Saturday, January 28, 2012

Hearts and Hands International

Hearts and Hands International Banner
On January 23 and 24, Hearts and Hands International, in collaboration with UOB, provided medical and dental services for Rwandans in two villages in Gicumbi District: Bwisige and Muko.

Hearts and Hands International is a S. Korean NGO that focuses on providing medical and dental services for developing countries to help advance His Kingdom. It is a mission organization. Hearts and Hands International received the Rwandan government's approval for its Rwandan operation in December 2011 and this outreach is the second to one made in September 2011. Missionary Minsoo Koh is the country director in Rwanda, who himself is a veterinarian doctor. Kristin is serving this ministry as Director of Program and coordinated this outreach.

Patients waiting for their turns
In this year's outreach, a medical doctor, two nurses, a dentist, an oriental medicine doctor, two dental technicians and several other assistants participated. On Monday, Kanombe Hospital, Rwanda's military hospital also participated with its mobile clinic and a few medical staff. The mobile clinic was provided by the Korean government last year.

Several hundreds of Gicumbi residents benefited from the medical and dental services and hundreds of UOB's clients were among them. Along with the health outreach, "Jesus" film was shown to hundreds of children which was produced in Kinyarwanda. To most of them, this was the first movie they have ever watched. It must have been a blessing to them.

Dr. Jun treating a patient
On Wednesday and Thursday, Hearts and Hands International also conducted an outreach in Musanze at two places: ISAE, Rwanda's college of agriculture and an Anglican church where the services were provided in September 2011 also. They also provided medical and dental services for Korean residents in Kigali on Friday.

The 8-member mission team included an 89-year old man who is the father of the medical doctor. He has been attending church services for most of his life but met Jesus in person when he was 85 years old. He is now serving at a church by cleaning the bathrooms every Sunday. He was an inspiration to me. May his service inspire many others to imitate the service spirit to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world!

One of the health centers
The team also included a high school student who is graduating next month and a retired police officer who used to be Chief of Police for the City of Seoul, a high rank police officer in S. Korea. The medical doctor will arrive in Seoul midnight on Sunday and continue traveling to Mokpo over night. After arriving in Mokpo around 5AM on Monday, he is planning to go to work. What a commitment he has! They all gave me different types of inspirations and challenges through their sacrificial services. May God bless them to live an abundant life in Christ! - Jeffrey

Shalom Bible Study Members

Shalom Bible Study in August 2011
Shalom Bible Study or SBS has been around for the past three years. We started with five and have now grown into 17, including SBS B that spun off last year, plus several who have gone back to Korea.

SBS members are diverse. Most are KOICA volunteers, but it also has a missionary family, a businessman and a high school student in addition to our couple.

I am introducing some of them as follows:

Minsoo Koh and Aesim Kim - A missionary couple. Minsoo Koh was a veterinarian and Aesim was a teacher. His mission program centers around providing medical and dental services through Hearts and Hands International, a Korean NGO. They have a son, named Kyungchul who is now 15 years old. He is an active participant of our bible study despite his young age.

Jihye Moon and her art class students
Sejun Park - A businessman. His family is still in Nairobi, Kenya, but will eventually move to Kigali. He runs a health equipment business. His passion for God is apparent. He plans to run a bible study with his employees from next month.

Sunghye "Anna" Yoon - A KOICA volunteer. An athletics teacher at a secondary school in Musanze. She has been showing great transformation lately. She is also involved in "home building" projects for the poor.

Jihye Moon - A KOICA volunteer. A sculptor and art teacher. She is serving now at an orphanage house in Kinamba, Kigali.

Minjung Kim and her students at KIE
Minjung Kim - A KOICA volunteer. An athletics teacher at Kigali Institute of Education. She is good at swimming and gymnastics.

Hye-young Choi - A KOICA volunteer. An athletics teacher at a primary school in Musanze. She used to participate in speed walking competition and also to coach people.

Isaac Baik - A KOICA volunteer. An instructor at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology in Kigali. He is sepcialized in mobile technology.

Karam Kwon - A New Village Movement volunteer. She is serving in a team to help transform a village in Kamonyi District.

Saangkeub Lee - An intern at UOB. He is a student at Seoul National University Graduate School. His heart is in sustainable international development.

There have been many others who have gone through the Shalom Bible Study. I really enjoy the fellowship with them. I see and feel the spiritual growth that is taking place in our hearts. It is only by God's grace to have this fellowship and is a tremendous blessing to us all. Praise the Lord! - Jeffrey

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Johns Hopkins University Global MBAs

On January 19th, 24 global MBA students from Johns Hopkins University Carey School of Business gave the presentations about their projects in Rwanda. A four-student team worked with UOB on designing an ideal mix of agents to serve its clients in Gicumbi and Kiramuruzi through mobile banking. There were four other teams that worked on other projects, such as solar energy company, health clinic and Rwandan art-craft maker.

