Thailand (MNN) — Can something as common as coffee be able to reach people for Christ? It did for one church in Thailand.
FARMS International works to end the cycle of poverty by helping families develop an independent source of income. They offer interest-free loans with only one requirement: loan receivers must tithe on all profits to a local church.
It was this requirement that helped Pastor Diyee’s ministry thrive. Pastor Diyee preaches to the Lahu people of mountainous northern Thailand. His family started a coffee plantation many years ago, but his crop were continually failing. But after securing a $330 loan from FARMS for fertilizer in 2012, his crop began to flourish. Later, seven other families in Pastor Diyee’s church received loans from FARMS. The church gained $3,400 in tithe from just these believers.
“This particular church saw the income rise dramatically as far as the tithing went,” says FARMS Executive Director Joseph Richter. “They had actually decided as a group that, ‘we don’t need all of this money. Why don’t we support a missionary up in Myanmar?’ And that’s exactly what they’re doing.”
That is one FARMS’ goals through the loan program: to help churches become financially stable so they can reach out to those around them.
Richter explains, “When a loan program is done correctly, and I mean following the scriptural principles, it can lift not only that church out of poverty, but begin to do outreach evangelism and even outreach to other countries to do foreign mission work without funding from an outside source or Western country.
“They were able to share with the people that this is not a gift; this was a loan that we repaid, and we also gave to our church 10% of our profits,” Richter says. “And that’s how we were able to do the things we’re doing, whether it’s a church building or supporting the pastor.”
FARMS is careful to make sure it doesn’t provide loans to people merely to push them toward Christianity. But Richter said that in a way, the loan itself can be a tool to spread Christ’s love.
“Although FARMS never uses the loan programs as inducement to convert to Christianity (because that wouldn’t work anyway), the people there see the joy of these Christians,” Richter says. “They also see that these Christians are willing to help them with whatever they’re doing in that community.”
Today, the program continues to thrive and help churches spread the Gospel. And not only do the believers enjoy reaping the abundance of their harvest, they enjoy giving it away as well.
“I think there’s nothing more exciting than to see Christians develop self-worth by their giving and that they realize they are part of God’s plan to reach the lost,” Richter said
You may not have the opportunity to assist farmers in another country, but there are still ways you can help. You can pray for those living in poverty-stricken countries, or help meet those needs yourself by visiting FARMS’ donate page.