Saturday, March 30, 2013

Ministry Updates - March 2013

UOB Board March 15 2013
Dear family, friends and fellow Kingdom workers

The first quarter of 2013 has ended. This quarter has been one of the toughest quarters in our 4-year life in Rwanda. Nonetheless, God remains good and faithful. We thank Him for all He has done and He has provided.

Here are the highlights of what God has done through us in March.

1. We continued registering clients for mHose, UOB's unique inter-operable mobile banking platform developed and operating in cooperation with mVISA, VISA's emerging market mobile banking platform. We now have almost 300 clients signed up and 20 agents are getting signed up and trained.

2. We continued distributing UOB Grace Cards to our clients. These cards should help them access their savings through ATMs and POS at agents and merchants.

One of 500 Teachers' Bibles
3. We have secured 500 Teachers' Bibles that will be distributed to pastors at 7-8 small denominations, including some Anglican dioceses, Methodists, Presbyterians, PEFA, Assembly of God, Friends (Quakers) and Baptists. May God bless these pastors with in-depth knowledge about the Word to be preaching to their congregation members more profoundly.

4. UOB held its first board meeting in 2013 in March. The board also held its retreat to evaluate what UOB has done for the past two yeas and to determine the priorities for the next two years. World Relief Vice President of Integral Mission came to facilitate the session. UOB also held its Assembly of General Meeting to elect two new directors, approve the Audited Financial Statements for 2012 with an unqualified opinion and approve the new external auditor, Price Waterhouse Coopers for 2013 - 2015.

5. UOB started checking with Credit Reference Bureau on its group loan borrowers of Rwf1 million ($1,400) or higher in March. The finding was astonishing. A significant percentage of our group clients has loans from other financial institutions and many of them are already past due with them. These multiple loan borrowers are highly likely to be in over-indebtedness beyond their ability to manage the debt. This has been one of the direct reasons for the rising Portfolio at Risk percentage. Although the immediate impact is lower loan portfolio and reduced number of borrowing clients, we feel it is in their and our best interest not to grant loans to these people. Please pray that this new procedure will not affect those who are in need.

Aflatoun, a fire ball figure
6. UOB participated in the AFLAAcademy training. AFLAAcademy is a virtual school that trains trainers of Aflatoun curriculum that teaches children about financial and social education and encourages them to save and start social and financial enterprises. This is part of UOB's EduFinance and Education program as sponsored by DFID Rwanda under its Innovation for Education Program. UOB has received approval on its proposal.

7. UOB has signed an Alliance Agreement with Access Bank Rwanda in March. Under this Alliance Agreement, UOB and Access Bank Rwanda will work together in several areas of mutual interest, including local currency line of credit, joint branding for ATMs, branch facility sharing, joint marketing for NGOs. etc.

8. Jeffrey made a trip to Accra Ghana to attend the T24 R10 Model Bank design workshop. UOB is scheduled to migrate to this Model Bank during the third quarter 2013.

9. Jeffrey conducted a day-long "Good Steward's Financial Management" seminar for 20 participants who are mostly KOICA volunteers and S. Korea's Handong Global University's social enterprise team members. Also, Jeffrey conducted a training session for 19 UOB managers about "Banking for Managers." 
Workshop for AFLAAcademy
10. Kristin's Nursery Construction Project (Yaramba, Gicumbi) has been progressing well. The external and internal construction work has been completed. Now the furnishing and ancillary facilities are being implemented. Kristin has also begun the dialogue with a church member who will organize and manage the nursery.

11. UOB received many visitors in March, including Director of Risk, Director of Agricultural Finance and Director of H.R. for OI Africa. 

12. Jeffrey continued ministering to God's people through preaching and teaching the Word at UOB Devotion, Agape Church Rwanda and Shalom Bible Study. We are studying "Lead Like Jesus" at SBS.

2012 Annual Report
13. UOB published its 2012 Annual Report that is unapologetically identifying UOB as a Christian bank and its work is Christ-centered and Client-focused.

