What I learned around our kitchen table

A message from our Executive Director


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What kind of kitchen table conversations did your family have growing up?

I realized recently that what my parents talked about, more than anything else, was imagining things that didn’t exist — yet.

My dad ran an ad agency and my mom was a small business owner. They shared a passion for renovation and an entrepreneurial spirit that meant discussions at dinner usually revolved around what they were imagining together. A plan for a downtown revitalization project. A vision for a new business they were hatching. Another renovation project on our old stone farmhouse.

And without trying really, they passed on to me the same sort of productive imagination — the ability to picture something that isn’t there, then plan the steps to make an idea an actual thing.

Maybe my family was a little unusual, but this productive imagination is a gift from God to every one of us. Creative capacity is something that sets human beings apart from the rest of the created world. In fact, our ability to ‘take an idea and make it a thing’ is proof that we are made in God’s image, the original Creator, and confirms our value, purpose and potential to flourish — not just survive.

Unleashing productive imagination is the core of what we do at TOLI, and it’s why I am so passionate about our mission.

“What makes development happen," writes Lawrence Harrison, "is our ability to imagine, theorize, conceptualize, experiment, invent, articulate, organize, manage, solve problems, and do a hundred other things with our minds and hands that contribute to the progress of the individual and humankind … the engine is human creative capacity.”

And God has given this capacity to every man and woman — no matter their place of birth, no matter their privilege, no matter which side of the ‘poverty problem’ they're coming from. So while there are times to hand out short-term relief and aid, real renovation of broken economies — and real restoration of broken relationships with God — begins with seeing that God made each person for a purpose that is meant to be fulfilled. Otherwise development is short-circuited, undercutting the God-given potential of the very people we are trying to serve. And then we all lose.

There’s something else my folks taught me: the best creative projects are team projects. Rarely can you imagine, design, fund and execute a creative dream alone. So we team up.

At TOLI, we get to team up with some of the most creative thinkers we know — men and women in poor communities. We get to team up to encourage them to imagine something, then share the resources needed to ‘make it a thing.’ The best part? Their kids get to watch, listen and learn to do it too, just like I did.

This is a new role for me here at TOLI. And I’m grateful for how much productive imagination, and even more spiritual imagination, has gone into building this ministry since it began over a decade ago. As we head into this new chapter together, I ask nothing more than for you to pray for TOLI like you’ve never prayed before. Because while I have a lot to learn in this job, this much I know is true: as prayer fuels our holy imagination, God will make something out of us that will bring him glory and us joy.

Yours in Christ,

 

Abigail McConnell
Executive Director


Last month we met with church leaders in the small town of Manfalot, Egypt, to begin offering our microloan program there. 

Last month we met with church leaders in the small town of Manfalot, Egypt, to begin offering our microloan program there. 

What's happening in the field: 

— Our Kenya program is up and running. Meet some of our new clients HERE! We think they're amazing. New businesses like a bookshop, a cereal wholesaler, and a bakery have been launched in Mai-A-Ihii. Pray for each of these women, their families and their new enterprises. 
— TOLI continues to multiply in Egypt. Please pray for Heliopolis Evangelical Church and our leaders there, as they replicate our microloan program through various church plants across Egypt. 
— Pray for Beth and Bill Bennett, friends of TOLI in Albania, as they continue to work with local ministries to plan our Albania launch. 
— Pray for VERBO ministries in Nicaragua, as they identify staff and potential clients to serve in their community. 
— Pray with thanksgiving for our program in Duars, India, where they've completed a small business training course and are in the process of granting microloans for 16 new entrepreneurs there.
— Pray that each of our field staff would be led by the Holy Spirit as they work with clients. Pray for relationships that point to Christ and lead to both material and spiritual wholeness.  


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Meet our newest clients

Get to know the women and the dreams you're investing in

Stella, with TOLI Social Worker Sam, with brand new inventory for her clothing business. 

Stella, with TOLI Social Worker Sam, with brand new inventory for her clothing business. 

Hanna with her new bookshop inventory.

Hanna with her new bookshop inventory.

