Friday, November 21, 2014

Trip to Cambodia and Thailand (November 2014)

I made a quick trip to Phnom Penh, Cambodia in November (12-15). The purpose of my trip was to talk about "Microfinance for Sustainable Development" to an audience of 300 people from all walks of life. I was one of six speakers for a conference organized jointly by Handong Global University (HGU) and National Bank of Cambodia (NBC). My attendance was in the capacity of a faculty member of HGU.

The theme was "Improving the Management and Financing Competencies of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)" and the conference was supported by UNESCO's UNITWIN (University Twining and Networking) program. HGU is the only hub university in Korea for the UNITWIN program.

This one-day event may not be remembered for long by many people because I felt the conference could have been better organized. But it gave me a golden opportunity to visit Cambodia for the first time and unexpectedly I was able to meet up with missionary Insong Kim who is being supported by Logos Central Chapel, Denver Colorado. He is running Jesus Mission.

Missionary Kim, local pastor, Mrs. Kim

My first impression of Cambodia, more appropriately Phnom Penh, was that the country was poor, predominantly agriculture; the people seemed friendly; the street traffic seemed pretty chaotic and disorganized. Also, I have heard that the corruption level is very high and it holds down the country's economic progress that many citizens long to see. I was told also that the Chinese people living in Cambodia control a significant portion of the national economy, particularly the distribution system, thus blocking competition and free market dynamics.

I learned that ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) will open up their borders to make the flows of resources (capital, human, technology etc) among the member nations. It appeared that Cambodia was concerned about adverse impact that the free flow of resources may bring to the country. The conference was put together in an aim to bolster the competencies of SMEs to better prepare for the upcoming competition.

Gathering with people who have interest in BAM

This trip to Cambodia also gave me a golden opportunity to visit Thailand. The airfare to Phnom Penh only was more expensive than an itinerary that includes another stop over in Bangkok. So I took advantage of this extended trip to visit with a business missionary Lee, Hyun Guk whom I met at BAM Consultation 2013 and 2014.
Business Missionary Lee

This trip turned out to be a wonderful experience of meeting several BAM practitioners and providing some assistance. Also, I met up with several missionaries and young adults who are keenly interested in BAM for one reason or another. I felt greatly encouraged to hear of their desire and also their request for me to come to help them. I consulted a few young BAMers and spoke to dozens of Thais who worship at a church started by a Korean missionary, Young Sung Park, who is also trying to incorporate BAM ideas into his ministries.
Missionary and Mrs. Park after service

15 recipients of scholarship

After talking about "Living the life of Light of the World"

Mandy from Colorado, a high school graduate

A couple of young BAMers
Obviously I was indulged significantly with excellent delicacies of Thai food thanks to the great hospitality of the missionary Lee and missionary Hong, Jung Hyun. They were exceedingly hospitable and I felt indebted to them. Hong was reaching out to students on college campuses under the umbrella of Students for Christ (SFC). He served in the Philippines for nine years before he came to Thailand to start up a new SFC.

His wife was a BAMer. Through her business, namely Nebia House, she was making fabric toys that were exported to Korea. Missionary Lee has helped greatly for the business to be shaped and take off with the products that are commercially salable. Through this business, many people gained jobs and consequently higher income. There were not only direct beneficiaries of this BAM, such as people who work directly for Nebia House, but also indirect beneficiaries who were able to earn income through outsourcing. Church pastors were delighted to see their congregation members earn income.

Missionary Hong and Mrs. Hong

One of the products Nebia House sells

Noteworthy was another BAM, called Samaritan Creation, started and run by an American missionary Mike who married a Thai lady Kay. They make fashion jewelry, fabric toys and fly fishing baits. Their ministry is to help the prostitutes leave their night life and start a new life through normal employment with Samaritan Creation. Samaritan Creation is one of the Nebia House's outsourcing suppliers.
Kay and Mike

All in all, I have come back to Rwanda with greater conviction of the positive impact that a BAM produces when it is properly run based on biblical principles. I have become more assured of God's calling for me to be involved in BAM. Moreover, Thailand may be a place to help bring the gospel to the nations in Indochina where Thailand is situated at the center. May it be true and a reality! Praise the Lord!

The last day, we were able to visit some places of interest, such as a fruit farm, a market on the water and a beach near Pattaya due to my midnight flight schedule. Again, I appreciated the kind escorting and guide of Missionaries Lee and Hong. - Jeffrey

Friday, October 10, 2014

Trip to Korea (September/October 2014)

Namsan Tower and Han River
I traveled back to Korea in September. It was my second time in 2014. Kristin chose to stay in Rwanda due to hardships she suffered from prolonging jetlags related to earlier trip to the U.S. Also, she knew the travel schedule will be quite tight.

