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.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Rev. Dong Ho Kim and Merry Year International

During my trip to Korea, I also met with Rev. Dong Ho Kim. Rev. Kim is a Christian pastor, a radical man of God. He served several churches, including quite a few that he started.

He refused to build the church building. Instead he decided to God's invisible church by establishing social enterprises that were targeted to help the refugees from N. Korea. They were not as well educated as S. Koreans and not trained in business. But he set up a few businesses for them, such as paper box manufacturer, coffee shop, leather wallet manufacturer. He also started a social consulting company to provide consulting for other NGOs that desire to start social enterprises. His foundation owns a building in the heart of Seoul, but he makes the building space available to other NGOs and even social business start-ups for free.

When MYI staff visited to leave Sungeun Choi as an intern
Rev. Kim expanded this social enterprise work to overseas. He supported a few initiatives in Asia and Russia. Recently, Merry Year International, an arm of Merry Year Foundation for international development work, took over one of United Nations millenium development villages in Malawi. MYI wanted to start a micro finance project in Rwanda and has also signed an MOU with UOB to provide support for secondary school students. One intern has been working at UOB for the past three months.

He is now in fight against one of undesirable practices among Korean churches: senior pastorship succession. to the senior pastor's sons or sons in law. It is totally unbiblical but Korean churches have been silent about it when the first one occurred. This practice has since mushroomed to become a generally accepted practice. He finally stood up and declared to initiate a movement against this practice. I am in full support of it. This is the culmination of unbiblical and ungodly practice of making church ministry posts the social elite classes. This practice has induced people to want to cling to their positions, forgetting that the positions/responsibilities were to serve others.

 Our meeting in the office and over lunch were inspiring and encouraging. I also met with Rev. Bumseok Kim, who is Secretary General for Merry Year Foundation and Merry Year International. May the Lord bless our relationship to be a greater blessing to many underprivileged people of Rwanda. - Jeffrey 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Handong Global University...

Handong - God's University
On October 4th, I had an opportunity to visit Handong Global University, a Christian university in Pohang in S. Korea. Handong was founded by Dr. Young Gil Kim, the current president, in 1995. So it is 17 years old. It is new enough to maintain the original founding spirit of Christian faith and values. Handong's main building displays its name as "Handong God's University."

The campus is small and cozy. The University has approximately 3,500 students, including 1,200 graduate students. Approximately 250 faculty members serve these students, including 100 or so foreign national professors.

I visited Handong because I have been invited to speak to approximately 110 students, including business students and students of international development and cooperation. Most of international development and cooperation students were foreign nationals so I had to deliver my lecture in English. I talked about transformational development followed by who UOB is and what UOB does.

I had to be in a hurry to close because there was another class after the lecture, but I had a good first-hand experience of teaching college and graduate students in English at a Korean university environment.

I met with the president Dr. Kim for 30 minutes. In principle, Handong and UOB agreed to sign an MOU for cooperation. Handong wanted to send an intern regularly so that there will be continuity. But he volunteered to sit in my class, initially for 20 minutes, but he ended up sitting in for an hour. I also met several professors, including Dosoung Choi, vice president of globalization, Young-in Kim, vice president of administration, Bumha Jee, dean of business and economics department, Kee-Seon Yu, dean of graduate school of international development and cooperation, Dae Shik Kim, professor of business and economics. I also met other professors. All of them looked gentle, humble and godly to me.

With Professors, school restaurant owners, YG Kim, students
I also had a pleasant surprise of seeing my old friends. Dr. Young Gurl Kim is Executive Director of Institute for Biblical Community Development housed in the campus of John Brown University in Arkansas. We were involved in Integral Mission Alliance together with other like-minded fellow Kingdom workers. He is an adjunct professor and came to teach a course. He happened to stay in a room right next to my room at the Handong Guest House. We shared great joy of reunion and talked for hours to catch up with what God is doing in our lives. I ended up committing to teach at his institute in May next year.