14. Jeffrey's father has been discharged from the hospital and now living at home. His health has improved tremendously and we praise the Lord who has answered our and your prayers. Thank you for praying with us for him. Kristin's mom remains pretty much the same staying at the nursing home. Please remember to pray for our elderly parents so that we may not be distracted by their illness.

15. Please remember us in your prayer for the following issues:
* Rwanda's economic situation remains gloomy. The money is not circulating and creating significant challenges with Rwandans and institutions alike. The government is also struggling to fund its planned projects and programs.
* UOB's financial and operating performances remain pretty challenging. We are thinking of taking some measures to control expenses.
* The roll-out of mHose and UOB Grace Cards continue, but glitches continue to pop up to slow down the launch process. We are scheduled for commercial launch in May and may this project gain God's favor to avoid any further delay.
* We continue to facilitate the scale-up of HLI training for our clients. Due to rising PAR and declining loan portfolio balance, our lending staff is not able to provide as much training as they desire and we hoped. Please remember to pray for this important program to promote our client training program. There are other programs that we are implementing and we pray these programs to be effective and fruitful for His Kingdom.

Thank you for standing with us in prayer and support.

Rejoicing greatly in the Lord's resurrection!

Jeffrey and Kristin Lee from Kigali, Rwanda.

Aflatoun --- Workshop for Children Education...

UOB participated in a workshop for AFLAAcademy. AFLAAcademy is a virtual school that trains the trainers who will in turn train the teachers at primary and secondary schools, who wil in turn again teach the students about financial and social education.

Aflatoun is a fireball figure that fell from an outer space, they say. What does it have to do with child education?

It symbolizes an empowered child

Aflatoun is a Financial and Social Education for children, aged 6-14. Aflateen is a sister program for youth of 15+ years of age.

It is a child-centered program that encourages learning by doing through games and activities
The program's ultimate goal is "behavioral change" in children.

Aflatoun is now in 95 countries and has been introduced to 1.5 million children. It is a significant program for child education on finance. These children save 0.73 cents per month per child totaling $2.75 million. Wow...

In 2012, these children formed 976 social enterprises and 4,054 financial enterprises.

These children scattered all over the world observe the International Aflatoun Day on March 17th of each year.

UOB received a funding from DFID Rwanda for Innovation for Education. UOB is implementing a holistic program that targets 1) children for financial education, 2) primary/secondary students and their parents with school fee loans and their education, and 3) school entrepreneurs with school development loans and their education.

This workshop is for the first compoent of financial education for children. AMIR (Association of MFIs in Rwanda) has been retained to carry out this program for UOB.

It is my prayer that this program will produce measurable and significant impact on their financial knowledge. - Jeffrey

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Agape Korean Church Rwanda...

In Rwanda, there is one Korean church. It is called Agape Korean Church of Rwanda. It is a house church but the number of believers who worship on Sunday is now over 90, including children. It is a significant number given that the total number of Koreans living in Rwanda is approximately 150.

Most of the members are KOICA volunteers. They serve for two years and most of them teach at schools. The subjects that they teach are becoming more diverse every year. Most of them used to computer and athletics before. Now there are people who teach telecommunication, electronics, cooking, nursing, fine arts, business administration, tourism, Taekwondo, agriculture, and even hair dressers.

The church does not have a full time pastor. So the Korean missionaries ministering in Rwanda take turn in preaching on Sundays.

Newly Arrived KOICA Members
I am also on the roaster of preachers. For the past year or so, I have been preaching about what pertains to God. So far, I have been covering God's Will, God's Time, God's People, God's Righteousness, God's Kingdom, God's Abundant Glory, God's Promises I and II, God's Blessings I and II.

On March 24th, I preached about God's Love. The opportunity to share the Word is a blessing in itself. The time to prepare and meditate on the Word is already  a precious time of fellowship with God through His Holy Spirit. Through these opportunities, God helps me grow stronger and more mature in my faith in the Lord.  