The purpose of this trip was mainly two-fold: 1) to attend the 3rd BAM Consultation in Mt. Seorak and 2) to teach a class "Microfinance for Sustainable Development" at Handong Global University in Pohang.

But I arrived in Seoul a few days earlier and spent time seeing my old friends, such as Yoonduk Suh, Young Jun Kim, Myung Ken Lee, Changho Lee.

It is always joyous to see old friends and hear their life stories. Moreover, it was a pleasant surprise to see Dr. Tae Dong Han who taught me Church History during the Medieval Times at Yonsei. He is over 90, yet remained strong and healthy. What a  blessing to have learned from him and to see him again!

Another routine joy of visiting Korea is seeing Shalom Bible Study members. This time, almost 10 people gathered together with one coming all the way from the south: Hayan Lee. Also in attendance were Jooheum, Sungeun, Ji-Hyun, Isaac, Junghwa, Youngsub, Yoonbum, Keunhwa. Lovely people who love and want to serve God through their lives on earth.

With Dr. Tae Dong Han and Yoon Duck

Jenny and Young Jun Kim
The BAM Consultation was productive and informative as expected. It was a bigger group than in 2013 and I met many people whom I had not met before. They include Jae-Jung Jang from Philippines, Ju Dong Yoon from Brazil, Danny Kim from Haiti/Madrid, Peter Kim from Nepal, Kwon Choi from Shanghai, Ihn Koo Khang from Korea, Seungwon Lee from Korea, Il-mo Lee from Philippines etc. Also I met Caleb Shin from Korea who is leading BAMCO seminars and running several businesses for mission. Many old faces were also a delight to see again, including Dongho Kim, Sunki Bang, Jae Chul Jung, Hyung Gook Lee from Thailand, Harry Kim and his church members who have worked so hard to make the event fruitful. Several people came from Mainland China, adding more international flavor.

I shared the BAM model with microfinance and also presented an effective BAM model.

Mt Seorak was ever pretty and green. This time, the weather was clean and clear. I managed to climb to the top of Kwon Keum Sung mainly via the cable car but on foot at the summit. It was spectacular.

Jae Jung Jand and Mrs. Jang

With Danny Yongjae Kim

Seungwon Lee, a great tenor
Initially, I planned to stay in Sokcho for two days before heading down to Pohang, but I had to change the schedule to meet with Mr. Sung Eun Hong who made an arrangement with Mr. Sang Hoon Shin, a former CEO of Shinhan Bank.

The trip to Pohang was via a KTX or Korea Train Express. It took only two hours and 20 minutes from Seoul. Picked up by a taxi driver, Mr. Suh, I settled in a guesthouse room inside the Handong Campus. A studio apartment was to be my residence for the next two weeks.

The class began on Monday and lasted for four days in the first week and another four days the following week. It was a total of 30 hours of teaching for 26 students from 18 countries. Wow... it was a great combination from all over the world. Three from South America, 10 from Asia and 13 from Africa. Most of them were working for their governments and some were lecturers at certain institutions.

I thoroughly enjoyed the teaching and my interactions with all students. They were sincere and some were quite bright. The students included three from Rwanda and one them, Yvon, was constantly among active participants. Commendable.

With 26 students from 18 countries

With Professor and Mrs. MS Doh

While I was teaching, I also met with a lot of people, some old, mostly new, including Soon Heung Chang, President of Handong Global University. The new people whom I met included Seil Ahn, Hyunmo Sung, Chaewon Rha, Isoo Joe, Sungjoon Kang, Byungduck Kang, Haneul Song, I also saw Simon Kang, Yong Lee, George Kim, Kay Lee, Youngsup Kim, Myung Sool Doh, Dosoung Choi

Also I was asked to deliver a special lecture and I covered Technology for Development.

Kay Lee asked me to talk about Introduction to BAM at her class of Mission. So I did.

Over the weekend after the first week of teaching, I traveled to Gimhae, 2 and a half hour drive by bus, to share the Word at Gimhae First Church where Rev. Joseph Yongshik Ahn is the senior pastor. I was a member of Emmanuel Mission Church that Rev. Ahn founded in Los Angeles. It was a joyous reunion with him and his wife. I stayed at their guest house and their hospitable treat was beyond my expectation.
Rev. and Mrs. Joseph Yongshik Ahn

One day, Joonhan Park, a close buddy of mine from the high school, drove from Jinju for three and half hours to meet up. We spent some time catching up. It is always joyful.

