Sunday, July 29, 2012

Excursion to Montecarlo Monaco and Nice France

Monaco Prince Palace

The excursion started at 6AM from Turin or Torino. Approximately 30  people participated, including both Francophone and Anglophone. Language barrier naturally drew the line between two groups.

The first place to visit was a perfume factory in Nice, called Fragonard. I am not using fragrance so I am not familiar with it but I know that France is known for producing good fragrances, such as Chanel. For the first time, I bought a small perfume for Kristin. The name is "Beauty of the Night." I hope she will like it.

Monaco Bay
The second place to visit was Monaco. It is an independent state ruled by a prince although it is included in France and French is the official language. Monaco is well known for Grace Kelly who married the Prince Ranier III in 1956 and is now the Princess. I had a chance to visit the cathedral where their wedding took place. Also I was able to watch the changing of the guards at the Prince Palace.

Prince and Princess Pledged Here
The Cathedral
Princess Grace and Prince Rainier III
35,000 inhabitants live in Monaco but only 7,000 people are indigenous. All others are celebrities, particularly sports stars, and rich people who have established their residences in Monaco as a tax haven. The guide said that income tax is very low in Monaco. Monaco is the state of the highest population density in Europe and the second smallest state in Europe, after The Vatican, geographically located in the City of Rome, Italy.

Monaco Bay View
Montecarlo Casino
Montecarlo is part of Monaco, but it claims its own fame because of two reasons. One is the famous Gran Prix auto race. It draws many people from around the world. The other are the casinos and hotels that draw rich people as their leisure place. It was not so big geographically but only a large city block. Nonetheless, this little place seems to be the center place for the richest people in Europe. The guide said it could be called the Beverley Hills of Europe. There were a lot of people in front of the Montecarlo Casino because tourists were taking photos with the most expensive cars in the world, which were parked in front of the casino. The cars I could identify were Bentley, Maserati, Ferrari, Porsche plus Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Even taxis were high class Mercedes-Benz.

Montecarlo Beach View
The last destination was Nice. The guide said that it was a lot more influenced by the Italians by the Savoian family but was annexed by the Napoleon and has become part of France. Situated inside the Angel Bay, Nice is drawing tourists year-round. The weather is temperate because of the Mediterranean Sea it faces. The long boardwalk, called Promenades, alongside the beach is known for the Nice Carnival that takes place in February every year. The beach seems to be basically a pebble beach but has certain areas covered with sand. The beach width was narrow but people were sunbathing regardless of the sights of the  passersby like me. I suppose they do not care or they possibly want to show off themselves. Our stay was less than two hours, but fortunately I was able to get on the city sightseeing bus to look around the city.  
Le Gran Tour Nice
Sunbathers at Nice Beach

The tour ended back in Turin at 9:30PM. It was still not so dark. Coming back to the room, I felt that the day was very long but productive. I was grateful for the opportunity to see Monaco and Nice. - Jeffrey

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Lee Family... All in Africa...

Family Photo taken on 2012 Mother's Day
Kristin and I have two daughters. They are Amanda and Joyce. So the Lee family has four members, plus James who is our son in relationship.

Amanda in uniform
Amanda graduated from US Air Force Academy in 2008 and got married in 2009 to a U.S. Air Force pilot, James. They currently live in New Mexico. Amanda is now a captain and she has recently been deployed to a country in Africa for a short term mission.

Joyce graduated from U Penn in 2009. She worked for Urban Outfitters for a couple of years and has recently been sent to Senegal Africa as a member of U.S. Peace Corps volunteers. She will be there for two years and three months advising the handcraft workers.

Kristin and I have been living in Rwanda Africa since February 2009. It has been three and half years. We have been blessed through our life and ministries in Rwanda.

Five years ago, none of us ever thought of the possibility of the Lee family all living in Africa at any point in time. But it is reality now.

It is life.

We do not even know what will happen tomorrow. Our life is like a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes according to the Bible. (James 4:14)

So life is not what we plan for, but what we prepare for. Our life belongs to the Creator and Operator God. On this day, I again think of the meaning and purpose of life that has been entrusted with us.

We should live the life fully and abundantly according to the purpose of the Creator. - Jeffrey    

Monday, July 23, 2012

Merry Year International

Kamari, Dir of Lending at UOB, Mr. Jeon, Sungeun on UOB Day
Merry Year International (MYI) is an international development organization based in S. Korea. It had done some works in Russia and India, but started serious work in Malawi when MYI took over the UN's Millenium Village project in 2011. As the project entered into the second year and the project scope started gaining momentum, MYI desires to enter into Rwanda.

