NB; names have been removed to protect identity
Over the past few years, and particularly in recent months, we have been hearing from J, and via news outlets, of how the political landscape in India is changing. It is becomingly increasingly linked to religion, with the majority religion of Hinduism taking a very dominant and frontline position in all aspects of political life.
There are many other religions practised in India, and previously they have been accepted and allowed to practise freely. But, with the rise in Hindu dominance, this opportunity to openly practise other religions is being eroded through direct and indirect targeting.
For example, some of the changes to Indian laws in recent months have made it harder for organisations linked to non-Hindu faiths to access money from overseas. Discrimination can be seen when non-Hindus apply for jobs. Some schools are being split into Hindu and non-Hindu students, with more finance being allocated to facilities for the Hindu students.
For our Indian CRED Partner (F__M) things have also got harder, and there have been several instances where members of the team have experienced levels of direct or indirect persecution. However, this is certainly not deterring them from continuing with their work of supporting the poor, needy and disadvantaged in a range of ways. Whether it is caring for those with leprosy, or finding homes for orphans, or providing education for those who can’t afford school fees, or just demonstrating their faith in other practical ways, they do it gently, humbly and lovingly. And their persistence amidst the challenges and persecution is leading to beautiful stories of reward in unexpected ways.
J recently shared with us a wonderful example of just this. Over the years F__M has planted many churches and as a result the ‘family of F__M’ is very large. Rural poverty is significant in India, and as so many of the churches are in rural areas, there are a large number of families within the F__M flock who are very much in need.
Getting work as an employee is hard, especially as a non-Hindu, and for many, the only options are either to get occasional casual labour which brings in low and unreliable income, or to start a small business. Most prefer the latter but getting the capital to begin the business is a massive challenge.
In recent times, F__M have divided the 1700+ poorest families into 174 groups based on location, and each of those groups is now setting themselves up to do small-scale savings to try and build up some finance to embark on businesses. It’s a long haul, but it’s a step in the right direction, and a step of faith that more will be provided.
Imagine how encouraged they all were when, having taken this step of faith, a local businessman approached F__M recently and said that he has been hearing about their work, and how honourable, humble, loving and faith-filled they are, and how he would like to do something to support them!
As a businessman, his heart is to support business, and by the end of the meeting with FIAM it was agreed that he would provide some financial support for each of 174 small groups to the tune of 15% of their start-up costs. Not all of the money that they need to get started, but enough to be a big encouragement, a reminder that God hasn’t forgotten them, and an incentive to keep saving. Prayers being answered!
And if that wasn’t enough, another business owner then approached F__M to say that they were relocating and would F__M like to take over the lease on their business! Their line of work is producing vermiculite and compost for farmers and horticulturalists – something that is becoming more and more sought after as people seek to have organic and healthy food in the wake of Covid. So, it’s a business that has great potential. There are 6 units, and initially F__M were offered one of them. This was accepted and some of the local F__M families were trained up to run the business. The option of taking the leases for the other 5 units was then offered to F__M enabling more families to get access to this stream of income generation. Funds are now being sought to enable these units to be taken on as well.
There are still many more families that need support, but as can be seen from these examples, God is in there with them, and help is coming from the most unexpected places.
In Matthew 5, it says ‘Blessed are the meek (or humble) for they shall inherit the earth.’ This story from F__M is certainly a good example of that. The F__M folks have quietly, gently, faithfully and lovingly continued in their work, supporting all in need. They have personified meekness and humility, and they are being rewarded from above – and given that the reward in some instances includes access to a compost making site, they are literally inheriting the earth!