Only 10% of the estimated 140 million orphans around the world have actually lost both parents. Worldwide, orphanages are full of children who have families who love them, but cannot care for them. Whether that’s a single parent or extended family members or a community that they grew up in. However, as money – especially international money – is poured into orphanages instead of families, many families are forced into the decision to send their child to an orphanage where they can be fed and receive education and get medical care.
The local leaders we work know the unique challenges these families and children face. Therefore, the approach to helping these children is diverse. In some cases, children’s homes provide a temporary place for a child to safely live and study and get the food they need. We support three such children’s homes. These homes provide children not only with the food and shelter necessary for survival, but with emotional support, education, and a spiritual foundation to serve them throughout their lives. Children are always able to visit and communicate with their parents or extended community if they are true orphans, and also return home permanently.
However, the vast majority of children in poverty can stay with their families, if they receive assistance for their education. Asian nations are modernizing, creating new opportunities for well-educated and technologically savvy young people. But what about the poorest of the poor? Without schooling, these children face futures of hard manual labor at unlivable wages, begging, or crime.
For only $50, we can equip a child with remedial education, training in hygiene, and the school supplies they need to enter school and complete their first year. We’ve had the joy of seeing children replace low expectations with dreams of becoming engineers, businessmen, teachers and doctors. Many parents, seeing the benefits to their kids, are learning the value of education and making sacrifices to pay for children to continue schooling after the first year. Some children even come home and teach their parents what they’ve learned!
The children newly enrolled in school sometimes need help to succeed because they missed earlier grades, their parents are illiterate and cannot help them, and/or they live in conditions not conducive to studying. This led to our School Success program. For about $25 per month, churches are able to make their facilities available as study centers in the evening. Church members serve as tutors. On average, between 350-500 children attend these programs regularly each year.
We had entered another world – a small Bangladeshi village surrounded like an island by a sea of flooded rice paddies.
Nine years ago, Santali tribal people migrated here, determined to build a better life. Although they earn less than a dollar a day working in the fields, they have built a good life. They divided the “island” into lots, built mud houses, planted gardens, acquired livestock, and even built a church for their 170 members!
By international standards, this community is extremely poor; yet when I visited last month, it reminded my companions and me of the Garden of Eden because of the great natural beauty, the proximity of the people to the land and animals, and the subtropical climate.
I felt happy for the people there and admired what they had accomplished with so little.
We were welcomed in the village with songs and dances to the beat of drums, then the village gathered in church to present its only request: could Harvest Bridge help give their children a basic education?
The parents knew that if their children reached adulthood without learning the national language, Bengali, and receiving at least a primary school education, they would have no job prospects except insecure day labor at unlivable wages. Though uneducated themselves, the adults realize that the world is changing and that their children will need an education to flourish.
They are right: farm machinery will increasingly displace unskilled labor. It broke my heart to think of what might become of these children as they approach adulthood.
Would they, like so many youth in developing countries, migrate to big cities looking for work?
How would teenagers raised in this idyllic rural village fare in the polluted slums of Dhaka, one of the most congested places in the world?
What work, if any, could they find without a primary-level education or even a knowledge of the language?
Other villages have also asked us to help educate their children.
There is no one-size-fits all solution. Sometimes there is a public school nearby, which the children could attend if they are first taught Bengali. For other villages, the parents need help advancing economically so they can afford the school fees. In some cases, we might be able to find another NGO to serve the community.
The people of these villages are industrious and deserving, and the need is real, but what should Harvest Bridge’s role be?
Although it might appear that Harvest Bridge does many things, we actually do only one: we equip local Christian ministries to do more than they could otherwise. Our impact is diverse because our local partners and their ministries are diverse.
Our ability to help these children depends on having the right local leaders and the needed resources. In the case of the village among the rice paddies, we already have the leadership we need. Our ability to help depends on having the needed funds.
Thank you for supporting Harvest Bridge as we reach remote places with Christ’s love!
If you are able to help these villages educate their children, please make a special donation below, or by check to our Bangladesh Education Fund.
We will help our local partners leverage your support to provide a better future for these kids.
Six years ago, I visited South Asia for the first time as a summer intern with Harvest Bridge. The internship involved working with local healthcare professionals and Harvest Bridge’s national partners to conduct free medical clinics for underserved populations and develop a set of best practices for HB’s medical programs.
This work took us to some of the region’s poorest slums, most remote villages, and most marginalized populations. It was an encounter with extreme poverty on a level I had never before experienced.
As I came face to face with the poorest of the poor, my own privileges became all the more evident in contrast. A thought experiment could not help but arise in my mind: if I had been born in an urban slum or impoverished rural community in South Asia, with the exact same talents and abilities, where would I be in life?
