1500 Active Loans

Having started two years ago with a small personal investment of $10,000, Ibu Sora, a local lady with a heart for the women in the region’s villages has started a movement providing a qualified mother a loan of $100 which is paid back in 6 months at $5 per week. The basic income of the villagers is $1 per day but since its inception, we have seen in the first year their average income increase to $5 per day with some reaching up to $10 per day.

In this fourth trip to the area, my wife and I visited two of the communities impacted by the program. In Tangung Pura, a typical village in the northern part of Sumatra, we met 20 women who have been implementing their business projects for the last 2 months.

This was a typical weekly gathering where they meet each other, review their experiences, and exchange tips and ideas. They also receive input from the team and discuss new concepts. This meeting also serves as the financial accountability checkpoint where they pay their loan back and pay into a savings account which provides them with a security they’ve never had before.

The ladies of PERTIWI (the cooperative) are different than most village women. Through their own hard work, they have earned a sense of dignity and security which now define them as active assets for their family and community.

Through our program, they learn to spend money only on what is necessary, thus avoiding the consumerist mindset prevalent in our culture today. They also learn that their word is their greatest asset. Finally, we also teach them the priority of paying off their debts so that they can be free from financial burdens.

As their income increases, these women are able to send their children to school, breaking the cycle of poverty that keeps these communities in bondage. They also are able to improve their living standards by acquiring clean water and homes with sufficient ventilation.

The number of loans has now reached 1,500 and we aim to add another 100 per month for rest of this year. While we are happy with this growth, the needs are far greater than this. Currently, we have 1000 ladies ready to join the program.

We are looking for partners that will join us and help bring practical and lasting change to these communities. Will you join us?

Take a closer look at the Pertiwi Microloan Project here.

A True Gentleman

Today Rev. Dr. Moody Yap turns 85, on the same day he celebrates his 60th wedding anniversary. Today he should be having a party but instead he has spent the last few days sitting next to Jean, his beloved wife as convalesces in a hospital bed.

Rev. Moody Yap

Rev. Moody Yap

However, as I talked to him I was amazed with his calmness and serenity. I asked him to explain the secret of his composure.

He went on to speak of his relationship with his wife in the present tense. He said “I will be with her soon so I just want to encourage her as passes on”. He reminisced of his experiences over the previous decades and gave me a sense of great hope for the future. This man has been a leader of leaders. He has planted churches among Mandarin, Taiwanese, Cantonese and English speaking groups.

He told me how at the age of 32, he left a prosperous business in Hong Kong in order to serve full time in church. He went on to study Theology and then in 1995 he was one of forty who gathered to write about evangelism for the next millennium. While there, he took issue with a three word phrase “Other faiths also” these words would have contradicted the claim of Jesus in the Gospels, he said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

He was the only Asian in the group but he stood and shared his grave concern. Less than 6 supported him but they were enough to force a secret vote. After the numbers were tallied it was clear that many more felt the same as Moody but did not dare to voice their opinion. The controversy ended as an agreement was crafted explaining that any one who seeks truth will encounter Jesus.

This man is one who is to be admired and follow as a servant of God. I’m honored to have spent a few hours getting to know him.

Loving our Neighbors

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…” These opening words of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens reflect the many realities we face in the United States.

Our recent visit to Ocean Beach, CA, gave me a glimpse of some of these best of times, ages of wisdom, and epochs of belief. We were invited by Clayton and Jessica Connolly to meet some of their friends with whom they serve in this cool, relaxed beach-side community.

Clayton and Jessica introduced us to amazing Ethiopian food

Clayton and Jessica introduced us to amazing Ethiopian food

The Connollys are a family devoted to each other and their neighbors. They serve locally in their community to solve problems face-to-face and with individual people. Their home is open to anyone to come and share life with them; the small 800 square foot home is often a busy hive of activities.

