose and fell. United States has also been a great power, but it appears to be ebbing also. What next? China? Islam? Perhaps. But all these human kingdoms are under the Satan's power and authority. Satan indicated so in his temptation effort for Jesus. (Matthew 4:8,9)

But all human kingdoms and all humanity will eventually bow down to the name of Jesus who has been made the name above all names. And every tongue will confess that Jesus is the Lord of lords and King of kings. (Philippians 2:9-11) There are two ways for us to bow and kneel down to Jesus. One is voluntarily and the other is involuntarily. Believers are blessed because they have chosen to kneel down to Him voluntarily. All unbelievers will eventually have to kneel down to Jesus but their fate has already been cast down to the hell.

In the prayer that the Lord has taught us, there is a prayer statement: "Thy Kingdom come." (Matthew 6:10) This Kingdom of God has begun and is now existing among us. This Kingdom of God has been and will continue to be expanding as illustrated in a couple of parables. (Luke 13:18-21)

There are three ways the Kingdom of God is expanding:

1. Through Salvation:         One soul at a time, His chosen people will be brought into His Kingdom in His time, thereby expanding the Kingdom of God. This expansion is quantitative. Only those who have been redeemed will be able to see the Kingdom of God. (John 3:3) In our life priorities, we must seek His Kingdom first, sharing the gospel of the hope and the love with those who do not know Jesus yet. (Matthew 6:33) This requires us to deny ourselves. (Luke 9:23) Also, we should treasure the Kingdom of God before all other relationships, even our own family. (Matthew 10:37) Because the Kingdom of God is eternal and immeasurably precious. (Matthew 13:44-46)

2. Through Sanctification:          The Kingdom of God is also expanding through the believers' sanctification. This expansion is qualitative and the deepening of the faith of the Kingdom citizens. All believers are mandated to continue to remain in their faith and walk with Jesus in every moment of their lives, pursuing personal holiness through deeper obedience. It represents growing mature in faith and spirituality. It is the righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17-19)

3. Through Second Coming of Jesus:          If salvation was the past event for believers and sanctification is the current situation for believers, the second coming of Jesus is the future event promised for all those who are waiting for His return. The expansion of God's Kingdom will be completed and consummated when He returns. His return will be triumphant as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He will no longer be a slain lamb but the Lion of Judah. (Hebrews 9:27,28) He will restore all the broken relationships of His chosen people. He will establish His Kingdom this time permanently, which will be eternal. There will be no more sorrow, no more pain and no more death. (Revelation 22:1-5)

We may live in different countries, thus carrying different passports when we travel. But our permanent citizenship is in the Kingdom of God. We are Kingdom citizens. We are eagerly waiting for His second coming, but while we are waiting for His return, we should strive to achieve the holiness that He expected of us. We may never achieve it on our own strength, but we trust that He will, within His power and authority, bring His good work, which He started in us when we believed Him, into completion. (Philippines 1:6) In His time. Meanwhile our life should be reflective of His love for God and for the neighbors. His Kingdom is already within us as long as we worship and serve Jesus as the Lord. Thus, we can and should live the Kingdom life on earth. This is a promise. This is a hope. May this hope spring up greater faith and abound His love in our lives on earth! Until His return. Amen!

Will you join us in this Kingdom life? - Jeffrey


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Seven Lessons Africa Can Learn from Rwanda

This article is an excerpt from "How We Made It In Africa" website. The link is below.

For the reader's convenience, I have copied it below.