MYI has signed an MOU with UOB for collaboration in 2012, particularly in micro finance as the first step. MYI is going to work with UOB in designing and implementing a tuition fee loan program targeting secondary students and will establish a loan guarantee fund to provide a risk mitigation scheme. At the same time, MYI will introduce P2P micro lending program in S. Korea to mobilize individual lenders through MYI's new platform, namely Story Money. To facilitate this effort, MYI has sent an intern to work at UOB for a year. We are excited about this collaboration opportunity to expand UOB's product line as well as to help introduce a new P2P donor mobilization program in S. Korea.

MYI Delegates for MDG meeting in Nairobi (Aug 2011)
Merry Year means Jubilee in the bible, the year of God's favor, freedom and restoration. MYI is affiliated with Merry Year Foundation that was started several years ago by Rev. Dongho Kim whose interest has been helping the underprivileged through social enterprise developments that produce employments for the people who are poor and underserved in Korea. His interest has now been expanding beyond Korea to Malawi and to Rwanda.

Based on international standards, MYI's effort may be still insignificant, but it is significant in a sense that S. Korea is fairly new to international development and it is one of only few organizations that are showing serious interest in international development. S. Korea is known as the first country in the world, which has transformed successfully from a foreign aid receiving country to a giving country. 

May the good Lord bless this partnership to help bring greater blessings to many people in both Rwanda and S. Korea! - Jeffrey 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Shalom Bible Study - Full Armor of God

On Friday, July 13th, many people who believe in superstition would not get on an airplane and even drive a car. But this "Friday 13th" was a blessing to us who have finished the study on "Full Armor of God" based on Ephesians 6:10-18. It took us seven weeks to complete the study.

1. A serious Christian life is a spiritual warfare with the Satan and his demonic forces. All Christians should be aware of it and prepared for it. God has never left His people defenseless or vulnerable. He has provided His people with the Full Armor of God to put on to stand firm after the battle.

The first piece of armor is the belt of truth(fulness). It symbolizes the commitment to winning the spiritual warfare convinced to the truth and with readiness whenever the attack comes.

2. The second piece of armor is the breastplate of righteousness. For a Roman soldier, the breastplate protected the heart and the bowls. They believed that the heart controlled thoughts and the bowls controlled emotions. We must put on this breastplate to protect our thoughts and emotions against the attacks from the demonic forces. The breastplate should be of God's righteousness, not our own righteousness, that is put to use in our daily lives.

3. The third piece of armor is the shoes of the gospel of peace. Shoes are important because they enable you to stand and to protect you from dangers on the ground. What we can and should stand firm on is the gospel that restores the "Shalom" relationship with God the Father.

4. The fourth piece of armor is the shield of faith. The shield is a rectangular shaped big one behind which you can put your whole body to protect against flaming arrows coming from the enemy. These flaming arrows are temptations trying to make us believe the world and the force behind the world. The armor we must put on is the shield of faith, claiming, "I trust only Christ even if I have to forsake all." Thus, FAITH stands for "Forsaking All I Trust Him."

5. The fifth piece of armor is the helmet of salvation. The deadly blow to Christians is the doubt about their salvation. Against this attack, our protection is the helmet of salvation. Salvation belongs only to God and no one can separate us from His love and His faithfulness. But, we must continue repenting any sins we commit in our daily lives seeking His forgiveness (1 John 1:9) and train ourselves with godliness. (1 Timothy 4:7,8).

6. The sixth piece of armor is the spiritual sword that is the Word of God. This is the only piece of armor that may be used offensively as well as defensively. All other pieces of armor are for defense only. The sword is spiritual because it is used for the spiritual warfare and also because the Word of God has been inspired by the Holy Spirit. To effectively prepare ourselves, we must listen to the Word, read it, study it, meditate on it, memorize it and teach it to others. Each step should not be neglected but taken seriously to be properly prepared for the spiritual warfare.

7. The culmination of the Full Armor of God is prayer. Prayer is spiritual breathing. So it is naturally easy to pray because without it you cannot maintain the communication line with the Commander, Jesus Christ. Verse 18 teaches us to focus on four objects of "all": a. we must pray with all kinds of prayers and requests, b. we must pray all the time, c. we must pray with alertness all the time and d. we must pray for all saints in Christ. Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) is keeping God in mind under all situations. In other words, it is to be conscious of Him in all situations.

It was an opportunity for all of us to ask ourselves how much we are putting on the Full Armor of God in our daily lives. We praise God for His blessings upon us.

As usual, we celebrated ourselves over a dinner and shared the blessings each received. Moreover, Isaac Baik, one of the SBS members, is going back to Korea so we put our hands on him and prayed for him so that he may continue to live a godly life in a society where temptations from the demonic forces will be strong. Isaac was one of the regular members who have been faithfully attending the bible study gatherings.

