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Ministries

Women’s Empowerment & Social Enterprise

We assist local ministries in establishing vocational programs, including job training and support for micro-enterprises. 

A women’s empowerment program provides one-time investments to equip extremely poor women and their families with the skills, productive assets, and social support necessary to increase their incomes and escape poverty. The responsibility is always in the hands of each woman. They know their needs and talents best. They know what is best for their families. Sometimes that knowledge comes after some trial and error, and they have the flexibility to change what vocation they choose.

The women who are chosen to receive support are all classified as ultra poor – living below $1.25 a day. In each country with these programs, a coordinator for the projects helps the women as issues arise, so they never have to walk alone. The total cost of any of our women’s empowerment projects are $600. Each woman receives $540 and the additional $60 is to cover local and international administration.  Regardless of what vocation a woman chooses – weaving, pig raising, cooking, etc. – we pair the business item and training with additional funds to help with whatever a woman’s most urgent needs are. For example, covering their children’s school fees for several months, or helping with medical bills, or house rent for part of the year, etc. It depends on a woman’s specific needs. 

One of the reasons we provide these additional funds, is that we, and other organizations and experts, have found that without the additional help these projects typically fall flat very quickly. As soon as a family emergency happens, or there are sudden school fees, or a woman is pregnant, etc. the loom, pig, cooking supplies, etc. will often be sold for desperately needed cash if they haven’t already begun to get a profit from their work. By providing for these additional needs, the women can use those funds instead of using the business item. It also means that the first profits from selling their products can more quickly go towards savings, instead of all going to basic necessities like food or medical treatment. 

Give directly to Women’s Empowerment & Social Enterprise:

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Stories

Women’s History Month – Equality in Jesus

“In Nepal, from the early days, women are the ones who are expected to care for the family and do all the hardest work. It has been true for generations. Women do not have opportunity for education or learning job skills or being involved in social things. If they want to do something, including getting medical care, they need permission from their father or husband. I know women who have died because of this. I do not want this for my daughters’ generation.” ~Jandi* in Nepal

Jandi* is the wife of our Nepal coordinator, Shalva*, and co-leads much of the ministry with him. 

She grew up the only daughter of Sabita*, who at age eight became the first of three wives to her husband. Having become the first follower of Jesus in her family, Sabita raised her daughter with a deep love of Jesus and others, a complete reliance on Him, and an extraordinary work ethic. 

Shalva became the first believer in his own family, which belongs to the Brahmin caste – the highest social class in Nepal’s caste system. Because of his Christian faith, he was disowned by his family in his early 20s. 

Since marrying over two decades ago, Jandi and Shalva have forged a life firmly built on faith. 

Even while living in a rented flat in Kathmandu, they began to take in elderly widows to care for them in their final days. They have fed, clothed, cleaned, and defended these women, and in most cases have carried out their final wishes and funerals. Over the years, they’ve cared for 35 widows in their own home, and another 15 women outside their home. 

They did this in faith while raising their four children, trusting God to provide day to day for their physical and spiritual needs. 

In the midst of this, Shalva became a pastor, then a church planter, and then a trainer of church planters. He has helped thousands of lay pastors plant and grow thousands of churches throughout Nepal, which now has one of the fastest-growing Christian populations in the world. 

Jandi and their elders oversee the ministry of the home church, while she also does the administrative work for Shalva’s church planting. Currently, she is organizing a women’s health camp in rural parts of the country. 

This couple are called to death beds and new births; they weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.

Jandi’s passion is seeing and showing how Jesus brings equality, health, and freedom to women in her country. She has seen firsthand how meeting Jesus allows women in a society where they often face oppression to experience all three.  

She continues to share:

“Women need opportunity for education and to see and interact with the world.

One of the women who lived with us had been forced out onto the streets by her husband. Even though she should have rights to property, he would not let her have it. I talked to her brothers and after I threatened to go to the government, they spoke to her husband and now she has her property rights that will not be taken away. We have done similar things to defend other elderly women too. 

The government is encouraging people to buy property in the woman’s name so that women have some ownership. The law is there, but people ignore it. This mistreatment happens in the cities too, but in the village women don’t even know what their rights are.

Every month during menstruation, it is hard for Animist and Hindu women in rural parts of Nepal. They are mistreated and forced to stay in small huts outside. Because of this kind of attitude, women feel so much shame in talking about their health and hygiene. 

The government talks big about changing this and has torn down many huts, but these are rebuilt as soon as the government leaves. 

