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Dear Friends,

I have been studying the Psalms in the past few weeks and today I was reading Psalm 50 when I felt to share these words with you.

Psalm 50: 7-14 (NLT)

“O my people, listen as I speak.
Here are my charges against you, O Israel:
I am God, your God!
I have no complaint about your sacrifices
or the burnt offerings you constantly offer.
But I do not need the bulls from your barns
or the goats from your pens.
10 For all the animals of the forest are mine,
and I own the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know every bird on the mountains,
and all the animals of the field are mine.
12 If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for all the world is mine and everything in it.
13 I don’t need the bulls you sacrifice;
I don’t need the blood of goats.
14 What I want instead is your true thanks to God;
I want you to fulfill your vows to the Most High…

23 But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.
If you keep to my path,
I will reveal to you the salvation of God.”

We often focus on pleasing God by giving Him things such as money. In the past, when there was no money, people sacrificed animals and gave items made of gold, silver, and bronze. Today, we give money. The Bible tells us that we must give God the first fruits of our increase. Malachi 3:10 clearly tells us to “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord Almighty, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Let me prove it to you!”

But even though tithing is a command from God, and we should do it to honor Him, He’s truly after our hearts—our thankful hearts. So, why does God say that “giving thanks is a sacrifice”? You would think giving thanks is just a gesture and it’s easy to say the words “Thank you” to God. But it’s not. The reason is that a person with a true thankful heart recognizes that without God we are nothing and have nothing. A thankful heart acknowledges our dependence on God and God alone. A thankful heart surrenders ALL to God and is willing to give it ALL to God because He owns it all anyway. That’s why it’s hard to have a true thankful heart and that’s why God calls it a sacrifice.

So, in this New Year, purpose to not only give of your treasure to the church and to other ministries that are bringing the Gospel of Good News to the world, but also purpose to give God thanks—each day, each moment, and for every thing and every person He’s blessed you with in this life. Try it! And you shall be blessed beyond your imagination.

Happy New Year!

As I returned from a recent business trip, I listened to one of my favorite Christmas songs called, “Where’s the Line to See Jesus?” sang by Becky Kelley. I love listening to this special song because it reminds me of the real reason for Christmas. I listen to it every time I’m on the plane going somewhere, even when it’s not Christmas. For some reason, this song gives me peace and calm as I go off to my destination.

This song tells the story of a boy who is at a shopping mall during the Christmas season looking for Jesus, but he can’t find him anywhere in the mall. Instead, he finds a huge line to see Santa. So he asks a young woman, “Where’s the line to see Jesus?” but she couldn’t answer. He then asks her, “If Christmas time is his birthday why don’t we see him more?” But again, the young woman didn’t know what to say as there was no line for Jesus. Lastly, the boy says, “He was born for me. Santa Claus brought me presents but Christ gave his life for me!”

This Christmas let’s not focus on the busyness of the season and the stress from shopping under the pressure of a tight timeline and a short budget. Instead, let’s give thanks to God for giving us the ONE gift that will change our lives for eternity—Salvation.

There is no greater gift than salvation. There is no present that we could ever give to anyone that compares to this one. So this season you can go to malls and visit Santa with your kids. You can buy presents for your children and loved ones. But I encourage you to also seek “the line to see Jesus!” Seek Him first and all the other things will be added to your life (Matthew 6:33).

Salvation is for Everyone (Romans 10:5-14). If you haven’t accepted the gift of salvation yet, I’m giving it to you right here, right now. Read these scriptures and you will know exactly what to do and say. If you have received this amazing gift, then bring Jesus with you wherever you go and share Him with others. “Pay it forward,” as they say, and don’t keep the Good News to yourself. Don’t be afraid of giving this gift. Don’t be ashamed of this gift as it is the most valuable and priceless gift you can ever want for yourself or give to others once you have it.

As you do all these things during the Christmas season, ask yourself the question: Whose birthday is it anyway?

Merry Christmas!!

A Thanksgiving Poem

Dear Friends,

I hope you enjoy the Thanksgiving Poem I wrote for you to share with your loved ones!

Thanksgiving

Today is a beautiful day.

God created this day for you and me,

for us to say thanks and to worship Him.

 

Today is a special day

as we are to remember why we are here.