Agape Korean Church Members after Christmas Service
I am so grateful for the opportunity of preaching at this young and dynamic church. The church has a string quartet accompanying the time of praise.

The church has been praying for God's provision of a full time pastor who can shepherding this young congregation.

Jehovah Jireh! - Jeffrey 

UOB Academy ...

UOB Academy is UOB's comprehensive program for staff development. It has four sub-program components.

First, it includes all internal training programs. UOB Academy has identified and developed several faculty members who provide training sessions for staff on select topics periodically.

Second, it includes all external training programs. UOB identifies certain areas that require training for staff, determines the most suitable candidate to champion the program and sends him or her to attend one or two external training programs to design and implement the internal training program. There are exceptions where trainees are sent for training, such as ICT or accounting.

Third, it includes external degree or certification program. UOB selects and sponsors certain staff to pursue bachelor's or master's degree in micro finance. Africa MAIN is the source for these degree programs being conducted in Uganda (Anglphone) and Cameroon (Francophone). Recently we started offering a certified program in micro finance at Frankfurt School of Finance in Germany on line. Two have been certified and six are in training. We plan to implement this program down to managers.

Fourth, it includes school tuition fee reimbursement program. When UOB staff pursue further study in any subject, they are entitled to the reimbursement of the tuition fees for up to certain limit.

On Friday, March 22nd, 2013, I conducted a 5-hour training session for 19 officers of UOB on the subject of "Banking for Managers." They all are in leadership capacity and the program was designed to help them understand the history of banking and basic/additional functions of banking, and how to use key ratios for effective management. They seemed they liked the program. But it was not easy to pour out my heart into the training for five hours physically. I must be getting old.

I am scheduled to teach one more class in October this year on the subject of "Essential Management Skills and Leadership Competency." - Jeffrey

Monday, March 25, 2013

UOB Board Meeting and Board Retreat...

Board Members after the March 15th Board Meeting
UOB board meeting takes place four times a year. It is a quarterly event. The first board meeting for 2013 was held on March 14th and 15th.

On the first day, the board committees meet to review all key activities. There are H.R./Transformation Committee, Credit Policy Committee, Asset Liability Committee, Risk Management Committee and Audit Committee. Usually it is a full day schedule.

On the second day, each committee chair reports the summary of the committee meetings to the full board and after the CEO's own report the board resolves on the action items. After the regular board meeting, all other executive officers are asked to stay out of the meeting and the board with the CEO enters into an executive session. This session deals with issues that are too sensitive to discuss with other management present.

At the first meeting of the year, we also hold the Annual General Meeting (AGM). At this meeting, shareholders elect new directors to represent their interests, review and approve the audited financial statements, and appoint the external auditor. This year, the shareholders appointed two new directors, including the first female director (Christine Baingana) and Andre Lalumiere (OBUL CEO), approved the 2012 audited financial statements with an unqualified opinion, and appointed Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) as the new external auditor for the next three years.

After the board meeting, the board also held a retreat in the afternoon of March 15th and in the morning of March 16th, Saturday. The purpose was to review if UOB has been living up to its mission, vision and values for the past two years and to provide guidance on where to pay attention for the bank's transformation programs. Gil, Vice President of Integral Mission at World Relief US came to facilitate the retreat. It was somewhat grueling but all participants were serious and passionate about the subject. It was a blessing and uplifting time.

I have belonged to several boards and experienced even more boards, but UOB board members are people of God who love and love to serve God with the talents and time that God has bestowed upon them. I thoroughly enjoy working with them.

 May God continue making His face shine upon UOB, UOB staff and UOB clients! - Jeffrey

Saturday, March 23, 2013

T24 R10 Model Bank Workshop in Accra Ghana

I attended T24 R10 Model Bank Workshop that took place in Accra, Ghana on March 11 and 12, 2013. T24 is a core banking system that a company called Temenos provides. R10 represents Release 10 or a version that was released in 2010. Model Bank is a standardized design for a core banking system that Opportunity International is developing to help all its implementing members adopt to achieve consistent and comprehensive standardization of the core banking systems.

