What I'm learning about leadership

— From our Executive Director — 

Until a couple of years ago, if you mentioned the topic of Leadership to me, it's likely my eyes would’ve glazed over. Who’s got time for such lofty thoughts while you’re elbow-deep in the real world of packing lunchboxes, finding deals on soccer cleats, and minding everyone’s screen time?

Well, things have changed. I’ve changed. I’ve learned Leadership isn’t so lofty. Leadership is as real as the people you’re standing next to, and as down to earth as the tools in your hands. Leadership is influence, and everyone has influence.

TOLI has taught me much of this. Why does TOLI invest in people who seem to have nothing? Because even if you have ‘nothing’ you still have influence. The words you say, the actions you take, the choices you make, the help you share, all impact the world around you. If you are a person, you have influence. That means no one has ‘nothing.’

So while charities see people to be helped, TOLI sees leaders to be built.

Clients who start a small business with a microloan, take business training, and engage in intentional Christian discipleship through TOLI are influencing their communities in ways that will long outlive our program. They are becoming leaders. And that changes everything. For good.

And it’s my honor to introduce you to three of them. These are three women who've taught me more about leadership than any podcast, book, or conference.


BRENDA was the first TOLI client in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua. Once a struggling single mom, Brenda now runs a thriving small business. At a recent training, Brenda spoke to a room of 40, including TOLI clients, church leaders from around Nicaragua, and an American team from TOLI. “I want to tell everyone: Let’s learn to give back that little part of all that God gives us,” she said. Brenda is a motivator among the TOLI client community as she inspires, challenges, and brings people together. Brenda is a leader.


ANN is a grandmother in rural Kenya, who took a TOLI microloan to build her dairy cow business. A loyal member of a community savings group organized by our partner ministry, Comet House, we’ve seen Ann grasp the power of the TOLI program to transform lives. Because of Ann’s hard work and strategic vision, her daughter is now starting college — something Ann says would never have happened before she entered the program. Ann has paid off her loan, but is not done with TOLI. This month, she was selected to join the local TOLI Committee, where she will help recruit and train new clients and savings groups. Ann is a leader.


SOHER is a mother of two boys living in Garbage Village, a desperately poor area of Cairo, Egypt. Soher took a microloan years ago to buy a machine that recycles plastics and earns her steady income. Soher’s persistence and positivity has inspired many US TOLI Teams that have visited her over the years. And starting this month, she begins working for TOLI as an assistant to our Social Worker in her community, providing spiritual care and counseling of female clients in the area. Soher is a leader.

Brenda, Ann, and Soher are just three, but there are many more leaders being developed right now because of TOLI and our partner ministries. THANK YOU for investing in them by supporting our work. Through them, you are changing more lives than you'll ever know.

With gratitude and joy,


Abigail McConnell
Executive Director

Q&A with a TOLI Traveler

Randy Scott: "TOLI is the 'real deal.'"

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Sheer curiosity inspired Randy Scott to travel to Nicaragua to see TOLI in action last month. Scott, a longtime nonprofit consultant, successful executive, and most recently, a TOLI supporter, was blown away by the simple effectiveness of the TOLI model. “TOLI is the ‘real deal,'" he says. "It works, and lives are being changed. A mere $300 loan can really change lives and people are coming to Christ because of TOLI’s engagement.”

His biggest takeaway from the trip? “There is no single solution to solving world poverty,” he says. “As Jesus said, the poor will always be with us. It is easy to become overwhelmed by world poverty and do nothing. I think I now see that the ultimate solution is bringing the people to a believing faith in Jesus Christ so that they can enjoy spending eternity with Him where there is no pain, hunger, and worry. In the meantime, if each believer can engage with organizations like TOLI that provide the opportunity to build relationships with those in need so that we can then share Jesus with them, we can and will make a difference.”

Inspired? Take the next step.

> Come to our next #TOLITuesday Prayer Gathering on September 10 from 12-1pm at the TOLI office, 5785 N.Union Blvd, Colorado Springs, CO 80918.

Be like Randy. Travel with us! Check out our trips coming in 2020. 

Help TOLI change lives by giving today. A simple $300 microloan can truly transform a life — and a family — forever.  

And, finally, give us a follow…

Creativity rules.

You might think rural Kenya is an unlikely place for innovation. Think again. 

