Todd: You can't help but notice throughout the Bible, especially the Old Testament, that when God did something great, the people celebrated! We love to celebrate as well in PEER Servants, especially when we see the transformed lives that God is raising up from among the entrepreneurial clients of our microfinance partners.
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!