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.  

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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.  

How one father changed his family's future — forever.

When we first met Mohammed over a decade ago, he was struggling to put food on the table for himself and for his five kids.

He was struggling — but he was also dreaming. He dreamed of creating a business that would provide for his family's daily needs as well as for their future. So he applied for a TOLI microloan. With that loan of about $150, he bought the ingredients and equipment needed to make and sell felafel. He mixed it by hand, cooked it with a propane stove and sold it to his neighbors. 

And Mohammed's felafel was good. 

Mohammed and his kids show us his original felafel mixer, purchased with a TOLI microloan over a decade ago.

Mohammed and his kids show us his original felafel mixer, purchased with a TOLI microloan over a decade ago.

Soon his business was earning good income, his family's life improved, and he quickly paid off the loan. But Mohammed kept dreaming. He took another TOLI loan to expand his business with an industrial mixer, increasing production and sales of his famous felafel. He quickly paid off that loan too.

Because of Mohammed's hard work and creativity, matched with TOLI's simple but powerful program, all five of his children are cared for, well fed, and in school. Now he's even sent one daughter to college. His family's future is forever changed.

Mohammed used a second loan to buy an industrial mixer to expand his business.

Mohammed used a second loan to buy an industrial mixer to expand his business.

Mohammed's story answers a few of the most common questions we get about our program: How long does TOLI stay involved in the lives of clients? And, are clients allowed to take more than one loan? 

We've known Mohammed for over 12 years. His was one of the very first loans we granted in the town of Nazzlet Hanna, Egypt. In all of our sites, staffers visit clients regularly throughout their loan term, building relationships and getting to know their families. And because our model is to serve clients who are connected to each other — through either geographic proximity or because they're part of a savings group — we can see the big-picture impact of our program over time. Our partners in Nazzlet Hanna have been walking with clients and ministering to the community for years — building trust, praying for restoration and sharing the hope of the Gospel.

And do we allow multiple loans? YES!  After a client pays back their first loan, we encourage them to apply for additional loans to further expand their small businesses — until they've moved up the economic ladder and out of our target demographic of the 'poorest of the poor.' 

So what's next for Mohammed? Well, he keeps dreaming — now it's a dream of a full-service restaurant. And from what we've learned about Mohammed, that dream is bound to come true. We'll keep you posted. 

Inspired? Here are 3 ways you can get involved:

1. PRAY. Mohammed is just one example of thousands God has touched through TOLI — and it all starts with prayer. Pray for our clients, partner ministries and about how you can be a part of this ministry. 

2. GIVE. You can help propel another success story like Mohammed's. When you donate to TOLI, you equip someone with a life-changing microloan and the life-saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.

3. AMPLIFY. Do you have a small group, Bible Study, missions committee or business group that would be interested in hearing more about the power of microloans? We love to sharing stories like these in person! CONTACT US to request a speaker and help us spread the word.


Want to meet clients like Mohammed yourself? There's no better way to understand how TOLI changes lives than by joining us on a Vision Trip. We're leading vision trips to Kenya and Nicaragua in 2019. Interested? Visit our TRIPS section for details. 

Updates from our other sites


— Program progress and political strife. We are grateful that our new program in Puerto Cabezas is off to a strong start — five poor single moms here have started small businesses with TOLI microloans in the last month. At the same time, the country has been reeling from demonstrations, police violence, and political upheaval. Please pray for peace in the country and safety for our partners.


— Community small business training. In partnership with First Presbyterian Church (Colorado Springs) we trained nearly 40 people in small business principles and practices in Kalimpong, India in April. TOLI Field Staffer Ashish Subba and ministry partner Pastor Mathias Subba played key roles in facilitating this successful week-long training for members of this community. Pray for the training to be shared and implemented by TOLI clients and friends.


— Praise God for small beginnings. This month, our first client in Albania began a business raising pigs. This 'pilot' loan is an important first step in helping our partners here establish the TOLI program. Please pray for Ilir's new pig business, as well as for field staffer, Nico, and our volunteer leaders. 


— Farmers' small business training. In the village of Magumoni, near Mount Kenya, we're working with a community savings group of small scale farmers. This month we launched a small business training course with this group, laying the foundation for granting our first loans later this summer. 
— Pray for relief from extreme rains and flooding that's plagued much of Kenya this spring. Our clients' businesses have been negatively impacted, so pray for their perseverance, as well as improved weather patterns!