Would I still have had access to similar opportunities to study, travel, and choose a career path from various good options? Would hard work alone have brought me to the same position in life if I had been born a poor, low-caste South Asian, a member of a community that is marginalized and discriminated against by society?
Over the course of that summer, it became increasingly clear that the answer was “no”.
I was beginning to learn that poverty is a complex and multifaceted issue, with numerous complex causes and effects. It is not merely a lack of material goods; rather, it is a deprivation of human dignity that impacts every dimension of life. Normally, poverty is not exclusively caused by unwise personal choices, but rather by a complex interplay of individual and systemic factors which vary depending upon the place, person, and community.
Little did I know that several years later, when I returned to South Asia on a yearlong Fulbright research grant, I would befriend someone whose situation thoroughly confirmed the lessons I was learning about poverty.
My research project focused on stigma and discrimination toward HIV-affected populations. Data collection involved conducting interviews in the local language of the region, which meant that a translator was needed.
Prakash*, the translator we hired, is a brother in Christ who was born in a poor family. His father suffered from mental health issues; he abandoned his wife and three children when Prakash was young. Prakash’s education was conducted entirely in the local language, but he taught himself English starting at age 17 by watching cricket matches and YouTube videos. By age 23, he was fluent enough to translate for my research.
As he taught himself English, he also completed his undergraduate studies and earned an MBA while working night shifts at a hotel, volunteering at his church, and barely getting any sleep. He is an excellent public speaker, and he recently started a life-coaching company to utilize his passion for motivating people to make the most of their lives.
Prakash’s talent and drive are impressive, but for all his hard work, his opportunities have still been greatly limited compared to the opportunities I’ve had growing up in a developed nation.
For example, Prakash has only traveled outside his home state a few times. A large share of his modest earnings have been spent to keep his family afloat financially. His academic qualifications are worth less than equivalent degrees from more prestigious universities that he could not afford to attend.
Prakash and his family are far better off than they would be without his talents and diligent work, but they are still poor. Limited opportunities in their nation, coupled with their lower social status, place ceilings on their ability to rise above poverty – ceilings which are extremely difficult to break through.
I don’t presume to have all the answers on how to shatter such ceilings, nor the answers to deeper questions such as why the country or social class into which a person is born has such a large influence on his or her opportunities in life.
However, I do know that you and I are called by God to play a meaningful part, however small it might seem, in alleviating poverty. The Gospel compels all followers of Jesus to participate in some way in this task (e.g., Matt. 25:37-40, Prov. 31:8-9, Matt. 7:12). Moreover, Christ’s teachings elevate and restore the dignity of the poor, marginalized and oppressed, striking at the core of poverty in all its dimensions.
Participation can take various forms, including prayer, financial support of organizations working to combat poverty, and direct interaction with the poor. The church needs all hands on deck in this task; every part you or I are called to play is significant.
In the process, each of us must humbly acknowledge our own poverty, even if our poverty is not material in nature. On a fundamental level, we are no different than those whose dignity is robbed from them in more overt ways by their material destitution.
Partnering with Harvest Bridge through prayer and financial support is a form of participation in the battle against poverty.
Your prayers and donations enable our Asian partners to run schools and after-school tutoring programs for children from poor families who wouldn’t receive an education otherwise. With your help, our partners provide loving homes for children who have lost parents due to war, disease or abuse.
Your partnership equips us to make strategic micro-grants for vocational training to ultra-poor individuals, providing them with the skills and assets necessary to escape extreme poverty. Thanks to your help, we are able to provide life-saving aid in the wake of natural disasters, pulling communities back from the brink of destitution and setting them on the path to sustainable economic recovery.
And of course, your partnership enables HB to address the spiritual dimensions of poverty through the many efforts of our Asian partners in evangelism, church planting, discipleship, and pastor training. Poverty alleviation is woefully incomplete unless the interconnected spiritual and material aspects of poverty are addressed side-by-side.
I work for HB because I see firsthand the effectiveness of our ministries in holistically addressing the various dimensions, causes and effects of poverty. Your prayers and support are a powerful way of participating in this crucial work, and hardworking South Asians like Prakash thank you every day.
“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year…” ~ Charles Dickens
This time last year, I was spending Christmas in Myanmar (Burma) at a children’s home with 18 children. Four were the children of the pastor and his wife who run the home, and 14 were there because they had been abandoned or their families were too poor to care for them.
None of the children knew a word of English, so we danced and laughed for hours to Feliz Navidid playing on my phone, and they sang me their own Christmas carols.
Those are some of the most precious memories I have – seeing these little ones who were so fully loved by the pastor, Paul*, and his wife Mariam*, who had taken them in. Pastor Paul also oversees much of Harvest Bridge’s ministry in Myanmar.
I visited three children’s homes in different regions of Myanmar. All three homes were started because local Christian couples saw the despair and pain that orphaned, abandoned, and impoverished children were living in, and they decided together that it didn’t matter that they were themselves very poor, or that they were already busy with other ministries.