They are doing nothing to change hearts and minds of women and men.

Women work within the house and take care of everybody, but no one takes care of them. So women don’t share about their health, because no one asks. They have a mindset of, ‘Oh, I have a little fever, but I am ok, I will keep working’, and so they don’t do anything about ongoing health problems.

‘Who is there to listen to me?’ They think this way.

But women who know Jesus think – ‘Jesus loves me, Jesus hears me, so I can tell Him.’ 

So they share this in prayer fellowships. They are never forced, but they willingly open up. As I and other Christian female leaders in Nepal have led prayer groups, we have seen that the ladies who come to church prayer meetings feel safe to talk about their women’s health issues. 

Some are sharing their problems for the first time in their life.

Women can help each other once they know about their problems. Female leaders can give advice on what to do. God gives wisdom to us and we are encouraging treatment and helping women to go to hospitals. We will even go to the hospitals with them. We pray and then we act. 

God has given great work to the women of Nepal. 

In church fellowships we teach about hygiene, savings, and hospitality. All women, no matter their religion, can come and speak openly in these fellowships because there is no shame there. I see women who have no privilege or rights come to Christ and make a great impact on society. 

I was raised by a single mother, and I see how strong single mothers are, no matter their religion. After becoming Christians they become even stronger, they teach their children the Word of God, and they help other women.

My mother brought a woman to Christ, who brought another 25 people to Christ. She was an uneducated person, but after following Christ she began going to adult classes and got her education. This is common.

So many positive changes. Women become stronger and gain wisdom from the Lord. They are good learners and good teachers. 

When women come to Christ, it means many more people come to Christ.

Jesus changes men too. Christian men treat women differently than Hindu and Animist men in Nepal. Because they read the Bible. They read Genesis and they see that God made women in His image, not just men.

I am raising three girls, ages 21, 17 and 16, and a boy aged 12. I teach them to think positively. If there is something they want to do, do it. 

Don’t think ‘I am a boy or a girl’. You are a human, just start the work. 

Pray for women to take courage in Nepal. We must take one good step forward. Small positive steps can bring great change. We must just start.

Praying for you,

Jandi”

*Names changed for safety 

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International Women’s Day 2019

$540. 

A couple of years ago, through a generous individual donor, Harvest Bridge gave Cing*, Lun* and Lian* $540 each. These three women have taken that and have not only created a new life for their families, but are also lifting up other women with them. 

All three women were living on less than $1 a day. They were the sole providers for their children, as their husbands were uninvolved at the time for different reasons.

$540 covered a stipend for basic medical expenses for their families, school fees for their children, simple household necessities, and equipment or supplies for their chosen business. At the time, Lun chose a large loom, Lian chose a small loom, as she had training with this kind of weaving, and Cing opened a small grocery store. 

Within a few months, it became clear to Lun that the large loom was not the best option for her because she was too small to operate it for long hours without straining her body too much. She asked the expert weaver, Lian, to teach her how to use the small loom. Lian smilingly says that after only a couple of days Lun picked up on the difficult technique very quickly. So, Lun sold her large loom and purchased two smaller ones.

At the same time, Cing realized the grocery was not the best option for her, as she had young children and was constantly having the close the shop when she needed to care for them. So, she too learned from Lian and then sold her shop’s supplies to purchase her own loom. 

Two years later, all three now are weavers, weaving their culture’s traditional designs and selling their products in a nearby city. 

They combine their scarves and sell them every two weeks, taking turns to bring the goods into the city. None of them enjoy marketing and selling to individual buyers, so they found a business that buys their scarves in bulk. This means they can focus more on the work they love, and use their strengths.

They work together, out of Lun and Lian’s home. Cing works side by side with Lian, and Lun uses her second small loom to teach other women how to weave. 

Lun has now taught weaving, free of charge, to 20 other women who travel from other villages to learn from her! 

Since the three women work together, they are able to watch their children while working, and they can have flexibility in their schedule. They love that they can stop their work and take care of their families, and work at night because of the battery-powered light source we provided. 

Lun says it was a good job to have while she was pregnant, as she could work and rest at her own pace. She enjoys being able to lay her baby down next to her while she works.

Cing says they do sometimes get bored doing their work, but laughingly adds that they keep each other company and entertain one another.  

Their husbands provide very sporadically, but even without that small help, today all three women can provide for their families. 

