We envision both the materially poor and non-poor experiencing and extending the kingdom of heaven on earth by being transformed economically, socially, and spiritually.
To extend the kingdom of heaven to earth and transform lives by partnering for economic empowerment and renewal.
The Centrality of Christ – We want to honor Jesus in all we do and how we do it.
The Power of Prayer – We are most effective when we maintain close communication with God.
The Foundation of Fellowship – Any healthy partnership is borne out of relationship.
The Value of Volunteers – Volunteers offer cutting-edge expertise and passion in their service.
The Development of Disciples – It takes true disciples to extend the kingdom of heaven to earth.
The Reign of Reciprocity – All people have value and were created to enrich each other.
PEER Servants is blessed with an amazing family of diverse volunteers from all over the world. Their common goal, as followers of Jesus, is to be on the cutting edge of extending the kingdom of heaven to earth. They are originally from or currently living in over 25 countries and come from over a dozen different Christian traditions. They offer their services pro bono to PEER Servants and our microfinance partners around the world. Together they have donated over a hundred thousand volunteer hours and raised millions of dollars to empower the materially poor. Yet, as generous as they have been and as much as they have given, they would be the first to tell you they have received far more than they have given as they experience the economic, social, and spiritual aspects of the kingdom of heaven here and now.
Todd Engelsen has served as the President of PEER Servants for over 25 years. Through 2004, Todd acted in a part-time volunteer capacity while working at John Hancock as a Vice President and Actuary. He transitioned to focus on PEER Servants full-time in 2004. He is married to Leslie (Pelt) Engelsen and the two work closely in overseeing the 150+ very dedicated volunteers who make up PEER Servants’ global family. When not at home in the Boston area or visiting one of PEER’s microfinance partners, they can often be found visiting their daughter and grandchildren in Alberta, Canada. Todd is a graduate of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a BA in Math and German. Leslie and he worship at Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts.
Retired Academic Provost, Multiple Universities
President, PEER Servants
President & CEO, PowerOptions, Inc.
Board Chairman Emeritus, Monotype Imaging
Retired President, Boston Bean Company
Assistant Professor of Africana Studies and Religious Studies, IUPUI
Dean of the School of Natural and Applied Sciences, Taylor University
Senior Director, Johnson & Johnson
Principal and Founder, B.I.G. Capital LLC
Professor of Sociology, Gordon College
PEER Servants volunteers complete projects identified by the microfinance partners of PEER Servants to build their capacity to serve more of the materially poor.
PEER Servants volunteers give and raise capital that the microfinance partners need to grow; they also link the partners with other organizations that share their vision.
PEER Servants volunteers network the microfinance partners so that they can teach and learn from each other given their respective areas of strength.
PEER Servants volunteers contact each microfinance partner monthly to encourage them and get current updates; they pray regularly for the partner and visit and/or host them annually.
Christian Technical Support (CTS, our original name) completes research on microfinance that leads to the first partnership with a Mexican organization, “La Buena Semilla”. Within three years the organization is covering its own operating expenses with a Mexican board and investors. CTS volunteers realize that they have received far more from their Mexican colleagues than they have given in the exchange, and the concept of reciprocity is experienced and embraced. Number of Volunteers: Less than 10.
Given the success of the Mexican partnership, ten additional partnerships are established in Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Some become operationally sustainable and grow to serve at least 1,000 active clients, others do not. Many lessons are learned throughout the process of how to establish sustainable, highly transformational Christian microfinance institutions. Number of Volunteers: Up to 50.
CTS changes its name to PEER Servants in 2004, Todd Engelsen leaves his position as Vice President/Actuary at John Hancock to become full-time President, and PEER Servants hosts Kopano – the first global gathering of its microfinance partner network. The years that follow attract larger microfinance organizations that want to partner with PEER Servants, most notably The Center for Community Transformation (CCT) in the Philippines. Number of Volunteers: Up to 100.
