I just spent a week with 16,000 amazing people, sharing about microfinance, listening to countless stories, and enjoying the energy that comes with being around people who want to make an impact. I’d like to share a few of the highlights as we enter into the new year:
1. The Students. Seriously, every day I got to see energy and life and drive in the eyes of these students from across the world. Yesterday, I spoke with a girl from Zambia who is interested in working with us when she goes home to her family. And this is just one example. I also spoke with people from Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, El Salvador, Canada, and several other countries around the world. These are the next leaders of our world – and I got to talk with them every single day that I was here. It was amazing.
2. The Spirit of Urbana. There’s no mistake. This entire event is about Jesus Christ and his commission for his people to serve the world. We discussed radical giving, environmental sustainability and committing your life to the service and glory of Jesus’ name. The energy behind each of these topics was incredible. Urbana took up an offering in order to support a handful of development initiatives around the world. As of last night (with more counting to go), all in attendance had brought in over $800,000. Thousands of students made a commitment to go into the world and serve the poor – not with answers and cliches, but with passion, living as the poor live, that they might know hope.
3. The Global Connexions Exhibit. As I mentioned in a blog post on Dec. 30, this exhibit hall included over one thousand representatives of incredible organizations who came together to share about what they are doing in the world. We got to interact with some pretty awesome people who are doing some major good.
4. Sharing the story of microfinance. Jonathan and I started most conversations with the question, “Are you familiar with microfinance?” With some exceptions, the usual response was “no” and came with this confused and uninterested look. The second, however, that I said, “It’s pretty much banking for the poor,” the eyes lit up and we had a conversation about how entrepreneurs around the world are lifting themselves out of the cycle of poverty. I told them about the training, savings and insurance that we provide our clients and they got even more excited. Then I told them about the ways they can get involved – like our Two Dollar Challenge event in April and they stuck out their badge to be scanned! Hundreds of people now know the story. And that’s powerful.
5. Believing in Grace. Perhaps the best part of this event has been telling the story of our clients. I told people about interest rates, our business training, even the fact that we serve almost 2 million people in over 25 countries around the world. But the important part of this for me, and for many of the students we talked to is that lives, families and communities are being impacted through this work. I got to tell the story of Elsa, working in the Philippines selling coconut wine, and John’s taxi business in Kenya. I got to share about their families, their dreams, and their successes. They are why we work.
Last night, as I sat among the large crowd, listening to them sing in Spanish, Rwandan, and Arabic, I closed my eyes and said a silent prayer of gratitude for how global our God is. He knows us well and provides for us in our needs. It is with that knowledge that we walk into 2010, filled with hope, joy and unwavering belief in Grace, Elsa, John, Peter, Analy, and the two million other heroes who will continue to create significant transformation in their families, communities, nations, and the world. Cheers to them!
P.S. There are many ways you can get involved in Opportunity’s mission: join Young Ambassadors for Opportunity (YAO) and help inspire, educate and involve others ; become a YAO facebook fan; help fund a loan for a hardworking entrepreneur at www.optinnow.org to make a difference right away.