The reason is to give thanks.

 

Today we pause and reflect.

We stop and give thanks

to the One who loves us so much

that He sent His only Son.

 

On this day we realize

how much God does for us…

every day, every hour, because He cares.

 

A grateful heart is what He wants;

just pure gratitude from the heart.

The thanksgiving that flows from inside

and it overflows to the ones around.

 

A whole day is dedicated to say thanks.

In the midst of a world that is ungrateful,

we stop and take the time to be thankful

for everything He has done in our lives…

for sending His Son to die.

 

All God wants is our hearts.

So today thank God for His blessings,

for His love and for all His gifts.

Be thankful and enjoy life

and you will bless Him back.

 

Dear Friends,

During Thanksgiving month I’m sharing devotionals on the topic of Thankfulness from my book Devotions for Working Women. Enjoy!

We Were Created by God’s Power and to Glorify Him

Romans 11:36 (NLT)

For everything comes from him; everything exists by his power and is intended for his glory. To him be glory evermore. Amen.

God created every one of us by His power. He has given us everything we have and made us who we are in Christ—one of God’s beloved children. We must not forget that. When this revelation is present in our lives, we feel confident and know we can do all things through Christ, the One who strengthens us.

Thank God every day for your life, your family, your job, and for all the gifts He has given to you. The purpose of everything He created is intended to bring glory to Him. You were created to glorify God with your life and in all you do. This includes your workplace.

 

Dear Friends,

During Thanksgiving month I’m sharing devotionals on the topic of Thankfulness from my book Devotions for Working Women. Enjoy!

Being Thankful Truly Honors God

Psalm 50:14, 23 (NLT)

“What I want instead is your true thanks to God; I want you to fulfill your vows to the Most High.” “…But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.”

Psalm 51:17 (NLT)

The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit. A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise.

The people of Israel used to give many offerings to God to obtain forgiveness for their sins. Many people turned this into a tradition with no true meaning or repentance from their hearts. God has not changed today. He has been and will always be, interested in one thing—our hearts. He just wants us to be thankful to Him for everything He has done for us, starting with salvation. What a gift! We must thank God daily and every moment for it. Giving thanks from the heart is what He’s after—a broken and repentant spirit willing to be changed, forgiven, and loved by God.

With today’s lifestyle we all try to do too much. Sometimes we commit ourselves to serve in work committees, kids’ activities, and even church activities—some out of guilt and sense of obligation. These activities may be good, but before we commit to anything new, we must make sure it will not take away time with the Lord. It is better to spend that time with Him than to be occupied with one more thing to do. We honor God by having a thankful heart and spending time with Him.

Dear Friends,

This month, I’ll be sharing with you devotionals on the topic of Thankfulness from my book  Devotions for Working Women. Let’s celebrate Thanksgiving the entire month. Enjoy!

Be Thankful for What God Has Done

Psalm 9:1 (NLT) I will thank you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done.

God loves the heart of a thankful person. When we are thankful to Him for all the things He has done for us, He wants to bless us even more. When we are going through bad things or circumstances in our lives, we tend to forget all the blessings God has given us in the past. It is in those times we need to remember what God has done for us and truly thank Him for every gift and blessing He has given us.

When we bring these things to our remembrance, it helps us get through the current situation. Our faith also increases, and we are able to trust Him again through yet one more thing in our lives. Thanking God is vital to our success in every area of our lives.

At home, thank Him for your house, husband (if you are married), children (if you have any), your friends, and family. At work, thank Him for your job, your boss, your employees (if you are in management), your peers, and friends. Thank God for letting you be His child. Tell people of the marvelous things God has done for you.

Dear Friends,

This is the story of three Dominican Loan Officers who are not ordinary bankers. They are missionaries. Yes, they provide micro loans to their clients whom they call Associates. Yes, they even provide additional non-financial services such as women’s physical self-care education. And then, they give them eternal hope by sharing the Good News of the Gospel. They give them the hope that no matter how bad their situation here on earth is, their lives in heaven will be much better.

