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An unlikely blend of skills and passions

“Wow, those two majors really don’t make sense together!”

That’s the response Mikhal Szabo came to expect whenever she told new acquaintances she was double majoring in accounting and French. Her interest in languages, culture, anthropology, and international studies didn’t seem to mesh with the risk-averse accountant stereotype, but she followed her passions anyway.

As she went on to earn her MBA in international economic development after a few years in private accounting, Mikhal learned about microfinance and, ultimately, about HOPE International. She was impressed both by HOPE’s holistic approach to poverty alleviation and their openness to learning. As part of her graduate work, she served as a finance intern with HOPE in the French-speaking Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Suddenly, Mikhal’s seemingly unlikely double majors made sense. A lot of sense. In fact, her rare blend of language, finance, and intercultural skills was exactly what HOPE needed.

After spending six months serving HOPE in Kinshasa, DRC—Africa’s third largest city—she joined the flagship staff of HOPE’s newest microfinance program in the neighboring Republic of Congo. Serving for a year as finance manager of HOPE Congo, she relied daily on her skills in French, cross-cultural communication, accounting, and management.

Upon returning to the U.S., Mikhal worked for PwC in public accounting while she earned her CPA and got married. After two years, Mikhal and her husband Scott began seeking God’s next step for them in ministry. Their search led them to Lancaster, PA, where Scott agreed to pastor a church, and Mikhal rejoined HOPE as a senior international accountant at HOPE’s main office.

Reflecting on the twists and turns of her career journey after five years on HOPE’s staff, Mikhal says, “I continue to learn about God’s faithfulness. It is amazing to think through the prayers He answered and the unexpected ways He has worked, pulling us through difficult situations.”

HOPE’s staff, too, feel grateful for Mikhal’s service. “It’s not easy to find job candidates with Mikhal’s skill set, maturity, and servant-like attitude. Our HR team regularly prays that God would send us more people like her,” says Rachel Weaver, senior recruitment and retention specialist.

More than just a job

Mikhal’s career at HOPE has transcended the traditional professional experience. Equipped with HOPE’s perspective on charity and development, she now helps her church think through the impact of their missions efforts, and she and Scott continually aim to serve their neighbors well.

HOPE’s flexible and part-time working arrangements have allowed Mikhal to continue working while spending time with her son and daughter. Her HOPE experiences even help shape her parenting approach. “I want [my children] to be well educated about various cultures and the hard realities many people face around the world,” she says. “I want to raise them to be adventurous, flexible, inquisitive, and loving, all in a way that honors their individual passions.”

Mikhal desires to hear and obey God’s will at an even deeper level. “I want to see people thriving in close relationships with the Lord. I dream of a community working together to show love to one another and their neighbors in both tangible and intangible ways.”

Does this sound like someone you know?

If you or someone you know has a similarly unconventional skill set and feel drawn to HOPE’s holistic mission and encouraging work environment, check out our job posting for a senior international accountant.

By Blake Mankin, Houston Regional Representative

Since becoming a fundraiser for HOPE International nearly a year ago, I’ve learned that a core component of our fundraising philosophy is prioritizing relationships over transactions. The essence of this value is investing in people out of genuine love for them, not based on what they can do for us. And you don’t have to be a fundraiser or HOPE donor to have this Christ-like, missional ethic in your life.

Simply defined, a missional relationship is a partnership of equals—individuals teaming up to make an impact in the world as they spur each other on to be more like Christ. With this shared goal, our posture is one of invitation to those around us, offering each person the opportunity to dive deeper into who God is calling them to be.

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by Christine Baingana, CEO of Urwego Bank

As the CEO of Urwego Bank, the largest microfinance institution in the HOPE network—and in the country of Rwanda—Christine Baingana shares what she’s learning about leadership while leading a team of over 300 staff.

I first learned of HOPE International after reconnecting with Peter Greer, HOPE’s president and CEO, while I was in graduate school. I had met Peter in the early 2000s while I was working for a large commercial bank in my home country of Rwanda and he was serving as the managing director of Urwego Bank. As we reconnected, Peter shared about the work he was doing through HOPE International—and asked if I wanted to join him.

In 2010, I joined the HOPE International team as the savings and credit association (SCA) specialist, later going on to serve as the Africa SCA regional director. When HOPE became a majority stakeholder in Urwego Bank in 2016, I was asked to step into the role of CEO. Having been on the board for several years, I knew that this would be a challenging time to lead the organization. I felt unqualified to lead such a large team through such a major transition.

But as I sought counsel from others, they reminded me to think of those Urwego could serve, men and women who have not had many of the privileges and advantages that I have. As I took my eyes off of myself and focused on them, I chose to say yes to this opportunity. It’s exciting to know we are changing lives for the Kingdom, that men and women who come to Urwego for a small loan, or to find a safe place to save, will have the opportunity to overcome poverty and experience a closer relationship with the Lord and their community members.

Here are five of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned on this leadership journey:

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by Elena Cret, Field Communications Fellow in Eastern Europe

In Eastern Europe, the Roma community is often ignored by the government and society. The Roma people are seen as a burden, as having very little value. But two years ago, HOPE Ukraine started reaching out to this underserved community. As HOPE Ukraine’s manager for western Ukraine, Pavel, said:

We wanted to serve our community, we wanted to make an impact, and we realized how much the Roma community is overlooked. We wanted to see financial, social, and, most importantly, spiritual changes among the Roma people.

Here are three ways HOPE Ukraine is impacting the Roma:

  1. Savings and credit associations: These are groups of people who save money together, partnering with the local church. Continue Reading…

A senior at Messiah College, Mahelet has a passion for ministry and sharing the Gospel. Born and raised in Ethiopia until age 16, Mahelet says, “Helping others has always been a part of my life.” She credits her grandparents, who were involved in business, and her mom, who served as a missionary in rural areas of Ethiopia, for their positive influence in her life. Despite her Christian upbringing, Mahelet fell away from her faith in Christ until two years ago, when she recommitted her life to serving Him.

Mahelet heard about HOPE International when President and CEO Peter Greer taught a course at her college. She spoke to him after class and was encouraged to apply for an internship at HOPE. That summer, Mahelet served as the church and community outreach intern.

How does working at HOPE compare with other places you have worked in the past?

“The place I worked before, [my colleagues and I] had a professional relationship. Here at HOPE, I have spiritual relationships and personal relationships too. People are very genuine, sincere, and love their jobs.” Continue Reading…

By Blake Mankin, HOPE Regional Representative Money is a tool, and when we keep our relationship with money private, it can easily become a second master, keeping us from living lives fully obedient to Jesus. In the West, where open conversations about money often feel off limits, rarely discussed even in accountability groups, this openness […]

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