In the small village of Sugapahari in rural East India, six children and their parents worked tirelessly, day after day, as indentured slaves. They toiled in the fields, digging, planting, harvesting, and tending to the animals. At the end of each evening they receive their payment from the Landowner: a small bowl of rice to share. Then they go to sleep, all eight of them, in a one-room shack, a little larger than an SUV. When the sun rises they do it all over again.
How did this happen? It all began three generations ago, when the grandfather borrowed a small amount of money in order to buy sacrifices to appease an evil spirit that was plaguing his family. He was unable to pay back the debt, and as a result became a slave to the man from whom he had borrowed the money. Over time, his children also became slaves. Then their children became slaves. Eventually, the purpose of the original debt was forgotten and a life of slavery was all this man and his family knew.
One day a local church planter told this man about Jesus and opened his eyes to the Gospel of hope and salvation. The man became a believer and soon his wife and children accepted Christ as well. They wanted to attend the local house church which met in their village, but because of their obligation to the landowner, they were not able to attend church regularly.
This caught the attention of the church leaders who investigated the issue and discovered that this man and his family were living in slavery. They met with the landowner and inquired about the amount of the debt. The landowner revealed little if any information, but challenged them, “You don’t have enough money to buy their freedom.” The church leaders then asked, “What price will set this family free?” The landowner then informed them there was no price to discuss; the family was his property and they were ‘not for sale.’
But the church leaders persisted. They had been taught that everything and everyone belongs to God, and as faithful stewards in this local community, it was their responsibility to invoke change. Because of this teaching, the church members worldview shifted dramatically. They no longer saw the impossibility of poverty; instead, they saw the possibility of local solutions through local funding.
The church prayed. Eventually the church leaders’ persistence wore down the landowner. He finally conceded to give them a price; a very high price. So the church members gathered together, and combined their resources – money, crops, animals, whatever they had – and each person gave generously and joyfully. It took several weeks, but they generated enough cash to pay off the debt. The landowner was not pleased, but there was nothing he could do. The family’s freedom had been purchased.
Life for this man and his family has changed drastically. Many people who knew this man previously are astonished by the person he has become. Today people can be heard saying things like, “He stands up and lifts his head high saying ‘I can build my house, I can send my children to school, I can provide for my family, I can go to church,’ and you just see the shine on his face!” With the prayers of the church, and the support of the church leaders, he has begun a ministry to indentured slaves in his region. He is telling them the stories of Jesus, leading them to Christ, and helping them break the bonds of slavery.
The people of the village are blown away by the tremendous transformation they see in this man and his family. Like a blind man who now sees, he gives generously to his church and gives inspiration to others like him who are in need.