For her birthday in 2017, Jesus' Economy volunteer, Rachel Thompson, took on an ambitious task: to raise $500, half the value of a water well in Bihar, India.
When the donations came pouring in and Rachel's campaign surpassed its goal, she went one step further. During the Christmas season of the same year, she asked friends and family to donate in order to raise the full $1,000 value of a water well, providing thousands of people with clean water. We interviewed Rachel about her campaign journey and the stories of God's faithfulness she saw along the way.
Q: Rachel, tell us a bit about yourself, your family, and your involvement with Jesus' Economy.
My husband and I both work in church ministry in Ithaca, New York. We have two beautiful young children. I've volunteered with Jesus' Economy for several years. I started out throwing house parties for products and more recently have served as the executive assistant. I enjoy being part of a driven and talented team.
Q: Why did the idea of a birthday campaign appeal to you?
There is such a disparity of wealth and resources in our world. When I think about accumulating more stuff, it just strikes me as ridiculous. Especially after moving all of that stuff recently! Fundraising through Jesus' Economy is really attractive and easy. I think people are looking for meaningful gifts to give their loved ones. I thought I could leverage that to shine some light in the world. Many of us want to help people in need, and are looking for the way to do so. While I was thrilled about the generosity of my friends and family during this campaign, I wasn't surprised. Good people are looking for ways to help others, and organizations like Jesus' Economy are offering streamlined ways to do so.
Q: Why did you choose to raise money for clean water in Bihar?
Especially since becoming a parent, I have refocused my priorities. The most important thing to me is that my family's needs are met. When my husband comes home to a peaceful sanctuary, my kids know love, they have food to eat, and a warm bed to sleep in, I can also thrive. My heart aches for parents who do not have access to basic needs like clean water for their children. I don't understand how people can be dying from water-borne illnesses in 2017. We live in such an interconnected world, and organizations like Jesus' Economy are connecting Western prosperity with third world needs. Jesus' Economy's Renew Bihar project is promoting a holistic approach to empowering the impoverished. I love that the church planters we partner with in the area will have the opportunity to share the love of Christ, the Living Water, through this well.
Q: Please share with us some stories from your campaign. How did you see God working through your efforts?
It was really beautiful to witness God inspiring the people who donated to this campaign. Donors included people from all walks of life—farmers, missionaries, teachers, nurses, stay-at-home moms, ivy league grads and PhDs, teenagers, and children. A student from our youth group made a large donation. There was one story in particular that was really special. My sweet friend and fellow pastor's wife shared the well project with her children [and invited them to participate]. She recounted the story below.
"'So you know Mrs Thompson? For her birthday sometime in the summer, she was asking people to donate money to build a well in India instead of giving her presents. She was hoping to raise money for half the well which costs $500, but she ended up raising more than that. So for Christmas, she decided to ask more people to donate money instead of giving her Christmas gifts to see if she could get enough to build a whole well. She has raised [at the time], $911. She only has $89 left to getting a full well built. You don’t have to, but would you like to give some money to help her get her well built?' James had a lot of questions about the well. We talked about how not every child has access to running water like we do. I did emphasize that giving was optional and the amount was optional. No sibling had to know what the other gave. Adam and Sophia gave generously but what touched me most was James (who is 7). He jumped up and ran upstairs for his piggy bank. He had $2 in it and he took out a dollar and gave it to me for 'Mrs Thompson’s well.'"
If you would like to start a campaign for clean water, empowering women, church planting or another aspect of the vision of Jesus' Economy to create jobs and churches in the developing world, start here.
Millions of people around the world do not have resources to meet their basic needs. These people are living in poverty. Many of them do not have access to clean water, or the ability to buy or grow food. Many of them live in villages or cities with suffering economies, and there are simply no jobs. When people have limited food and water, education gets pushed back. In places like this, families are held captive to cycles of poverty.
Today is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, and we are reminded of our brothers and sisters suffering in poverty around the world. It is discouraging to think of how many people poverty impacts, and of how the pain carries on to future generations.
The good news is this: we are doing something about it, and you can, too.
Taking action against poverty is one of the ways we as Christians are called to love. In 1 John, John reminded the church of the importance of putting faith in action.
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18 ESV).
There are many ways you can bring hope to impoverished people. You can give your time and prayers, donate money to a program you’re passionate about, or even start your own. Poverty is all over the world—in other continents, and in your own city.
If you’re looking for a place to start, Jesus’ Economy has some great programs you can get involved in as we work to renew Bihar, India.