We started the SBS with three KOICA volunteers three and half years ago. Over time, many people have gone back to Korea but God has sent new people and the SBS has now grown into 17 people. What a blessing it has been!

We had some guests: three from Merry Year International (Mr. Jinbo Jeon, Mr. Booyeol Kim and Ms. Sungeun Choi) and two from Rwanda who are serving Rwanda in education (Mr. Jason Han and Ms. Jennifer). Merry Year International is a foundation in S. Korea, specialized in international development work, in affiliation with Merry Year Foundation that focuses on helping the poor in Korea through social enterprises. UOB will work together with MYI in developing a secondary student loan program. Sungeun has come to work as an intern for a year.

May the Lord continue to bless us all through the study of His Word at SBS! - Jeffrey

Friday, July 20, 2012

Boulder Institute of Microfinance

Boulder Institute of Microfinance (BIM) was established in Boulder, Colorado 18 years ago. It is an institute that specializes in providing education and training on microfinance for microfinance practioners, donors, investors, development agencies and regulators. It was part of University of Colorado Boulder Campus along with Economic Institute.

Eight years ago, BIM moved to Turin, Italy and is now housed at International Training Center of International Labor Organization, as part of United Nations. To carry out the name "Boulder" meaningful, there is one boulder in the yard.

ILO's ITC Turin Campus has several buildings but laid out in a way they form the world map with each building symbolizing each continent. It has dormitory style hotels on campus so that hundreds of people may be able to stay on campus for an extended period of education or training.

BIM holds Annual Boulder Symposium every year. The Symposium centers around a theme of "Training for Sustainable Development." For this year's 18th Annual Boulder Symposium, 260 people have come from 70 countries, including 55 from Sub-Saharan countries. At last night's special topic session, attendees introduced themselves and I felt like the whole west African countries were present. 

Campus Map showing the World Map
The Annual Boulder Symposium lasts three weeks in total and all participants have to choose a track. The option tracks are management, policy and development. Each track requires the completion of six courses, including four mandatory courses and two electives. Each course has five two and half hour classes. Moreover, each morning, there are plenary sessions that cover a wide range of topics that are relevant to the microfinance industry.

I started working in the microfinance industry without any prior training and knowledge. I was able to survive for the past three and half years probably based on my banking and general management experiences. The more I work, however, the more I feel I need to learn. This Annual Boulder Symposium helps me do just that. It gives me historical perspectives, practices in different countries and different organizations, current issues, technical skills etc.

I am grateful for this opportunity to learn about the micro finance at large and specific topics. - Jeffrey  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

UOB Day July 2012

Pastor Christine and Dan interpreting
UOB Day was held on July 14th.

July UOB Day is like a half time in football or soccer for American friends. In January, we rally around the new year and new business plan for the year. It is like a rally that football players are doing in the locker room before the game begins. After the first half is over, the players and coaches go back to the locker room, and they review how they did during the first half and prepare for the second half. In the same way, we reviewed how UOB performed during the first half of the year and shared the plan for the second half of the year.

One difference was, however, we praised the Lord and listened to His Word also because the Lor has been enabling us to do what has been done and gracious to us so that we may not boast about what has been done.

For this year, the speaker was Pastor Christine Gatabazi, who is co-ministering to an Assembly of God church along with her husband who is the senior pastor of the church. She was a dynamic preacher.

We formally introduced the 5 W approach: Welcome, Worship, Word, Work and Wrap-up. This introduction was still far from an acceptable level we may achieve when it is fully implemented. But it was a great beginning because UOB Day format followed the same 5 W approach.

These are people to get married during the second half.
For the Management Update, I took a little different approach from previous years. I asked all executive officers to participate in the presentation with 3-4 slides that cover main points pertaining to his or her responsibilities. I liked it and I will intend to expand their presentation on the next UOB Day.

Pastor Orren praying for them
One thing to note was that for the past six months, 29 new babies were born to UOB staff and 12 staff got married. How productive UOB staff has been! The staff who is scheduled for wedding for the next six months will receive a necklace that has a key. The key symbolizes the key to opening a happy relationship. This key necklace is handed down to next staff who will get married later. On July UOB Day, three staff was introduced and received each a key necklace.

