Last year, we presented you with an opportunity to help us establish a farm in Myanmar that could generate food and income sufficient for our orphanage and help support the pastors and projects there. You responded, as usual, with the total amount needed, and when we observed how well the project was progressing and an opportunity to purchase more and better land arose, you gave to purchase it as well. Then Covid hit, and right behind it came a military coup. Since then, thousands have been killed by the junta and tens of thousands by covid. Before we could purchase the new farm, the banks closed.
Recently I spoke with Pastor Vel, and he told me the land-purchase funds are secure in the bank, but the road there is so dangerous that he prefers to wait. He had given a deposit to the seller, locking in the agreement and price, but feels it prudent not to risk their lives to travel to the capital and withdraw such a large sum. In the meantime, he stated that the boys living at the original farm are fairing very well and have had plenty of food to eat. As you can read in his letter, he brought some stock to his church property, and the orphans living there have been tending to them and multiplying the numbers. He wrote, "Yes, the chickens are multiplying by God's grace. And thank God, the boys (7 of them) were able to use them and the goats as their income and food while we cannot go there and give food budgets because of sicknesses and the coup from May until the end of September.
We already had 158 chickens on the farm and some 30 chickens at home. (I incubated about 23 eggs every 7 days, so the chicks were increasing. At present, we can incubate 30 eggs every 7 days as the hens increase, and in the future, we will have more hens to incubate more eggs at a time. I ordered 4 incubators from China in January and February, so we are excited about chicken farming).
But at present, there are 61 chickens left on the farm and about 127 chickens at home. We put about 84 eggs in the incubators, which some will hatch in 3 days. We also have one-week-old chicks. We also have two turkeys at home, and we put 10 turkey eggs in the incubator as well. The mother turkey is laying eggs again right now, and we have stored 4 eggs now. We also have 17 ducks at home that are laying eggs, and we have put 52 in the incubators, and we store 5 eggs as well. We have 6 geese at the farm at present. We had 11 geese already, but the boys also used some of them during the past 5 months. So, the chickens, goats, and geese were lifesavers for us. Now that we are getting better and approaching the dry season, we will try our best to increase them again. Thank you so much for all the funding and supports for farming!"
So we see the chickens, geese, ducks, and turkeys provide meat for the children and income to purchase non-consumable items like soap, shoes, clothing, medicine, etc. In addition, the goats are breeding, and the flock is multiplying. The only items I have not heard about yet are the fish ponds, completed before Covid, but I do not think they have been stocked yet.
We believe that helping them become more self-sufficient and not rely totally on American funding is working. In fact, it's working better and faster than I expected, despite the coup and Covid. So, what now? We planned to use the farm project in Myanmar as a test and, if it worked, do the same or similar elsewhere.
In recent months, you may recall that we had several small projects in Africa about which we have posted follow-up videos. These were corn grinders, now giving a dozen church members an income and supporting the pastors. This was only a baby step to see how well the project would be managed, and it proved to be a good beginning. But India is a country of great need and thus an excellent opportunity for us to launch them towards financial self-sufficiency and employment for their church members.
Pastor Solomon recently wrote to us explaining the perpetual poverty of the pastors we support. Most of them are from a farming background and are first or second-generation Christians. They have small landholdings of two-four acres at best. He explained that they are subsistence farmers, not commercial, and many are in areas where lack of rainfall makes them dependent on reservoirs and water channels. Those who have good locations can have two-three crops annually, while others are fortunate to have one.
Because of their poverty, they do not have assets to use as collateral with banks to purchase seeds and equipment. As such, they have to risk their land as collateral, and if the bank still rejects them, they turn to private money lenders. However, whether the loan comes from a bank or private party, the interest rates are steep, up to 30-40%, monthly. If they cannot pay these high rates and the principle, they forfeit parts or all of their family inheritance to pay their debt and then struggle to survive. If this becomes necessary, the banks will "blacklist" the farmer, ensuring he cannot get another loan in the future. When this happens, all hope is gone, and the farmers with their wives and children will often commit suicide.
Their dilemma is not an unwillingness to work but an inability to pay the high interest rates. Finally, after four months, when the harvest is gathered, the loan's outstanding balance allows the lender to confiscate the farmer's entire yield at an unfair price. Then they sell it on the market and get a higher profit, while the farmer loses his land.
Pastor Solomon then ended his appeal with these words: "These farmers are our pastors. We need to provide them with some monetary assistance for fertilizers, seeds, and labor costs. This will strengthen their capacity to overcome this seasonal crisis without borrowing and allow them to sell their produce at the government procurement price. For decades they have been denied any sustained constructive help. This repeating cycle robs the profit for family sustenance and ministry expansion. Their wife and children will be able to lead a very dignified life in the community being financially stable. Also, the elderly widows at home, who had sustained their hand-to-mouth survival while they were below 60 years and can no longer work as daily wage workers, can now be fed joyfully from the farm produce."
After hearing Solomon's appeal and better understanding the situation, we felt this would be an excellent opportunity to show our brotherhood with them and help their families become financially stable. And at the same time, help them provide jobs for their church members and care for the elderly widows. We want to raise an estimated need of $24,000 to accomplish this. The funds will be distributed and managed by our Director for that region. He knows each family and can ascertain their ability to benefit from the gift. For example,
Join Missionary to Africa, Ernest Livingston, as our Season 2 adventure begins. In Episode 1 we find him washed ashore as a lonely island cast away. Will he survive? Will he be able to sustain his usiache spirit of not giving up? If the place 'you're' called to labor seems small and little known, take heart, stoke up your courage, and come along for the ride!
One of our pastors, named Raju Ankanpalli Gujjalla, has passed away. He contracted covid, and because he had diabetes, the doctors said it caused him to develop a “black fungus.” The family borrowed money to get him to a hospital, and he was given steroids to no avail. They sent him then to Bangalore at an additional expense, but he did not survive.
While supported by Final Frontiers, pastor Raju led more than 242 souls to Christ and started 13 churches. He leaves behind his wife Premlata and two young children, a boy, and a girl. They ask that you pray for his family and the churches under his care.
This family does not have any well-to-do relatives and no income for the survivors. (Though the wife will receive our in-house “death benefit” to help bury him and purchase some food. She will also receive his support for the next 2 years as part of our ministry policy.) The non-Christians are traumatizing the children and keeping his family at a distance out of fear.
It would be a blessing and a grand testimony if we could send a gift to this family during this time of their grieving. They borrowed over $2,300 and if you are interested and can help with this you can donate below or send a check for "Raju Ankanpalli Gujjalla's Family". Note that we will also be caring for the children through our Touch a Life program. If you would be willing to do so, you can offer support or offerings for their needs online as well. Please contact us if you would like to support them.
About the photos:
In developing countries, the funeral must usually occur within a day because there is no option for embalming. During that time, the body is laid out on a table for visitors to pay their respects. In this case, the family is so poor they have no table and had to place him on the floor. So the church members borrowed money to purchase a casket for their beloved pastor.
You may remember back in April we raised funds for a project over in the Democratic Republic of Congo for 2 corn grinder machines. These would allow the local church to help members grind their own corn, sell corn flour to others and bring in a small income by charging others to use it. We wanted to give you a short video update on the project now that they have been using them for the last 6 months or so, so please enjoy!