These students began their research on the assignments in the U.S. a couple of months prior to their arrival in Rwanda approximately 20 days ago. For three weeks, they had been on the ground, conducting field studies with their sponsors.

Our team students were all sincere and hard-working. They went to Gicumbi and Kiramuruzi, spotting the client group meeting places and potential retail agents on the Google Map, using GIS mapping devices. They also analyzed the data with qualitative as well as quantitative tools. At the end, they made recommendations and conclusion. After the team's 30-minute presentation, other students and sponsors were invited to critique their presentations. It was exciting to listen to their presentations and see the dynamic exchanges of information and analysis.

They have now gone back to the U.S. For the next month of so, they will refine their report and submit it to the faculty for grading. A copy of their final report will be made available to us. I look forward to the final report that will contain fresh perspectives and suggestions for us to consider in developing an agent network that will provide easy and convenient access to cash for our rural clients.

A total of seven MBA students from a different school in the U.S. is scheduled to come to work on two projects with UOB in May. It thrills me to work with "borrowed talents" who bridge the gap that exists in certain fields in Rwanda. - Jeffrey     

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sam and Kristine from Harvard College

Sam and Kristine are sophomore students at Harvard College. UOB receives many interns throughout the year, but rarely receives undergraduate students as interns. Sam and Kristine were exceptions and good ones.

For the three weeks until they left on January 15th, they worked on several projects and they diligently worked even over the weekends. To Sam, this trip to Rwanda was the first overseas trip ever. His grandma was very worried, understandably so. Kristine once had a trip to China, but it was short and she stayed only in Beijing. So this was her first trip to a developing country.

They acted maturely and responsibly. They delivered the outcome above expectations. They designed five icons for micro finance functions, developed the contents for 2011 annual report, researched on NGOs in Rwanda and made recommendations for improving UOB's website. Also, they conducted a couple of researches on micro finance through and Their reports were concise but sufficient.

Overall, I enjoyed having them as interns and realized how well disciplined they were, indicating how well they have been raised in their families. Kristine is the only daughter of a friend of mine, Jonathan. Good job, Jonathan! - Jeffrey

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Kininya Sewing Project Graduation

All students together
January 5th was a special day for 16 women at Kinyinya Church that has been founded and supported by a Korean missionary, Ms. Bohye Kim. They graduated from a sewing school that lasted for eight months under the teacher, named Felicite. We have been privileged to sponsor this project with the support of friends in the U.S.

After the eight-month training, only 10 people were able to pass the test to start commercial production. They will begin with five sewing machines in five groups. As their skills develop further and they gain more commercial business, an over-lock machine and zig-zag machine may be provided for them to enhance their commercial competitiveness in the area.
Each student receiving a certificate

They started with practicing hand-sewing initially and gradually learned more difficult skills. Now they are able to produce primary school uniforms, shirts, simple dresses and gift items. Yes, they still need to improve further, but their development has been significant.

During this training period, these women also learned English from Betty, an English teacher. English is an essential language to be able to conduct business with foreigners, or called "abazungus" in Kinyarwanda. Rwanda is in transition from francophone to anglophone and most Rwandans are still pretty rough with their English.
English teacher (Betty), Felicite, Kristin

It is our prayer to see them continue to develop until they become commercially sustainable. May the Lord's grace be upon them! - Kristin

Sunday, January 15, 2012

January 14, UOB Day

UOB Gospel Singers. They are wonderful!
On Saturday, January 14, there was UOB Day at Lemigo Hotel, Kigali. This is the fifth UOB Day since we started holding it.

UOB Day is a day when all UOB staff gathers together to worship God, praise Him for who He is and what He has done through UOB. We also acknowledge the people who have been newly promoted, welcome new members to UOB family and appreciate those who have worked at UOB for five years and 10 years.

In January, we also award prizes for the teams that conducted Process/Service Fit Test best and produced most inspiring transformation stories of our clients. Rusizi EBU pretty much dominated all the prizes on transformation this year.

Sharing 2012 Business Plan
Also in January, we review the last year's performance and the new year's business plan, as we call it "God's mission for UOB in 2012." Each year, we establish a theme that integrates our spirituality and management objectives. Last year, it was "Shalom" and the year before last year it was "Arise." In 2012, the theme is "In Christ."

