Philippines (MNN) — Poverty continues to challenge the Philippines. ASEAN Today reports 20-percent, or one in every five Filipinos, live below the poverty line.
Many fall victim to financial scams like high-interest loans. People borrow money to make ends meet, explains Scott Clifton of FARMS International, but it only makes their situation worse than before.
“Let’s say they took a 1,000-peso loan,” he says. “After four months, they would owe [the] 1,000 pesos that they borrowed plus 1,000 pesos of interest.
“If they didn’t pay back in four months, it would be another 1,000 pesos for the next four months… that’s the equivalent of 300-percent interest. It’s really difficult to get past just daily sustenance in those types of conditions.”
This is what makes FARMS’ ministry so important. They partner with local churches to help Christian families work their way out of poverty.
Clifton met some of the Filipinos helped by FARMS during a recent trip. “They’re very thankful that there’s a program of FARMS that was able to come in [and offer] interest-free loans, and with Christians who are leading these committees,” he shares.
As described here, FARMS began ministering in the Philippines in 2003 after a pastor in New Jersey sought their help. During his recent trip, Clifton spoke with several farmers helped by FARMS.
In one region, rural farmers depend on a single crop of rice for their entire yearly income. Due to the climate in this area, Clifton explains, they can only plant and harvest rice once a year. By comparison, farmers in other regions can plant and harvest rice three times per year.
“When they do plant in this region, their crops are at-risk of cyclones and other catastrophes,” he continues. FARMS loans are especially important in this scenario.
“[Christians] are considerate of natural catastrophes and make a plan to get things back on track instead of just demanding further payment.”
While challenges remain, Clifton also encountered many “success stories.” One woman began a bakery with help from FARMS. Over the next few years, she progressively “upgraded” and expanded to more profitable small businesses. Using profit from her bakery, the woman purchased a motorcycle. “She used the motorcycle to deliver vegetables and petroleum gas,” says Clifton. “Now, she’s operating a piggery.
“She’s been finding out what works best for her and her family.”
Like the businesswoman described in Proverbs 31, this individual looked well after the ways of her household. She paid back each FARMS loan, tithed to her church, and set money aside for future investments. Some of those “big purchases” include a safer house for the family and schooling for her four children.
“They’re able to build that new house and provide that education because of the partnership with FARMS.”
“Doing good” is the heartbeat of FARMS, “especially unto them who are of the household of faith” as described in Galatians 6:10. While the ministry functions primarily in an economic sphere, God’s also using it to draw people closer to Him.
For example, several Filipinos traced their spiritual journey back to a common starting point: the local pastor. This seems blatant, except the pastor didn’t encounter these individuals at a church.
“He delivered fresh pandesal,” Clifton shares, describing a breakfast staple enjoyed throughout the Philippines. “He used that as his opportunity to witness.
“That’s how the church in that area actually started, because a number of people came to Christ through this man’s witness.”
Now that you know, what will you do? Learn more about FARMS’ ministry by clicking here to visit their website, or use the link in the sidebar. You can also click here to give and help Christians work their way out of poverty.
Additionally, says Clifton, “if there are people who are working in ministries and they feel like FARMS might be a way to strengthen the movement that they’re a part of, then they can contact us.
“We’d love to pray about that and seek out that opportunity.”
Header image courtesy FARMS International.