A group photo but it was in-feasible to gather everyone...
This July UOB Day had many guests and visitors, including Triple Jump Advisory Services consultants who are helping us on mBanking. Also was there a group of people from Merry Year International: Mr. Booyeol Kim, Mr. Jinbo Jeon and Ms. Sungeun Choi. MYI will establish a loan guaranty fund against which any credit losses incurred from secondary student loans that UOB will make. Mr. Kim and Mr. Jeon left on Saturday while the UOB Day was still taking place, but Sungeun Choi will stay in Rwanda for at least one year, working as an intern.  Also we had several OI US development fund raisers who will accompany the visitors to come.
Interns with Kevin, CIO

I was tired after the UOB Day, but very encouraged by the unity or "oneness" that we demonstrated through the gathering and activities that we did together. May this gathering continue to strengthen the teamwork and unite the staff in Christ's love. - Jeffrey

UOB has a dozen partners that are working with UOB in different forms and shapes.

Some of them are shareholders and members of the same network to which UOB belongs. Opportunity International, HOPE International and World Relief are these examples. They provide us with funding and/or technical assistance.

Some of them are providers of technical assistance only. UNCDF is an example.

Some of them are providers of funding only. Banks, international lending institutions are these examples.

Yet some of them are providers of both funding and technical assistance. Triple Jump is a good example and possibly IFC will also be if they approve our funding proposal.

Meanwhile, some are providing only risk mitigation schemes. Edify, SURF Rwanda, Merry Year International are such examples. They typically establish loan guaranty funds against which UOB is authorized to charge to recover any credit losses.

Katherin, Field Specialist and Cher, Africa Regional Dir.
Others are providers of funding and risk mitigation. Along with Vittana, Kiva is a good example. UOB is the largest in terms of borrowing limit and best in terms of the star ranking (UOB is a four-star rated.) partner of Kiva in the regions of Africa and Middle East. It is a great honor for UOB. UOB receives a funding to finance the loan growth. But also, UOB may offset any credit loss incurred before the loan is repaid against the debt which UOB owes to individual lenders through the platform. This is a great risk mitigating scheme.

Kiva's Africa Regional Director came to visit with UOB management and to meet some clients last week. Our discussion centered around the way to expand our relationship on green energy loans and education-related loans. I look forward to our expanded relationship thereby serving our clients better, faster and more conveniently.

- Jeffrey

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Evangelism is More Than Words...

[The following article is an excerpt from Opportunity International's Blog.]