Previously, CFOs and IT people held a few meetings to collect and combine the features for products and services that are currently being offered at implementing members after Opportunity International's chosen vendor Jethro has done scoping works at all implementing members. This meeting was to do the final review of the proposed system from the operational standpoint.

A female sculpture
A male sculpture
I was pleased to see the proposed system that accommodates all the current needs plus additional features that are available from other implementing members. It will be a robust system.

The trip was challenging for two reasons. First, right after the trip, UOB's board meeting was scheduled to take place on 14th and 15th. Usually it is undesirable to travel before the board meeting or to be distracted from the work of preparing for the board meeting. Second, I had to catch a 2:55AM flight from Kigali and also 8:50PM flight from Accra. Both were red eye flights which are physically draining. Nonetheless I decided to go because my desire to see the system first hand before it is finalized. I was glad that I went because I was able to help identify some critical areas that requires a change.

I pray that the remaining process will go through smoothly in order for us to be able to migrate to the Model Bank as scheduled. UOB is scheduled for migration in August 2013. - Jeffrey
Natural coconut juice

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Gicumbi (Yaramba( Nursery Progress Report #3

It has been truly God's grace that has been upon this Gicumbi (Yaramba Sector) Nursery project.

Mud bricks first intended for use
The most recent visit was made on March 5th and I am recapping the history for the past three months or so.

Originally, the church planned to use the mud bricks to build the nursery.

Church members working 3 months ago
We committed to building the nursery with regular red bricks and asked the church to help flatten the land. The church responded immediately.

Flattened land 2 1/2 months ago
30-40 church members have worked hard and in a week, the sloped grass land has been flattened. The way the work had been done was impressive.

With Pastor Innocent and Hyun, Architect
Hyun, Architect from Korea, agreed to draw the floor plan pro bono. God provided funding through His people in the U.S. and Korea. Pastor Innocent and his church members put their commitment to running it as an exemplary nursery. God's plan worked beautifully in harmony.

Laying foundations 2 months ago
The construction began quickly from laying foundation, to building walls and putting the roof and windows. All construction progressed from the start to putting the roof only in just two months. It is rare to build this fast with this quality in Rwanda. All these construction works have been done on schedule and on budget, which is very rare. Obviously, there were some items that were left out of the original budget, but the funding has been sufficient to cover all these extra costs so far. God has been good and faithful. I trust that God has blessed the hearts of His people and concerted efforts that His people have been making with His abundant grace. Praise the Lord!

Nursery completed 2 weeks ago

 Here is the nursery completed with metal roof placed and a corridor also covered to provide protection against rainy days. We intended to put colored roof on the building but the pastor wanted to save the budget. But the walls and other frames have turned out to be of very good quality. We keep hearing compliments about the fast pace and solid quality of the construction. Most recently, one contractor who has been building another nursery else where visited the Gicumbi Nursery and admitted on the quality of the work.

Church sign
Fence around the playground a week ago 
Now the church has purchased a piece of land adjacent to the nursery to use it as the playground for children. Fences are being installed.

Sample Desk and Chair. 
Meanwhile, we have ordered a sample  desk and chair. They looked so cute and sturdy. So the carpenter has the final order and is making eight desks and 64 chairs. These furniture should be completed in three weeks.

Now the next step is to review and plan for the operational aspect. The church has identified a female member who will be put in charge of running the nursery. A missionary from S. Korea has also agreed to help with the operational aspect of the nursery.

I am grateful for the progress that has been made to date and praise the Lord. Please pray with us for God's continued gracious hands on this project so that it may become an exemplary nursery not only in the quality of construction but also in the quality of the nursery education. - Kristin

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Day in the $1.50 Life...

[This article from Opportunity International's blog.]