Bihar, India is a state with more than a million people living in extreme poverty. A large cause of the problem is a lack of clean water. Some women and children spend many hours each day walking miles to collect drinking water. This takes up so much time that women cannot work and children cannot go school. Our clean water program raises funds to drill wells in Bihar. Each well can provide safe water for 2,000 people, and so far we have completed four wells.
When families have access to safe water, women have more time to work and provide for their families. Our empowering women program is going to train 40 women to run successful tailoring businesses and sell their products on the western market. These women already have skills in tailoring, but need an opportunity to learn business skills. This program is currently 47 percent funded.
We are working to bring hope through the alleviation of physical and spiritual poverty. Our church planting program funds church planters in various villages in Bihar to set up home churches, and also to go into the villages and share the gospel. At this point, we are funding four church planters, all of whom are additionally starting Bible studies and literacy training as they go. Thousands of people in Bihar are hearing the gospel for the first time, and each church planter brings the gospel to thousands more.
Advik was first sponsored in September 2016, and has started five Bible studies and one house church. Another church planter, Santhosh, recently held a spiritual awakening seminar with 250 people from 16 different villages in attendance. We are so excited about how God is moving in Bihar, India.
Eradicating poverty is not only important, it is the gospel. We love because God loves us. And one way we can show that love is through working to alleviate poverty.
“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:16 ESV).
We are called to use what we have to bless others. And it’s not always about money. If you have a little time to give, consider volunteering for an organization that works to alleviate poverty. If you have an extra coat, consider donating it. One small action can be a huge blessing to someone else. Don’t be afraid to do small things and big things to fight poverty. Just remember this: nothing will change if you do nothing at all.
You can alleviate poverty and bring hope to people in so many ways, and we encourage you to be praying about where you can start.
Jesus' Economy is transforming lives and empowering women in Bihar, India. In a state where millions live in extreme poverty, it can seem impossible to have hope. But the people of Bihar are strong and resilient and we are coming alongside them as they lift their families and community out of poverty.
Bihar, India has a population of nearly 104 Million. More than 54 Million of those people live in extreme poverty. Most of their food sources are dependent on the weather, which during monsoon season often means few crops.
These families do not have enough money to provide for themselves on a basic level, and this makes for very poor living conditions.
Bihar has a women empowerment measure of .379, ranking among the top 10 worst in the world. In this state, a large percentage of the women are illiterate and jobless, and have no means to help themselves. But with our church planters providing literacy training, they have a chance at a new life.
Many women and children spend their days walking miles to collect drinkable water. By the time they've gathered this necessity, there isn't much time left in the day for work or an education, and the cycle of poverty continues.
To help meet the basic need of clean and safe water, Jesus' Economy has funded the drilling of four water wells. Now thousands of people have access to good water; women are able to work, and children are able to go to school.
We have also funded four church planters. These pastors are actively sharing the gospel with hundreds of people throughout the new home churches and bringing peace to these people and their villages.
With the physical and spiritual needs being met, Jesus' Economy is now focused on long-term sustainability. Forty women in Bihar will be trained to run their own businesses so they can lift their families out of poverty.
As part of the empowering women program, women learn the trade of creating high-quality, handmade clothing, as well as business skills and employer (fair trade) ethics.
The women will become successful businesswomen, thus able to support their families financially, and the cycle of poverty will be disrupted. Their incomes will allow for physical sustenance, and also for the opportunity for their children to go to school regularly.
The women of Bihar, India are immeasurably strong and full of hope for a better future.
Donate to the Empowering Women Program and help end poverty in Bihar.
No struggle a person faces is completely isolated. Each struggle is caused by deeper problems, and it can be very difficult to break the cycle. As we work together to alleviate global poverty, we must do more than address one issue.
In Bihar, India, a state with millions living in extreme poverty, fresh water is hard to come by. Women and children spend hours every day walking miles to collect safe drinking water in order to survive. This means those women can’t work and the children can’t go to school, because they don’t have time. And the cycle of poverty continues.
Jesus’ Economy is dedicated to restoring Bihar, India through several programs. We have a program to drill water wells so the women and children can save time and energy every day, a program to plant churches that will meet the spiritual needs of the communities, and a program to empower women—teaching women marketable skills in tailoring and business so they can sustainably support themselves and their families. These programs work together to create long-term solutions for deep-seated struggles.
The poverty in Bihar is intense, and caused by many factors. If we simply provided the water wells and stepped away, the poverty would still exist. Safe water would be more accessible, but women would remain unemployed and families could still not afford to send their children to school.