I also saw Mr. Yong Lee and his wife Kay Lee. I have known them from our time in California as far back as in 1989. Kay Lee used to work for me at Premier Bank in Colorado. Both are now teaching at Handong. Kay Lee's daughter went to the same primary and secondary school with our daughter Amanda in Colorado.

All this was made possible because God opened the door through Dr. Myungsool Do, a professor at the school of bio engineering. He is now on his sabbatical leave but has undertaken a social enterprise to be established in Rwanda under KOICA's funding program. His team member students were also in attendance in the class that I taught.

I do not know what God has in mind, but the short visit and the opportunity of meeting numerous people did not look like a coincidence. I am grateful and hopeful for what God may have in mind. - Jeffrey 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Agaciro Development Fund

"Agaciro" means "dignity" in Kinyarwanda. Agaciro Development Fund (ADF) was initiated by Rwandans to help accelerate the development of Rwanda with their own fund.

It is also called "Sovereign Fund." It is because the Rwandan government promoted this fund to bridge the gap in development funding which resulted from either delayed or reduced payment of development/aid funds from major Western countries, such as the U.S., the U.K. and the Netherlands. Their actions were associated with an U.N. report that alleged Rwanda's involvement in supporting the M23 rebels fighting against the DR Congo government. The Rwandan government has flat denied all allegations on every account.

This initiative has motivated all Rwandans to stand up for the country's dignity, hence Agaciro, and participated in the fund-raising drive. The President Kagame has openly declared that it should be purely a voluntary participation from whoever desires to do so. However, many feel that they have to. This sends a signal that many are doing it in fear or reluctantly while others may be eager to do it. It is reported that government officials or staff have pledged or donated up to 100% of their one month salary to be paid over 12 months.

At any rate, this Agaciro Development Fund drive has raised $30 million worth of pledges in just two months. That amount happens to be the same as the amount that has been a shortfall in Rwandan government's development funding needs. Coincidence? Could be. Calculated maneuver? Could be also.

At any rate, UOB and all UOB staff also participated in the fund-raising campaign after a lengthy debate among representatives of the staff. In total, UOB and UOB staff, including myself as a friend of Rwanda, have donated RWF21.1 million or approximately $35,000 in cash. The bank has decided to make the lump sum payment on behalf of the staff to be collected over the next 12 months.

Personally, I think it is a good campaign to mobilize savings among Rwandans. It is an effort for self sufficiency. There have been other cases in different countries. If this drive continues, however, without genuine desire collectively expressed in consensus among Rwandans, it would become another form of tax for the Rwandan citizens and businesses. It may also worsen the otherwise wonderful leader's tarnished image as a dictator although I personally think he is a benevolent strong leader. We will see. - Jeffrey

Here is the link to an article about our giving published in the New Times.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ministry Updates - September 2012

Time of Worship at OIN Global Leadership Conference
Dear family, friends and fellow Kingdom workers

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! Glory and honor be to Him and Him alone!

As we have just finished the month of September, three quarters of the year 2012 have passed away now into the past. September was another month that compels me to praise and honor our gracious Lord for what He has done, beyond our expectation and imagination.

The following were highlights:

1. Kristin and I had a privilege of participating in the Opportunity International Global Leadership Conference that took place at Keble College, Oxford University, U.K. The conference was themed as "Blueprint for the Future." As the theme indicates, Global Microfinance Operations (GMO) CEO presented a strategic blueprint for the next few years. It was encouraging and a blessing to meet/see many colleagues from around the world, who have been responding to and are partaking God's calling for serving the poor. 

2. Kristin and I also took advantage of visiting this great historical education city by visiting some colleges. Also, God has blessed us with an opportunity to see a long-time friend and fellow Christian couple who are serving the Lord at Oxford Center for Mission Studies: Drs. Julie and Wonsuk Ma. Both are faculties and Wonsuk is Executive Director. The late John Stott was one of the founding and contribution members of OCMS and we shared our direct and indirect experiences about this great godly man.

3. UOB held the regular board meeting in September. The board reviewed the second quarter performance and praised God for His overflowing grace in all fronts.