STELLA has three children to care for, a promising idea for a new business, and a sparkling, contagious smile. When we first met Stella in October, she was participating at our mini-workshop in Mai-A-Ihii, Kenya. She told us she's earned money in the past doing laundry, cleaning and selling as a hawker, but she really dreams of running a clothing boutique. In December she received a TOLI loan to build her business. With the loan, she bought inventory and is taking the first steps toward her dream of running a profitable shop to provide stability and an education for her siblings.

 

HANNAH is 32 with two kids. She made a small income of about $30 a month sewing school uniforms, but it wasn't enough to live on. But then Hannah saw an opportunity to expand her business by offering books and educational supplies to her uniform customers. In December, she took a TOLI loan to buy inventory to create a bookshop. Already her business is taking off. After just one month she was able to pay her first installment back on time and pay her kids' school fees, which brought her so much joy. 

"Hannah is a happy soul. She has not been this joyful before. Her business is doing great." — Lucy, TOLI Social Worker

And Hannah keeps dreaming. When she succeeds, her goal is to buy a plot of land for her own home and move out of her in-laws' compound. 

 

Mary has started a new business grains wholesaler.

Mary has started a new business grains wholesaler.

MARY is a mom of three, and wife to Peter. Their income of $100 per month was not enough to grow a business that will truly flourish. With a loan of $200, Mary invested in bulk grains to be in cereal reseller. She is a leader in her community savings group, a determined worker, and her future is brighter than ever. She told our social worker this week that the biggest difference in her life since taking the loan is that she is now able to provide her family's daily food and that she has hope for her future business growth.

And these are just the start.

There are 8 new clients in Mai-A-Ihii with stories as inspiring as these, and many more on the waiting list. Women with capacity, abilities and generous hearts for their families and neighbors. With guidance from our field staff, these women are on track toward prosperous futures filled with God's purpose and abundance. 

So what's next?

We're eager to return in March to provide small business training for clients and community members, and to complete the launch of our other site in Central Kenya. We're so grateful for how you've invested so far in this program with your hearts as well as your finances — we wouldn't be here without you. So here's how you can help us build on this strong start:

1. PRAY. Pray for each of these women, their families, their businesses. Pray for social workers Sam and Lucy, for our local partner ministry, Comet House, and for the upcoming business skills training session. Pray for the local churches who minister to these families and faithfully point to Jesus as the source of lasting abundance.

Pray for our other Kenyan partner ministry KCK, with whom we're hoping to complete our site launch in March. We just heard that their call for applications for TOLI Social Worker position yielded 27 applicants! Pray that God would provide just the right person for this crucial job. 

2. INVEST. There is a waiting list to receive a loan. Even though TOLI loans are revolving and stay in the community, it will be many loan cycles until Mai-A-Ihii is self-sustaining. Would you consider becoming a sustaining giver? Consider sponsoring more loans, or, even better, becoming a monthly supporter. Just click here to find out how:

3. TELL US WHAT YOU THINK. Have questions about our work? Ideas for improving how we tell the story of TOLI? Let us know. Your input is invaluable.

4. TELL YOUR FRIENDS. Know a friend, colleague or neighbor who would be excited about Christ-centered, business-based solutions to poverty alleviation too? Please share this with them! Together our impact will multiply. You are changing lives. 



SPREAD THE LOVE!


Our top ten for 2017

Our top ten for 2017

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

— ISAIAH 43:19

Don't you just love it when God does a new thing? That's the heart of Christmas, after all — God sending a newborn savior to bring us new hope, new birth, new life, for good. 

At TOLI, 2017 has been a year marked by many new things that God has done—new growth, new beginnings, new milestones—and we couldn't be more thankful. To celebrate, we've assembled a little top ten list... 

Gift-giving for world-changers

Honor someone you love by gifting a TOLI microloan

This Christmas, we're all searching for gifts that mean a little more, last a little longer and truly represent the spirit of the season. Here's one that fits the bill: give a TOLI microloan in honor of a loved one.

Honor cards are available to download and print when you gift a TOLI loan. Click on the link to find out more.