We want to introduce you to a few entrepreneurs we met last month. Their creativity and willingness to think "outside the box" is transforming their lives and their communities. Each of these clients took a TOLI loan of less than $300. That, paired with their resourcefulness, their courageous thinking, and the encouragement of a TOLI social worker, has meant a brand new start.

THANK YOU for helping these amazing entrepreneurs find their purpose and use their God-given talents. 


REGINA, Tea Sales. Regina's business idea is so simple, but so clever. With just a plastic bag and a candle, Regina has created a tea packaging business that's providing steady income and security for her and her children. She buys high-grade tea in bulk (we tasted it — it's delicious!) and then repackages it into smaller portions. She seals the individual plastic bags with a candle flame so the tea stays fresh, then sells the small portions to clients in her area, including schools and churches. (Click the video above to see how Regina works!) 


LENA, Veterinary Services and Supplies. Lena has loved animals her whole life. And even though it's rare for women here, she has long dreamed of operating a veterinary supplies business. But this spring, with the help of business training and a $300 loan through TOLI, she launched a veterinary services and supplies shop. Her business provides medicine, supplements and vet services for area livestock farmers.  

Lloyd and Bonface.jpg

LLOYD, Banana Sales. Banana farming is nothing new. But Lloyd's business model is innovative, connecting local small-scale farmers with the larger banana market in Nairobi. Lloyd (shown above on the right) scouts for banana crops from independent subsistence farmers in remote areas, collects them himself, then transports them in bulk to the city every week, where he sells at a premium. Not only has his income sharply increased, his community has benefitted from the market expansion. 


LUCY, Butcher. When Lucy's husband, a life-long butcher, died a year and a half ago, she was left without an income. Then this spring, her community group introduced her to the TOLI program. Lucy courageously decided to take a microloan and continue her husband's business. Last month, Lucy reopened the butchery, and she now provides fresh meat as well as some of her own special recipes to her community. "Being a butcher is unusual for women here," she told us. "But business is good, and is picking up." 

“ Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.”

— 1 Kings 3:12

When Annie met Rose (top picture), a TOLI client with a dress-making business, she decided she wanted to buy a dress of her own. Rose measured Annie, helped her choose fabrics, and custom-made the dress by the very next day. Annie proudly wore it to worship that Sunday (above)!

When Annie met Rose (top picture), a TOLI client with a dress-making business, she decided she wanted to buy a dress of her own. Rose measured Annie, helped her choose fabrics, and custom-made the dress by the very next day. Annie proudly wore it to worship that Sunday (above)!

Q&A with a TOLI Traveler

Almost 30 years ago, Annie Moore’s father began a ministry serving abandoned boys in the slums of Nairobi. Years later, it was his passion and legacy that sparked Annie's desire to go on a TOLI trip to Kenya. As a former social worker herself, Annie was intrigued by the “transformative shift” microloans can play in breaking the cycle of poverty. We asked her to share a few thoughts about this life-changing journey to Kenya with TOLI last month.

TOLI: Describe an encounter with a TOLI client that impacted you deeply: 

ANNIE: We met a woman whose business involved traveling from Kenya to Uganda to buy fabrics and selling them for a profit to dressmakers and other people through word of mouth. She seemed to be doing quite well and had plans of expanding her business, but what really struck me about her is the daughter she "adopted" (whom she saw had no parents) who now lives with her. The daughter is also taking a microloan to make and sell soaps. This daughter sends some of her money back to a brother suffering from some ailment for medication. Seeing generosity giving way to generosity was inspiring.

TOLI: How did you see God at work through TOLI? 

ANNIE: God was at work in the TOLI social workers as they were facilitating groups, working alongside of individuals, giving their very lives away with loads of joy and passion in the work they were doing. Observers, Teachers, Encouragers, Listeners, Supporters, Advisors, Travelers, God is using so many facets of these social workers!

TOLI: What would you like others to know about TOLI? 

ANNIE: The TOLI staff does an exquisite job of carrying out the business of getting microloans to people and pursuing growth, while simultaneously reassuring individuals that TOLI exists not primarily for the repayment of money, but most importantly, for the worth and value God sees in each and every person.

Inspired? Jump in. 

> Be like Annie. Travel with us! Check out our trips coming in 2020. 
> Come to our next #TOLITuesday Prayer Gathering on July 9 from 12-1pm at the TOLI office, 5785 N.Union Blvd, Colorado Springs, CO 80918.

