USA (MNN) — FARMS International is getting a new leader at the helm. After 25 years, the ministry’s beloved executive director Joe Richter is retiring and Scott Clifton is stepping in.
Clifton doesn’t just represent a new leadership era with FARMS. At 29-years-old, he also represents a new generation in ministry.
Richter says this is a great thing for FARMS. “We are looking forward to inspiring a whole new generation of young people, young families that are interested in helping the poor. That is something I believe Scott can do very well to inspire people in his age group and those around that age group, that they can be actively involved in helping people out of poverty and especially helping Christians around the world that are disadvantaged.
“We’re excited too about the giftings that Scott has. When we looked for an executive director for my position, it needed to be a person that had a love for the poor and we felt they also had to be willing to travel and be in villages in remote places, and Scott had a real interest in that. We just came off almost a month-long trip to Asia and visited many rugged and remote places in the world and I could tell Scott thoroughly enjoyed and related well with the people.”
In their ministry, FARMS combines Christian stewardship principles with interest-free loans to bolster families in impoverished communities.
“We are reaching into places where there is no other help, there is no other organization, there is no government to help even. It’s a great responsibility we feel…and a burden to reach into those places and to be a help. They really need that type of economic help as well as discipleship to see the Kingdom of God expand. FARMS has been behind it all, seeing hundreds of churches started around the world, and they want to see that continue and expand.”
When Richter first began as FARMS’ executive director 25 years ago, the organization served in Sri Lanka, India, and Haiti. Since then, they have gone from just three programs to now over a dozen active programs in several countries.
When asked what his favorite part was about serving with FARMS, Richter responds, “It was the opportunity to see… what I would call really Christianity in the raw around the world — real Christianity in the lives of people that were willing to suffer harm and suffer persecution and even risk their lives for serving the Gospel. So few people have that opportunity to be in places where their very lives and livelihoods are at risk at the fact of following Christ as their Lord and Savior.
“I remember one lady in Nepal [was] asked before she was baptized why she wanted to be baptized. She said, ‘Well, I made Jesus my Lord and Savior. I once was in darkness and now I am in the Light.’ The pastor said, ‘Well, you know when your husband was baptized how they came into your home and dragged him out and beat him nearly to death. Aren’t you worried that might happen to you?’ And she said, ‘It doesn’t matter. I love Jesus. I don’t care what they do to me. I will never go back to Hinduism.’”
Richter reflects, “This was an amazing thing to see — a little lady in a sari in Nepal sharing her faith and her belief that Jesus meant everything to her even if it risked her life.”
After Richter retires, he will still be involved as a consultant with FARMS.
We also spoke with Clifton about his transition into the FARMS executive director role. He says his vision for the ministry’s future can be summed up in three words:
“Continue, grow, and connect. Continue being that FARMS has invested in really good quality work and we want to see that continue. Grow is this idea of expansion of there [are] more places that would really be a good fit with FARMS methodology that we go about in relieving poverty. And then connect is the next generation, the younger generations that this organization will continue to be relevant for years and years to come.”
During this time of leadership transition at FARMS, the ministry would greatly appreciate the prayers and support of the Body of Christ.
Clifton shares, “On my end, certainly there is this limited time where Joe and I are both on staff, where I get to glean as much as I can from him. [Pray] that I would be able to absorb all of these details. There is a lot that goes into an organization like this behind the scenes and a lot of details that have been compiled over 25 years that we’re in the process of handing off and bringing me up to speed. I would appreciate prayer personally to be able to do that in the transition.”
Richter also adds, “I would ask for prayer that as this transition takes place, that people recognize that FARMS is continuing on as a biblically-based Christian ministry that is not compromising, and is working with Bible-believing Christians around the world. That won’t change. The new leadership is something the organization has seen that will be fruitful and will bring FARMS into this new era and to continue the work that’s been around for over 55 years.”
If you want to learn more about what God is doing through FARMS’ ministry and how you can join them, click here!
Moving forward in the months and years ahead, Clifton emphasizes above all, “We want to do things that are specifically what God is leading us towards and to always be receptive towards the prompting of the Holy Spirit.”
(Header photo courtesy of FARMS International)