Let me introduce you to them:

Ana is a married woman with three children and sees her job as a calling to help the poor. She is the branch manager for Esperanza International’s central office in La Romana. Joevanny is a divorced young woman with no children who had a successful career with the lottery company but chose to leave all that behind to serve the poor. Yoseina is a single mom of a five-year-old boy who just joined the team several months ago because she also felt called to alleviate poverty. These three women have college degrees and could be working in other organizations making more money. But they all have one thing in common—they all felt the calling to work with the poor by providing micro loans and bringing the Gospel to all the people they serve. Micro loans are provided at an affordable interest rate. The Good News of the Gospel—Salvation—is free!

This is not my story. This is their story. God sends me to these places, so I can do my part which is to listen, observe, and learn so I can then share the stories with all of you. The purpose is to increase awareness about poverty, microfinance as a potential solution, and how the Gospel of Good News is the key ingredient we all need in this life to be delivered from spiritual poverty which is worse than physical poverty. I participated on an Insight Trip with HOPE International in the Dominican Republic with a group of nine other Americans from Pennsylvania, Illinois, North Carolina, Texas, and Minnesota.

Below is a short recount of what we did in this three-day experience:

Day 1

The bus picked us up at a small hotel in La Romana, a rural area east of the capital, Santo Domingo, that is well known for the sugar cane production and for the extensive tourism driven by the beautiful beaches and golf courses.

We met with Joevanny at Esperanza’s central office in La Romana and were off to our first visit in the middle of a huge sugar cane plantation that seemed to never end. It was like a maze that even had roads and a railroad to transport the sugar cane once it’s harvested. The harvest time is from November through June so there was not much activity during our visit in mid-October. The purpose of this visit was to observe and learn how Esperanza’s Loan Officers conduct their meetings with the Associates.

The Associates are organized in groups of up to five. The community meetings are comprised of at least three groups and are held either at one of the Associates’ homes or at a community building. They each bring their own chair to sit on. Each group receives a loan that is divided amongst the group members. Some Associates can eventually graduate to be on their own. The loan payoff ratio is 98% and most of the loan recipients are women which make about 85%. The loans are repaid weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly within 4-6 months. The average loan amount can be from $100 to $2000 based on the credit history of the Associate and business experience.

The Loan Officers conduct the meetings which are structured in five small segments that HOPE calls “The Five W’s.” They are:

Welcome: The Loan Officer welcomes everyone and takes attendance as they stroll in to the meeting. Several of them are usually late but Joevanny kept the meeting going and welcomed each person by name as they showed up.

Worship: They choose a song they all know and sing it. Most of the Associates in the sugar cane plantations are Haitian so some of them don’t speak Spanish which is a huge challenge for the Loan Officers. They sometimes ask one of the Associates who speaks Spanish to translate to Creole. But I have learned that God doesn’t mind in which language we worship Him and He delights when we sing praises to Him together. Our team joined in the song by clapping!

Word: The Loan Officer then shares a Scripture from the Bible and explains what it all means to the Associates. The Scripture for this day was Isaiah 41:10-11 (NLT) “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. See, all your angry enemies lie there, confused and ashamed. Anyone who opposes you will die.” One of my favorite things I learned from Joevanny that day is how she weaves in the Scriptures throughout her training. She kept reminding the Associates that God was WITH them every day and as they worked.

Work: During this section, they teach business principles such as honesty, trust, and work ethic. Joevanny taught on hygiene in the business—especially if they were selling food items. After the teaching, the Loan Officer collects the loan payments and savings from the Associates.

Wrap up: Once all payments have been received from all group members, the Loan Officer wraps up the meeting. At the end of the loan payment cycle, the Loan Officer negotiates with the groups the next group loan amounts.

The next stop was to visit one of the schools that is also a recipient of Esperanza’s loans (Colegio Evangélico Piedra del Angulo – Cornerstone Evangelical School). Esperanza lends to schools that are associated with a church and some that are on their own. In both cases, the loan is made in the name of the senior Pastor with the approval of the Board of Elders. The school uses the funds to make physical improvements, pay the teachers, expand to more grades, and expand the curriculum. With tuition income they repay the loans. At the schools, they preach the Word of God to all children and believe their job is to “sow the seed of the Word” in all of them even if they never see the fruit of their labor.

