India: creative response to rupee challenge

By December 23, 2016

India (MNN) — In an effort to tackle a rampant counterfeit problem, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the radical step to demonetize the 500 and 100 rupee notes.500_inr_obs_lrwiki

Citizens have until December 30 to exchange the old currency for the new 2000 rupee note.  There’s a new rule now…issued just a few days before the deadline.  People can still deposit bank notes above 5,000 rupee, but they’re limited to just one time until December 30.  Additionally, this can only be done after an explanation to two bank officials about why the deposit wasn’t made earlier…and officials can refuse the explanation for whatever reason.

Seems like a straightforward situation, but it’s quite the opposite.  Bibles For The World’s John Pudaite not only saw the impact firsthand, but also felt it.  For one thing, he says, “It’s really hitting the people in the rural areas and the poorer people.  They don’t have money stashed away.  They don’t even have bank accounts (a lot of them).  There are limitations on what can be taken out from the bank.”

It also complicates things for visitors.  “At one time, we had 71 Americans with us.  Through most of the trip we had 16 of us.  It was very difficult just to get the cash just to cover our daily expenses.”

The problem starts here:  “The government issued a 2000 rupee note, but nobody would accept it because nobody had change for it because the 500s and 1000s are not usable.”  Then it got complicated.  “It was either a 2000 or a 100 rupee note, but there weren’t enough of those (100s).  That’s where things got really crazy.  You got a 2000 rupee note after waiting in line forever at the bank, and then you had nowhere to use it.”

For those in rural areas with no access to a bank, it’s a whole new wrinkle.  BFTW is not the only ministry with schools and churches in remote areas.  “I know this is hitting a lot of the different ministries, especially those that are working in more difficult areas, or in somewhat restricted conditions or hostile conditions where they can’t even open a bank account in their name because they want to stay under cover.”

What does this mean for staff and ministry partners in these areas?  They’re just getting creative, says Pudaite.  “In some cases, we’ve resorted to a barter system, paying workers in rice and other essential commodities that they need for their daily living.”

(Photo Seed Sower Seminary courtesy Bibles For The World)

(Photo of Seed Sower Seminary courtesy of Bibles For The World)

That’s the short-term solution and the backdrop to what is expected to be a busy 2017.  Part of the reason they were visiting BFTW church partners in India was to introduce more children’s programming.  It’s thought that lifelong moral and spiritual beliefs are largely in place by adolescence — people seem to be most open to the Gospel between the ages of 4 and 14-years-old, a time frame known as the 4/14 Window.

“We had visitors this time from AWANA-India as well as a group called ZimZam Global.  They are going to be coming and doing training with us on how to use AWANA, first in our existing churches, strengthen the children’s education there…. The ZimZam group uses children’s ministry as a way of evangelism and church planting.”

(Photo courtesy Bibles For The World)

(Photo courtesy of Bibles For The World)

The plan, explains Pudaite, is, “We’re going to take that beyond our existing churches out into the field, training our young evangelists and missionaries in AWANA so they can go out and use that as a way to build trust — first with the children, then with the families — and then hopefully, plant churches in these villages.”

Issues with currency are a distraction, true, but with a focus on hope for a future, it is a fleeting one.  Please be praying that the details on the financial end work out smoothly, and that as the programs are implemented at ministry points, hearts open to the good news of a Savior.

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