Funding missions in poorer countries

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Tempus faciendi, Domine.
This is highly impressive:

A Handful of Rice

< CRC Newsroom

August 24, 2009 — One day, after years of helping her husband nurture the growing church in the small state of Mizoram in India, Katherine Alen Williams was pondering how they could support a Bible Woman (evangelist) who had almost no income.

Then she recalled what members of the Khasi tribe in another area had done. It had to do with setting aside a handful of rice – for Jesus.

As the wife of the missionary who began working in that part of India in the late 19th Century, Williams remembered the teaching that Jesus is the unseen guest at the table, and, following the lead of the Khasi, began putting aside a handful of uncooked rice for Christ at every meal.

At the end of the week, she had a kilo of rice which she sold in the market and gave the proceeds to the church to help support the Bible Woman.

After all, who would miss one handful of rice?

She taught all the other Christians in the area to do this, and the custom caught on with great enthusiasm. This was something everyone could contribute to pay the salaries of Christian workers. As a result, Williams began a tradition among Mizoram Christians that dates to 1910.

"Yes, it is true that they do this. I have been there and witnessed it with my own eyes. It is remarkable," says Joel Hogan, director of international ministries for Christian Reformed World Missions, which partners with the Presbyterian Church and Mission India in the area to conduct work.

Lying in the northeast corner of India, Mizoram is isolated by hills and forests. This area is home to just under one million people, and making it unusual is that virtually all of its citizens call themselves Christians.

The rest of India is primarily Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Seikh and Jain. The west and north of India has very few Christians, while southern states like Kerela are about 20 percent Christian. The country as a whole is between three to six percent Christian.

The Presbyterian presence in Mizoram can be traced to English and Welsh missionaries who came to the region at the end of the 19th Century. The Mizo people, although dirt poor, responded to the gospel gladly.

To this day, the Mizo people still contribute a handful of rice for Jesus at every meal. On Saturday it is brought to the market and sold at a fifty-percent discount to the poor. (Mizo average income is $300 per year, less than one dollar per day.)

Christians also tithe the firewood they cut, and find many other creative ways to give to the church. In fact, 46 percent of the Mizo Presbyterian Church budget goes to missions. This is their highest priority.

This church has more than 500,000 members and nearly 1,300 churches. It now sends over 1,700 missionaries into India, Nepal and other parts of Asia.

Last year, these Christians raised $1 million for missions, about $2 per person. The custom has spread to tribal Christians in neighboring Myanmar, who are even poorer.

But in Myanmar, Christians of the Matu people have already been doing what they can, in dire circumstances, to help one another.

"They (the Matu people) said that God had given them healthy bodies, so the women and young men hire themselves our as laborers one day per year to work in the fields, and all the proceeds go to missions," says Joel Hogan.


Ordinary Guy (TM)
Great article! It both shows us how we can tithe everything we have, including time, food and labor, and also shows how the Great Commission just might be completed, not by more wealthy westerners, but by the poor Christians of the Third World. Another reason to prioritize mentoring and empowering of indigenous Christians.
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