Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fall 2011 Travel

Todd:  I love my job!  And one of the things I love most about it is being able to travel around the world and witness not only thousands of microfinance clients being able to provide for their families, churches, and communities, but the indigenous Christian microfinance organizations serving them becoming stronger and more effective as well.  To top it all off, I get to see how God is using these very individuals and institutions we try to serve to transform us, and no one more than me.

This fall has been one of much travel for me.  Given Reciprocity 2011 (our global microfinance conference held in the Boston area in July/August 2011), I had not traveled at all in 2011.  The spring was let loose in October, and over a 6-week period, I was in Haiti, South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda, and the Philippines!

PEER Servants Team Haiti volunteer, Frislain Isidor, and fiance, Martine
The Haiti trip was focused on strengthening our partnership with ACLAM/Haiti as they considered steps they could take to be even more effective at helping Haitians help themselves.  There may be nowhere in the world where this is needed most, given both the earthquake and the dependencies that many well-meaning North Americans have inadvertently created among the Haitian people.  It was a short trip - just three days, but a very important one as we laid the groundwork to prepare a five-year strategic plan that would capture ACLAM's vision for the future.  Joining me on the trip was PEER Servants Team Haiti volunteer Elie Lafortune, one of our most dedicated and insightful volunteers on issues pertaining to his native Haiti.  We will be returning in January 2012 to co-host a Strategic Planning Staff Retreat for the 35+ ACLAM staff.  I am really looking forward to that time together!  One of the trip highlights was the amazing hospitality I received from Frislain Isidor (pictured, right), a PEER Servants Team Haiti member.  I was so blessed to stay in his home and get to meet his fiance, Martine, and be blessed by her amazing hospitality as well.  They will be married in Port-au-Prince on December 17 and God will certainly use their marriage in exciting ways for extending His kingdom.

CAFECC/Uganda  and PEER Servants Teams

I returned from Haiti in time for our PEER Servants Annual Board Meeting and then off on a 17-day trip to four counties in Africa - South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania, and Uganda.  There were four other PEER Servants volunteers joining various parts of the trip - Dave and Sue Leach, Richard Kinyua, and Jake Mahon.  South Africa was a short but good stop as we worked with reps from Aloga, our South African microfinance partner, as they prepared to head to the Philippines (more in the next paragraph on that).  We also saw PEER Servants employees Jesse and Vicki Ratichek for the last time in South Africa as they wind down their 2.5 years there and return back to the States in December.  Then on to Lusaka, Zambia where we took an 8-hour bus ride to Mongu, in Zambia's Western province, and saw elephants and lions on the way!  This is where CEMFIN, our Zambian microfinance partner, will launch their program next year.  It was my first time to Mongu (CEMFIN had been focusing on Lusaka up until now), and it looks like a great place for a Christian microfinance program.  We were encouraged by our time there.  The three days in Tanzania were to meet folks from Self-Reliance International, a Tanzanian microfinance organization.  They had joined us at Reciprocity 2011 given our ties with Bob Quinn (now PEER Servants Team Uganda member) who has been supporting SRI's work in Tanzania for a few years.  We really enjoyed the time with the SRI foks and will see how God leads regarding the future of partnership.  Finally, back through Nairobi to Entebbe and eventually Arua, home of CAFECC, our Ugandan microfinance partner.  We had a very encouraging time with them (pictured above) as they take more steps to become sustainable and transformational.  We also left Jake Mahon (left in picture) there as he started a 7-month internship with CAFECC.   Our last evening was having a wonderful dinner with Patrick Obiga, CAFECC Executive Director, and his fiance on the shores of Lake Victoria.  Then it was back home through Amsterdam and a couple days to unpack and pack before heading out once more.

Participating in the CCT training on Vision and Leadership
The Philippines trip was focused on providing training to three of the key board members from Aloga/South Africa in effective leadership and governance.  The board, management, and staff of The Center for Community Transformation, CCT (our microfinance partner in the Philippines) were our professors!  They did a fantastic job, and all of us, including the South Africans, left Filipino shores that much more encouraged and equipped to be leaders and effectively govern our respective organizations.  Visiting CCT is always a very inspirational experience.  Just when you think you've seen all one organization could do in extending the kingdom of heaven to earth, you see something that you couldn't have imagined ever seeing.  On this trip, it was attending a mass wedding of 21 couples who had been streetdwellers just months before.  Imagine - now they had jobs, their own place to live, awareness that they were loved by God, a commitment to follow Jesus, and a beautiful wedding with a reception that could match any wedding I have ever attended.  As I sat there, I couldn't help but think "this is the kingdom!".  The evil one thought he had all of these 42 people being married firmly in his grip to steal, kill, and destroy -- now they were experiencing life the way God intended, and much more of the kingdom of heaven right here on earth.  What made this trip even more special was it was the first since Nigeria in February 2010 that Les had been able to join me.  We were also blessed to have two reps from our good friends at Nairobi Chapel in Kenya join us as well.  CCT is one of the leading Christian microfinance programs in the world.  We'll be making two trips each year there (April 2012 and November 2012 are next up), and would love for you to join us on one of them.

It was a super special fall, with lots of frequent flier miles, and lots of frequent reminders of what a great God we serve and what an amazing kingdom He wants us to experience.