Evangelism is More Than Words

The following post was written by Bob Lupton–a community developer, entrepreneur, and a member of the Board of Directors for Opportunity’s Nicaragua Community Economic Development Project–who brings together communities of resource with communities of need. He’s the founder of the nonprofit FCS Urban Ministries and in the past 40 years has developed housing, congregations, and a number of businesses for hundreds of families, initiating a wide range of human services in inner-city Atlanta. Bob is the author of five books; the most recent is the widely read Toxic Charity. He has a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Georgia.
I had done my best to explain to a church group the difference between serving and partnering. I had described how developing the poor requires an entirely different strategy from traditional service methods that “do for” those in need. I explained that when you do for people what they have the capacity to do for themselves, you actually weaken rather than strengthen them. I gave practical examples of how lending and investing, how sharing technological knowledge and connecting isolated people with new markets, has enabled whole villages to emerge from poverty. I told them that if we measured actual outcomes rather than merely activities we would have a much better gauge for the effectiveness of our missions.
Anita and Don Blas (in front) with other members of the La Laguna Community Cooperative in Nicaragua
Anita and Don Blas (in front) with other members of the La Laguna Community Cooperative in Nicaragua
Then it was Q-&-A time. “I see what you are saying about developing the poor,” the first pushback came, “but how do you bring the Gospel into this?” I understood the question. It came from the familiar evangelical premise that the most loving thing we can do for the poor (for anyone) is to share the Gospel with them. The soul is eternal while the body is only temporal. Eternal salvation, then, is the primary concern to God. Evangelism, not economic development, should be the primary task of missions. Right?
It was an honest question, one that deserved a reasoned response.
Four decades of living among marginalized people has expanded my early understanding of the Gospel. The Good News, I have come to believe, is about more than individual salvation. It includes personal salvation, to be sure, but it also involves the transformation of fragmented communities, of unjust institutions, of oppressive systems. The Gospel is Good News for the whole of creation. Even the environment. It is about Shalom, well-being, a prevailing peace.
There may be good reason why the Great Commission to “preach the Gospel to every nation” was preceded by the earlier (and much ignored) New Command “to love each other as I have loved you.” This prior command–Christ’s parting words on His last night with His disciples–would be the validating evidence of His divinity and the identifying mark of His followers. Without this visible demonstration of self-sacrificing unity, Christ’s deity as well as the authenticity of those who claim to follow Him would be questionable. This is more than rhetoric. Dis-unity actually eviscerates the power of the message.
I see the Gospel undermined by aggressive evangelizers who blitz inner-city neighborhoods, collecting decision cards, never bothering to meet, even acknowledge, the saints who populate these very streets. I see affluent (na├»ve though very sincere) young people who fly into impoverished lands to “lead the lost to Christ,” never imagining that God already may be powerfully at work among His destitute people. I see how denominations set up competing congregations in the same villages, promoting member loyalty by devaluing, even “un-Christianizing,” other groups of believers. Evangelism that does not flow from the New Command may actually do more to thwart the purposes of the Kingdom than to advance it.
And so, my response to the inquirer? Step one: begin by identifying the saints–all the saints, not just those of my political persuasion or theological stripe–and discover how God is at work in their lives. What I will likely discover is that the body of Christ is already embedded within most cultures, badly broken perhaps, but clearly present. Pentecostals judging Baptists, Evangelicals de-Christianizing Catholics, believers split along doctrinal and political fault lines. To plant a new church would fragment them all the more. The best Good News for a fractured society is the Great Command (love God and neighbor) championed by serious devotees to the New Command (love each other). The Great Commission (proclamation) is a predictable outcome, a by-product, not an end in itself. Skipping over the two bedrock Commands on the way to fulfilling the Great Commission is like erecting houses without foundations.
Thus, Christian community development work begins where people are, with their felt needs, the issues of greatest concern to the whole village–like clean drinking water, for example. A well may be a real need but it could be quite expensive and very labor intensive. It would involve more than merely drilling a hole in the ground. An adequate aqueduct system to serve 250 homes scattered across many acres would require a pumping station, a water tower, thousands of meters of pipe. The community must decide if this indeed is their top priority. If it is, community development principles require that local residents first be investors with cash, not just labor. That means fundraisers and family contributions. A water commission must be formed to manage both water flow and cash flow. A project management team must be assembled. There are trenches to dig, pipes to lay, materials to be stored and guarded, food to be prepared. It is a project that requires the participation of every household who wishes to have fresh water flowing to their home. And, of course, nearly everyone does. In the process, neighbors join hands across barriers that have divided them, perhaps for generations. Labels are set aside as needed talents are identified and put to use. Devout church-goers and neighbors with no expressed faith sweat together in the sweltering sun and take breaks together under the shade of mango trees. It is an important community development project that greatly improves the quality of life in the village, and increases the skills and leadership capacities of villagers. But it is more. It is a unifying effort that brings estranged believers into relationship with each other.
It happened just this way in rural Nicaragua. When villagers observed their neighbor Anita, a Catholic and an outspoken member of the Sandinista socialist party, working closely with Don Blas, an elder Baptist pastor and loyal member of the conservative party, eyebrows raised. Two saints, staunch political adversaries, separated by theologies that view the other as heretics, teamed up to bring water to their village–it was enough to stir curiosity in the conversations of their community. But when neighbors saw their relationship deepen and smiles and hugs of genuine affection exchange between the two, hearts were melted.
By this shall all men know that you are my disciples…” When the followers of Jesus set aside differences, even deeply held ones, to demonstrate care for their neighbors (like providing water), such behaviors become visible. “Father, make them one so that the world will know that you sent me…” When the followers of Jesus yield not only personal preferences, but suspend deeply held convictions in deference to one another, a witness of powerful impact is unleashed.
And so to my questioner who asks, “How do you bring the Gospel into this work?” I answer: begin with the fundamentals. The Great Command and the New Command will take you where you need to go. As St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel always and use words when necessary.”

Monday, July 9, 2012


Rwanda is a small country. Its expatriate community is even smaller. So you can make friends relatively easily in Rwanda because of this "smallness."

For the past three and half years, we have met many friends in Rwanda and some of them have left the country. Here are a few that come to my mind, who are no longer living in Rwanda:

First, we have met many young KOICA volunteers who were in our Shalom Bible Study group. Their service period is usually two years and many have gone back to Korea. But they are still connected through e-mails. Junghee (he has now come back as an administrative staff for KOICA), Jooheum, Jihun, Sangmin, Eunyoung, Hyosu, Minki, Sangkeub. I miss them. This month, Isaac will go back and on September 2, Minjung, Sunghye and Yurim will also go back. I will miss them.

Second, we met Phil and Becca Smith. Phil was the country director for World Relief and also a director for UOB board. He was a good friend of mine and we were holding each other accountable, iron sharpening iron. Becca ran a guest house, an outgoing and pleasant lady. They adopted a Rwandan boy, Iranzi. They have gone back to the U.S. and Phil is now serving World Relief as VP of Marketing and Operations. Phil and I were part of preaching staff at St. Etienne Cathedral.
Debbie and Dennis Weller with Kristin

Third, Dennis Weller was Mission Director of USAID for four years until last week when he left for Ethiopia, his next assignment. He is from the mid west in the U.S. His first overseas trip was to Malaysia where he served as a Peace Corps volunteer for two years. After this volunteer assignment, he became convinced of God's calling into international development. So he joined USAID. To date, he has been serving in several countries, including Pakistan, Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda. Debbie is a nursing practitioner. She had been working at USAID as a staff. Because of the nursing professional background, Debbie and Kristin got along well. Moreover, Dennis and Debbie attended the same church where we worship and fellowship.

