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January 19, 2012, 2:07 EST – Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo

I spent my second full day in Kinshasa with the HOPE Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) staff. Once again I spent the day in the field: this time visiting repayment meetings. As I said in yesterday’s post, since the election at the end of November, things have been unsettled in the capital city of Kinshasa. The staff is working hard to get our program back to normal, working hard to catch up on both repayments (collecting payments on existing loans) and disbursements (distributing new loans). So while I wasn’t able to see a normal operating environment while I was in Kinshasa, I did manage to cram a lot of action into two short days. Continue Reading…

January 18, 2012, 4:33 EST – Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo

I’m exhausted this evening, so this post will be short. I truly lived the life of a loan officer today, and as a result, I’m ready for an early bedtime.

HOPE Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has had a challenging couple of months, starting with the general elections that took place on November 28. There were accusations of fraud and tampering even before the election happened, and as you’d imagine, those cries grew louder after the election.

When the results were released, the incumbent was proclaimed the winner by a huge margin, which led to violence across the country in early to mid-December. Cognizant of recent unrest in other African countries, we decided to temporarily stop loan disbursements (new and renewal loan payouts), because we did not want to put our staff and clients in harm’s way. The unrest abated just as the country celebrated the Christmas holiday, followed by several DRC national holidays. The consequence is that we’re tracking behind our disbursement schedule, and the HOPE DRC team is hustling to catch up. I rode around Kinshasa with Seguy, one of our supervisors, and Sarah Simba, our executive assistant in HOPE DRC, who helped me out with translation. Continue Reading…

January 17, 2012, 12:15 EST – Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo

I send you greetings from Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Kinshasa is right across the Congo River from Brazzaville. It’s about a 10-minute boat ride. Sounds like an easy day, right?

I started the morning at HOPE Congo in Brazzaville. My plan was to spend the morning with Manny Palis, our managing director of HOPE Congo, and his leadership team, then leave in the early afternoon to catch the ferry to Kinshasa. After morning devotions I parted ways with Peter Greer, who is flying back to the States, and David Johnson, who is flying to Liberia for his next photo shoot. Then, at about 10:30 a.m., we got a call from the HOPE DRC staff, saying that since today is a national holiday in DRC, the last ferry leaves at noon. Uh oh. We hustle over to the river crossing. Fortunately Manny was kind enough to come with me so we could finish our conversation. Continue Reading…

January 16, 2012, 3:34 EST – Brazzaville, Republic of Congo

Another great day in Brazzaville! We started the day at 8 a.m. at the HOPE Congo offices with morning devotions. I led the staff through morning devotions, studying Romans 5: 1-8.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

I’ve repeatedly come back to this passage during my time at HOPE. It is so encouraging and poetic, and it puts our daily trials into a larger perspective. Later in the day, when our loan officer was leading his clients through devotions during a repayment meeting, I heard him allude to the Romans passage that we reviewed during staff devotions. Daily staff devotions are core to our mission at HOPE International: we must be spiritually fed as staff members if we are going to minister to our clients. Continue Reading…

January 15, 2012, 11:26 EST – Brazzaville, Republic of Congo

The Sabbath begins with a 9:00 a.m. church service at Rehoboth Church in downtown Brazzaville. This is Manny Palis’ (our managing director of HOPE Congo) home church, led by Pastor Ndeke. It’s a very large church—our service had about 1,500 attendees—and Peter got the chance to deliver a brief devotion and talk about HOPE Congo’s work in the city. It was a wonderful service, with beautiful singing and a heartfelt message from Pastor Ndeke about the importance of family. The service lasted for a solid three hours, so we left the church spiritually fed but physically kind of hungry. Continue Reading…

January 14th – Brazzaville, Republic of Congo

We leave Rwanda bright and early for a flight to Brazzaville. Brazzaville is the capital city of the Republic of Congo and home of HOPE Congo, one of our microfinance institutions. While our Rwanda program is a “savings-led” program where we provide operational support and training resources for savings groups, HOPE Congo is a “credit-led” program where we make small loans to local entrepreneurs. The loans start as low as $80. The group lending model is quite similar to the group savings model described in Rwanda. The groups tend to be about 15-20 people, and there is a strong sense of solidarity that develops within the group. Also, as in the savings groups, we deliver a Christian message and/or biblically based business training. Continue Reading…