Throughout 2012, we will study and meditate on the heavenly blessings embedded In Christ. The preacher delivered a message based on Colossians 2:9,10. Also, we use it as an acronym to implement management actions: I.N. C.H.R.I.S.T. stands for:
2012 Management Theme "IN CHRIST"


Each item has one or more actions that will require everyone's participation. Everyone of 240 staff. There is no one who is left out of UOB's management theme for the year. All participate throughout the year and all celebrate at the end. It is a collective and mutual empowerment. It is integral and holistic.

Giving a UOB logo pin to Nick Meakin, a new staff
Making announcements for those who are promoted
On this UOB Day, we had one more special activity. We produced a Rwanda map of 10 feet x 10 feet and asked all EBU relationship staff to put stickers on the map indicating the places where our group meetings take place. Over one hour, our staff working at 11 EBUs placed the stickers one EBU at a time, bending and kneeling on the map. The final product was gorgeous! This map will go on one of the walls in my office. This map will be used for establishing the network of agents to implement mobile and agent banking.
Staff praise the Lord together

A staff placing the stickers on the Rwanda map

I sincerely prayed that we will receive His favor in implementing mobile and agent banking to relieve our EBU relationship staff from handling cash. May the Lord bless our effort! - Jeffrey

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Urwego Opportunity Bank (UOB)

UOB Home Office

UOB is the first and largest microfinance bank in Rwanda.

And UOB is a Christian bank.

Its owners are three Christian international NGOs. Their investment purposes are not to maximize the financial return on their investments, but to see the holistic transformation among Rwandan people. So the mandate is to maximize the holistic transformation impact among people with the maximum outreach within operational sustainability.

UOB is the largest among micro finance banks and non-bank MFIs in Rwanda in loan portfolio, deposits and the number of clients being served. So I suppose we are leading the outreach.

UOB reached, by God's grace, the operational sustainability in 2011 even after our staff received a significant bonus in December.

UOB has been implementing various strategies and programs towards holistic transformation, specifically through client transformation and corporate transformation. These strategies and programs have been implemented under transformation principles: holistic, integral, intentional, institutional, progressive.

So, now mission accomplished? Great job and go home?

Absolutely not. There is more work to do.

Now we should be going even deeper into rural areas to serve the under- or un-served people of Rwanda.
Most of its staff is Christians. I would call it extended outreach.

Now we should be more conscious about maintaining the sustainability. There are many minefields in the microfinance operations that may lead us back into a loss.

Now we should allocate more resources to be transformed internally and transformational externally to clients.

So, the task has become larger and more complicated. It is a challenge, but it is a worthwhile one.

Every first Tuesday morning, all senior leadership gathers together for intensive prayer for an extensive list of prayer subjects. It is a time of blessing and comfort. It is a time of encouragement and edification. We adore God for who He is, confess our sins to Him, thank Him for His wondrous grace and present our supplications.

We weep and cry out for help. But we surrender. To His sovereignty. To His plan to be manifest in His time.
We dedicate our lives to Him. To His authority. To His providence. To His commission. Great Commission.

He is God.
He is God of love.
He is God of goodness.
He is God of faithfulness.
He is trustworthy.
He is gracious.
He is God.

I am grateful for the opportunity to lead UOB.
It is almost three years since I have been leading UOB.
It has been a time of tremendous blessing, learning and growing.
I love leading UOB and coaching my colleagues.
I love worshiping God through our work.
I love serving God in and through life.
I love God of goodness.
I love God.

Glory be to God Almighty forever and ever! Amen! - Jeffrey

Business As Mission Ideas for Missionaries...

Ji-Young and David
On January 2nd, Monday, Ji-Young Rhee and her assistant David Kim from San Jose, California gave a presentation about business as mission (BAM) ideas for Korean missionaries and Korean NGO leaders in Rwanda.

Business As Mission or BAM is not a new idea. It has been around. It was formalized in Christian circle in 2004 when Lausant Movement adopted it formally.

BAM is different from Business For Mission where you run a business and intend to use a part or all of the net profit for mission purposes.

BAM is also different from Business And Mission where business usually provides a platform to enter into a country where a missionary visa is not granted.

BAM is a business of which the purpose is to be self-sustainable with profit, to witness Christ's love and values through godly business practices and personal life, and to create impact that will help restore the broken relationships with the Creator God, other people and the rest of the creation.

