The first time Tanul tried alcohol, it must have burned his throat and boiled in his belly. Unpleasant as it was, it would not be the last time he put his lips around the bottle. In fact—like the poverty he was born into—it became his constant companion. By the time Tanul was a teenager, he drank regularly. Like most young men in his rural village, Tanul filled his body with alcohol to erase the shame of poverty from his heart and mind. This destructive habit would follow Tanul as he began to build a life for himself.
When Tanul married, he did not lay aside his drinking. As the burden of caring for a family increased, so did his time with the bottle. Children came, and Tanul was unable to provide adequate food for his family or cover school fees—making a hopeful future for them impossible. Tanul was stuck in a vicious cycle, and the more he drank, the less hirable he became.
Tanul's journey is not an isolated incident. It's a problem all over the world; alcoholism and poverty go hand-in-hand. Though it is not proventhat one always leads to the other, there is an ugly, symbiotic relationship. As alcohol consumption increases, employability decreases. While employment dries up, many use drinking to ease the shame, which exacerbates the cycle. Often, the only work left for alcoholics in Asia is manual labor for which they are hired on a day-by-day basis. Because of the difficulty—and sometimes the impossibility—for the poor to rise above these employment options, many turn to alcohol to ease poverty's sting. The stress of not knowing if you will find work each day inflates the problem.
As Tanul's family fell apart, another near relation to the twin problems of alcoholism and poverty arrived: domestic violence. Coming home intoxicated and angry, Tanul began abusing his wife and children daily. The little money he earned went to supporting his addiction. This family, plagued by poverty, alcoholism and domestic violence, was living out the well-worn path blazed by many of the world's extreme poor. Without access to education, Maahir, Tanul's son, seemed doomed to tread the path his father laid before him.
Tanul's family was plagued by poverty, alcoholism and domestic violence.
Eventually, Tanul stopped working completely and left the burden of providing for the family in his adolescent son's hands. Maahir found one of the few jobs available for uneducated youth—washing dishes in a local hotel—to provide the little food the family had to keep death at bay.
Extreme poverty, like that experienced by Tanul's family, exists all over the world—in developed, developing and under-developed countries alike. Extreme poverty, a classification distinct from poverty, encompasses those unable to provide for daily means of survival.
Pastor Teja, who has a church in a nearby village, met Tanul's family one day when he was offering prayer for families in need. The GFA-supported pastor saw the pitiful condition of this family, and his heart was heavy. He saw pain etched on their faces. The family invited him back to pray for them, and a friendship began. Tanul's family began to attend Pastor Teja's church. Then members of the church continually prayed for Tanul's deliverance from alcohol—the thing that bound them to the poverty they lived in. Through their faithful prayers and Pastor Teja's counseling, Tanul overcame his addiction to alcohol. The Lord completely transformed Tanul's heart!
For the first time, Tanul's family experienced freedom—freedom as a gift from God above that trickled down into their hearts and flowed toward each other in love. This freedom from bondage gave them hope for the future. But in the present, they were still stuck in the poverty trap.
Tanul overcame his addiction to alcohol through the counsel of Pastor Teja and the faithful prayers of believers.
Tanul now took his responsibilities as a father and husband seriously and sought work to provide for his family. Despite Tanul's and Maahir's efforts, they could not get enough work to support the family. They each took what employment they could get, earning only enough for daily sustenance. Without help, they could not invest in their own source of income or education to get a skilled job.
This predicament of the extreme poor—not being able to find work that will support a family's daily needs—is one of the basic issues addressed by world leaders and organizations dedicated to alleviating poverty around the globe. One expert working with the Borgen Project, a non-profit dedicated to fighting global poverty, is convinced the first step1 in reducing cyclic extreme poverty is helping the poor create their own businesses. This is the very thing many GFA-supported pastors and missionaries can do with income-producing gifts provided by donors all over the world.
Pastor Teja knew that Tanul needed a way to earn enough income to support his family. He arranged to hold a gift distribution and presented Tanul with a rickshaw—something he never could have afforded on his own. Tanul was overcome with gratitude at God's provision.
With his new gift, Tanul loaded vegetables onto his rickshaw and began selling throughout the village—even delivering produce to customers' homes. His neighbors were grateful to have vegetables delivered right to their doorstep. They saw the love and grace of God in his face, and he quickly became some the villagers' favorite produce vendor.
God blessed Tanul's diligence and hard work, enabling him to earn a good income selling vegetables. Setting his own prices and being able to keep all his earnings, Tanul had enough money to send Maahir to school to learn a skilled trade. Maahir completed his education and started working as a carpenter. The two men now adequately support their growing family, including Maahir's wife and two children.
Tanul acknowledges the moment his life was changed by the love of God. But he also sees God's provision to break free of the poverty trap by receiving a rickshaw.
The employment independence Tanul received with his rickshaw was the first step in escaping extreme poverty, which also released his son and future generations from experiencing the same. Self-employment frees those trapped in the cycle of poverty from discrimination, unfair business practices and job insecurity, which are circumstances the poor and uneducated are vulnerable to. Gifts like rickshaws, sewing machines and water buffalo are the means to break free from the bondage of poverty and to set thousands of families on a new course of self-sufficiency and hope for future generations.
As the nations of the world tackle the issue of extreme poverty, countries like China, Ethiopia and India have seen a dramatic decrease in the numbers of extreme poor during the last 10 years2—in India the poverty rate has dropped from 51 percent of the population in 1990 to 22 percent of the population in 2015.3 But the fight against extreme poverty is not finished—736 million people in 2015 were still living on less than $1.90 a day.4 Almost half of these people reside5 in the countries where GFA supports national workers. Together, we can make a lasting difference in the lives of those caught in the extreme poverty trap.
Join us in providing pastors, missionaries and other national workers with tools to lift those in their communities out of the harsh poverty trap. Order GFA's Christmas Gift Catalog to share with your church, family and friends. You can also browse the list of income-producing gifts for needy families in Asia online.
*Names of people and places may have been changed for privacy and security reasons. Images are GFA stock photos used for representation purposes and are not the actual person/location, unless otherwise noted.Previous Article Next Article