If we simply planted churches, but didn’t address the physical needs of the people of Bihar, we would be denying the message of the gospel, and people would continue the cycle of physical poverty. James urges believers to put faith into action; to be doers and not only hearers:
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27 ESV)
It is important that we meet the physical and spiritual needs of people in poverty. We can do these things, but we can take it even further by creating jobs to keep the cycle going. We don’t want to provide aid and then step away; we want to walk alongside our brothers and sisters around the world and teach them sustainable ways to provide for themselves.
This is a way we can show love to hurting people. This is the power of the gospel. We get to display the love of God in Bihar, India, and that’s pretty awesome.
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:16-18 ESV)
Our world is more interconnected than ever before. We could legitimately provide every last person on our planet with access to the gospel in our lifetimes. Here’s why I believe that.
We have better technology at our disposal than ever before. And we can leverage this to bring the gospel to the unreached.
Today, I can video chat with a church planter in the developing world from Washington state. Google Hangouts and Skype gave us all that ability. Potentially, I could on a video call answer a biblical question of a church planter in the field—in a remote village, because pretty soon, 3G and 4G is going to be everywhere. That’s at least the plan of big tech companies—with their efforts empowered by a space company who can now send reusable rockets to space to launch satellites. This is the age we live in, one where any person on the planet can potentially connect to any other person in seconds.
All the sudden, the issue of training and empowering church planters is far simpler than it has ever been. And the interconnection between those who sponsor church planters and the church planters themselves is greater than it has ever been.
Imagine the potential for global discipleship in this world. I first realized this when I was sitting next to a church planter in Bihar, India and he showed me the screen of his Motorola flip phone. On the screen was my bio on JesusEconomy.org. He said, this is you, right? I was first surprised by how good our website looked on his phone—leave it to me to notice that first. But my second thought is what changed my life: If this guy can look up my bio on his phone, right here while we’re talking, what if I put a study Bible in his hand? What if I gave him a full Bible dictionary and a Bible translation? What if I gave him Bible studies in his native language? And, of course, we can do this. We could even send him video courses on SD cards. We could put any piece of information in his hand.
This is our world. It is more interconnected than ever before. And it means completely rethinking missions.
If our churches thought long and hard about their budgets, we could—like the churches of Paul’s day—pool our resources to bring the gospel to the unreached corners of our world (see Romans 15:26–29). If we sponsored indigenous church planters, it’s surprisingly cost-effective to fund missions.
The church should be innovating in this space. And in the process, we should be thinking holistically about how we approach poverty and reaching the unreached—thinking about how we care for a person’s soul, mind, and body. We should be leveraging every opportunity possible to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
The fact that the gospel has not reached every people group on our planet is an injustice. And it’s an injustice we can correct.
Likewise, it’s an injustice that the people of our planet do not have clean water. And with technology we can do something about. It’s an injustice that everyone on the planet does not have access to economic opportunities. And in this world, in this time, we can do something about.
Justice is a central cry of the Bible. The works of the prophets are full of calls to create a more just world (Micah 6:8; Isaiah 1:16; Jeremiah 22:3; Amos 5:23–24). Isaiah put it this way: “Learn to do good! Seek justice! Rescue the oppressed! Defend the orphan! Plead for the widow!” (Isaiah 1:16 LEB).
Jesus himself told us that he will distinguish between those who truly know him and those who do not by what they do for the marginalized, outsider, prisoner, and impoverished (Matthew 25:37–40). And we know from James that true religion is loving the hurting and the poor—the widow and the orphan (James 1:26–27).
Indeed, it is unjust when a child has to go without clean water, healthcare, or education. It is unjust when a parent doesn’t have access to a fair paying job that can lift their family out of poverty. It is unjust that there are millions of people who have never heard the name of Jesus. Let’s do something about it.
Let’s innovate the bring about a future of missions where every last person has heard the name of Jesus and experienced his love.
Imagine having to fight for water that isn’t even safe enough to drink. That was the reality for people in a remote village in Bihar, India. Before Jesus' Economy stepped in, many of the water wells located in the village were contaminated with high concentrations of iron ore, and a majority of the wells were privately owned. The poorest people in the community were denied access to this privately held clean water.
Through your donations, we were able to drill a water well in the heart of the village that provides everyone with clean, drinkable water. Drilling the well transformed the lives of hundreds of people and gave this village of 5,000 access to clean water. The well is directly benefiting 200 to 400 villagers who are drinking from it regularly. In addition, many of the villagers learned about Jesus when the well was dedicated. Without your help, these villagers would still be drinking dirty water.