Fourth, Chris Ordway has been serving as Senior Technical Advisor for HOPE International for the past one year. He was a senior executive at Motorola but dedicated one year to serve wherever God directed him. He came to Rwanda with his wife and three daughters. After a dedicated service, he and his family are now going back to the U.S. He demonstrated his passion for Christ and commitment to serving Him. He will now go back this weekend.

Five of Fifties at the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro...
Fifth, I cannot leave out the friends who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro together: Five of Fifties. Min-Young Jung, Jaesup Choi, Jay Yoon and Bohye Kim. September 1st 2011, 9AM, we stood together at the summit of Kilimanjaro. The height was 5,895 meters from the sea level. For six days, we hung out and dined together, hiked and struggled together.
The Best Friend

Well... there are much more, but I will stop here.

Friends come and go, and I may not live with even my dearest friend and wife, Kristin, forever on earth. But I have a friend who promises to be my friend eternally even beyond my life on earth. His name is Jesus Christ, my Lord. I love Him and love to serve Him with all my hearts. Would you like to befriend with Him also?  You could, if you want to. - Jeffrey

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Linkage Loans to Informal Sectors...

When we talk about access to financial services in developing countries, a nation's population is categorized into three groups:

1. Those who have access to formal financial services
2. Those who have access to informal financial services
3. Those who are excluded from access to any financial services

Based on FinScope data (2008), 52% of Rwandan population is excluded from any financial services. I am sure this number has changed quite a bit. Another FinScope survey is being done in 2012 so I look forward to the new data.

The formal financial services sector includes banks, non-bank MFIs and finance companies. The 2008 data shows that this sector includes 26%, including banks at 14%. Very low.

The informal financial services sector, accounting for 22%, includes people who gather to form a group, save to create a money pool and lend to other members out of the pooled money. These informal groups are called in many different names: VSLA (Village Savings and Loans Association), SCA (Savings and Credit Association), SILC (Savings and Inter-Lending Community) etc. The types of these informal groups are also different based on their purposes. Some are ROSCA (Rotating Savings and Credit Association) and others are ASCA (Accumulating Savings and Credit Association).

UOB has triple bottom lines to pursue: Outreach, Transformation Impact and Sustainability. In other words, UOB pursues the maximum outreach and transformation impact within sustainability.

For the purpose of outreach, UOB aims to reach out to the informal financial services sector to include them in the formal financial services sector. But it was found that they were far too small economically and financially to be included in the formal financial services sector. Thus, UOB has made conscious efforts to providing "Linkage Loans" for the informal groups to 1) enhance their lending capacity for the borrowers and 2) benefit the savers with the difference between interest rates charged to the informal groups by UOB and interest rates charged to the borrowers by the groups. In order to preserve the savings spirit within informal groups, the Linkage Loans are tied to the amounts each group saves.

UOB has been working with CARE International and CRS (Catholic Relief Services) since 2011. Recently we have completed an evaluation with CARE and it has come out to be very positive and favorable. We have agreed to expand the services to the entire Eastern Province and possibly Southern Province. We plan to enhance the program with CRS as well. In addition, UOB is also discussing with other NGOs for the same purposes.

It is my prayer that these informal groups will develop well to be able to access all financial services available from the formal financial services sector. - Jeffrey

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Agahozo Shalom Youth Village

I had an opportunity to visit Agahozo Shalom Youth Village in Rubona, close to Rwamagana. It is a village where 130 staff serving 500 students who are most helpless orphans selected from all 30 districts in Rwanda.

It all began in 2005 when a lady, called Anne Heyman, learned about Rwanda's 1994 genocide and its aftermath of many orphans having been displaced and a number of dysfunctional families resulted. She thought "Why can't this country (Rwanda) have a successful and systematic youth village like the one that helped a great number of orphans in Israel after the Jews suffered from the horrible holocaust?" She also asked herself a question, "What can I do for Rwanda?"

Mango tree where it all began
It did not take Anne too long to decide on a fact-finding mission. She visited Rwanda in 2006 with a friend and one of her daughters. After a series of meetings with Rwandans and Rwandan government officials, she took the next step without much delay. In the same year, she bought an 144 acre land in Rubona and started what a lot of people considered a daydream, a dream of building a village where such displaced orphans can find home, receive education, access to training and look into the future of hope that will build them up with sustainability.