They would give whatever they could to care for these children, to love them like Jesus would, regardless of the complexity and sacrifice it would take.
In their poor communities, these couples had no one to rely on but the Lord in taking in children who not only had physical, educational, and spiritual needs, but also deep emotional scars from losing parents to war, or being abandoned, or being forced to grow up much too quickly.
God built on these acts of faith, and now there are dozens of children in these homes who have received education, food on their plates, spiritual discipleship, hope and opportunity for the future, and a family’s love.
The work of running these children’s homes continues to be messy, joyful, hard, and rewarding. And it’s all done by faith. As one of the pastors, who has 14 adopted children, said to me,
“I often do not know where I will get food for the day for my family, but so far, God has never made me fast longer than a day!”
This love is reflective of the greatest act of sacrificial love: The Lord Himself entering our world as a humble child.
Jesus not only came to save a world from sin and separation from God; His coming meant that He would know and share in human pain, temptation, and joy.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” ~ Hebrews 4:15
His example of entering into a broken world is one that we are called to follow.
The willingness of the barefoot pastors we support to enter into the lives of the people around them is a direct result of what Jesus did for all of us.
“We love because He first loved us.” ~1 John 4:19
Because of His humble birth, sacrificial death, and miraculous resurrection, these men and women choose to care for the helpless when they have little themselves, to love their enemies when they’re persecuted, to share the Gospel when it’s unpopular.
I cannot imagine a better way to “honour Christmas in my heart” all year round than to follow their example in my own life, and to support them in their work!
You can come alongside these faithful men and women this Christmas season by giving below!
“It is true that we may desire much more. But let us use what we have, and God will give us more.” ~ Adoniram Judson; 19th century missionary to Myanmar (Burma)
In December I had the privilege of meeting and worshiping with dozens of pastors, missionaries, and their congregations in Myanmar (Burma).
As their sister in Christ, it was truly a time to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. My days were spent with rural pastors and missionaries who face challenges that I have never faced, but who experience joy that comes only from complete reliance on God.
I struggled with the words to describe both the individual churches and the overall church in Myanmar, but I realized the Apostle Paul had already done it! His description of the churches of Macedonia is shockingly similar to what I found in Myanmar.
“Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.” ~ 2 Corinthians 8:1-5
From church congregations, to families, to individuals, I saw people in the midst of trials – persecution, sickness, personal loss – respond with inexplicable joy and give generously – not only of their finances, but of their lives, despite their poverty.
Not perfect people, by any means, but people who are undeniably filled with the Holy Spirit.
Khin* is one of our lead pastors. When I asked where most of his support came from (HB is only able to support these pastors modestly, and not regularly), he paused, then said,
“Well, only Jesus. We have no one else to rely on, so we have to have faith in only Him. I often do not know where I will get food for the day for my family, but so far, God has never made me fast longer than a day! But I am ready when He does. He will be faithful to sustain our ministry.”
Jia* and Xi* are a young missionary couple. As Jia was about to give birth, Xi was arrested on false charges because of their ministry. Xi was released with help from The Voice of the Martyrs, and both husband and wife continue to minister to the community that persecuted them.
Another pastor, Kyaw*, continues to serve his congregation, and share the Gospel, despite his church being burned to the ground by radical Buddhists.
A single woman, Grace*, is the only Christian in her village, yet has continued to do ministry faithfully on her own for seven years. She is supported by several churches around the country.
Than* was tortured for days in prison, after accepting Christ while in the military. When he was released he decided to become a pastor. He told me,
“It has been a joy to suffer for Christ, and to serve Him. I want others to know His joy.”
Mya* and Kyi* are two incredible women who started a successful prison ministry despite seemingly impossible barriers, great physical danger, and a financial burden on themselves.
From pastors to children, I met few who were sure of where their next meal would come from.
Yet, I met dozens of Christians who had given what they could to help with the medical bills of believers they had never met on the other side of the country.
Several pastors have adopted abandoned and orphaned children, despite the fact they hardly had enough to provide for their families beforehand.
One family has taken in 32 children whose parents were killed in a nearby civil war, in addition to their own five children. Most of the little ones were found abandoned in their homes, the woods, or on the road; it’s unlikely many would have survived had David* and his wife, Ruth*, not taken them in.
They’ve done this with no outside help, only with the support of their small village church.
A 70 year-old couple, Cho* and Aung*, have given everything they have – their land and home – to be used for the local church.
I celebrated Christmas with small churches that came together with what little they had to hold Christmas outreaches in their villages, presenting the Gospel to hundreds.
Like the churches of Macedonia, the churches of Myanmar have learned to support the Body of Christ, despite what little they have. They have given out of an abundance of joy and deep poverty, to support those in even greater need.