Sister Ji-Young Rhee is an amazingly energetic, passionate and God-loving woman of God who will go anywhere and everywhere in the world if she can be of help in advancing God's Kingdom. She does not go with the Word alone, however. She will go with practical business ideas for micro enterprises usually of appropriate technology (AT). She is therefore tremendously resourceful. She is a software engineer by profession. But she is the wife of a PhD in mechanical engineering and the mother of three sons. Also she is now Chairperson of the board of Messengers of Mercy (M.O.M.) that provides a variety of resources, particularly medical resources, for the mission fields. In addition, she has now formed a Kingdom business, called E3Empower, which will gather and supply a variety of resources for the mission field, not to make a lot of money, but to be self-sustainable, to witness Jesus as the Savior and the Lord through godly business practices and to create the lasting impact in helping restore the broken relationship between God and all His creations. Yes, it is a BAM!

Ji-Young shared biblical foundations for BAM but also showed a variety of resources that included teaching materials for children, materials for creation science, natural farming ideas and methodology, affordable and effective water purifier, durable and affordable lights, solar cooker, solar charger etc.

All missionaries and NGO leaders were amazed and impressed. Ji-Young promised to continue her support for Rwanda. Missionaries and NGO leaders agreed in principle to find a way to work together managing the resources together with shared responsibilities.

We thanked the Lord for sending her (and her assistant David Kim) to Rwanda and expressed our appreciation for their coming to Rwanda and commitment to supporting Rwanda. - Jeffrey

Monday, January 2, 2012

Ministry Updates - December 2011

Dear friends, family and fellow Kingdom workers,

The month of December was the culmination of God's grace upon UOB in 2011. Here are the highlights

1. UOB's loan portfolio surged to Rwf7.9 Billion at one point and finished the year at Rwf7.6 Billion, a 10% or $1.2 million growth from November and an almost 100% surge from YE 2010! It has been a dramatic ride in 2011 with a $6 million expansion in our financial support for the economically active poor and God has been at the center of all this amazing ride. The deposit balance has also continued increasingto Rwf5 Billion. We had to draw down on the loan from BRD and IFC. We were thankful for the credit facilities that were placed beforehand for these positive circumstances. Although there were some glitches, our staff has handled all things without major crises. I am grateful for and proud of our staff.

2. UOB's loan portfolio quality remained excellent with PAR>30 days at 0.86%, an improvement from November 30th (1.2%) and YE 2010 (1.3%). 

3. Thanks to strong operating performance, coupled with tight operating expense control, UOB has been profitable since February 2011. We do not have the December figure yet, but we are expected to report a profit with operating sustainability in 2011. Praise the Lord! I am so glad to report that our staff has been paid 100-120% of their monthly salary as bonus in December. All our staff is appreciative and I am personally so happy for our staff, even happier than when I was paid a fat bonus in the U.S. This happiness cannot be snatched away by anyone else. It is mine to keep!

4. The number of active borrowing clients that UOB serves has continued to increase to 40,663, an increase of 898 clients from a month earlier. The total number of clients was over 120,000, thus showing a strong outreach performance as well. 

5. The number of clients who are receiving monthly lessons of Holistic Life Improvement training is slowly but steadily increasing with approximately 6,500 having been trained in November. This produces transformation impact among our clients. 

6. UOB started in-house testing for mobile and agent banking in December. A beta pilot testing will begin in January with four groups in Kigali. For this purpose, we are meeting several prospective agent network managers for a potential relationship.

7. We disbursed two Christian private school development loans in December. This has been made in cooperation with Edify, a US NGO, which desires to support Christian education at private schools in developing countries. UOB is the only partner in East Africa.

8. UOB has a tradition of reaching out to even less fortunate people in Rwanda with gifts financed by UOB staff's voluntary contribution matched by the bank. I was able to join this visit to a small village (Umudugudu) in Masaka where 19 families of parent-less young people are living together. These 19 families are all genocide survivors with the ages ranging from 18 to 43. We shared God's message of faithful love, of being freed from the past pain and of living a hopeful life in Christ. Each family received 25 kg of rice, 10 kg of sugar, 10 bars of soap and 5 liters of cooking oil. They asked us to pray for them since they will be relocated to different shelters in 2012. Another group also visited 3 other families of similar circumstances.   

9. Korean missionaries in Rwanda continued the monthly prayer fellowship and it was a blessing to us all. May this fellowship enhance the spirit of edification and collaboration!

