South East Asia (MNN) – The saving power of the Gospel means freedom. But often, physical circumstances provide challenges on this side of heaven. In rural South East Asia, poverty can combine with shame to provide constant struggles for new believers.
FARMS International strengthens the local Church by helping Christians achieve sustainable business goals to leave poverty and live more freely.
Rejecting Shame and Poverty
South East Asian values differ greatly from those of Western cultures. People operate in terms of community honor and shame rather than individual achievement.
Scott Clifton with FARMS International says that failing to provide for your family, for instance, implies much more than the physical lack of shelter or food. It brings dishonor on the head of the home.
This shame combined with the day-to-day realities of poverty can be overwhelming. FARMS desires to empower the Church to focus on the Gospel by supporting individuals with sustainable business goals.
Clifton stresses that their goal isn’t to just “help” people stop feeling the effects of poverty, but to provide a lasting way for them to move forward.
“As a ministry we want to assist efforts that are going on. We want to strengthen the Church, but we want the ownership to lie with the people who are impacted. And so that’s coming from people themselves who run the program and who are part of the churches.”
A Different Type of Loan Program
Practically, FARMS operates through a model that combines Christian stewardship with interest-free loans. The loans are used for business goals that individuals are already pursuing. They can and are applied toward a variety of industries, from fisheries to wood-working businesses.
Clifton says “We operate through revolving loans. And so that means that it’s a loan that must be paid back. We operate among believers. Believers agree to give offerings out of their profits and that’s really the core principles.”
The model is simple, leaving plenty of room for cultural interpretation. In places like South East Asia, it helps preserve the honor of those receiving the loans. It’s not just charity, but a way for FARMS to Biblically assist the Church while empowering them to take ownership in their families and communities.f
Clifton explains that just as not being able to provide for a family can bring shame, using a FARMS loan to move out of poverty can transform a person’s mindset.
“To say that I moved from not only just struggling to provide for myself and our family, but now we have excess and I can give and I take part in the ministry of the Church in a new way. I impact the community around me. That’s a huge transformation at a personal level for people in that culture. So that’s what I’d say [is important] within the honor/shame culture.”
Clifton says he is encouraged that many ministries are moving toward a more sustainable model of ministry and spreading the Gospel. Sharing Jesus is critical, but helping disciple and support local believers in a way that allows them to take ownership of their local churches is also vital.
FARMS has programs in many areas of South East Asia and around the world. Join their team today and help Christian brothers and sisters step out of the struggle and shame of poverty to focus on local ministry. Learn more here.
Header Photo Courtesy of FARMS International