Thursday, December 31, 2009
That's where our good friends, Dave and Terry Monaghan come in! Thay have a nice house right on the Indian River Lagoon on Hutchinson Island in Florida. They are away for much of December, so last year and this they made their place available to us. What a blessing. What do we do? Nothing!!! Watching the sun set is about as much activity as either of us care to take part in. It's a great place to get away to, and we really thank Dave and Terry for their generosity and thoughtfulness.
This December had an added attraction in that we had visitors from South Africa! Moss Mphaga is the Board Chairman of Aloga Financial Services, our microfinace partner located in Pretoria. He and his wife, Lindi, and children Khutli (age 7) and Titi (age 6) met us in Florida on December 11 and then followed us to Boston and stayed through December 26. We had a wonderful visit with them, complete with some days at one of my favorite places in the world, Walt Disney World!
So, while this December was just as crazy as Decembers typically are, it was a joy-filled month that we will cherish for some time to come.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Todd: At PEER Servants, one of our most distinctive core values is what we call "The Reign of Reciprocity". It puts into practice the belief that God has created us to be a blessing to each other. That is true whether one is materially rich or materially poor. Time and time again we have experienced ways God has prepared our brothers and sisters in Christ from around the world to enrich and strengthen us. That is true for Les and me, and it is true for a growing number of those associated with PEER Servants.
That was particularly true in my November 2009 trip to the Philippines and our microfinance partner, The Center for Community Transformation (CCT). CCT has over 100,000 community partners, including these four weavers (upper right), whom they serve with loans, savings programs, insurance, weekly fellowship groups (including Bible studies), and so much more. They run the microfinance activity so well that the profits generated can provide funding for ministry to streetdwellers (lower left) and children of the microfinance clients. They excel at meeting both the physical and spiritual needs of the very materially poor in the Philippines and doing so in a manner that the materially poor come to discover all that God made them to be. It is really inspiring to be around the CCT team!
Joining me on this trip were David Ryder, our PEER Servants Board Chairman (upper left), and Heather and Jeff Takle (sitting second and third from the right in the lower right picture). It was the first trip to one of our microfinance partners for Dave and he returned very impressed with the work of CCT and committed to Christian microfinance as a means to empower the materially poor. Heather and Jeff worked closely with the CCT staff in gaining exposure and completing research enabling them to prepare some case studies on CCT. These case studies will be used by other indigenous Christian MFIs around the world as they map out their own paths to becoming high-impact organizations.
We thank God for CCT and the other microfinance organizations around the world whom God is using to not only strengthen the materially poor, but those of us in PEER Servants as well.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
This collage provides a peek at each of the four sites. Our hope and prayer is that God will continue to build this event for His glory and the empowerment of the materially poor.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Most of our trip we were in Uganda. We were joined by very dedicated PEER Servants volunteer, Richard Kinyua (seated center in this picture), and worked with CAFECC, our microfinance partner in Arua in the northwest corner of Uganda, very close to the border with the DRC and Sudan. We provided consulting in the area of making process improvements and better managing risk to the CAFECC management and staff. Richard worked with the CAFECC staff to introduce a new loan administration software package that will enable them to process their loans much more efficiently. In addition, we met with the CAFECC board to hear from them what they see their next steps and challenges being on their path to establishing a sustainable, transformational Christian microfinance institution. We were very impressed with the CAFECC board -- they are willing to face some pretty major challenges squarely in the eye and take the steps needed to overcome them. We are confident they will succeed.
While in Uganda, CAFECC carried on a lot of their regular daily activities. This included making loans to each of ten women (pictured, right) who had formed a group. They have quite a range of businesses -- from running a small convenience store to raising chickens and more. Lord willing, it will enable them to send their young babies to school when the time comes. We also attended the group meeting of another group of ten or so women who were already repaying their loan. They had 100% repayment rate. And, another group of women, most of whom were Muslim, came to the meeting as well expressing their interest in receiving a loan. The needs and opportunities are great - join us in praying that CAFECC will be able to effectively reach them.
Given the frequency with which we travel to Africa, we have developed some very close relationships with our African brothers and sisters. One such close sister in Christ is Nora, pictured here with Leslie. Nora is a Sudanese refugee living in Uganda. I think just from the picture you can tell what a warm and loving person she is. She has every reason to be otherwise -- her life and that of her family devastated by war, not having sufficient financial income to give her children an education, her husband having to live hours away to get a job, and her health deteriorating with a heart condition that needs medical attention but she can't afford it. That is the reality of life for someone living on $2 or less a day. And almost 1/2 of our world lives just like that. WWJD? What a wonderful question. Our hope and prayer is that close friends like Nora will keep us and you asking that question until we get closer to having and living out the right answers.