10. Kristin and Jeffrey received and had fellowship with several visitors. Ms. Ji-Young Rhee, a BAMer (Business As Mission implementer) and a great supporter for missionaries came to visit UOB and Rwanda with one of her associates David Kim. Ji-Young has shared a message at UOB devotion and presented BAM materials and appropriate technology items to the UOB leadership team and will present the same to Korean missionaries. She also wanted to learn more about how God is working through UOB and transformational Christian micro finance. Jeffrey met and had a fellowship with Rev. Jong Pyo Im and his wife. They have been serving Africa for the past 30 years as missionaries. It was a great blessing to fellowship with them. UOB also received a couple of Harvard College students as interns for a few weeks: Kristine and Samuel. UOB will also receive another intern (Saangkeub Lee) from S. Korea for several weeks.  
11. The Kininya sewing project that Kristin is handling continues to progress well. Out of 20 women who have been trained for the past nine months, 10 have been selected and they will start a commercial operation from January 2012. Their skills are not quite professional yet, but we trust they will improve further. We are excited! 

15. Jeffrey continued serving God's people through preaching at UOB staff devotion, St. Etienne Cathedral 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 time of mutual blessing and spiritual growth.

16. 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 beta pilot testing for mobile and agent banking in January
      * Pray for a scaled-up progress in UOB's agricultural lending program.
      * Pray for Kininya sewing women to be able to begin their commercial operation well from January. 
      * 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 your prayer and support in 2011! Look forward to continuing our partnership in 2012!   

I wish you and your family a blessed New Year!

Humbly and gratefully in His service,

Jeffrey and Kristin Lee from Kigali, RWANDA,

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year 2012...

New Year's Day in 2012.

A new year has begun.
A new sun has risen.
A bright one.
A hopeful one.

No matter how glorious and joyous the previous year may have been,
No matter how many pains and sorrows it may have given,
The old one should be sent away.
That should be floated away.

The past is a cancelled check that is useless.
The future is an undue promissory note that cannot be used now.
The present is cash on hand that is priceless
That is available for use here and now.

No matter how promising the new year may look,
No matter how uncertain it may look,
No one and nothing can be more promising than Jesus,
No one and nothing can be more certain than Jesus.

On this first day of 2012,
On a strong promise of hope in Jesus I stand
On a clear certainty of rest in Jesus I find
On  this first day of 2012.

On this first day of 2012.

- Jeffrey Lee

Shalom Bible Study Year-end Thanksgiving Gathering...

On Friday, December 30th, Shalom Bible Study had a joint gathering between two groups. Including children and four guests, we had a group of 25 people. We first enjoyed gourmet foods that a few families prepared. They were delicious!!! May God bless those hands that cooked the food!

We had a great fellowship, eating, meeting new people, talking.

We watched a DVD, titled "Widow and Oil" based on 2 Kings 4:1-7. The situation that the widow had to face was challenging. Elisha was asking her "What do you have?" The widow said, "Nothing!" Indeed she was poor, but she had something. A little oil. God blessed this oil and multiplied it to fill dozens of jars that were borrowed from her neighbors. God's unceasing flow of blessing may only be experienced when we trust that He will provide in His way.

We all have something. Actually many things that we have received from God. But often we forget to see what we have received. Rather we tend to focus on what we wish to have or what we do not have. This causes a false sense of poverty. We should focus on what we have received and we now have, and be thankful to God who has provided. From there, we will be able to experience His abundant provision even more.

We all expressed our gratitude to God in prayer. Lord, thank you for this year's blessings! May we even more deepen our faith and trust in You in 2012 to experience greater abundance of your grace! - Jeffrey

UOB Staff Outreach to the Needy...

On December 28th, Wednesday, UOB visited 22 families who were less fortunate than most of UOB staff. They are young genocide survivors without their parents. These visits are part of our staff's annual events to share God's love with those who are less fortunate than our staff. This year's visit is the second in a row after the last year's and were made in two groups. I joined a group that visited 19 families who are living together in one umudugudu (village) in Masaka. 

UOB staff raised $800 and the bank matched the raised fund to provide 25 kg of white rice, 10 kg of sugar, 5 liters of cooking oil and 10 bars of soap. The 19 families we visited had a total members of 35, with their ages ranging from 18 to 43. They all had unforgettable pains that haunt them from time to time. But now they are living together as a community where all share the earnings and spending together based on the needs. Their shelters are temporary and eventually they will have to relocate to where the government designates. They had some concerns about this planned relocation since they are also growing pineapples where they are now, which help them financially.

Two of our staff also had similar pains in the past and their testimonials and encouragements were powerful. They have been able to overcome the past pains and challenges by surrendering their lives to Jesus who has faithfully cared for them to date. I shared the Word also, but I trust their encouragements were a lot more inspirational to them. I prayed that they will follow the same path in their journeys of life. I was proud of our staff.

They are growing four cows two of which were young calves. The little one was only one month young.

In a tiny living room where we met, I found a poster that showed several hands held together. Unity and cooperation were what I was able to read out of it.

I prayed also that their community living will only strengthen their unity and cooperation further. - Jeffrey