India Community Thrives Off 'A Handful of Rice'

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One of the poorest areas of India boasts a thriving Christian community that not only supports itself financially, but has also managed to send out hundreds of missionaries.

Behind their success is a simple practice called "a handful of rice."

Lalua lives in a tiny, remote village in Mizoram. Her family sustains on a meager income of less than $1 a day.

Despite abject poverty, simple women like Lalua are spearheading a revolution that's sweeping the world of missions.

"Buhfai tham" is a practice where each Mizo family puts aside a handful of rice every time they cook a meal. Later, they gather it and offer it to the church.

The church, in turn, sells the rice and generates income to support its work.

"Rice has been the staple food of the people of Mizoram. You are giving what is basic, essential, fundamental to your life. You are sharing that with God," explained Dr. Roger Gaikwad, with Aizawl Theological College.

With the passage of time, people have given more than rice. Vegetables, firewood, cereals, and their regular tithes are also given, empowering the church to be self-sufficient.

"Mizoram state is the most backward state in India. And we are the poorest of the poor, but still we can raise funds for the ministry of the Lord," said Rev. Zosangliana Colney, leader of Mizoram Presbyterian Church.

"At the close of this last fiscal year we received altogether around 13 million U.S. dollars. Out of that, 12 percent of our total income is from the 'handful of rice' collection," he added.

With 1,800 missionaries in India and many overseas, the Mizoram church is known as a missionary church around the world. This success is attributed to their selfless and creative giving.

"It is not our richness or our poverty that make us serve the Lord, but our willingness," Colney said. "So we Mizo people say, 'As long as we have something to eat every day, we have something to give to God every day.'"

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