The Rwanda Vision 2020 was introduced in 2000 as a 20-year development strategy to help Rwanda overcome various growth and development challenges. With the Rwandan population expected to reach 13 million by 2020, the vision aims to transform the country into a middle-income economy. This strategy has paved the way for fostering an entrepreneurial environment with the passing of 26 business regulation reforms since 2005.
The IFC and World Bank have just released the 2013 global Doing Business report that highlights Rwanda as one of the countries in the world that has made great strides to improve its business environment. Here is what we can learn from Rwanda.
1. Private sector development a priority
Rwanda has placed a high emphasis on developing its private sector. “Rwanda is among more than 35 economies where the executive branch has made private sector development a priority by establishing institutions whose main purpose is to design and implement business regulation reforms,” states the report.
“Rwanda’s commitment to private sector development has facilitated growth in exports, domestic investment and foreign direct investment inflows – and the implementation of effective fiscal policies supported by structural and institutional reforms.”
2. Improving access to credit
The country has implemented a number of improvements regarding access to credit. “In 2005 the public credit registry expanded its database of financial institutions and improved the content of its credit reporting system,” notes the report. “In 2009 a new secured transactions law was introduced, allowing a wider range of assets to be used as collateral and permitting out-of-court enforcement proceedings.”
“In 2010 the legislature passed a law regulating the distribution of information from credit bureaus. This led to the creation of the country’s first private credit bureau, which provides wider coverage than the public registry because it includes information from utilities. In addition, the public registry expanded coverage to loans of all sizes. In December 2011 the public registry stopped issuing credit reports, and now only the private bureau shares credit information. The public registry still collects information from regulated financial institutions but only for supervisory purposes.”
3. Reducing time required to start a business
There have been a number of changes made to improve the business registration process. In 2006, hundreds of new notaries were introduced to make starting a business faster, as prior to this there was only one notary for the entire country. This led to 77% more businesses registering the following year. However, entrepreneurs no longer needed to use the services of notaries in 2009. An overhaul of company law allowed the use of standard forms instead and an online system for publishing a company’s registration notice replaced requirements for physical publication, according to the report.
This, along with a “new one-stop shop” that streamlined business registration by reducing the number of interactions needed from nine to two, caused the time required to start a business to fall from 18 to three days and the cost to drop dramatically.
The effects of this have been tremendous. Prior to 2006, an average of 700 firms registered annually. However, 2010 saw 18,447 firms register – nearly reaching the goal of 20,000 for the year.
4. Transfer of property made simpler
Rwanda has also made it simpler to transfer property. “In 2008 it eliminated mortgage registration fees and shifted from a 6% transfer tax to a flat rate of 20,000 Rwandan francs (about $33),” states the report. “In 2010 the government decentralised the Office of the Registrar and Land Titles and created five branches throughout the country, purging the backlog of cases in Kigali. It also introduced strict time limits for some procedures. One was the issuance of tax clearance certificates, which had been the lengthiest part of the process.”
5. Trade between borders streamlined
Trading across Rwandan borders has also been made easier through several changes. According to the report, electronic customs declarations were introduced in 2005 and the customs authority reduced the waiting time for submission by introducing more acceptance points for customs declarations in 2007. Furthermore, the Rwandan government extended operating hours for border posts in 2008, and implemented an electronic data interchange system and risk-based inspections. Between 2006 and 2010, 39% more documents were cleared annually by customs officials.
“And in 2010 it streamlined trade documentation requirements and improved border cooperation,” says the report. “Results are clear. In 2006 exporting goods in Rwanda required 14 documents and 60 days. Today it takes only 8 documents and 29 days. The story is similar for importing.”
6. New company law
“The new company law adopted in 2009 introduced several concepts into Rwanda’s corporate legal system for the first time: minority shareholder rights, regulation of conflicts of interest, extensive corporate disclosure and directors’ duties.”
In 2005, the establishment of more commercial courts – along with the creation of the Business Law Reform Cell – made contract enforcement a reality for businesses. In 2008 lower commercial courts were created to further boost the court system and had fully cleared the case backlog in Kigali by the end of 2009.
A new insolvency law was passed in 2009 to increase efficiency of resolving corporate insolvencies. “But resolving insolvency remains the one area among all those included in the ease of doing business index in which Rwanda still has great room for improvement,” stresses the report. “Achieving widespread use of the law in insolvency cases has been among the greatest regulatory reform challenges in this area.”
7. Attracting skills to Rwanda
Non-Rwandan expatriate judges were hired in order to ensure that the right skills were available to aid the reform process.
“In addition, the government has provided incentives for Western-educated members of the diaspora to repatriate and has promoted an exchange of skills by opening the job market to immigrants from neighbouring countries, including BurundiKenyaTanzania and Uganda,” states the report.