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by Annie Rose Ansley, HOPE Trips Liaison

Most days, Chrismene makes and sells traditional Dominican snacks and dulces, or sweets. A client of HOPE’s partner in the Dominican Republic, Esperanza International, Chrismene also uses her loans to maintain a side business selling accessories and household goods. Most days, when she makes and sells dulces, this is what her day looks like:

5:00 a.m.

A 45-year-old mother of nine, Chrismene starts every day around 5:00 a.m., when she heads to the largest market in the Santo Domingo province, Mercado Nuevo. The first part of her day is in fact the hardest: since Chrismene’s neighborhood can be dangerous before dawn, she often has to wait for neighbors, wasting valuable time, so they can walk to the main road in a group.2016-Market_buying peanuts

Despite the overwhelming size of the market, Chrismene knows the best stall for each item she needs—coconuts, ginger, sesame seeds, peanuts, sugar, oil. An hour of bargaining, weighing and bagging later, Chrismene departs with her purchases.

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Nestled in the mountains of western Ukraine, the small town of Khust boasts some of the country’s greatest mountain biking trails. Tourists from all over the world come to experience the region’s beauty. For Lesya Login, a native of Khust, biking is a deep passion—something she and her husband, Nicholai, dreamed of sharing with others.

Early in their marriage, Lesya worked as a coach at a school while Nicholai worked as a bike repairman. They dreamed of one day starting their own business selling bikes. After Lesya purchased and sold several bikes to test out their idea, she was convinced that the business would work—but the Logins lacked the capital needed to get it off the ground.

As Lesya sought a solution, commercial banks repeatedly denied her loan applications, doubtful that someone so young—just 22 years old at the time—and with no business experience would be able to repay. Determined, Lesya continued to search for a bank that would give her a loan. That’s when their neighbor, Michael, told Lesya and Nicholai about the organization he worked for: HOPE Ukraine.

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On International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8, we honor women who courageously love, serve, and invest their God-given skills and talents into their churches, families, workplaces, and communities.

In Rwanda, HOPE serves over 520,000 people—63 percent of whom are women—through microfinance and savings services. To hear how Rwandan women are tackling the challenges of poverty for their families and in their communities, we asked members of HOPE Rwanda’s savings program a few questions.

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Working as a team, Feresiya and her husband own and manage three small businesses—a barber shop, small corner store, and wedding dress rental business—in addition to their vegetable garden.

What makes Rwandan women strong?

I think it is because they have known their worth! They love working and improving themselves, and they love taking responsibility for their families just like men. … [women] can be a big support in the community and in their families. Continue Reading…

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by Luke Harbaugh, HOPE Church Representative

In March, the Church has the opportunity to celebrate the season of Lent—a solemn and wonderful time of preparation for Easter. In the early church, Lent was a season when new converts were instructed in the basics of the Christian faith in preparation for baptism on Easter Sunday. Even today, it is a time set aside for self-examination and repentance as we ponder what it means to live as both a crucified and resurrected people.

I grew up in a church tradition that didn’t observe Lent. In fact, I attended my first Ash Wednesday service during my first year of seminary. I still remember the first time one of our chaplains imparted the ashes on my forehead and said to me those traditional Ash Wednesday words: “From dust you came, and to dust you shall return.” Since then, Ash Wednesday has served as a yearly summons for me to take serious inventory of my life in light of my own mortality.

In a pastoral care class in seminary, we had to write our own eulogies. And the content—especially our causes of death—were diverse. Some chose to die as martyrs, others from natural causes, while one student met his end by way of a flock of angry ducks! This exercise challenged us with a weighty question: What will be said of your life once it’s over? Continue Reading…

HOPE is blessed to work closely with U.S.-based churches like Life.Church to help families flourish around the world. Since 2012, Life.Church has partnered with HOPE through prayer, financial giving, and sharing HOPE’s 100 Days of Hope devotional with thousands through their YouVersion app. HOPE and Life.Church also work together to share the Gospel and reduce vulnerability to human trafficking in Central India. In 2016, representatives from five Life.Church campuses witnessed firsthand how Indian savings group members are together building financial stability and overcoming isolation and lack of awareness.

Jeff Galley, Life.Church’s central group leader for LifeGroups and missions, shares more about the evolution of their missions strategy and what he learned in India about desperation, dignity, and the growth of the Church.

Read more about the incredible Indian families Jeff met in his blog post here

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by Lauren Sheard, HOPE Burundi Program Manager

Two years ago, soon after I first moved to Burundi, I was chatting with another expatriate I’d just met. Explaining what I do, I described the basic premise of HOPE International’s savings group ministry, how rather than giving out money or goods directly like a traditional charity we’re teaching people how to save their own money to make a difference in their families and communities. I was pleased with my elevator speech but was caught off guard when the expatriate and his Burundian friend laughed! “This is Burundi,” they said. “That sort of thing can’t possibly make a difference. People don’t have anything, and you’re trying to teach them to save? Maybe in a few decades when the country is better off.” And at that, the conversation ended with another laugh and a sarcastic “good luck!”

I am not one to be offended easily, but in that moment I felt rather indignant. Not only is it rude to laugh at what I just said I do and believe in, but to so easily brush off even the thought that Burundians could have skills and abilities to help themselves was discouraging to me. Continue Reading…