A Day in the $1.50 Life

Young Ambassador for Opportunity member Joe Sandler Lived Below the Line last year. He recounts his experience here. Join Opportunity supporters and Young Ambassadors like Joe inLiving Below the Line for Opportunity April 29-May 3 2013. Spend less than $1.50 a day on food and drink in honor of the 1.4 billion people who survive on less than $1.50 a day every day. Live Below the Line so that others can rise above it.
Unofficially, it is the first day that I am attempting to “Live below the Line,” or survive on less than $1.50 of sustenance a day. (I made an attempt earlier this week, but failed since I had to attend a business lunch, which was obviously above $1.50.) I have already begun to realize how difficult it is to live in a way so many people in the developing world are forced to live.


Starving. What to have for breakfast? I was really craving a bowl of flax granola but unfortunately a bowl (without milk) is $.67 which puts me over my $.50 ration for breakfast. Attempt 2: how about eggs? Well it is doable, but all I can have is 1 egg and half a piece of toast (1 egg is $.25 and ½ slice of Beckman’s Sourdough bread is $.14, so my total is $.39). Can I afford some coffee? Obviously not my usual Americano at Starbucks, but if I take some of the roast I have at home, one serving comes out to $.40…still a little too rich for my blood. I guess it is just water with breakfast. On Track!<


Starving again but can’t think of anything that is inexpensive enough to stay on budget. Count down to lunch begins. On Track!


Ramen is an easy and inexpensive meal so I go there; at least I will get my full serving worth of sodium. Total is $.33, so not only on track but under budget!


Typically I would have a mid-afternoon snack but I want to save my remaining $.78 for the day and hold out for dinner. On Track!


As I brainstorm dinner, I go back to eggs so that I can get some protein. Since rice is also inexpensive I decide to go for some fried rice. One egg + some jasmine rice + some sautéed onion & broccoli and I should still be under budget at $.63, which would give me a remaining $.15 for a few chocolate chips for dessert. As I start to fill this out though, I realize I forgot to calculate the condiments; specifically $.21 in olive oil (expensive), $.12 in soy sauce, and $.04 in Sriracha Hot Sauce. My success has turned to failure as I realized that all together I spent $1.78; $.28 over budget…not to mention that dessert is now out of the picture. Failure!
Attempting to live on $1.50 was a shocking experience. While I failed, I was still amazed I was able to stay even close to the target. I was even more saddened though, when I realized how many people go to bed hungry every night. This experience has helped me realize how lucky we are to have the means, but also how important it is for all of us to make a concerted effort to help eradicate poverty so that someday all people will not go to bed hungry and malnourished. My hope is that someday everyone will be able to live on more than $1.50 a day.
You can Live Below the Line for Opportunity this year. Learn more and register at
Joe Sandler is a consultant with The Alexander Group and a founding member of the YAO-San Francisco chapter.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Ministry Update - February 2013

These boys are excited about the nursery...
Dear family, friends and fellow Kingdom workers,

Warm greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Rwanda situation remained tough in February at least economically. This is the worst time for us in the past four years of living in Rwanda. One of our staff who has been working for more than 10 years also said that she has never seen anything like this. So it is pretty tough. Apparently, Rwandan government is trying to make a breakthrough. The Rwandan President swapped the Minister of Finance with the Governor of the central bank last week, along with the reshuffle of several other cabinet members.

Despite all these challenges, we know that God reigns with His sovereignty over all challenges combined. We trust Him regardless, like we trust there is the sun over the thick clouds in a cloudy day.

The following highlights what God has done through us in February:

1. Two months in a row, UOB's performance has been declining. Loan portfolio balance and active borrowing clients have declined. Portfolio at risk (PAR) has been rising and operating revenues have also declined. Please pray with us that Rwanda will receive God's favor in its diplomatic relationship with the UN and other development partners so that the foreign aid may resume its inflow to Rwanda.

Some of the Senior Leaders of UOB
2. UOB held the leadership retreat with 33 senior leaders and learned about "Lead Like Jesus" based on a book with the same title authored by Ken Blachard and Phil Hodges. I had the privilege of leading the workshop and we all were encouraged by the learning. We also praised God for who He is regardless of what is happening around us and had great fellowship among ourselves to strengthen the teamwork. It was a blissful time.