Day 2

We picked up Ana and Joseyna from the central office in La Romana and visited another sugar cane plantation. They call the communities “batey.” My heart sunk when I got off the bus because the poverty here was even more extreme than the first one. The communities we visited were Haitians. They represent most of the marginalized and underserved people who live in the Dominican Republic because they emigrate to harvest the sugar cane and don’t have any other sources of income. Esperanza is helping these families to have a second source of income—especially during the months of July through October in between harvest seasons.

We visited several small businesses. One was a “colmado” which is a mini grocery store, and another small business owner who makes sheets and bed spreads. After the visits, Joseyna led the meeting and shared with her group the same story that Joevanny shared during her meeting about a lady called Rosa who failed at starting her small business for lack of planning. The teaching today focused on planning for your business—everything from the amount of the loan needed, the supplies, keeping track of the earnings, to ensuring they had inventory enough to meet the needs of their customers.

The Scriptures Joseyna shared were Colossians 3:23 (NLT) “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people” and Luke 14:28-30 (NLT) “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’”

Day 3 – We reflected on the Insight Trip as a group and shared our experiences

After observing and listening to all the meetings, this is what I learned from the Loan Officers:

  • They always start the meetings with prayer to include God in everything they teach that day, give God thanks, and ask God for protection. They pray with and for the Associates.
  • They call the Associates by name.
  • They speak with authority yet treat the Associates with great level of respect.
  • They are serious about their business and collecting payments, yet they also take time to laugh and even joke with the Associates.
  • They teach them the Word of God along with business principles.
  • They include everyone in the conversations throughout the meetings.
  • They love on them—both with words as well as physical touch. They hug their Associates.
  • They keep the Associates accountable for their payment and savings goals.
  • They educate the Associates continually and exercise great level of patience as they don’t all get it right away.

The two biggest takeaways for me from this trip are:

  • Poverty is both physical and spiritual. Organizations like HOPE and Esperanza are bringing hope to these people with the dignity of providing work opportunities to become self-sustainable. And most importantly, these organizations bring the eternal hope by sowing the seed of the Word of God into these people’s hearts—the eternal work is what matters most!
  • The work that these Loan Officers do is beyond being a banker—it is the work of a missionary. This is their calling and they are pursuing it despite the circumstances they must perform their work in. They don’t mind the extreme heat and humidity, the smells and dirt in the sites they visit, and the danger they are exposed to when visiting these remote places.

There is so much more to share but I want to keep this story somewhat short, so you can read it all. The key question is: Will we ever eliminate or at least alleviate poverty? I don’t know. But I’m hopeful that even if this generation doesn’t get out of poverty completely because some of them are simply surviving –even with the micro loans and savings—at least their children have a better chance. It will take several generations to make a lasting impact but with perseverance it can work.

I will leave you with a couple of questions:

  • Are you willing to go and experience this trip for yourself? If yes, please contact Jenni Henderson (JHenderson@Hopeinternational.org) at HOPE International. She will be organizing other trips to Dominican Republic. I hope to participate again and bring a group of bankers!
  • If you don’t feel called to go, are you willing to send someone? If yes, I encourage you to support HOPE International so they can continue this labor of love. They work with 16 countries!

About HOPE International:

HOPE International is a nonprofit organization with the mission to empower individuals to provide for themselves, investing in the dreams of families in underserved communities through discipleship, biblically based training, a safe place to save, and loans. HOPE unites the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40) and Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) to address both physical and spiritual brokenness and helps clients identify the skills God has given them to break the chains of poverty.

HOPE International either fully funds their micro financing programs in countries where there are no local organizations or partners with local organizations such as Esperanza International in Dominican Republic.

Special Thanks:

Thank you to the HOPE International staff who made this trip possible: Jenni Henderson, Regional Representative who invited me to go; Arden Moyer, HOPE Trips Advisor who coordinated all the communications; Gloria Stonge, Contributions who helped me keep track of my supporters; Jenna Pounds, In-Country Liaison for Dominican Republic who fed us and ensured we had an amazing experience. Lastly, a huge thank you to those of you who supported me on this trip.

These three Loan Officers made an impact in my life and I will never forget the sacrifice they make daily to help others in extreme need. They are making a difference in this world by bringing physical and eternal hope to those whose lives they touch.

These Loan Officers have the heart of a banker…yet they have the heart of a missionary.