More than 60 people responded to the invitation and shared stories of the amazing ways that people are encountering God in the local bars, tattoo parlors, and New Age Fairs. One such way involves inviting passersby to come in for a spiritual reading which often ends up in prayers for healing and deliverance. A prayer room has been established along local shops to meet people needs everyday.

In Ocean Beach

In Ocean Beach

It was evident that these folks have a clear attitude of humility that acknowledges that we don’t have all the answers and that it is okay to identify our own doubts and fears. One of the participants explained how the spiritual landscape is being leveled as those who follow Jesus recognize themselves as being just further down the road then those who are yet to follow.

The folks we met here are committed to identifying needs in Ocean Beach and finding ways to meet them. Those who benefit become an expression of community and also are part of fresh entrepreneurial models of business.

People are seeing their needs being met. They are gathering as communities and businesses are being established, which enables sustainability, unlike the more commonplace model of starting churches, which require member donations to operate.

Good friends learning from each other

Good friends learning from each other

A few days after our gathering, Clayton reported that Stasi, an Episcopal minister and our host for the gathering, said “You want to be a big deal for God? Go down. Not up.”

Stasi said that when these words were spoken, she decided to decline the job she’d been offered at a church. “It was my first honest-to-goodness, titled-and-paid ministry offer. It was the first rung on the ladder of clergy success…and I realized I just didn’t need it”

Stasi explained “I have rarely felt more free or excited about the ways God is using me. I simply have too much kingdom work to do to take a job at a church right now. God’s blowing apart all the boxes I thought my gifts and passions fit me in, and instead inspiring me to work that is simple & satisfying because it flows right out of me with no effort at all.

This is what it means to take a leap of faith. As I said in Sunday’s sermon, “Even if we don’t land, we shall mount up with wings.

A Tsunami ten years later

Ten years ago, this week, I was getting ready to go to Banda Aceh, Indonesia to evaluate how our team could contribute to the recovery of that city after the devastation of the 9.2 earthquake and ensuing Tsunami which took the lives of over

This boat was 4 miles inland

This boat was 4 miles inland

170,000 people and displacing another 150,000 in this region alone.

On that Christmas Day back in 2004, I heard the news of the earthquake and my thoughts went to my coworker Hengky who had gone to that city the day before to celebrate Christmas with his wife’s family. For a few agonizing days I could not find them anywhere and then word came that they were safe in Medan, a safe distance south of the affected area.
I had no idea what we could do to help but I knew that I had to go and express the love of God to this, one of the most closed Muslim communities in the country.

I flew to Jakarta and then found a flight on January 19th to the devastated city. I flew with mostly emergency workers. There was nothing that could have prepared me for what I was about to witness.

Stunned with all we saw

Stunned with all we saw

Bodies were still awaiting burial in one of the many mass grave sites. The smell of death penetrated everything.

I joined a group of locals who tirelessly had given of their time to help recover bodies and guide people who were coming to help. As I walked towards the beach right in the city, I looked out into a calm seas in an beautiful evening adorned by a stunning sunset. I tried in vain to imagine, just a few days before, folks standing on the same area watching waves up to 100 feet high coming at fantastic speeds towards them. It was all so unthinkable but I was standing in the rubble of what was once a busy community and beyond me stood the light house tower which has lost the large lamp that sat 90 feet up.

In partnership with United Nations Volunteers, a group of five local organizations developed TRIBAL

Our evaluation team

Our evaluation team

(Tsunami Rehabilitation In Banda Aceh Livelihood). Our contribution focused on Trauma Training. We trained 610 children (50% girls), 26 teachers (45% female) and 413 parents (50% female) on how to cope and help others deal with their fears. Here is the UN evaluation.

The TRIBAL project also built 700 homes and trained folks with new job skills so that they could face life with new skills.
Today, Banda Aceh is thriving and has been totally rebuilt. The roads are wide and the communities are living in peace with themselves and the power of the sea right next to them.
This experience led us in Next Step to explore fresh ways to relate with the Muslim community in Indonesia. The PERTIWI MicroLoan project in Medan benefits from the many lessons we have learned over these last years.