Honor cards are available to download and print when you gift a TOLI loan. Click on the link to find out more.

Your gift can mean a hand up for a father who yearns to provide for his family or for a woman aching to send her kids to school. TOLI microloans empower individuals to rebuild their communities, to fulfill their purpose and experience true flourishing.

Sponsor one microloan ($300), a whole village ($3000) or even just a share of a loan ($30). Whatever the size, your gift can transform a life, a family, even a whole community.

Growing both deep and wide

We've just returned from Kenya and Egypt, where TOLI isn't just growing — it's multiplying

October was a banner month. After more than three weeks of travel to Africa and the Middle East to train leaders, launch new sites, collaborate with field staff, and expand programs, TOLI leaders are giving thanks — and taking a deep breath. Here are just a few highlights...

Margaret has applied for a microloan in Mai-a-ihii. She'd like to expand her small vegetable stand to a larger, permanent grocery kiosk.

Margaret has applied for a microloan in Mai-a-ihii. She'd like to expand her small vegetable stand to a larger, permanent grocery kiosk.


KENYA: TOLI's first site in Sub-Saharan Africa

— A team of 10 visited two regions in Kenya to evaluate new partnerships.
— We officially launched in Mai-a-Ihii, outside of Nairobi, partnering with Comet House Ministries to offer poor women microloans. We expect a second partner site, in rural central Kenya, to launch by March. (For pictures and videos, check out our Facebook updates)
— We're excited to be working with savings groups to strengthen our program here. These are community-based covenant groups of poor individuals who pool their assets to provide basic financial services to each other. They also build accountability, discipline, and a platform for Christian discipleship that will add a powerful dynamic to TOLI's loan program.
— We ran several workshops with potential clients focusing on goal setting; overcoming obstacles, and identifying how we're designed to work together in the body of Christ.
— We look forward to returning in March to run a week-long entrepreneurship course for clients, leaders and community members.
HUGE thank you to the Kenya Launch Team, whose generous support kickstarted this program.


"We've tried businesses before, but without a plan we learned you cannot succeed. We look forward to you coming back in March for the five-day course."

— Nancy, microloan candidate and class participant, Mai-a-Ihii, Kenya


TOLI leaders from around the world met in Cairo for a week of training, collaboration and worship. Photo by Jessica Birkelo/Alternativ

TOLI leaders from around the world met in Cairo for a week of training, collaboration and worship. Photo by Jessica Birkelo/Alternativ

EGYPT: New growth in our oldest program

— Five leaders continued from Kenya on to Egypt to provide a week-long small business training course and make field visits.
58 people participated in the training, including leaders from Egypt, Lebanon, India, Nicaragua and the US.
— For the first time, we assembled field staff from multiple countries in one place to collaborate, learn and worship together.
— A whopping 800 microloan applicants are hoping for a chance at a TOLI loan in Garbage Village, a poor area of Cairo built entirely on recycling the city's garbage.
7-8 new TOLI sites are being planted throughout Cairo, thanks to a strategic partnership with Heliopolis Evangelical Church.
— El Kom el Akhdar, TOLI's first village site, reports meeting all of its yearly goals — reaching youth at risk of emigrating out of the village, finding employment for individuals with special needs, and improving the development of the village as a whole. El Khom is now planting the TOLI program in three nearby villages.

We visited Soaad, a single mom of 5 kids, who built small shop with a TOLI loan in Nazlet Hanna, Egypt. Her business is successful and her kids are thriving.

We visited Soaad, a single mom of 5 kids, who built small shop with a TOLI loan in Nazlet Hanna, Egypt. Her business is successful and her kids are thriving.


We learned that more than 800 people have applied for a TOLI loan in Garbage Village alone. Would you sponsor just one?

A $300 donation provides one new loan — and the start of a brand new life.  Help TOLI bring restoration and the good news of Jesus Christ to more around the world. Make your quick, secure online donation here:
 


We're expanding to Nicaragua. Here's why.

The jail in Puerto Cabezas is filled with women who got caught selling drugs to feed their families. But we believe that doesn't have to be the end of their story.

