Thursday, September 20, 2012

Audrey Williams: A Story Worth Telling

           Name:  Audrey Williams
           Homestate:  Ohio
           College:  Taylor Univesity

Audrey Williams came on an outreach for two weeks last July and impacted Miriam, myself, and several groups of women with the story she told.  With a humble heart, a willingness to share and a passion for photography, Audrey tells about her time with the MF Site from a slightly different angle.

//Through the Nikon-Glass//

            As a photographer, my experience is often much different from those around me, owing to the fact that much of what I see is through the scope of my camera lens. It would be my privilege to share with you what I experienced through my lens this past summer (2012) in the Dominican Republic at Student’s International’s Micro-finance Site. 

// Focus
--          Ask any photographer. They’ll tell you how crucial “the focus” is in an image. It determines the central subject of the photo and often reflects the centrality of a person, emotion, place, etc.--essentially what you want your image to reveal. The focus of the Micro-finance Site was never blurred, clouded, dim or obscure--it was Christ, through and through.   
            Humbly, the Micro-finance Site staff serves in nearby communities, allowing students to come alongside them in this mission at the same time teaching and equipping them to be servants of Christ, modeling an attitude of obedience. Within the ministry (bank-meetings, interviews, home-visits, etc.) the love of Christ overflows through the interaction of brothers and sisters serving one another for the glory of the Kingdom. What a joy to serve with two amazing individuals who bear the fragrance of Christ and model such love this past summer!

// Clarity
--          With the focus set, clarity comes next, assuming the overall clearness of the photo. Similar to focus, there should be no question as to what is happening in the image, every detail accounted for. In the Dominican Republic, this included eagerly discovering and experiencing new facets of culture and traditions in the homes of many generous Dominicans, in order that our view of the DR, micro-finance, and the work Christ is doing would register with a new crispness.

// Exposure
--          Now that the scene is clear and set, a photographer is keen to adjust the exposure of the image. Simply stated, exposure involves how much light the film is exposed to, revealing the scene to be captured. Likewise, I prayed daily for my rough exterior to be shed, in it’s place an exposed and obedient interior, eager to encounter light. A test of my willingness to be exposed came in the form of story telling--my own to be specific. I remember as I quietly murmured the last words of my testimony to be translated, looking up and my eyes meeting a bank-meeting full understanding eyes and a kind woman reaching for my hand. I remember the feeling of vulnerability that comes with being exposed, but what I remember most is the encouraging warmth of that sweet woman’s hand. 

            There are so many more photography tips I would love to share as well as reflections from my DR excursion, but I’ll conclude with those simple lessons I learned in my time at the Micro-finance Site.

Focus. Clarity. Exposure.

Christ--the focus. Discover and experience--to gain clarity and understanding of where you are. And finally exposure--both to what is being done in and around you.

A. Williams

The MF Site wants to continue to bring students and the poor together for the glory of God.  Consider being 1 of the 106 and be a part of what God is doing here in the Dominican Republic!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Be 1 of the 106!

I pulled up to Judy's house and hopped off my bike.  Dust came billowing out of her house as men were tearing down some old parts of her house.  Judy had talked for awhile about remodeling her house but I had no idea she was planning to do it this quickly.  I walked in and found Judy in the kitchen joyfully telling one of the neighbor ladies all about her plans for the house and what the upcoming weeks would hold.  While the plans were not grandiose, Judy was excited to have a house of block instead of old, rotting wood.  With a gift from a family member, some money they had saved, and a small loan from the Microfinance Site, Judy's dream of finishing her house is finally becoming a reality.

Dania, her husband, Julio, and I sat at the table in their living room drinking Dominican coffee and reading what scripture had to say about finances.  Afterward, we pulled out some paper and I helped Julio and Dania form a budget for the first time in their lives.  It wasn't pretty as we finished the budget and it told an unwanted truth.  Julio had lost his job 8 months ago and their family was making $200 a month with the income from her small business and the random part time work he had found.  We sat down, made cuts, made a new plan, and committed ourselves to being disciplined.  It was a tough evening but with a little help from the Microfinance Site, organized finances are finally becoming a reality for Julio and Dania.

Honestly, I could list story after story of the ways that the Microfinance Site has been helping, motivating, and ministering to families in just the last month.  Some of them would be exciting such as Judy's remodeled house and some of them would be disheartening like Julio y Dania's situation.  However, in both stories, I can assure you that growth is happening.  One is easy to accept, the other kind of growth hurts!

While we are encouraged by the stories of "growth" in our associates lives, the Microfinance wants to see more.  We believe in what we do and how we do it and we want to impact more people.  As a result, we have made it our goal to start five more banks within the next near in order that we may reach more people.  Ryan Holloway (Previous Director), Miriam, myself and countless others have put in a lot of hard work just to be able to arrive at this point.

However, we need your help!