> Help more entrepreneurs find their purpose, gifts, and ability to care for the families and communities by giving today. A simple $300 microloan can truly transform a life — and a family — forever.  

New purpose, new leaders, new life

IN PICTURES: Look at what's new around the TOLI family

February was a busy month of new starts for our entrepreneurs and partners. From new clients to new learning opportunities to new savings groups, the TOLI family is on the move: learning, building, and influencing their communities to break the cycle of poverty, for good.  Here's a show-and-tell of just a few:  


NEW PURPOSE: Candida, shown here with her three boys, took a $300 TOLI microloan to start a small pedicure business in Nicaragua. This month she told us she discovered the value of servanthood in her work because "I remember Jesus cleaning the feet of his disciples ... that makes me identify with him. That's tremendous." Candida's humble heart, creativity, and determination has paid off. She is now providing for her family independently and will pay off her loan next month. Way to go Candida!

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NEW COMMUNITY: If you came to last month's Prayer Gathering you already heard that our program in Kenya is multiplying. Here's a new Savings Group being assembled in the community of Kirubia, one of three new TOLI groups birthed this month. These groups will save together, learn business skills together, and be launchpads for our next round of microloan clients in Kenya. Shown here is Humphrey Kanga, founder and CEO of our partner ministry KCK, addressing the group.


NEW LEADERS: A group of TOLI entrepreneurs in Nicaragua and TOLI Social Workers in Egypt were invited to attend the Global Leadership Summit (GLS) in February — a world-class conference equipping leaders worldwide — hosted by our partner ministries. Kudos to our partners VERBO Ministries in Nicaragua and Heliopolis Evangelical Church in Egypt for investing in these new leaders and believing with us that everyone has influence. 

Get your tickets to Come to the Table

Thursday, May 9 at 6pm at the Pinery, Colorado Springs

If you've ever wanted to share TOLI with a friend, or learn more about our work, this night is for you. You'll witness through the eyes of our clients how TOLI is helping families break the cycle of poverty and experience the love of Christ. It'll be a memorable, inspiring, and fun night. Don't miss it.

CLICK HERE (or on the image above) for details, to buy tickets, or to sponsor a table! Reserve early, seats are limited. 

Our Annual Report is in

Want a quick overview at what God did in and through TOLI in 2018? Check out our Annual Report, find it here, or just click the image. 

Time for you to jump in?

> Come to our next #TOLITuesday Prayer Gathering: March 12 from 12-1pm (at TOLI, 5785 N.Union Blvd, Colorado Springs, CO 80918)
> Get your tickets: May 9, 2019 for "Come to the Table" at the Pinery
> Become a monthly giver! Start here.
> Discover other ways to get involved here

The gift of 'WITH'

From our Executive Director

Stella grabbed my hand and led me down the red dirt road. She wanted to take me to her house — a tidy one-room flat she shares with her young son. Inside she showed me pictures of her siblings, the clothing inventory for her new business, and the journal she uses to record her monthly savings. We sat on her bed, and she shared with me her hopes, her struggles, and her dreams.  

We were new friends. I didn’t deserve to be taken by the hand and welcomed into her story like that. Being with Stella inside her home, inside her heart, felt like a gift.


"Being able to provide for my family is the greatest joy I have," Stella told us this month. Pictured above, Stella and Abigail together in March 2018.

Turns out, it’s a gift I would receive again and again this year, as countless TOLI clients welcomed me in — to be with them in their homes, their businesses, their stories. This gift of WITH has been my favorite gift this year.

It’s this same gift of WITH that God gives us all at Christmas. The gift of Jesus, Emmanuel, "God with us." God gave us the gift of his son Jesus to be our rescue, to restore creation, and to reclaim us as the people he created us to be, by first coming to be with us.

That’s why WITH is essential to TOLI's mission. We come alongside people in vulnerable parts of the world, and work with them as they pursue God’s purpose, their own creative capacity, and their dreams for their communities.

In 2018, TOLI has grown in extraordinary ways:

  • partnering with 12 different local organizations around the world to bring microloans and the Gospel to more people and places than ever before

  • working with more than 550 clients this year—a 30% increase since January

  • our social workers walking with each client for at least 18 months, building relationships and opportunities to share Christ's love

  • gathering with each other on #TOLITuesday to pray monthly over the ministry, our staff, and our clients

God didn’t have to come be with us to save us—He could have done it from afar. He could have just done it for us. But he didn’t. He came in the flesh, through his own sacrifice, to be with us. Why?