Touch of Love International is expanding to Nicaragua, and here is where we begin: In a town decimated by a hurricane that swept all the jobs away, forcing moms to run drugs to feed their kids. Here is where we begin: with women who've learned about freedom and who are now hungry for hope. Hope is where we begin.

EMILY HOWARD, a missionary and TOLI leader, is spearheading our Nicaragua program. Here she shares the story of two women, an unlikely friendship, and the hope of a brand new life.

Women in the Puerto Cabezas jail, gathering for a bible study with Emily.

Women in the Puerto Cabezas jail, gathering for a bible study with Emily.

"Like most of the women living in this Nicaraguan jail, Diana and Chickymaria* were incarcerated for dealing illegal drugs. I spent several months here in Puerto Cabezas in 2014, ministering to these women, meeting with them weekly, getting to know them as more than "inmates." I learned their stories and prayed for them to be set free — both physically and spiritually.

Diana shared with me her grief in being away from her baby son. Like the other mothers in jail, she’d felt the pressure of providing for her child in a community where jobs are scarce and drugs-to-sell are easily accessible. She had to choose between breaking the law and feeding her child. It broke my heart.

A year later I returned to Puerto Cabezas and was elated to discover Diana and Chickymaria had been released from jail. Even with the new challenge of a criminal history added to their record, their hearts remained free and excited for change. However, I witnessed firsthand the obstacles that kept them from moving forward.

My prayer for the ladies in the jail was growing into something bigger than before: What happens next? How do these women take tangible steps to live transformed lives if no tangible tools are available? I realized these women are already skilled in business; all they need is a gentle nudge to redirect these talents into something meaningful.

Diana, Chickymaria and I began meeting regularly to brainstorm. Diana enthusiastically showed me page after page of designs she’d come up with for her future business. She eagerly showed me pictures of her little son with whom she was working to reestablish a relationship. We spent hours walking through the market, pricing supplies to create an inventory for her future business. I couldn’t ignore the radiance in Diana’s eyes as hope began replacing the earlier shadows of shame. However, as I prepared to leave for a brief furlough to the States, I had no idea Diana’s life would take a turn for the worse before things would get better.

Diana and Chickymaria with Emily (right) at their first business meeting, brainstorming ideas.

Diana and Chickymaria with Emily (right) at their first business meeting, brainstorming ideas.

When I returned in August of 2016, I tried for weeks to find Diana and Chickymaria. I tried calling and messaging. Nothing. That's why I was shocked five months later to find Chickymaria at a graduation. Her surprise to see me was quickly replaced by sadness, as her face told the story I was about to hear. Diana, our friend, had been sent to a prison in Managua, where they send prisoners to serve long-term sentences. My heart broke. Not Diana. Diana was never made to be a “prisoner.” None of these women were. Diana represents so many women who are longing to live a brand new life, but lack the connections and resources to take the first step.

For all these reasons and more, I am immensely grateful for Touch of Love International, and everyone who partners with this organization. I am equally thankful for the people willing to meet these women in their moment of readiness — to offer a hand up and out, proving that beauty can rise from ashes, future can be completely different from the past, and Jesus makes all things new!

I thank God that the ladies with whom I work can be one more group of lives touched by the tangible love that TOLI offers."


help build a brand new life. 

Sponsoring a microloan means women like Chickymaria and Diana can have a second chance. Make your easy, secure online donation here:


 *Names have been changed to protect privacy.

Celebrating 1000 loans — in a single village

The village of El Kom El Akhdar is celebrating a huge victory this month. They recently granted their 1000th loan since TOLI began there over a decade ago.

One thousand loans. 1036 to be exact.

That's more than 1000 new beginnings.
More than 1000 ideas made reality.
More than 1000 answered prayers.

And that's meant a world of difference for this Egyptian village of 20,000. Men and women now work to provide for their family. Marriages are stronger. Kids are fed and attend school. More and more people understand their God-given value, maybe for the first time.

Even better?
There are now more than 1000 new services this village did not have before.
More than 1000 innovations.
More than 1000 conveniences that help people thrive.

