What I learned around our kitchen table

From our Executive Director


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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