One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyratira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth.

She was a worshipper of God.  The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message.  Acts 16:14 (NIV)


Lydia was an impressive entrepreneur.  Not only was she a very good businesswoman, but she was quick to use the proceeds of her business to support Paul and his missionary companions as they passed through her area.  Lydia is credited by Biblical historians as one of the key people in planting the church in Europe.

In the spirit of Lydia, PEER Servants sponsors the Annual Lydia Awards and we congratulate Thirunavukkarasu Wickneswary of Sri Lanka as the recipient of the 2016 Lydia Award. The inspiring stories of all three finalists are below. Check back in July 2017 when we announce the 2017 Lydia Award finalists.

Saul Roderi Sanchez Lopez

Artist, Laundromat/Internet Cafe Owner



You may have heard the expression that "one man's trash is another man's treasure." For Saul Sanchez, an artist living in the garbage dump community of Guatemala City, this is literally true. Saul has received micro-loans, training, and spiritual encouragement from Vida Nueva (“New Life”), the microfinance program of Potter's House, PEER Servants' partner in Guatemala.  Saul started with a $100 micro-loan to purchase tools and paint to convert recycled objects into beautiful works of art.  Saul now markets and sells his works of art in tourist shops around the city. He has even added beautiful cards to his product line-up given the demand from foreign tourists.


Saul loves his garbage dump community that so many despise. He made certain to keep the area in front of his small home clean, and before long, other neighbors followed his lead. He wanted to bring additional services to his community, so he received a micro-loan from Vida Nueva to purchase a washing machine and grow a small laundry business. Ever committed to high-quality customer service, Saul even offers home delivery! And when Saul saw that many in his community didn’t have internet access, he decided to get a Vida Nueva micro-loan to open the community’s only internet café! He employs his mother at the laundry business and his sons at the internet café.


Saul has been able to use seven micro-loans from Vida Nueva to build the profits from his business that allow him to provide for his family and to send his children to school. He has added a second floor to his house so he can have a studio in which to work. He is now passing on the lessons he has learned from his businesses to neighbors and friends who are starting their own businesses. And the success of the business has freed Saul up to volunteer at Potter's House, teaching art to the children. His dream is to open an art gallery and a school, so that he can teach the children of the garbage dump community the important role art plays in allowing them to express themselves.

Thirunavukkarasu Wickneswary


Sri Lanka


Today's headlines about refugees are more than just a discussion point for Thirunavukkarasu Wickneswary, a seamstress living in Jaffna, Sri Lanka and a client of HEED, PEER Servants' partner in Sri Lanka. Much of her childhood was spent away from her home area due to the country's civil war.  Shortly after the family returned, Wickneswary married and the couple had a son in 2002. However, money was tight, so after their son turned two years old, her husband went abroad to find work. She never heard from him again.


Stunned by her loss and forced to provide for herself and her infant son, Wickneswary invested her time and energy into the tailoring business she had started. But her equipment was old and falling apart and she had no capital to fix or replace it. That’s when she approached HEED and received a $345 micro-loan to purchase three used manual sewing machines. Immediately she employed two others and increased her take-home profits to $2/day. She offered a wide variety of services for her customers, sewing frocks, skirts and blouses, panjabis, saree blouses, and bed clothes. Wickneswary takes fabric that customers bring in and creates beautiful, stylish dresses for them. She also takes plain sarees and adds sequins, selling them with a beautiful custom design for less than sarees that come with the sequens.


Through additional loans from HEED, Wickneswary has been able to purchase new sewing machines with better capabilities. She has opened a second seamstress shop, employs five other women and three trainees, and even serves Sri Lankans now living in other countries. She has nearly tripled her take-home profits and has purchased a motorbike to improve transportation. Most important to Wickneswary, she has gone from being a burden to her family to being the one providing for her parents and sisters and son, now age 14 and in grade 9.  And rather than keeping her knowledge to herself to reduce competition, Wickneswary has provided seamstress training to 40 young women who could not complete their formal education, with many of them now running small seamstress businesses of their own.

Victor Kaliso Lishandu




Woodworking has always been a part of Victor Lishandu's life. Victor, a carpenter in Western Zambia, learned his trade from an older brother, but eventually went into business for himself. The business survived, but Victor struggled to grow his business due to a lack of specialized tools. Then Victor heard about CEMFIN, PEER Servants' partner in Zambia. Using business training and a series of micro-loans from CEMFIN, Victor was able to purchase a planing machine. With CEMFIN’s spiritual encouragement, Victor started to gain a different outlook on the future of his business.


Now Victor's business is growing. He employs seven people, and rents out use of his planing machine to other carpenters, adding to his revenue. He already has plans to purchase additional carpentry equipment using CEMFIN micro-loans, and would eventually like to purchase a vehicle to reduce his high transport costs. Now Victor is able to provide for his large family (six children and twelve grandchildren) and even send his daughter to the university. The family tradition continues, as three family members work for him, and he is training his extended family in carpentry, as his brother trained him.




However, Victor's impact extends far beyond his family. Victor is a leader in the community and an elder in his church, considering it great joy that he can give generously to the needs of his church. He is a role model and mentor to younger men and has a particular heart for differently-abled youth. Those are not just words or feelings to Victor. Three of his seven employees are mute, as is another young man that he trained who has started his own business and is also training others. Life would be much more difficult for these very capable young men were it not for God’s love at work in and through Victor Lishandu. Because Victor has seen his business as something entrusted to him by God to help others, he has ensured that his family and many others are helped and that Western Zambia is seeing a bit more of the kingdom of heaven right here and now.


Online voting for the 2016 Lydia Award winner is closed.  The online voting results you see here represent 20% of the overall vote to determine the 2016 Lydia Award winner.  Thank you to the thousands of people who voted this year! Check back in July 2017 for our 2017 Lydia Award online voting.