Their children are not just going to school, they’re going to quality schools. They are not just eating. They’re eating enough and nutritious food. Lian has nearly a year’s worth of rice stored in her home, something that would have been unimaginable for her just two years ago. They are no longer living hand to mouth; they are able to save.  

Cing, with her savings, is in the process of building a real home, as she still lives in a lean-to. 

Lian built up her home and made it safer, with completed walls and a full roof. 

Lun purchased a motorbike and is able to provide for her 17-year old daughter, an aspiring doctor, to go to a high-quality boarding school in a nearby city.

When asked what advice they would give to other women who were starting this kind of work, each separately say, “patience and faithfulness.” 

They explain that this type of work is difficult; that weaving is intricate and requires a lot of mistakes before getting better. Patience in yourself is key to being successful. They recognize their opportunity is something that many women do not have access to, and want to be faithful with it. 

They want other women to have this chance to learn and provide for their families. Lun says, 

“I want other women to have the chance we have had. Please give more women this same chance! We’ll be happy to teach them!”

It’s an honor to come alongside these women and many others, and to celebrate. Happy International Women’s Day! 

*Names changed for safety

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Stories

On the banks of the Irrawaddy: Lydia’s Story

On the banks of the Irrawaddy, a 24-year old woman looks out on the river she’s grown up on. 

This is the river she worked on with her parents, carrying goods across the water by boat, after stopping her schooling at age seven with only basic reading and writing skills. Lydia* grew up a Burmese Buddhist in Myanmar (Burma), where Buddhism is the majority religion and Burmese is the majority ethnicity. 

But because of where she was born – the slums on the river – Lydia and her whole community are heavily discriminated against in their city.

While in Myanmar in January, I had the absolute privilege of spending time with Lydia, listening to her heart, enjoying her tea and hospitality, laughing and praying together, and hearing her story of how she met and was changed by Jesus.

Three years ago, while traveling out of his state to encourage local pastors in the area, one of our Myanmar ministry leaders went to share the Gospel in a slum he had recently heard of. Pastor Paul*, a natural evangelist, went from hut to hut to ask if people needed prayer, and explaining the Gospel if they were willing to listen. The Holy Spirit drew him to Lydia and he simply shared the Gospel with her. 

She had heard about Jesus before from a friend who had recently become interested in Christianity. But until she met Pastor Paul, Lydia never felt confident enough to ask questions. He listened well, he was kind, and he understood her fear of how her Buddhist family and community would treat her if she believed. 

As Paul left, he challenged her to try praying to Jesus directly: telling Him what she wanted, asking Him her questions. 

Three months later, they met again. 

In that time, she had taken Paul up on his challenge – Lydia had seen Jesus work in her life and answer her prayers, and had decided to follow Him – becoming the first follower of Jesus in her community. 

Three years later, Lydia has seen 16 adults in her community – both men and women – begin following Jesus, including her mother and grandmother. 

With laughter and the biggest smile, she showed me her mother’s container that had held their Buddha statue. After she accepted Christ, Lydia’s mother threw the statue into the Irrawaddy and now the container holds a printed Burmese Christmas hymn. A simple but bold statement.  

Pastor Paul, seeing leadership potential in Lydia, connected her with another local pastor, Maung*. This pastor and his wife began discipling Lydia. Now, with their help, she leads a Bible study for the 16 other believers. 

When first praying to Jesus, one of Lydia’s prayer requests was for a sewing machine and tailoring classes. Through a relative, she was able to get the machine and the training, and she is now working as a seamstress out of her lean-to on the river. Together with other women – both Buddhist and Christian – she has plans to help women gain trade skills or start businesses.

Lydia is uniquely gifted to lead and encourage this community. 

As I sat outside Lydia’s home, I met with several of the people who had come to faith through Lydia’s testimony. She is clearly a natural leader, with both women and men, Christians and Buddhists respecting her opinions and thoughts. I saw a combination of strength, humor, compassion, joy, responsibility, and wisdom in this 24-year old woman. 

Tears filled her eyes, and mine, as she shared the challenges of this young church.

Many never learned to read and so cannot read the Bible for themselves. They work from dawn till dusk, seven days a week, making it difficult to meet regularly. Many are ostracized by their families for their new faith. It was a precious thing to hold hands and pray together over these needs, and to praise God for all He has done in this slum.

These are challenges that Lydia understands intimately, and so, along with Pastor Maung’s guidance and the Holy Spirit, we look forward to seeing this community grow. 