From Uganda we traveled to Zambia - to Lusaka, the capital. There we met Canga Kamwambe, another very dedicated PEER Servants volunteer, who happened to be in Lusaka for the wedding of one of her cousins. Canga is originally from Malawi. (Richard, who we were with in Uganda, is originally from Kenya. Many of our PEER Servants volunteers are originally from other countries and are very strategic in establishing close partnerships with indigenous organizations.) Our focus was providing business plan and financial modeling consulting to our newest microfinance partner, CEMFIN. The CEMFIN board and management (including Chairman of the Board, Buta Gondwe, center, and Managing Director, Alick Kalonga, right) are preparing their application to the Bank of Zambia to become a formal microfinance institution. They will then set out on joining the Holy Spirit in providing a means to transformation for the materially poor that crowd the Lusaka slums. They will be walking where Jesus would walk and we can't wait to see the transformed lives that result!
Our final stop was South Africa -- what has long been one of my favorite countries to visit. Our stay was short -- just over 30 hours, but within that time we had an opportunity to meet with key board members of Aloga Financial Services, our South African microfinance partner, and hear from them their vision for the next 5 years. God has blessed this organization with a very capable board and dedicated management. As a result, Aloga can "boast" more recent Lydia Award winners than any of our other microfinance partners. They are doing a commendable job of not just keeping the poor poor, which microfinance sometimes does, but identifying those among their clients who can really bring transformation to their communities and focusing their resources on them. We stayed in the home of board chairman, Moss Mphaga and his beautiful family. Moss, Lindi, Khutli, and Titi (pictured here) are very dear friends to us. Moss has become a leading advocate (lawyer) in South Africa -- yet, you'll find him serving his church, helping Aloga expand its reach, and tending to the needs of his distant family members. As a 15-year old young man, he was shot by the security forces within apartheid South Africa -- Jesus has redeemed him, allowed him to forgive, and become a very powerful agent of transformation in his country. We are inspired to be around him on every visit to South Africa.
Passing through South Africa on the way to Uganda on the front end of the trip, we also were blessed to overnight with Jesse and Vicki Ratichek. Jesse is the PEER Servants Africa Regional Management Consultant. They just moved to South Africa in July for a 2-3 year consultancy with Aloga. They have settled in well - have a really nice apartment and are already driving on the correct side of the road! More impressively, Jesse has already started to make a significant contribution at Aloga. Jesse and Vicki are an extremely impressive couple grounded in their faith, competent in what they do, and eager to serve humbly and in a manner that honors Jesus. We are really proud to have them representing PEER Servants in Africa.
Thanks for your prayers during this trip. YOU are a very critical member of each trip we make -- thank you. And if you ever want to join us on one of these trips, just say the word and get ready to be tremendously blessed!
Monday, August 31, 2009
Every year, we give out what we call "Lydia Awards" within PEER Servants to recognize the very top micro-entrepreneurs. Lydia was a businesswoman mentioned in Acts 16 who supported Paul and his missionary companions as they traveled through her part of Greece. In fact, Bible scholars credit Lydia with being one of the most important people in supporting the growth of the church into Europe. How did she do it? Through her business - selling purple dye and cloth, which was very lucrative at the time.
What we did this year for the first time is expand the process for determining our Lydia Award winners to include both online voting (did you vote? -- if not, make certain to do so next year) and a Lydia Award Celebration evening. We have a group of 5 dedicated volunteers who reviewed all of the nominees and selected 3 semi-finalists (pictured here) -- Victor, a cement block manufacturer and pastor from Moldova; Kikielomo, a chicken breeder and wholesaler from Nigeria; and, Rasanayagam, a chicken breeder and retailer from South Asia. All three semifinalists were really amazing -- Kikielomo subsidizes education for 150 school children through her business, and Rasanayagam has overcome his physical disability (he has one arm) to establish one of the most innovative and profitable chicken businesses in the region. Selecting a first, second, and third place from among these semifinalists wasn't easy. In fact, when all of the votes were tallied, Victor (Moldova) received 14% of the vote, and Kikielomo (Nigeria) and Rasanayagam (South Asia) both had 43% of the vote! Kikielomo received just a vote or two more than Rasanayagam, so she was the very deserving 2009 Lydia Award winner.
Our Lydia Award Celebration was one of our best nights of the year within PEER Servants. 40+ people gathered in the home of one of our donors to celebrate transformation. Cuisine from Moldova, Nigeria, and South Asia -- the countries/regions of our three semifinalists - was served, special music provided, and an opportunity given to praise God for what He had done in our midst. The excitement of such a close vote only added to making it a very special evening.