Because God loves us. Because our rescue wasn’t just a job to do, but a love to share. Because you can’t have love if there is no with. That’s what I've learned this year. That’s what TOLI’s mission is all about. And that’s what we remember every Christmas when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, who longs to grab each one of us by the hand to welcome us into His home, His heart, and—if we let him—even into His story.

With gratitude and joy, 


Thank you for standing with us.

Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, and generosity. Without you, Stella may not be where she is today: successfully providing for her son and siblings, discovering her God-given gifts, and growing in faith. There's still time to join in His work this year. Give a year-end gift and help us start 2019 in strength, together. 

Want to go deeper with TOLI?

> Come to our next #TOLITuesday Prayer Gathering: January 8 from 12-1pm (at TOLI, 5785 N.Union Blvd, Colorado Springs, CO 80918)
> Save the Date: Thursday, May 9, 2019 for our Big Event at the Pinery
> Discover other ways to get involved here

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The ABCs of hope

In the spirit of back-to-school, and because many of you are just getting to know us, here's a handy primer on some TOLI basics. 

A is for ALLEVIATING POVERTY. We work to truly alleviate poverty—for good—in a way that's dignified, lasting, and sustainable. We break the cycle of dependency and hopelessness that traditional charity often enables.
B is for BUSINESS-BASED SOLUTIONS. Rather than giving handouts, we offer a hand up in the form of microloans and small business training, so poor families can start their own income-earning businesses. 
C is for CHRIST-CENTERED TRANSFORMATION. Poverty isn't just about dollars and cents, it's also about hearts and minds. So we work holistically, investing in the God-given creative capacity of every person, while pointing to Jesus Christ as the one true source of abundance and eternal freedom.

Our revolving loan model creates a cycle of hope that's transforming the lives of individuals, families, and whole villages in a sustainable way. Here's how it works:


By the numbers
In 15 different communities in five countries around the world, TOLI is reaching poor families with these ABCs. Right now we have more than 400 clients in our program, with nearly 2000 who've benefitted from a TOLI loan since we began in 2004. The average microloan value is about $250, which clients use to buy the tools or supplies needed to start their business. Our social workers then stay in relationship with the client over the course of the loan offering both business and spiritual support. 

Meet a few of our newest clients! Each recently took a TOLI loan to build a small business or took part in our small business training classes. These classes teach the basics of entrepreneurship, including subjects like building a business plan, marketing, record keeping, budgeting, saving, and more—all from a Biblically-based framework. 

In Nicaragua, Sedy (center) took a loan this month to build her sewing business. Her new business will help her care for her elderly mother (left) and her grandchildren.

In Nicaragua, Sedy (center) took a loan this month to build her sewing business. Her new business will help her care for her elderly mother (left) and her grandchildren.

Mary, in Kenya, has invested in inventory for her small general shop.

Mary, in Kenya, has invested in inventory for her small general shop.

Last weekend, these new clients in India took part in our business training class.

Last weekend, these new clients in India took part in our business training class.


Egypt and Albania: Next week, a team of leaders and volunteers from the US will travel to our sites in Egypt and Albania. Please pray for this team as they go encourage clients and partners in the field— Dick and Mary Frieg, Wendi Lord, Steve and Linda Hood, Abigail McConnell, and Emad Yassa. 

2019 Field Trips: Teams are forming now for 2019! Find out more about joining us on a Vision Trip or Medical Mission Trip in the coming year here:

Come pray with us

Please join us for our monthly Prayer Gathering. We have a beautiful new office space where we gather and we're so excited to share it with you!

With specific and up-to-the-minute prayer requests submitted directly from our field staff, each month we lift up clients, social workers, our ministry partners in different countries, and the entire TOLI family of supporters. It's a powerful time and a great way to support TOLI. Please join us!

#TOLITuesday Prayer Gathering // 2nd Tuesday of each month
 September 11, 12pm-1pm
Where: 5785 N. Union Blvd, Colorado Springs, CO 80918

If you have questions, or would prefer to join us by phone to pray, please email Linda Hood, our TOLI Prayer Coordinator.