4. UOB held six focus group meetings with approximately 160 clients to collect feedback on four new products that UOB has been designing to serve the needs of clients better. The products are: Home Improvement Loans, Emergency Loans, Secondary Student Loans and Premier Life Insurance. Based on these feedback, we plan to gradually introduce new products over the next six months. May the Lord bless these products to benefit Rwandan clients!

5. UOB received a Social Audit from Planet Rating in September. This audit was commissioned by Oxfam Novib that has lent UOB a medium term loan to finance UOB's growing lending activities. This Social Audit findings and recommendations will help UOB improve its social performance management.

6. UOB submitted an Expression of Interest for grant funding to DFID (Department of Finance for International Development - UK). Also, UOB submitted a Concept Note for grant funding to Access to Finance Rwanda (AFR). We are waiting for the result from two other British development agencies to which UOB submitted grant funding proposals. We pray for God's favor in these proposals, but we are not concerned at all. We are confident that our God provide whatever we need whether through these development agencies or not. So we can remain in peace whether they are approved or not. Meanwhile, we seek your intercession until the result comes out.

With Drs. Julie and Wonsuk Ma at Christ Church
7. UOB started an operation at its new Ngoma Branch. Ngoma is a district in Eastern Province. From this office, we expect to serve the growing needs of clients in Ngoma and Kirehe districts. UOB is also working on opening its Huye Branch (Southern Province) and Gisozi Minibranch in Kigali City. Also, UOB has opened two new credit offices in Southern Province, thus making its total number of offices now reach 44. Moreover, UOB will soon start signing up its client service agents in Eastern Province. We target to establish at least 60 agents by the year-end. These expanding client service points will only help serve our clients better and more conveniently.

8. UOB has been developing a new credit scoring method (named B-CAT or Business Credit Assessment Tool) that will be used for Micro Business Loans. With the technical assistance received from Triple Jump, this effort started with the market research and product design. With the development of this tool, procedural manual development and staff training are scheduled for October. After expected implementation in October, we will run a pilot test for six months after which we will hold an evaluation for refinement.

9. UOB registered another month of growth in its lending and deposits. The loan portfolio increased 3% to Rwf10.3 Billion and a slight increase in client number to 42,592. PAR>30 remained strong at 1.27%, although showing a slight increase from the previous month-end.

10. Jeffrey has continued his preaching and teaching ministries at UOB, Agape Korean Church and Shalom Bible Study. It is a wonderful honor to be used for these ministries. 

11. Kristin has committed to helping build two classrooms at a church-led nursery to induce little children from the streets to classrooms from early age. She has started offering to others the opportunities to participate in this effort. Please see the blog post  for additional information.

12. We have the following prayer requests. Please pray for us whenever you remember us in your prayer time:
  • For God's continued guidance in developing the mobile banking solutions in a timely manner for a timely launch in November
  • For God's provision of wisdom in designing the road maps in implementing IFC TA funding
  • For God's provision of discernment in analyzing, assessing and deciding on human resources cases, including frauds so that our decisions may be godly and edifying
  • For God's guidance in designing and implementing four new products in a way that benefits Rwandans reflecting the focus group feedback.
  • For God's conviction to all staff about UOB's mission, vision and core values so that our transformation efforts may be apparent and evident in all we do.
  • For God's mercy upon our aging parents to finish their lives on earth in joy, hope and love.
  • For God's grace upon our two daughters who are in service for different purposes in Africa so that they may serve as if they work for the Lord and they may clearly see the path that the Lord has prepared for them. (Amanda has now returned to the U.S. after successful mission in Africa. Praise the Lord!)
  • For God's continued illumination to us to be able to understand God's Word clearly so that we may preach, teach, coach and lead many people who have been bestowed upon us to serve.  
  • For God's favor in raising all necessary funding to help complete the construction of class rooms for a nursery.
Thank you all for standing with us in prayer for this wonderful privilege of serving "the least of His brethren" in Rwanda (Matthew 25:40)

Gratefully in His service,

Jeffrey and Kristin Lee in Rwanda