The dream looked virtually impossible at that time because she did not have much money left to build the village after she purchased the land under a mango tree that now symbolizes the genesis of this dream project.

There are 32 of these houses
But the dream has come true, a reality that now many philanthropists and international development specialists desire to learn from and imitate. It is a showcase in Rwanda for sustainable and holistic development of youth.

Now the village has 500 students with 125 students each for secondary 4 through 6 and 130 staff, including teachers, to support them. The village has 32 5-bedroom houses where 16 students stay with one house mom. The village also has almost all amenities and facilities a school needs, such as library, gymnasium, resource center, amphitheater, computer labs, science center, playground, green houses, community center etc. In addition, the village has lands for farming and vocational training. All these have come true in just 6 years. Amazing.

JC, Exec. Dir., Anne, Trevor and Tom
Agahozo means "A place with tears dried." Indeed, the name is fit for the village.

Shalom means "wholeness, perfect harmony, sinless peacefulness" in Hebrews. Again, it reflects the philosophy and principles of the founder.

Agahozo Shalom Youth Village is therefore a village for youth (displaced children) where their tears are dried and where they can experience a holistic life through education, care and training.

Green houses
After a short visit, I became fascinated by the story and inspired by the philosophical principles for the project, which I also share deeply as my own principles. We talked about several possibilities of collaboration. In one form or another, I will likely be involved in this project to help them out whether it be vision casting speech, personal mentoring, student tuition fee loans, entrepreneurial business loans or whatever.

May the good Lord bless Anne, her friends, supporters and all staff so that they may become greater blessings to many others who will go through the Agahozo in many years to come! - Jeffrey 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

UOB Support Center

UOB Support Center
UOB is growing. So are the staff and the needs for additional space. But the Home Office has limitations in space at its four-story building.

As a result, we had to make a decision to take over a building where Kimironko Branch is located. We took over the entire three-story building and renovated the two stories above the ground floor into offices. We have named it UOB Support Center.

Training Center
In April, we have relocated almost 30 people to the UOB Support Center. Fortunately, most of the staff who was relocated to the Center is living close to the Support Center. So they were happy and it worked out well.

Kimironko Branch Expanded
We have faced some challenges in logistics, but are working hard to figure out the solutions.

On the first day, we dedicated the offices to the Lord who is the creator and owner of all that is between the heaven and earth. I shared a message saying that all UOB staff are representatives of the bank and ambassadors of the gospel. I encouraged them to live a life that will manifest Christ's love.

May God blesses us in Kimironko to be blessings to all who live and work around the UOB Support Center! - Jeffrey

Monday, July 2, 2012

Ministry Updates June 2012

Life is tough, but I am determined to graduate from poverty 
Dear family, friends and fellow Kingdom workers

Warm greetings from Kigali Rwanda in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
I trust all is well with you and your family under His overflowing grace.

The following is our Ministry Updates for the month of June 2012. I pray that you will be encouraged by what God is doing in our lives in Rwanda.

1. There was the quarterly board meeting in June.

2. UOB submitted a $450K proposal for funding to International Finance Corporation. If granted, this funding would be used for developing and expanding the agent network to accelerate our mobile banking outreach to the rural areas in Rwanda. Please pray with us in our seeking God's face on this proposal.

3. UOB leadership held the quarterly off-site prudential meeting with the Rwanda National Bank of Rwanda (BNR) in June. The meeting outcome was very encouraging to us. We were told that UOB is one of the best run banks. We praise God for His grace upon us.

4. UOB received many visitors in June, including HOPE's insight trip, HOPE's spiritual integration team, Saddleback Church's PEACE team, a representative from Gates Foundation, Chairman of World Relief Board etc. It is our prayer that their visits produced transformational inspiration and encouragements. Also, may their visits open the doors to different opportunities.

5.  UOB continued its growths in all areas with excellent asset quality. Its loan portfolio reached Rwf9.3 Bn, another amazing milestone achievement with a 5.7% increase from May or a 22.3% growth from YE 2011. Deposits have also exceeded the Rwf 6 Bn milestone. PAR>30 continued declining to 1.1%. To God be all the glory and honor with many thanks for the dedicated staff who worked tirelessly!

6. UOB continued developing mobile and agent banking solutions. We have now named the platform "UOB eCash." Slowly but surely we are getting many loose ends tied down to get ready for the commercial launch scheduled for September. Please stand with us in prayer.

7. UOB has signed agreements with Triple Jump Advisory Services on two projects: SME and mBanking. Triple Jump provides technical assistance on these two areas through consultants who are experts in the related fields on a cost-sharing basis. We are grateful for this support to our God who is behind all goodness.