A farmer can buy medicine for his livestock right in his own village. A woman can have her hair professionally done just down the street. Teenagers safely play games in the “arcade” after school.  A laborer can buy gas right in town, instead of using a half tank to buy more in the next village.

And 1000 families have learned to dream and plan for the future.  They feel the satisfaction of taking responsibility for themselves and the motivation to pay off their loan so their neighbor can get one, too. This builds strong bonds ofsupport in a community like El Kom.
 

The village's first gas station.

The village's first gas station.

In 1000 ways and more, TOLI has been a tool for the Lord to change this village's culture from the inside out.

How did we get here?

El Kom is actually the birthplace of TOLI's microloan story. In 2001, founder Dr. Emad "Eddie" Yassa took a group from his church in the US to his native country to work with Habitat for Humanity Egypt. Here in El Kom they were confronted with crushing poverty, but also understood that hand-outs would not solve the problem. The concept of revolving microloans took root — and bloomed.

One of the first projects was launched by an unlikely businesswoman. When Dr. Yassa first met her, she was hopeless — elderly and unable to walk, living in unbearable circumstances. His heart was broken, and simply giving money wasn't the solution. So an idea was hatched: she would use a bench outside her home where she could sit with a cell phone and allow people to pay by the minute to make phone calls. The idea worked. Soon, she was not only selling phone minutes, but selling items to her customers at this little 'bench business.'

Today, one person out of every 20 in this town has used a TOLI microloan. When Dr. Yassa and leaders visited last March, the mayor and other local leaders came out to greet "Dr Emad," to welcome him and the team to honor the profound transformation the program has brought to their community. The presence of TOLI’s founder was big news in the village! 

As we celebrate El Kom's 1000 loans, we give thanks for the very first. And we praise God that he uses small beginnings to create beauty, joy and hope in unexpected places.

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin. — Zechariah 4:10 (NLT)

A new salon owner.

A new salon owner.

Raising a goat for milk, meat and cheese.

Raising a goat for milk, meat and cheese.

Dr. Emad and the TOLI team visiting loan recipients in El Kom El Akhdar.

Dr. Emad and the TOLI team visiting loan recipients in El Kom El Akhdar.

 

PS. Here's the icing on the cake: El Kom's program has been self-sufficient for years. Because TOLI loans are revolving, when a recipient pays back a loan, it is then reinvested in the same community.  So El Kom El Akhdar has been building itself, thanks to the faithful loan repayment of our clients.


Let's go for another 1000!

Your gift will provide more loans to help more villages thrive. Make an easy, secure online donation here:


Help us celebrate this milestone: Spread the word. We want to include you and your circle in what God is doing through TOLI.  Tell your friends, forward this story, share us on social media, and, as always, pray.

Thank you for your continued support! Together, we can bring restoration and God's hope to countless lives.
 

This is the start of something big.

Join our first-ever Launch Team!

You've already seen the power and blessing of TOLI's loan program in Egypt and India. Well, we're excited to share that we're preparing to expand to Kenya this fall. In October, a team of TOLI leaders will travel to Kenya to initiate the program with local ministries.

To start the program we're building our first-ever Launch Team. We're looking for folks who are passionate about TOLI's Christ-centered and entrepreneurial approach to poverty alleviation, interested in seeing it grow in Kenya, and committed to praying for God to expand it. We also need to equip at least 10 entrepreneurs with a new loan (10 X $300). 

By sponsoring a loan for $300 (or a share of a loan), you will help one new entrepreneur start a self-sustaining business that will provide for herself, her family and her community.

We provide the loan, small business education, mentoring, and spiritual support. The entrepreneurs provide the creativity, conviction, determination, and hard work.

Here's the best part: when the loan is paid back, it's reissued to another entrepreneur in the same village. So your one-time gift will continue to give hope again and again!

Will you consider joining our Kenya Launch Team? Click here for more details:

Can't join but still want to help? Easy — just spread the word. Share us on social media, forward our newsletter to friends, and keep in touch. And, as always, pray.

Together, we can bring restoration and God's hope to countless lives. Thank you for your continued support!