India (MNN) – In Nagaland, India, a simple loan program is transforming a community.
Scott Clifton has been serving as the Assistant Director of FARMS International since May. Before that, he served as a board member.
“Previously I worked as a design engineer for an aircraft company and so I left that job to pursue ministry with FARMS as I felt God was leading.”
After he came on staff, Clifton joined executive director, Joe Richter, on a 25-day trip to the various projects FARMS has.
Clifton says, “The most remote location on that trip was to a village in Nagaland, and we weren’t even sure if we would be able to go, but the rains held off long enough and we thought we could make it without getting stuck.”
They were able to visit the village, but it was close call with monsoon rains. During their visit, they met with a pastor who received a FARMS loan sometime in the past few years.
Clifton explains that this pastor had been serving the community for the last 25 years.
“He talked about how before he received a FARMS loan, he couldn’t pay expenses for his family—he had three kids and his wife, and they couldn’t make ends meet.”
In other words, this pastor had a growing debt. But with the FARMS loan he received, he purchased a rice mill—a huge advance in technology for the area. Without the mill, people had to either shell their rice by hand or transport it far away.
“Through this loan, he was able to increase his income, personally, by a significant amount, where as he’s able to pay off all those debts. He also receives a very low monthly wage from the church, so he’s able to supplement that. And, in fact, it’s enough income from this project, that he’s able to give more to the church.”
Microloans through FARMS are interest-free, and loan-holders agree to pay tithe back to the church once their loan project begins to turn a profit.
In this way, there’s less burden on the church to support the pastor, and more funds available to do ministry outreach. But, the rice mill has been beneficial in other ways, as well.
“It’s also a really significant project in that it’s beneficial to the entire community. So, if someone doesn’t have enough money to pay… to have the rice milled, they can give a portion of the rice itself so that anyone who wants rice milled will have the means to have it milled.”
This creates an economic advantage for rice farmers in that they no longer have to spend as much time milling their rice.
Strengthening Church Outreach
There are a couple of ways that FARMS loans impact the Gospel. In this story, we see that the loans make it possible for ministry workers to spend more time in ministry. This pastor was able to pay off his loan and his debts, and now he’s able to take adequate care of his family, financially.
“The pastor is really carrying out ministry in addition to other responsibilities that everybody else would have. He has the same burdens of putting food on the table and trying to provide education for his kids, which is a significant hurdle for such a remote location as this. And so, he has those burden. But in addition, he feels that God has burdened him for ministry. And so, that’s a lot of commitments to try to balance.”
Increasing his income means he can provide for his family, and focus more time on ministry.
“He’s able to do his work as a pastor more effectively. He’s freed up with the time and the resources to pursue that.”
The second way these projects impact the Gospel is that they give non-Christians a glimpse at what it means to be a part of the Body of Christ.
In this village, Clifton says, “Many were Christian, but there were also families who were not, who are part of a tribal religion.”
John 13:35 says that others will know Jesus’ disciples by their love for one another. This means that the members of the Body of Christ are in relationship with one another, and therefore care for one another. The FARMS program encourages just that—for the Body of Christ to use its resources to help those in need. The very act of caring for other Christians is a testimony to those who see these actions.
Clifton says, “When they see the people come out of the poverty that everybody in the village is in, and they ask questions, we pray that it creates an attractive response to the Gospel, to the Christian message, knowing that those people, those believers in that village, are supported by a large community of believers who are both praying for them, but also seeking to partner in ways that help to bring them out of their poverty.”
Do you feel like God is asking you to get involved with this? There are quite a few ways you can respond.
“There’s always a greater need that we see, more places that we can go, more programs that we can expand than we have the financial resources available to do so.
“And one of the things we’re passionate about is educating about giving. It can be easy for very well-intentioned believers to understand that God calls us to give, to want to experience the joy of giving. And so we give and we feel good about that, but we don’t always look into what we’re giving to, or how that operates. And so, we are really passionate about educating believers who are in a position to give financially, that we also have a responsibility to look into how that money is used and to have some intentionality with where we place it.”
And, here’s how you can pray:
“Some of the countries that we’re working in are very difficult scenarios for a number of different reasons. Pray for the believers who have received loans that it would improve their situation and that there would be good payment and that the churches would be empowered to pursue the ministry that’s on their hearts—to share the Gospel with those around them.”