Harvest Bridge comes alongside those who have done something with nothing. This is a key factor in our ministry approach. This is what defines the men and women we seek to support in Myanmar.
Currently, Myanmar is the only country where our local ministry partners do not receive regular monthly support – yet these believers have taken what little they have and used it all for Christ. They have had no choice but to rely on God for everything, and so have seen great fruit in their ministries.
The Body of Christ is a part of carrying out God’s faithfulness toward these believers. We have a role to play in supporting them.
“For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality.” ~ 2 Corinthians 8:13-14
Near tears, Pastor Khin, the same one who said he was ready to fast when God called him to, told me,
“We have so many accepting Christ, but we are desperate for training to disciple these new believers.”
The men and women we come alongside in Myanmar have been faithful in what little they have.
If we followed their example of generosity, how much more could they do with the support of the global church? Not just in finances, but through discipleship resources, prayer, and encouragement from their brothers and sisters in Christ. You can join these men and women by giving below, and through prayer.
Church planting, poverty alleviation, pastor training, disaster relief, education.
Whether you’ve been supporting Harvest Bridge for years or have just begun learning about us, you probably know we are involved in all these things. At first glance, it can appear that doing so much in so many places might hinder our focus.
However, we have only one goal:
To equip South Asian Christians to serve their communities more effectively. With our assistance, people and communities in South Asia are transformed by the love of Christ.
Harvest Bridge does not create local ministries, but equips ministries that already have proven themselves to be effective. We work with those who have done much with little.
These men and women not only know their communities best, but also know what it means to give up everything to follow Jesus, and can say it is worth it.
Harvest Bridge began in 2008 and has since grown to partner with over 250 indigenous pastors and missionaries in eight countries. Through them, thousands more have received pastor training, disaster relief assistance, support for sustainable development and education programs, and more.
Our work covers Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Tibet. Three major religions, scores of languages, and numerous ancient cultures are represented in these countries.
This is why our ministry programs vary by country; in addition to a range of physical needs and resources, the spiritual needs and cultural contexts are different as well. Our goal, however, is always the same.
While our Asian partners minister in ways appropriate to the needs and traditions of their regions, our U.S. operations need to accommodate U.S. traditions as well. One of these traditions is year-end giving. In the U.S., about 30% of annual giving occurs in December. We are so thankful for those gifts and for the work they enable us to do!
The challenge for us is to fund ministry needs spread throughout the year, especially in late summer and fall when nonprofit giving hits a low point.
If you haven’t given recently, would you consider a gift to our Where Needed Most fund? This allows us to stand alongside our Asian brothers and sisters in Christ in a season when support for their work can be scarce.
“Our God is so good to us. He answered our prayers and blessed our ministry beyond our expectation. Through our prayers and ministry efforts, many sick people have been healed and found salvation. We have started Bible studies and formed home-cell groups, so that the new believers will have more chances to learn the word of God. Thank you for your support of our ministry!” ~ Church planter in Myanmar
Imagine having no type of ID, not even a birth certificate. In fact, no one in your family has any kind of identification. Without this ID, you cannot go to school, be hired at a business, open a bank account, receive legal protection, or any number of other things. And imagine that without outside help you will never be able to get this identification becauseno one trusts your stigmatized caste.
Just think of trying to break the cycle of poverty in those circumstances!
Priya*, president of GATE, aka Gypsy And Tribal Empowerment, recognizes this need. This strong woman has successfully helped many Gypsy and Tribal communities in Tamil Nadu, South India, secure personal identification. These communities are legitimately the lowest one can possibly be in the Indian Caste system, even below the Untouchable Dalit caste.
It is an uphill battle, which requires long hours of wading through red tape, standing up to government officials, and helping illiterate families fill out paperwork. However, her success has helped Harvest Bridge establish ways to secure identification for other marginalized communities throughout India, and other South Asian countries. These will be taught to other Harvest Bridge partners who are fighting for the “nonexistent” individuals in their communities.
GATE was one of Harvest Bridge’s earliest supported ministries and has seen encouraging moves forward in over 20 Gypsy and Tribal communities.
John, an 11 year old boy has been impacted by the education to which he now has access because of GATE’s advocacy.
“After regularly going to school, I have learned to be more disciplined. I have learned to dress and talk better, and to obey my parents. My friends from the village and other areas help me study and I help them. I am more mature and confident. I will be able to be employed in the future, and that is what I like about school the most. My English teacher is my favorite and it is my favorite class. The teacher encourages me and does not beat me for being a Gypsy. If another boy did not want to go to school I would tell him to go so he could learn more; I would help him learn! Because of school I can talk about more things. I have taught my parents how to read the Bible and newspaper, and how to count money. GATE and Priya encouraged me to go to school. I want to be a doctor when I grow up so I can care for my village. Please pray for my education”.