Overall, the time spent in Pohang for two weeks kept me quite busy

After Pohang, I traveled back north to settle at my parents house in Osan. On the first day, October 3, I had to drop my luggage at my parents house and continue to travel to Seoul to join a group of friends whom Mr. Sung Eun Hong invited for mutual introduction. Amb. Kwang Dong Kim, CEO of The Better World, a Christian NGO, Amb. Jong Kyung Hong, Vice Governor of Kyungsang Bukdo, Inhan Kim, Elder and CEO of a Christian TV station in New Jersey were still waiting when I finally arrived at the restaurant one hour and 20 minutes late. I had to take six modes of transportation to get there from Pohang, including taxi, KTX, subway, another taxi, bus and another taxi. But I thanked Mr. Hong for his kind arrangement with his friends for mutual introduction in offering assistance for the underprivileged people in the world.

In the evening, I met up with old college friends over dinner. They were Pyung Ku Lee, Moo Young Lee, Chan Joong Park. They all retired from active job duties but are engaged in some activities to help out firms or people. It is always fun to see them and exchange jokes freely.

On Saturday, October 4th, I attended a wedding for Minjung Kim, who is a member of Shalom Bible Study. It was a surprise for her and I prayed for God's blessing upon their wedding.
With Minjung Kim
With former KOICA people met in Rwanda

I spent time with Changho Maeng, my high school buddy, over lunch. He completed his doctoral study in social welfare and is now teaching at a few universities. We shared many things in common so our gathering is always live and active.

For the following two days, I spent time with my parents in Osan. My siblings came down to Osan on Sunday and we dined out at a seafood restaurant. My brother could not join us but sent his two children in his behalf. So we were excited about the opportunity of gathering together.

My father was better in shape than earlier this year when we celebrated his 90th birthday, but he was suffering from severe coughing that appeared to have been caused by post nasal drip as I suffered the same way. My mom at 84 was still strong and joyful, but could not deny the reality of her weakening in body strength and to a certain extent her spirit in taking care of my father. But our time together was full of joy. My father managed to attend the Sunday worship service together despite his challenge of moving around. My parents felt uncomfortable about my staying in Africa, rather than coming back to Korea or even coming closer to Korea. But it all depends on what God leads us to.
With my parents on Sunday... 84 and 90 years of age
Overall, my travel to Korea was quite busy and packed with people to meet and things to do. But I came back safely to Rwanda and I am grateful for the travel mercy that I received. On the way back, somehow I contracted the shingles and had to be put on medication with Valaciclovir, an antiviral medicine, for seven days. Outch... The pains are quite different and severe. But it was a blessing to detect the symptoms early and start taking the medicine before it spread too much. Thank you, Lord, for that! It is always great joy to return to routines from travel only for a while before the next travel looms up on the horizon. - Jeffrey

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Trip to Denver, New York and Atlanta (July and August 2014)

A Picture-perfect Day in Colorado... at Granby Ski Slope
Kristin took off first because I had to work on a consulting work from Access to Finance Rwanda and also receive a friend and missionary Min-Young Jung who was visiting his son in Rwanda.

Kristin spent a few days in New York and went to Denver first. I joined her on July 24th.

With Ted Yamamori
Sometimes, you get to have a pleasant surprise during your trip. I was pleasantly surprised to meet Dr. Ted Yamamori, who is a renowned theologian and a scholar in kingdom business, Business As Mission and mission through international development. Kristin and I attended an unscheduled gathering to learn about Pyongyang University of Science and Technology or PUST that is in the process of establishing PUMS or Pyongyang University of Medical Sciences, including five schools related to health. Dr. Yamamori is one of the board members for PUST and Yeonbyun University of Science and Technology located in China. Both schools were started and established by James Kim. As a practitioner of BAM, I was blessed to meet and talk to Dr. Ted Yamamori who was Global CEO for Food for the Hungry for several years.

The Lees together... sorry James but I do not have your photo
On Saturday, July 26th, we had a family reunion in several years. Amanda and James drove up from Albuquerque, NM and Joyce flew in from San Francisco. Joyce finished her service as a Peace Corps volunteer in May and got a job in San Francisco.

We used a timeshare condominium in Granby, Colorado. Colorado was a perfect place for our family reunion because our children all grew up in Colorado.

Live, Love and Laugh

Grand Lake Town... Perfect Weather

With Joyce, pedaling a boat at Grand Lake

Before the Ziplining... Yeah!

Isn't it pretty...?

At a mall in Winter Park

At Grand Lake Town

A Band Singing at a mall

Joyce and me riding horses through the trees...
Colorado mountains were just beautiful in the summer. Green trees on the mountain slopes, blue skies, white clouds, clear water in the lakes, clean and crisp air, and  friendly people were in perfect harmony. Besides, we were together as a family.

