Churches in Poverty Learn to Give

Can the poorest of the poor give? Do they have anything to give? Sometimes believers in developing countries feel that they can’t give, at least not to missionary work. But a church that YWAM planted among “low class” road workers has seen that poverty is not a barrier to their giving. For security reasons, we can’t tell you where this church is, but this is a story that could be happening in many parts of the world.

We’ll call this people group the Trajars. In this country, many Trajars are immigrants who find employment in order to better support their families living in a neighboring country. Most of them have little formal education and many are road workers, taxi drivers or shopkeepers struggling to make ends meet. Most of them work in road construction, a difficult and low-paying job. These road workers labor an average of 10 hours a day, earning approximately US$37 a month. This is barely enough money for them to survive.

This church planting work amongst the Trajars was started in 1993. From the beginning, the young church was encouraged to have a missionary vision, and was taught principles of giving and receiving. This was no easy task, especially in a country where begging is commonplace.

Pooling Their Resources

Initially, many did not believe that they earned enough to be able to give, but the church planters persisted. Soon they broke through the poverty mentality of the young believers, who began to see they could actually accomplish something significant when they pooled their resources.

They began to give sacrificially. Some began skipping meals to set money aside, while others settled for simpler meals. Still others kept a handful of rice aside daily and gave the equivalent amount of money to a specific need.

All the money at the beginning was spent on visible things, such as church functions and musical instruments, and the church announced what the money was used for. This was contrary to the believers’ experience in their former religion where nobody knew what happened to the collections.

In 1997, the first established Trajar church started to support 10 evangelists. By 2000, three more churches had been planted. These three churches, together with the first church, now supported 21 workers. Today, this generosity continues to bear fruit: eight churches have now been planted.

A Viable Role

In order to keep the churches multiplying and raising up local leaders, church leaders are all voluntary; they have to keep their jobs outside the church. The full-time missionary workers are the only ones who get financial support from the churches, but even so, they do not get enough to live on, with each of the 21 workers getting a salary of about US$24 per month. According to Stephen, a YWAMer who assisted this church, the key was to consider the viable role of those who were supported. “If they can go start a little shop in a new area, work part-time and disciple part-time, they have a good viable role that puts them in contact with the people they are trying to reach,” he said.

The church leaders themselves lived transparent and exemplary lives of giving, and they made sure that the church was never seen as the place to go for financial help. Rather, new believers were encouraged to plan ahead and be generous to one another in times of need. Over time, testimonies poured in as the tithing believers experienced the grace and provision of God.

Testimonies of God’s Blessing

A story was told of a member of the church leadership team who did not have enough money to live on before he began tithing, but now has sufficient funds. What happened? He used to spend 40 percent of his salary on medication for his wife and children who were often sick, but ever since he began to tithe, the family sickness has gone!

Another testimony was told of financial provision and blessing when a member of the church heard the teachings and began tithing. He started higher-paying contractor work within two months and experienced the blessing of God in all his business ventures.

The Trajar churches came together because of their common identity and language in a foreign land, and pooling their tithe brought amazing results. The principles of support raising in this model of church planting can be multiplied in other places, but as Stephen acknowledges, not all people groups would be as responsive as the Trajars. “You’re not going to have eight churches in eight years in many people groups. A lot of times, it is going to take 20 years before you get a real independent church,” he said.

One would not expect the ethnically scorned Trajars to accomplish so much with the little that they have. One truth rings clear: God’s kingdom principle of giving and receiving works and He is faithful to support His work here on earth.

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