The efforts in this remote village in northeast India are part of our Renew Bihar project, which is providing access to the gospel and clean water, as well as empowering women through business. Together, we're renewing hearts, homes, and hope. Thank you for joining us in this most important effort.
After realizing that the Indian government would not be able to assist them, the people in a small remote village in Bihar, India had to settle with drinking dirty water. The majority of the villagers are laborers, primarily fishermen. A constant supply of clean water was out of their reach; they simply could not pull enough resources together to pay for a well. Our newest church planter, Rahul, told us about this village and the struggles the villagers face every day, and we felt compelled to help.
Due to your generous donations, over 300 people now have access to clean water. Nearly 60 people gathered for the well’s inauguration, and chose to thank God for providing one of their most basic needs.
Bihar, India is one of the most impoverished places in the world and together we're lifting people out of poverty. Our efforts to bring clean water to the impoverished are part of our Renew Bihar project.
Our Renew Bihar project is bringing the gospel to the unreached, empowering women through job training and microloans, and supplying clean water. With your support, we're renewing hope, hearts, and homes. We're renewing entire communities. Thank you.
We are pleased to announce our first grant to Transformation India Movement.
Thanks to your support, and nothing short of a miracle by Jesus, over 4,000 people will now have access to clean water via two water wells. In addition, over 3,800 people will hear the name of Jesus over the next year who have never heard his name before: Two church planters have been funded for a year: Vinod Kumar and Santhosh Kumar. And two water wells have been funded in the same regions they will be working in.
Jesus' Economy has been an emotional journey. In May 2012, God awoke me in the night with words: He cast the vision of creating jobs, planting churches, and meeting basic needs all at the same time, one developing world community at a time. God spoke about connecting entrepreneurs in the developing world to a global marketplace and connecting developing world church planters to donors. Today, I see that vision coming to be.
Today, I see our fair trade shop creating jobs. And I see our first grant to Transformation India Movement meeting basic needs and planting churches. And I see the beginnings of our empowering women program in Bihar, India, as we get closer to funding it.
Along the journey, I have shed tears over the difficulties of making all this real. We have felt financial strain and worked through building a team and then rebuilding it on several occasions, as always happens with start-ups. And I have seen the pain of poverty first hand in Bihar; and that is what has brought the most tears of all. (I have regularly said that I cannot rest until Bihar is renewed, and I mean it.)
Kalene and I have led this effort as volunteers, because we believe in it. (You can't walk away from Bihar and not take action.) Here at Jesus' Economy, we have stayed committed to each dollar you give going exactly where you designate. (Our first grant honors that promise.) And with your support and advocacy, we have all built something beautiful together.
From each post you have shared on your social networks, to each penny you have given, to each product you have purchased, you have made Jesus' Economy possible. Jesus' Economy belongs to all of us. And this first grant is all of our victory, but above that, it's Jesus' victory. This is his economy we're making real, by his grace. And being where we are, on our budget, is nothing short of a miracle. So let's praise Jesus today.
Today, I shed tears of joy in gratitude. And those tears give me fortitude to go on with this great effort. With you by my side, and Jesus as our ultimate advocate, I know we can do all things through him. Jesus gives strength. He will renew Bihar, India.
Together, we can alleviate extreme poverty and provide access to the gospel to those who have never heard Jesus' name. Together, we can make the world a better place.
Bihar, India's story has become part of my story. And I hope it has also become part of your story. We have an opportunity to renew hope, hearts, and homes. We have a chance to renew Bihar, India. Our work is not done, but has begun. Thank you for making that possible.
Please feel free to email me your thoughts or ways that you would like to get involved: I'm at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Love in Christ,
John D. Barry, CEO and Founder
In addition to telling you the stories about how our grants are used, and showing you photos to prove that the work is going on, we will post images of checks and/or transfer receipts. Here are the transfer receipts for our first grant.
It doesn't take much to empower someone in Bihar, India. Our first grant is for $7,431.20, which is broken down as:
Update (11/18/2014): The second water well that was funded provided 500 people with access to clean water, so less than we anticipated, but this well was desperately needed. More information coming soon.
Update (12/19/2014): The first water well that was funded provided 1,300 people with access to clean water, so also less than we anticipated, but this well was also desperately needed.
Update (03/04/2015): The precise impact stats related to our first grant are included in our 2014 Annual Report.
Once you meet people in deep and extreme poverty, you understand the fury of the prophets. It was in a slum in Bihar, India where my heart first cried out for both justice and mercy—as the prophets did before me.
