Leslie/Todd; Once a year, PEER Servants gives out the Lydia Awards to recognize the very best micro-entrepreneurs among the thousands served by our microfinance partners. Who is Lydia, you may ask? You can read about her in Acts 16 -- she was a businesswoman who sold purple dye and cloth and from her profits supported Paul and his missionary companions. She is credited by church historians as being an important person in the spread of the church to Europe.
Each of our microfinance partners can nominate up to two of their very best clients based on six factors: growth in the business, being a good MFI client, innovation, perseverance, church/community impact, and business growth potential. A Lydia Awards Committee of PEER Servants volunteers and board members then picks three semifinalists. From there we post the three semifinalists online and allow online voting and then have a Lydia Awards Celebration wherein we serve food from the countries of the three semifinalists and have in-person voting after passionate presentations by those supporting the respective candidates. At the end of the Lydia Awards Celebration, the Lydia Award winner is announced. The whole process is a lot of fun, very inspiring, and very helpful to our microfinance partners and volunteers in learning how to effectively tell the story of the transformation they are witnessing.
Our three 2010 semifinalists (pictured right) were Emily (a curtain/pillowcase maker from the Philippines), Victor and Lilea Chifeac (vegetable/fruit farmers from Moldova, with just Victor pictured) and Arul Rathi Rajendram (a livestock breeder/retailer from South Asia). All three were amazing in the transformation they had experienced in their own lives, but also the transformation they were effecting in the lives of their families, churches, and communities around them. Emily grew her business to employ 16+ seamstresses; Victor and Lilea used profits from their business to give their four oldest children a university education and help build the first evangelical church in their village; Arul Rathi overcame widowhood in a war-torn country and made it possible for her children to get a good education while helping other women in her community. All three semifinalists were very deserving and the overall voting was very tight, but in the end, Arul Rathi took 1st place with 36% of the vote, Victor & Lilea took 2nd place with 33% of the vote, and Emily took third with 31% of the vote.
Transformation in the lives of the materially poor is a major part of our mission at PEER Servants, and the Lydia Awards is a great opportunity to celebrate that part of our mission. But our overall mission goes well beyond that. We are ultimately focused on transformation among the materially non-poor (that's us!) as well. May we be open and eager to learn from and be enriched by the Emily's, Victor and Lilea's, and Arul Rathi's of the world in areas like being very generous to God before we spend so much on ourselves and overcoming adversity. May God use them to help us see beyond the confines of our culture to what it really means to follow Jesus, and to experience more of the abundant life as a result. Lord, make it so!