Sunday, July 7, 2013

Africa - June/July 2013

Imagine 24 wonderful days in Africa!  That's what eight PEER Servants volunteers were able to enjoy at least parts of traveling with PEER Servants President, Todd Engelsen, in June and July.

Canga, Todd, Herma
First stop - South Africa and our partnership with Aloga Financial Services in the Greater Pretoria area.  PEER Servants Board member, Dr. Herma Williams, and PEER Servants Aloga Relationship Manager, Canga Kamwambe, were PEER Servants' threesome for this leg of the trip.  The primary purpose for our time with Aloga was to act as consultants as they considered merging with Ikussasa Trust, another South African Christian microfinance organization.  We're excited about the prospects of the two organizations becoming one and having much greater impact in extending the kingdom than either could have alone.  When we weren't consulting and training on mergers, we were visiting Aloga's microfinance clients, including the "Women of Integrity", pictured here with Dr. Williams.  These women have come together to form a small cooperative where they can do much more together than they could separately.  As seamstresses, they can now purchase better equipment, attract larger orders, and have great fellowship together while they work.  Aloga has stepped in and provided them the access to credit they have needed to grow their business.  There are hundreds more clients like these Women of Integrity who Aloga is empowering through their products and services.  We can't wait to see how the merger allows them to eventually reach thousands.
Aloga's Clients - "Women of Integrity", with PEER Servants Board Member, Dr. Herma Williams
PEER Servants Volunteer, Jim Martin
Next stop - Mongu, Zambia.  Mongu is in Zambia's Western Province, considered the materially poorest province in the country.  There PEER Servants CEMFIN Relationship Manager, Jim Martin (pictured), and
Todd Engelsen met with our newest microfinance partner, CEMFIN.  CEMFIN just started making their first loans over a year ago, so the focus of this trip was building the team needed to allow the organization to grow and flourish.  Our meetings and training on team building went exceptionally well and we left Mongu encouraged that CEMFIN will be able to grow.  We have always been impressed with CEMFIN's clients - they are eager to grow, and appreciative of the products and services CEMFIN is making available to them to do so.
CEMFIN's Board of Directors and Advisors - just part of the team dedicated to CEMFIN's growing impact
Final stop - Arua, Uganda.  Arua is in the northwestern corner of Uganda, a stone's throw from the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) and South Sudan.  It is now one of the most peaceful places on earth.  It's
PEER Servants Volunteers and CAFECC Staff and Clients
the headquarters for our Ugandan microfinance partner, CAFECC, and five volunteers (PEER Servants Team Uganda member Bob Uhlig, daughter Jessica Uhlig, Rob Krieg, PEER Servants Internship Director Patrice Jenkins, and husband Dave Jenkins) joined Todd Engelsen and PEER Servants Intern, Ryan Shenk, on this final leg of the Africa trip.  There were many objectives for the time with CAFECC - capturing the stories of transformation in the lives of the CAFECC clients, providing consulting and training in new product development and how to access funds beyond donated equity (e.g., savings deposits and debt financing, including Kiva), helping CAFECC in updating their own website, and much, much more.  It wasn't all work and no pleasure!  We took time to celebrate the Executive Director, Patrick Obiga's, forthcoming wedding and enjoyed hearing the accounting of how many cows, goats, and more it was going to take to win the hand of his beautiful bride, Evelyn, from her family.  We also took a day to treat the extremely dedicated and hardworking CAFECC staff to Murchison Falls, a local game reserve, and saw elephants, hippos, giraffes, and much more during our game drive, including a boat cruise on the Nile.  We were so encouraged by the time with CAFECC.  They, like Aloga in South Africa, are already extending the kingdom to hundreds in this part of Uganda, and plan to soon extend that to thousands as God leads.
Some of CAFECC's new clients, being trained in how to run an effective business prior to applying for a loan
Africa is one of the most diverse continents on the planet, but what is common throughout Africa is an exceptional commitment to hospitality and community.  We were blessed in each of these 24 days by both.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Philippines - April 2013

Well, if truth be told, we've been doing so much traveling this past year that we failed to take the time to post our trips on this blog.  Let's see if we can correct our ways going forward given all of the 2013 travel planned to our microfinance partners.

Trips to The Center for Community Transformation (CCT), our microfinance partner in the Philippines, never disappoint!  As high as our expectations are every trip, CCT always finds a way to exceed them.  The April 2013 trip was no exception.  If you would like to visit CCT with PEER Servants, mark October 11-20, 2013 on your calendars and contact us at to get more information.

PEER Servants President, Todd Engelsen, accepting CCT's Award
This trip was our smallest yet to CCT - just Jeremy Schuh, PEER Servants Corporate Intern, and President Todd Engelsen.  There were two primary reasons for the trip.  The first was to accept an award CCT was giving PEER Servants for our 5 years of partnership at a gala event in Manila (see picture).  The second was to complete work on the next case study on CCT, "Spiritual Integration in Every Nook and Cranny of Your Microfinance Operations".  The award was a real honor to accept from CCT, and Jeremy did a great job completing his research to be able to write the case study.  As usual, God had far more planned for this trip than we did.

Francine, one of CCT's inspiring "Community Partners"
The first surprise God had for us was the opportunity to meet some of CCT's amazing clients, or "community partners" as they call them.  Over the years, we have met many of CCT's community partners, and most of them are just that - partners in effecting community transformation.  It's one of the reasons CCT may have as much kingdom impact as any Christian MFI with which we are familiar - they don't do all the work, they partner with the Holy Spirit and their "clients" in doing it.  One of those inspiring community partners was Francine, pictured here.  She started with under a $100 loan, but has since grown not one business, but two (the second for her daughter).  She has come to a strong faith in Jesus and is now hoping and praying her husband will come to know Jesus in a similar way.  Click here to check out Francine's story and join us in praying for the salvation of her family members.

God wasn't done with his surprises.  You know when Jesus talks about the first becoming last and the last becoming first?  Most may think that only applies to heaven, but we are supposed to be the ones extending the kingdom of heaven to earth.  We were reminded of that on this trip when we had the opportunity to meet

Jervie (right) and Jerby (middle) with Todd Engelsen
Jervie and Jerby, pictured here with Todd Engelsen.  Both of these handsome and sharp young men used to be living on the streets of Manila.  CCT saw them, and saw them as God sees them.  They provided them a safe place to live, food on their table, and access to excellent education.  Through that kind of love, Jervie and Jerby embraced the even greater love God has for them and desired to follow Jesus.  Remember the gala event in Manila at which PEER Servants received their award?  Not many present at that event will remember PEER Servants, but no one will forget Jervie and Jerby.  As they gave their testimones, those who heard couldn't help but celebrate the fact that the kingdom of heaven was among us.  Many in that room were "first" in the eyes of the world, but some had chosen to become last, so that those the world would consider "last", like Jervie and Jerby, could become first.  They were the ones that evening who brought the greatest joy to those present, the joy that comes when we see the kingdom of heaven being extended to earth.

Do you want to see more of the kingdom of heaven being extended to earth?  Join us October 11-20, 2013 for the next trip to the Philippines!