We wish all clients who are served by our microfinance partners could witness the kind of transformation in their lives that these Lydia Award semifinalists have - unfortunately, that is not the case. But these Lydia Award semifinalists do represent thousands who experience some element of economic, social, and spiritual transformation because of your willingness to support them through your financial and prayerful partnership. Thank you!
Friday, July 31, 2009
Todd: July is the month of our annual Training Camp. It's a weekend dedicated to microfinance training, spiritual challenge, learning to become more cross-culturally effective, and good ol' fellowship! This year 25+ gathered at Gordon College on July 24-26 for Training Camp. Our theme for the Camp was "to the ends of the earth" and it was a refreshing time to step back, assess what it is going to take to reach the ends of the earth with the love of Christ, and become better equipped to do so. Highlights of the weekend include the following:
- Pastor Gideon Achi from Nigeria kicked us off by challenging us in whether we are really committed to follow Christ or too comfortable in enjoying a lavish, by the world's standards, lifestyle.
- Scott Sterner got rave reviews for his Christian Micro-Enterprise Development 101 lecture.
- We looked at a case study of one of the most effective Christian MFIs, the Center for Community Transformation in the Philippines, and what we can learn from them in establishing Christ-centered microfinance programs.
- Abraham Thon, originally from the Sudan, and Leslie Engelsen guided us through a discussion on cross-cultural effectiveness after watching the excellent movie "God Grew Tired of Us".
- Val Boudreau led us through an assessment of our priorities in life and whether we are really living our lives by them.
- Dave Leach hosted his ever-popular annual game of Microfinance Jeopardy!
- We played games from Mexico and Nigeria and had a blast!
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Sunday, May 31, 2009
We had the pleasure of taking Todd's parents to southeastern Michigan for the wedding of one their 20+ grandchildren (our nephew). As this picture attests, on the way we made a stop at Niagara Falls. From the wedding we went to Newaygo, Michigan to visit with former next-door-neighbors, Lin and Jack Titus, and their beautiful family. It was a very special trip and one we will long cherish.
We have been tremendously blessed to have been raised by godly Christian parents. Les's parents are also committed followers of Christ. Seeing their examples made it very easy for us to understand the blessings of following Jesus. They are just one of countless ways we are blessed by God. It brings us great joy when we can be the means through which we can pass their blessings on to others.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
- Perspectives Course: Speaking at North Shore Community Baptist Church in Beverly, MA and Park Street Church in Boston, MA on Christian Community Development within the course “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.”
- Microfinance and Missions: Speaking at South Baptist Church in Laconia, NH on “Microfinance and Missions” as part of their annual Missions Conference.
- Materialism Sunday School Class: Speaking on two consecutive Sundays at Grace Chapel in Lexington, MA on “Materialism: Rich and Poor” as part of the “World-Sized Issues: Living Christianly” series.
- Gordon College: Speaking at Gordon College in Wenham, MA for two classes - “Global Issues for the Global Church” and “World Religions.”
- Microinsurance: Speaking at the Hope International Directors Retreat in Lancaster, PA on “Microinsurance”.
In all of these but the Microinsurance talk, we tag team in the speaking. We enjoy working together to present the material but know how we present - in this case as a mixed race couple — will be more memorable than what we present for the average person in the audience. Our hope and prayer is that will stick with the listener and the Holy Spirit will encourage them to apply it in some way to their own lives long after they have forgotten anything we said.
Preparing for and delivering these different talks in addition to our regular hectic PEER Servants schedules led to a very demanding but rewarding April. We had to be dependent on the Holy Spirit to speak through us, and our hope and prayer is that is what He did.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
One of the key speakers for the Reciprocity 2010 conference is a pastor from Nairobi Kenya named Oscar Muriu. God has given him deep insights into how we as a global family can draw from each others strengths to serve Christ more effectively and respond to the unique challenges facing our generation. We will also have workshops led by our microfinance partner in the Philippines as they share lessons learned in running one of the most spiritually, economically and socially transformational micro-finance programs we have ever seen.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Saturday, January 31, 2009
Avelino and I have been trying to meet for the past couple years — I had trouble getting an Angolan visa, and Avelino and Madalena were coming to Alberta to be in a wedding. So rather than meeting in the tropical warmth of southern Angola, God opened the door for the two of them to meet in the frigid tundra of Alberta. The time together may prove very valuable as Avelino establishes Jubilee Microfinance in the months ahead. If PEER Servants can recruit a group of volunteers to serve and support Jubilee, a formal partnership may develop between the two organizations. PEER Servants is very impressed with Jubilee and the team Avelino has gathered on his board and management in Lubango — it is very typical of the promising indigenous, autonomous microfinance institutions with which PEER Servants partners.
Avelino and I are both looking forward to future times of consultation as Jubilee gets established. But the next meeting will, Lord willing, be in the warmth of Angola.