3. UOB has revamped its microinsurance product with significantlly enhanced features, and renamed it "Humura" It means "comfort or relaxation" in Kinyarwanda. We really wanted it to be an effective life risk management tool as the only micro insurance product for the underprivileged people of Rwanda. What we are so thankful for is that we have been able to enhance the product without having to increase the existing premium. Praise the Lord!

Praising together
4. Finally, UOB has formally launched mHose, UOB's mobile and agent banking platform developed in cooperation with mVISA, VISA's mobile banking solution for the emerging countries. We have signed up agents and clients, and transactions have been made successfully. It has taken almost 18 months since we first began the process. We again praise the Lord who has been at the center of all this innovative initiative as an enabler. In February, UOB also began to distribute the UOB Grace Cards (smart cards for debit transactions) to its clients. They will now have access to almost 250 ATMs located nationwide. UOB is also installing its own ATMs at select locations.

5. Jeffrey has begun to serve as Director of Opportunity Kenya, Opportunity International's micro finance implementing member in Kenya. Jeffrey has also been asked to serve the board of RSwitch, Rwanda's national switch for electronic paymenes as the representative of the RBA (Rwanda Bankers Association). May God's will be done through these additional responsibilities.

6. UOB received several visitors, including Opportunity International US Marketing Team. They filmed our clients and our activities. May this media coverage introduce what is being done in Rwanda to many people around the world.

7. UOB held the first stakeholder meeting under DFID Rwanda's Innovation for Education program. UOB has received approval on its proposal for GBP610,000. Under this program, we plan to reach out to school entrepreneurs with school improvement loans and training, parents of primary and secondary students with school fee loans with education, and children/youth with financial education. This holistic approach is unique and innovative in Rwanda and we look forward to helping Rwanda's education system improve further. We have begun two baseline studies and one market research for this purpose.

8. UOB business unit leaders have all signed their performance MOUs for 2013. The extrinsic challenges make the performance goals somewhat daunting, but we all have made the move with our trust and confidence in the Lord.

Nursery with roofing done
Church Sign
9. Kristin's nursery construction project in Gicumbi (Yaramba sector) is going really well. All walls have been erected and the roof has been placed. So it now looks like a building. There are still a lot of works to be done before we can say it has been completed, but the progress has been impressive. Kristin has been visiting the site on a weekly basis on average. We thank the Lord for His guidance and provision.

10. Jeffrey has continued serving God's people through preaching and teaching the Word of God. These ministry opportunities have been blessing to himself first before he has been used as an instrument for God's blessing to channel through to others.

With Pastor Innocent and Hyun, Architect
11. Jeffrey's father has been discharged from a hospital to a care center for Alzheimer's disease patients, but persisting pains in other parts of his body have sent him back to the hospital. It has been 30 years since I left Korea and also my parents. His illness has made me feel very uneasy and uncomfortable about staying away for a long time from my parents, particularly as the oldest son in the family. I am seeking God's will and guidance under the circumstances.

12. We would like to request your prayer for the following subjects:
  • God's intervention in Rwanda's stalemate with the UN and developing partners on DR Congo issue so that the new cabinet members may be able to make a breakthrough.
  • God's strengthening of Rwandans, including UOB clients, so that they may remain strong and resilient under the circumstances
  • God's gracious encouragement for UOB staff to be strong and persevere under tough situations. They have to chase three rabits of controlling the portfolio at risk, disbursing loans to existing/new clients and implementing HLI (Holistic Life Improvement) training for clients. 
  • God's guidance in the upcoming Board meeting in March and the Board retreat scheduled right after the Board meeting.
  • God's care and protection upon the nursery project in Gicumbi.
  • God's empowerment upon His people through the preaching and teaching ministries.
  • God's peace and grace upon Jeffrey's father and Kristin's mother in their final days of life on earth.
We are always deeply grateful for your standing with us through prayer and support.

May God richly bless you and your beloved ones with His grace and peace

Gratefully in His service,

Jeffrey and Kristin Lee in Rwanda