In order to make this dream a reality.  We will need to raise US$20,000 for our site.  We need fourteen thousand for future loans as well as an additional six thousand to cover the costs of a new employee while we get the banks up and running.  The best news is with a 100% repayment rate, your gifts toward future loan capital can be recycled over and over again.  While raising US$20,000 might sound hard, perhaps impossible, Henry Ford once said that "Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs."

So lets try it and see what happens!

60 people at $50   = $3,000
30 people at $100 = $3,000
12 people at $500 = $6,000
3 people at $1000 = $3,000
1 person at $5000 = $5,000

All we need is 106 willing people to partner with us.  

How can I be one of the 106?

There are three simple ways that you can help!
  1. Spread the word:  Tell people about the Microfinance Site here in the Dominican Republic and the incredible things that God is doing here.  Copy the web address above and post this blog to your facebook wall.
  2. Plan an Event: Events are a great way to raise awareness and money for things you believe in.  Make it a Sunday School project at your church or if your a young student, go to your student council and make it a class project.  Get creative and start helping!
  3. Give a One Time Gift:  Click on the link below and make a donation to the MF Site through Students International's website.  Consider making a gift using the giving chart above.
  4. Give Monthly:  Think about making a commitment to support the Microfinance throughout the next year.  Instead of simply being one of the 106, commit to giving for a year and be 12.  Use the link below to make an electronic gift each month or contact me at in order to make an electronic fund transfer every month right from your bank account.

Thanks so much for your past, present, and future contributions to the MF Site.  As a ministry, we truly feel blessed to have hundreds of partners all over the United States that pray, support, and care for our needs.  If you want to know more about myself or what we do, check out the Students International or Microfinance pages listed above.  Also feel free to contact me at  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Gloria Merrick: A Story Worth Telling

Name: Gloria Merrick
Homestate: California
Gloria Merrick came on an outreach with her church last March and spent a week with Miriam and I at the Microfinance Site.  I was continually amazed at her attitude and vulnerability as she connected with and loved the people around her.  While some people may write her off because she is young, God has already given her a story worth telling!

I am not a fan of soda, but denying a drink in a Dominican ladies home is about as disrespectful as you can be as a guest. I drank the Coca-Cola with a grin of gratitude. I was sitting on a lawn chair on a painted, cement floor. The walls were covered in many colors of decoration. In fact, the whole room shouted with bright, vibrant, exciting pictures and figurines. Surrounded by a group of local Dominican ladies I expected to be glanced at with awkward, uninviting eyes; the way a lot of Americans are guilty of doing with foreigners. The looks I got were none of the sort. Not even one. I was met with looks of acceptance and genuine interest. Little did I know this meeting was about to change the way I would deal with relationships from then on.

Before driving into the village to meet with a group of devoted ladies, Eric asked if I would want to share my testimony at the “bank meeting”. Not really knowing what to expect out of a “bank meeting” or in a woman’s home, I decided to do it. We walked down the unpaved, rocky road towards the home we agreed to meet at. Suddenly, I realized that it was almost time for me to follow through on my commitment. I had taken three years of Spanish in high-school, but being fully submerged in culture tends to change the classroom experience. Unsure of how translating a testimony would work, I trusted Eric to share God’s work in my life with a circle of attentive women.

With papers of praise we began the meeting worshiping with only our voices. In a language not native to me, I could still worship God with a body of believers. After spending some time sharing struggles and praises, Eric then transferred the script over to me. In a span of ten minutes, I stepped into vulnerability and openness telling the story of my life. When I spoke, I was encouraged with rounds of head nods. The atmosphere was thick with sympathy and love - love with the motivation of acceptance. These women really cared about what I had to say. They praised God through my story with edifying, uplifting words that gave my spirit more confidence. After a wonderful bonding time we got to business paying off loans and calculating simple math. (The kind you need, but don’t ever use in school) I realized how terrible my simple addition and subtraction skills were. Throughout the entire time I was visiting in their home, there was a recurring trait in each woman that boiled down to one word: grace.

 I stepped into this woman’s home not knowing what God was going to do with and in me. Reflecting back on this experience I understand more fully how big and all encompassing our God is. He is not confined to our nation, our city, or our church. He is the bigger picture that connects us all together. He is universal. 

God used this experience to teach me a very important business skill. He taught me that business is about the relationships. Before we started talking about money or anything business related we worshipped God and grew in relationships with one another. In turn, I now take that approach and apply it to many situations. Whether it be in a professional relationship with teachers or businesses, group projects or simple get-togethers, it stays in the front of my mind. It’s a new filter that keeps business talk and motives from getting in the way of relationships.

Each woman I met taught me that life is more than success. They had it down. They knew what it meant to serve others and care for each other selflessly. The only reason they were running a business was for the sole purpose of supporting another person. It makes so much sense why so many people in the States are unhappy and depressed.  It’s because we've lost sight of what business is really about. It’s not about the pursuit of money, title, and happiness. It’s about truly connecting. Connecting from the soul with one another is what God intends for each and every one of us.