“This part of the village needs clean water,” the woman in her early 40s remarked to my friend Biju Thomas, the director of Transformation India Movement (Jesus’ Economy’s partner in Bihar, India). The look on her face, as she expressed her people’s needs, will never leave my mind. It was anger combined with pain—she was grateful that some people in her slum now had access to water, but infuriated by the fact that everyone had abandoned her outside of Transformation India Movement.
This woman understood that she needed mercy, but she also understood that she was a victim of injustice.
But where did the injustice the woman felt begin? The scary answer: The injustice she felt is something we all have inflicted upon her—each of us who has ignored the tragedy of poverty in some way or another. The even scarier answer: The reason why injustices in our world continue on is because we, as Christians, are not dealing with our own spiritual poverty—and that’s what is holding us back from tackling physical poverty.
The biblical prophets held in the balance mercy and justice. When they looked at the world, they saw that both must be present for God’s love to be fully known—for his kingdom to arrive. They realized that God is both full of justice and mercy.
The prophet Isaiah once said:
“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him” (Isaiah 30:18 ESV).
God is gracious and he desires to show mercy—and he is also a God of justice. God holds in the balance all these things; we should attempt to do the same.
But for justice to exist, purity must also. Without coming to terms with God, it’s difficult to come to terms with what we must do for others.
“Wash! Make yourselves clean! Remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes! Cease to do evil! Learn to do good! Seek justice! Rescue the oppressed! Defend the orphan! Plead for the widow! ‘Come now, and let us argue,’ says Yahweh. ‘Even though your sins are like scarlet, they will be white like snow; even though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool’” (Isaiah 1:16–18 LEB).
At the core of empowering other people must be a deep spiritual awareness of ourselves. God desires for us to learn to do good, and he wants us to cease from doing evil, but we must know him deeply to be able to fully accomplish this. It’s the epitome of the old adage, “You can’t help someone else, if you can’t first help yourself,” but with a twist, “You can’t help someone else (bring them justice and mercy), if you don’t first let God help you.”
If forced to pinpoint the primary problem with both local and global development today, I would say: It’s looking at the physical problems without looking at the spiritual issues, and looking at the spiritual problems without a concern for the physical. Our efforts to empower others are almost always focused on either spiritual or physical poverty, when we should focus on both. Most of us have taken half of God’s message to the world and left the other half (see Hosea 2:1–20; Micah 6:7–8; Amos 5:23–24; compare Isaiah 52:13–53:12; John 3:16–17).
God is a holistic community developer; the problem is that we’re not naturally inclined to be. God cares about the entire life of a person and the entire life of a community. The problem is that most of us don’t care about people’s entire lives—really—if we’re honest with ourselves.
We could despair about the differences between how we address poverty and how God would have us to—or we could simply articulate the injustices, in an effort to move forward. Incredibly, the biblical prophet Micah articulates very well the injustices of today:
“‘Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil [i.e., with abundant offerings]? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’ He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:7–8 ESV).
We know what is good and what God desires—we must simply take action. We must live the principles of justice, love kindness, and walk humbly before God.
I felt the cry for justice rise in me again as a woman in a village in India said: “My baby is sick and has been for several weeks. I’m praying for him. He needs prayer.” You could tell she was holding back the tears and so was I.
“My baby’s arm is broken—motorcycle accident,” mentioned another woman in a different village. “He needs care,” she said, “But I don’t have any money.”
For all three women, care was offered—their stories, though, represent life in Bihar, and people all over the developing world for that matter. For many women in the developing world, help never comes. They are left in their suffering.
We know what the prophets would do. We know how they would react and act. They would correct the injustices of the world by offering mercy—may we do the same.
Last week, we issued you all a challenge: In seven days, raise the remaining $1,393 needed to fund a second church planter for a year in Bihar, India. Today is day seven; we have 24 hours left. $165 has been raised thus far, leaving us with $1,231 left to go. I believe we can raise the remainder today.
You don't need to donate a lot; just a few bucks each will make it happen. 100% of the money you donate will go to church planting in Bihar, India, where over 105 million people are yet to hear the name of Jesus. Provide access to the gospel today!
Church planters, by providing ethical guidance to communities, allow for the economy of a community to change. Corruption is alleviated and entire economies can be transformed.
Create churches in Bihar, India. It will serve as a linchpin for the community transformation. It will allow for the gospel to reach thousands who are yet to hear it. It will instill self worth in those who don't realize yet how much God values them. It will transform lives, completely. You can be a part of it. This is an opportunity for you to do something incredibly significant. 24 hours left. Let's make this happen.