International (MNN) – The Bible has plenty to say about people living in poverty, both in how God views these people and how others should treat them. These Scriptures inform the actions of many ministries, including those of FARMS International.
FARMS identifies needy communities around the world and, through the local Church, sets up a microloan program. A committee distributes microloans to Christians according to their need in order that they can establish or improve a sustainable income-generating project. When these Christians pay back the interest-free loans, they agree to tithe back to their local church from the profits they make. This, in turn, strengthens the outreach ability of the church into the local community.
In time, these microloan programs address both physical and spiritual poverty.
Strength of Faith
Over the years, Joe Richter of FARMS International has been challenged by the attitude and response of Christians involved in their program who have faced such destitute circumstances.
“I think it’s so general, what I see with FARMS, that people in very difficult situations, because they know somebody cares about them and someone has provided for this loan for their family, there’s a real thankfulness and a real joy in the life they have in Jesus. And it radiates… from them and has really impacted my life personally.”
He reminds us how the Scripture speaks to the situation of the poor. The Bible says that the poor are rich in faith (James 2:5), and that they are heirs of the Kingdom (Matthew 5:3). In other words, God has designed our earthly circumstances to teach us more about our need for Him.
Richter says, “Sometimes I think in the West, we have everything we need. And we’re not looking for something to help us, and we can take care of ourselves.
“And we sometimes lack that miraculous element in someone’s life that lives in a little village in a remote area, and all of the sudden they hear about a program that’s Christian-based that can help Christians come out of poverty and give them a chance to come out of the cycle of poverty.”
And typically, these people know exactly who is behind the aid they’re receiving.
“They always are giving thanks back to God—not to FARMS International, not to myself personally. They always recognize it as the hand of God and that God sees them even though they live in a remote area of the world and that’s how this miracle came into their place, and to their village, and to their church.”
But Richter says their response is something the rest of the Body of Christ needs to pay attention to.
“We face difficult situations in a different way, but we can learn from people in the Body of Christ that are poor and we can learn a lot that they can radiate with real joy because they know where they came from and they know where they’re going and they’re very thankful—even in the face of great persecution and sometimes life-threatening persecution. They respond with an amazing faith and joy that I sometimes don’t see in our own culture.”
Why Should We Care?
One of the ways we can deepen our understanding of our dependence on God and adopt that same attitude of faith and joy is to get involved with helping those in need. And this is something God has already called the Body of Christ to do.
“There are so many Scriptures in the Bible relating to the poor and what should be our response to the poor. And we think of different ones in Deuteronomy and other places where it says, ‘Don’t harden your heart when a poor man comes to you.’ And that’s something that we always need to keep up in front of us as Christians here.”
He explains that in the West, Christians have the incredible ability to make a real impact on the global Church.
“We need to think that way– that we really are the rich man. We really are the one that has the means to help the poor.”
As Paul says in 1 Corinthians, if one part of the Body suffers, we all suffer. He calls believers to be conscious of what’s happening with the Church, globally. And Richter believes when we have the means to help out, we should be convicted to do something.
“It will produce tremendous results in our own spiritual lives and in the lives of the Church around the world,” he says.
Consider walking alongside a ministry like FARMS who is already on the ground doing tremendous work by God’s calling. You can start just by letting others know about this ministry:
“I would always appreciate that people share about the ministry of FARMS. You know, we’re not a large organization but we do impact a lot of people with the gifts that are given. And we do need more and more supporters in the days ahead and we have new opportunities like in Mizoram and Ecuador and we’re looking at starting two other programs in the Philippines.
“But we need to have a larger family of supporters and prayer warriors for the ministry of FARMS. And we’re looking forward to that happening in the years ahead and we keep going and doing what God has called this ministry to do.”