This is why Harvest Bridge exists – to come alongside believers like Pastor Paul and Maung and Lydia, and join them in reaching their communities for Christ. Thank you for partnering with us in this!

In Christ,

Kate Therese, Director of Mobilization 

*Names changed for safety 

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International Women’s Day ~ Thank You Sisters

International Women’s Day is, according to the UN, “a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.”

Thankfully, Harvest Bridge gets to celebrate women like this all year long! We have the privilege of coming alongside many incredible South Asian women who have indeed played extraordinary roles in their countries and communities.

Women who are first responders in disasters and medical emergencies. Women who start prison ministries and organize vocational training programs. Women who, while raising their own families, pour into other children. Women who share the Gospel in remote areas, lead church plants, and baptize villages.

They are single, married, and widowed. They are young and old. They are Christians who come from Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim backgrounds. All are women who walk in the strength of Christ.

These are women who will most likely never have movies made of them because of the languages they speak, and the remote areas where they live. Women whose identities we have to protect because of the persecution they face due to their Christian faith. Their strength and example runs deep. 

So as we celebrate “acts of courage and determination by ordinary women”, I want to thank these sisters who have not only changed the lives of those around them, but who have also deeply shaped my own life.

To the women who have expanded my view of womanhood because of how you have both embraced and changed your culture, thank you.

Mya*, thank you for showing undivided devotion to God’s calling.

As a 30 year old single woman, in a culture that is often unkind to single women, you show strength and dedication. Often you do not know where you’ll be sleeping at night, because you go wherever God leads. Supporting yourself by teaching English, you travel throughout Myanmar (Burma) to share the Gospel and plant churches. You have helped start three prison ministries, and they’re men’s prisons! Through you, so many have heard the Gospel, and so many have been touched by your genuine kindness and compassion.

“I just want to live my whole life for the Glory of God. I do not want to rest because I have such a short time on this earth.” ~Mya

Bina*, thank you for exemplifying what it looks like to be a mother and missionary.

You have intentionally taken each of your four children to remote villages in Nepal with you as you share the Gospel. You have taught your three daughters and your son to love those around them regardless of caste or religion. From you, they have learned that that exhaustion, persecution, and sacrifice are a natural part of loving others and serving Christ. And from you, they have also learned what joy, compassion, and love look like. 

“We love everyone, in the name of Jesus. And I know, and I believe, that God created woman and man in Jesus’ image. So there is no partiality between the high caste and low caste. We don’t believe it.” ~Bina

Amira*, thank you for putting your life on the line by holding Bible studies. 

You have brought the Gospel to women who are not allowed to leave their homes because of strict religious law. After literally being thrown out of some homes, you have continued, despite the threat to our own life. House churches are forming in Muslim homes in Pakistan because of your dedication.

“If I had not gone to them, I say with confidence that perhaps they would have never heard the gospel. Though I also confess that it was truly God who sent me to them.” ~Amira

Divya*, thank you for taking action when you saw the reality of girls in the town you had just moved to. 

You realized that when you started a school, you had to focus on enrolling girls. Child brides were common in your area of North India in the early 2000s. So you went to dozens of homes, drinking tea and carrying food, to speak with parents about the importance of their daughters being educated. Before taking physical action, you addressed the deep concerns of the culture around you. 10 years later, most girls in your town are attending school, and child brides are much less common.

“When we came we saw that many female children were not educated, because the parents were burdened with paying for their marriage instead. We had a burden in our hearts…We now educate the parents, teaching them their children are the future of India.” ~Divya

Dina*, thank you for being the woman that your husband calls “his wisdom”. 

Never have I met someone who prays the way you do. With such conviction and with such consistency. You have the most beautiful combination of wisdom, boldness, and gentleness. When a baby is born or a loved one is dying, you are the first person called by Christian, Muslim, and Hindu friends and acquaintances. You are the hands and feet of Jesus.

“Our Lord continues to show He is alive through the miracles He does through our team, and the church. Praise Him!” ~Dina

So, to the women who have demonstrated how to serve others without expecting thanks or praise, thank you. To the women who have shown me I can question God while still serving Him, thank you. To the women who have taught me to love my enemies, thank you. You know that God views you as equal, even when many around you say the opposite. That conviction has changed lives.

Thank you, sisters.

In Christ, 

Kate Therese

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Stories

The Heart Behind The Harvest

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

In Christ, 

Kate Therese

Director of Mobilization