James had to fly out on Sunday after the Sunday worship service, but Amanda stayed with us for a couple more days. We attended the worship service together, dined together and giggled together. After Amanda left, Joyce and I did some outdoor activities, including Zipline between two mountain slopes, horseback riding in the meadows and woods, and pedal-boating in the Grand Lake. Kristin joined us for the pedal-boating, as a spectator.

We strolled the village street at Grand Lake Town, filled with shops.

We dined at several restaurants, but the most impressive place was Fish taco place with an Asian fusion flavor. They were delicious!

Beautiful setting for lunch invited by Bobby and Sammy

Bobby and Sammy with their son Preston

Elder Ham and Mrs. Ham with her paintings
During this trip, we also had gatherings with many friends, such as Chuck and Eunice, Mike and Hyungjoo, Tai Gil Ryu and his wife, Ki Bock Jang and his wife, Bobby and Sammy, Keya, Dong Kuk, Won Hyung Ham and his wife. Specially noteworthy was the visit to the house of Bobby and Sammy. They had spent several years to upgrade the house little by little and the entire house was decorated with artifacts on every wall and in every corner. Their son, Preston, was an adoring boy who loved to play with us.

Mrs. Choi, Kristin and Mrs. Yoon at Yamagata

Me, Mr. Yoon and Mr. Choi, the travel friends
In New York, most of the time was spent seeing old friends as well as Kristin's siblings and their children. We also visited the nursing home where Kristin's mom is living, but she did not recognize us, sadly. I saw Mr. and Mrs. Yeunho Suk, Mr. and Mrs. Jay Yoon, Mr. and Mrs. Jaesup Choi, Mr. Soung-Eun Hong, Mr. Dae Keun Yoo, Ms. Dayoung Choi, Yeonhee Han, Tae Ok Park, Young Wook Yoo, Kwangho Cho. It was a short 4-day stay to see all these people. Particularly noteworthy was a golf round that I played with Mr. Yoon and Mr. Choi at Haworth Country Club and a wonderful dinner together with our wives at a Japanese restaurant, called Yamagata. A shaved ice covered with red beans and bean powder was a delightful finishing touch to the fantastic dinner.

Kristin went back to Rwanda from New York, but I traveled down to Atlanta for a few days. I stayed at Koomin's house for a couple of nights (August 9 and 10) but for the rest of the visit I stayed at Townplace Suites by Marriott in Alpharetta. The primary purpose of this short visit was to explore Atlanta to see if we want to live here when we become old.

Elder and Mrs. David Cho in Atlanta

Bibimbop in a humongous bowl... empied

Elder and Mrs. Sam Kim in Atlanta

St. Mario Country Club...

With Koomin Chung
I found Atlanta very attractive for a retirement living. Its warm climate without snow (almost) was one reason, but there are plenty of other reasons also. Atlanta is an important hub for transportation. Atlanta's Hartfields Jackson International Airport is home to Delta Airline, the largest airliner in the U.S. Besides, you can reach many surrounding cities and states by car, including Destin, FL, a 5-hour drive, where Amanda and James are planning to settle down when they are relocated to a base in the area. Also, Atlanta has easy access to the mountains, the ocean and beaches and entertainment cities, like Orlando.

Atlanta's cost of living, including housing, is still very low compared to other metropolitan cities. What was most surprising to me was that Atlanta is situated at an altitude of 1,000 feet. This lowers the humidity level in the air, resulting in less humid weather during the summer. I could feel the positive difference compared to the weather in Colorado, which was very dry, causing itching skins for me, particularly during the winter. Moreover, Atlanta had a quality water, another pleasant surprise, thanks to a river crossing and Lake Lanier that provides stable water supply. The water quality was not as good as New York where cool water was refreshing, but the quality of water was comparable.

So, Atlanta's low cost of living, mild weather, transportation hub, fertile soil, easy access to hiking trails, quality water, sufficient amenities, such as health care, restaurants, cultural attractions, education etc., all scored high for me.

I saw several friends to get their feedback and their feedbacks also validated my assessment. I saw Nack Paek, Mr. and Mrs. David Daewon Cho, Koomin Chung, Mr. and Mrs. Sam Sangeui Kim and Kristen Yeo.

On August 15th, Friday, I started flying back to Rwanda via three legs of flights: Atlanta to JFK, New York, JFK to Amsterdam and Amsterdam to Kigali. I left Atlanta at 11AM on August 15th, Friday and landed in Kigali at 7:20PM on August 16th. It was a long journey, but it was another memory-filled travel blessed with health and safety, thanks to the Lord! - Jeffrey