India (MNN) — Around 800 million people in India are forced to live on only 50 cents a day. As a result, every 30 minutes a farmer in India commits suicide.
The beginning of a farmer’s woes is when his crops fail. Much of this is due to the introduction of genetically-modified seeds he is forced to use by the government.
Ebenezer Samuel from Serve India Ministries said these seeds cost more money and require more money. Thus, the farmer’s crops fail because they do not have enough water for their plants, and they have no money to plant next year.
The farmers then borrow from money lenders, who charge them 100 to 460 percent interest.
“When their crops fail again, they’re not able to repay their debts,” Samuel said.
Stuck in terrible situation, these farmers see no hope and commit suicide. However, after doing so, they leave their families without any source of income as well as the debt they were unable to pay. As a result, their children are often forced into bonded labor for most of their lives by the money lenders.
Samuel said the most difficult area is Central India, where around 20,000 farmers commit suicide each month.
“That’s where we come in,” Samuel said about SIM. “We have this program called 'Stepping Stone' by which we actually minister to these families.”
Several ways they help the families is by providing education for the children and protecting them from money lenders. They also provide self-help programs.
Stepping Stone is an afterschool program which meets for two hours, five days a week, and it costs only three dollars a month for one child.
“Once we get in touch with a child and start helping, we are also able to help the child's family through counseling, through visits and through involvement in many other areas of their lives,” Samuel said. This includes presenting the story of Christ to them and giving the parents hope to continue living.
With the anti-Christian mindset in India, Serve India has been fortunate enough not to see too much opposition.
“We’ve not had problems from the families of children that we’ve ministered to through the Stepping Stone program, but the neighbors become jealous or vicious, and they think that we are now trying to convert all of these people,” Samuel said. While this is definitely their goal, he said they are not putting pressure on individuals or forcing them to follow Christ. Because of this, the neighbors begin to understand in time.
Samuel reports that of the children enrolled in the program and their families, nearly 90 percent come to Christ.
If you want to sponsor some of these children to allow them to continue on with Stepping Stone, it costs just $3.00 a month for one child or $21.00 for seven children. If your church or ministry would like to sponsor a whole program, $150 dollars will support 50 children. For more information, go to their Web site.