Ecuador (MNN) — When does help become counterproductive? This is a question that any mission organization should consider.
FARMS International began working 53 years ago to equip poor and needy societies with the ability to support themselves. Joseph Richter of FARMS says, “It was based on the premise that we in the West can help churches in poor countries without creating hurtful dependency, and I think over the years we have really discovered the keys in the way to do that.”
Not only is dependency harmful to the development of the society being helped, but it is a hindrance to the community’s own spreading of the Gospel.
FARMS uses a loan program that helps empower people groups to support themselves. The exciting thing is that once a church can support its work, it has the ability to go out among surrounding communities to spread the Gospel.
“I can honestly say that our approach to missions by using a loan program that is totally locally run and locally administered really has helped in many ways expand church-planting efforts and even foreign evangelism,” says Richter.
Northern Thailand is one area in which the loan program has been introduced. The success is so great that the native mission work there now reaches into Burma. They are a local mission supported by their own funds generated by this loan program.
FARMS wants to continue a similar system in Ecuador.
Richter says, “Our hope is to work with the Quichua believers in Ecuador. The Quichua church has had a long history of dependency on the West, and that has been very hurtful and has created sort of a nominalism in the church today that is going to be difficult to turn around.”
As FARMS discusses the possibilities of coming alongside these people, they have found an encouraging response from the Quichua people. The idea of local and true ownership of a self-supporting system is well-received.
“It was very exciting to see their face light up like this was something new, something they could buy into,” says Richter.
Richter is hopeful that the new generation is ready to change the trend of things as far as dependency goes.
He explains, “It’s like starting over with the Quichua believers. We have an open window right now to really reach them and teach them and show them that they can be their own leaders, they can run their own churches, they can do these things with the gifts and callings that God has given them.”
The initiation of these programs requires a push from the outside world. That is why financial support from you is often necessary in the beginning. More importantly, these programs need your prayers. Pray for FARMS and the people they work with as they begin this new work in Ecuador.
Richter says, “I believe there’s a lot of people that have an interest in indigenous groups, and the Quichua people are well known around the world. I believe that church can really be vibrant again and that it can reach many areas where there are unbelievers and people that are still needing the Gospel throughout those mountains.”