PEER Servants focuses new microfinance partnerships on existing indigenous organizations that want to grow and have greater impact, including Christian Service Society (CSS, in India) and Potter’s House (in Guatemala). Partnerships with start-up microfinance institutions are limited to those with organizations in countries with little microfinance – like Joint Effort for Development in South Sudan. A training partnership is established with CCT in the Philippines that eventually not only provides training to the other partners in PEER’s network, but programs and partners of other Christian microfinance organizations as well. A growing number of PEER Servants volunteers reside in Africa, Asia, and the Americas and add significant value to the services we offer to our microfinance partners. A much stronger discipleship program is developed among PEER Servants volunteers that brings volunteers together across racial, national, denominational, and socioeconomic lines to learn more about Christ and His Kingdom. Number of Volunteers: Up to 150.
PEER’s microfinance partners find that they need even more than microfinance to effectively extend the kingdom of heaven to earth and ask PEER to partner with them in areas of education, youth empowerment, and beyond. PEER adapts the same partnership, volunteer, reciprocity model to support the network in these initiatives. The first education-focused trip is taken to CCT/Philippines while PEER Teens, established in 2014 in Uganda, has now become a global network of seven affiliates. A Burundian partnership is established with Hope Fund Burundi in 2017. The civil war in South Sudan limits JED’s ability to launch its microfinance program, but PEER supports their vocational training program for single mother refugees in northern Uganda. Number of Volunteers: 200 and growing!
“PEER” stands for “Partnerships for Economic Empowerment and Renewal”. The word “peer” also captures our desire to partner as equals with our brothers and sisters from around the world.
Local indigenous Christian microfinance partners know their people, language, culture and they know what is really needed to transform their communities. They are less prone to depart or dissolve when the environment becomes very challenging. They also work very economically and are under resourced relative to international development organizations. They bring a strong desire to extend all aspects of the kingdom (economic, social, and spiritual) and they have strengths that our volunteers can receive from them to experience more of the kingdom as well.
We don’t. They choose us! It starts with their invitation to partner with them in extending kingdom transformation into their community. PEER Servants completes due diligence on every prospective partner to assess their ability to execute on their vision. Given its small size, PEER Servants generally says “yes” to only one in twenty partnership invitations it receives.
Because they bring fantastic skills/vitality to the organization. They also allow us to direct more of our funding to the materially poor, and they allow us an effective means of transforming the parts of the world they come from. They also enter the space of our international partners at actually lower (no) salary levels for their PEER work rather than the much higher salary levels of foreign staff among many international development organizations. This creates greater harmony in working together as partners.
Start with completing the volunteer application found on the Home Page. We will then contact you to discuss next steps. We’d love for you to join us!
No. Our microfinance partners make loans to micro-entrepreneurs of any or no faith.
PEER Servants doesn’t charge any interest. We give our funding to our indigenous microfinance partners in the form of grants that need not be returned to us. Our microfinance partners, whose staff members are often living very close to the level of the micro-entrepreneurs, charge affordable interest to cover the cost of their operations and provide their clients with what they really need – a long-term, sustainable Christian financial institution to meet their needs and help them pursue their opportunities.
The interest rate is determined by each microfinance partner and is generally close to the market interest rate on a secured, collateralized loan (even though these micro-loans do not have the same level of security or the same collateral requirements). The cost of capital varies significantly around the world – most of the developing world has interest rates much, much higher than those currently available in developed countries like the United States. A typical micro-loan interest rate would be 1-4% of the loan amount per month, compared to 20%+ per month interest rates often charged by local loan sharks.
Our strategy is to establish “controls without control”. Our partners and PEER are mutually accountable given regular (monthly or quarterly) written program reports, monthly phone conversations, annual visits, and periodic program assessments. We resist any temptation to control and see it as counter to our strategy to build up strong, local indigenous organizations that are most effective at extending the kingdom into their own communities.
Because some of our microfinance partners are asking us to do so. As effective as Christian microfinance is in extending the kingdom, there are additional opportunities our partners want to pursue to further extend the kingdom. Our partners like PEER’s model that honors their vision, is highly relational, and builds on a foundation of trust. Many of them are very effective in areas beyond microfinance and we welcome their invitations to partner together in these areas.