8. In June, UOB experienced another system glitch that produced a mismatch in balance. We are now able to spot it and take actions immediately, but it takes a while to clean it up. Whenever an incident like this happens, our IT staff has to make avoidable extra work to fix it. Please pray for a quick resolution.

9. We started construction to convert Ngoma Credit Office to a branch in June. Also, Home Office renovation has been completed on the third floor to create bigger space for staff. We have secured a new space in Huye and agreed to take over an adjacent space to convert the Huye Credit Office to branch also. We have secured a new Credit Office space in Rukomo, Nyagatare and plan to secure 6-8 additional offices in 2012 to continue expanding our outreach to rural areas.

10. I visited Agahozo Shalom Youth Village where 130 staff is serving 500 young people who are most desolate and hopeless orphans from all 30 districts in Rwanda. The facility was impressive with 32 5-bedroom homes for their housing, school building, several resource centers, library and green houses. But what impressed me more was the philosophy and principles established as the foundation for running the village. They are wholeness, holistic and sustainable development, development of the fullest potential of each person, to name a few. We intend to develop a collaboration opportunity with Agahozo. Agahozo means "A place with tears dried" in Kinyarwanda, I heard. Indeed, I could sense it in reality. 

11. UOB conducted an evaluation meeting with CARE International on our "Linkage Loan" program. The outcome was very positive and we agreed to expand the program to the entire Eastern Province and possibly to Southern Province.

12. Joyce, our younger daughter, went to Senegal, Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer in June. She will receive a 3-month training before she is assigned to a village. Kristin and I were nervous initially but we were encouraged to hear yesterday that she is adjusting well to the new environment. Praise the Lord!

13. Jeffrey continued ministering at Agape Korean Church, St Etienne Cathedral and Shalom Bible Study through the studying and sharing of the God's Word. Kristin and Jeffrey participated in the Korean Missionary Fellowship prayer meeting. It is always encouraging to pray and fellowship together with Kingdom workers.

14. Please pray that:
  • All UOB staff will continue to put trust in the Lord in all they do and to honor Him for all He does.
  • God may bless and make His face shine upon the mobile and agent banking project, and also on the IFC funding proposal
  • All leadership at UOB may go on their knees first in all they plan to do.
  • Joyce may draw nearer to the Lord while she is living and serving in Senegal.
  • Amanda and James may deepen their faith in the Lord in everything they plan and do.
  • Our parents (Kristin's mom and Jeffrey's parents) may live their last years of life on earth in hope for the eternal time together with the Lord.
  • Kristin and Jeffrey may experience God's grace more and strengthen their relationship with God more intimately in all ministries they partake. 
Thank God for you, your prayer and your partnership with us.

Every spiritual blessing IN CHRIST,

Jeffrey and Kristin Lee from Kigali, RWANDA

The "Busy" Trap...

For some time I have been wondering why our stereotypical response to "How are you?" is "Busy!"

This article in New York Times addresses the same question I have had.

It is pretty much self-imposed. Something to think about.

I hope it helps you as well as myself. - Jeffrey 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

July 1st 2012

July 1st 2012 carries two important meanings. They are the Golden (50th) Anniversary of Rwanda's Independence and the first anniversary of Agape Korean Church in Rwanda.

Rwanda's independence was from Belgium 50 years ago. Rwanda has since been on a journey of resilience and transformation.

Resilience has been against chronic temptation for corruption and tempting despair when the horrible genocide occurred. Resilience has been also against tempting hatred towards perpetrators and compromise on mediocrity. Resilience has been rather for clean and safe environments, rapid and responsible economic development, commitment to excellence and resolve for forgiveness, healing and reconciliation. It has been transformation. Holistic transformation.

Kudos to Rwandans and particularly leadership. My prayer is for Rwanda to remain on the journey of resilience and transformation for the next 50 years.

Agape Korean Church in Rwanda was established by Koreans living in Rwanda. Many of them are KOICA volunteers. There are others, such as Korea Telecom expats, missionaries and business people. The total number of Koreans living in Rwanda is estimated to be 140. Out of this population, approximately 35-40 adults gather to worship every Sunday at a guest house run by a Korean missionary. Koreans are unique in that wherever they go, they think of establishing Korean churches.

The church has a long way to go. She does not have a pastor yet and missionaries take turn in preaching on Sundays. She does not have a permanent place to worship yet and meet at a guest house. But the spirit and attitude of the church members seem to remain high. My prayer is for the church not only to gather to worship and fellowship, but also to seek actively to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth as the Scripture. commands.

On this day, I am honored to share the Word at Agape Korean Church in Rwanda. - Jeffrey