Providing food. Sharing the gospel.
On March 5th, ITMI’s David and Taru received the news that their state was mandating their small preschool close. This was in effort to stymie the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Their school is located in and serves families living in an impoverished and marginalized Muslim slum. The children who attend Deepam School - which simply means, “the lamp” - depend on the school for two meals a day.
The children who attend Deepam depend on the school for two meals a day.
Living conditions of families in the slum make staying at home tough.
David and Taru were immediately worried about their students and how they would fare.
Then, these impoverished families were ordered to stay at home. Quickly, the situation grew desperate.
These are not families who have pantries full of supplies from Costco. These are people who leave their homes each morning in hopes that they will earn a few cents to purchase food for that day.
Not being able to leave means not being able to eat.
Sanjana's father is a daily laborer, so the stay-at-home mandate put a swift halt to any income he might have the opportunity to earn.
Like many men in this slum, a lifetime of degradation and hardship has driven him to an alcohol addiction. Often, those funds never make it into the plastic bowls and scavenged dishes the family eats from.
Sanjana is one of about 35 children who attended Deepam school daily, where she had the chance to learn that Jesus cares about her and his family.
Through daily lessons and David and Taru’s example, she absorbed the message that she needs a Savior, and that she can call on Jesus to help her. She also gets two healthy meals on school days, so even when her father drinks the family’s food money, Sanjana gets to eat.
But all that changed when Deepam had to close to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
One of David and Taru’s supporters understood the desperation of the situation for these families and acted fast.
“Helping with these basic needs is vital and shows God’s loving and gracious hand,” shared this donor.
They helped David and Taru purchase bulk quantities of rice, lentils, oil and salt to help these downtrodden families eat.
Children from the slum arrive with their families - who had special permission from police - to pick up food at Deepam School, provided by an ITMI supporter.
On Good Friday, just days after the order to stay at home was made, David and Taru distributed 61 bags of food that would feed families for at least two weeks.
Sanjana’s mother arrived with another mother to pick up food bags. They were about to witness proof that what David and Taru have been sharing with them about this Jesus who cares deeply about them and their needs - isn’t just an empty claim.
All of the recipients, including Sanjana’s mother, were steeped in gratitude.
In response to their sincere thanks, Taru said, "It is not me who brought you this help but Jesus who knows you has sent this help... thank Jesus and believe in Him."
"Yes, ma’am it is true,” the two mothers agreed. But they didn’t just stop there. “Ma’am,” she said, “can you please pray for us?”
“It was a great opportunity for Taru to share about how God is concerned and cares for everyone, irrespective of who we are, but you need to believe Him and pray to Him for all your needs,” David reflects. That was the birth of Project Joseph. Through initiatives like this, God is giving opportunities to David and Taru to scatter seeds of God’s truth and hope in hearts darkened by hurt, poverty and a religion of hopelessness.
Project Joseph gains momentum.
Over the course of his partnership with Ruben, Timothy has watched him mature into a godly shepherd who knows the Bible and is a leader in his village.
Last month, Ruben and his wife were praying. Their village was hungry.
The Lord has blessed Ruben’s faithfulness and he has a piece of land that yielded well this year. Ruben and his wife had been wise, followed Joseph’s Biblical example and saved a portion of their surplus.
But what they had wouldn’t feed the whole village. “How do we decide who to give our extra to?” they prayed.
Tim had given Ruben a cell phone, but as of the day prior, Ruben’s phone had been completely broken and unusable.
Then something unexplainable happened.
The phone was lying next to Ruben when it caught his eye because it lit up. To test it, Ruben posted, “Hi, how are you?” on Facebook.
He didn’t know that on the other side of the world, ITMI’s Steve Evers was trying to make contact with him, but didn’t have Ruben’s phone number. With a pandemic taking the globe by storm, Steve wanted to see how Ruben’s family and village was faring.
But he had hit a wall trying to locate Ruben’s contact information.
Ruben’s test Facebook post appeared just as Steve was unsuccessfully trying to locate Ruben on Facebook. Steve responded right away to Ruben’s post. Steve and Ruben had a 30-40 minute conversation on a “dead” phone, which resulted in Ruben being one of the first to join what Steve is calling “The Joseph Project”.
Steve is calling ITMI partners to follow Joseph’s example during what is becoming for many in third world places, a quarantine-induced famine.
He is asking them to store up and accumulate any supplies they can and use them to sustain God’s people and others in need for the advancement of the Gospel.
Steve is also asking God’s people here to help by sharing some of what is in our storehouses, too.
We were blessed to be able to respond quickly to the needs in Ruben’s village, enabling Ruben to show this village that the Lord alone is their provider and that He cares and is capable of providing from places our limited view can’t predict.
He can use a broken cell phone and He can use broken people to move forward His mission to redeem and restore what was severed by the rebellion of mankind.
A hungry widow sheds tears of gratitude.
In the unstable economy of South Sudan, it didn’t take long for the global pandemic to inflate the prices of food and other commodities.
Our partners there report many are fearful of the Coronavirus, so they remain at home. Perhaps their fear isn’t all that irrational. There are 4 ventilators and 24 ICU beds in the whole country.
But for many, remaining at home means a day away from any income producing activities, and that means an immediate lack of food for their families. For others, their income is dependent on foot traffic, and most of that has dried up.
ITMI’s Lazarus Yezinai’s ministry has long consisted of visits and provision of food for widows and their families. But it is even more crucial for these vulnerable families than ever.
ITMI’s Lazarus Yezinai’s ministry has long included of visits and provision of food for widows and their families.
One widow Lazarus visited had been without food for several days.
When he arrived unexpectedly with food and supplies, her tears of relief and gratitude mingled with her sincere expressions of thanks to Lazarus’ partners who made this provision possible.
Now there are many more in need than ever before. Single mothers who observed the interaction from their straw huts approached Lazarus, expressing their equally dire needs.
Lazarus expressed his own gratitude to ITMI and the partners who have joined him in his ministry in the destitute country, and for the help that has been provided to him as he “focuses to evangelize and disciple people for Christ.”
Our partners lead the way with giving.
ITMI’S CHARL AND SONJA VAN WYK quickly realized what stay-at-home orders would mean for many of their brothers and sisters living in informal settlements whose income would severely limit their ability to “stock up” for needing to stay at home for weeks.
It would mean immediate hunger.
The van Wyk family, South Africa
These are faithful and dedicated believers, many of whom have come to the Lord through ministries the van Wyks, ITMI’s Mark and Cyndi Parris and Bradley and Sonja Kuhn are involved with among the impoverished living in informal settlements like Stone Hill.
Homes in Stone Hill, South Africa
Starting mid-April, with money from their own pockets, Charl and Sonja provided 50 children in one settlement, Khayelitsha, and 10 families (40 persons) in Gugulethu, another settlement, with food for two weeks.
“We have a great opportunity in spreading the message of Christ’s sacrifice, salvation and promise of eternal life to people around the world, as the Lord calls each of us to do,” Charl says.
Charl also sent his supporters an email offering them the same opportunity he and Sonja had seized in Khayelitsha and Gugulethu. He offered them the opportunity to bless 1200 needy families in Stone Hill with enough food to last for a month.
“This is a massive endeavor,” Charl wrote. “Blessing 1,200 families sheltering in shacks with a 10kg (22lb) bag each of maize meal, prayer and Gospel literature commands dedicated volunteers (which thankfully, we have in abundance), logistical coordination (which we’re refining) and resources well beyond our traditional means. Thankfully, we can rely on a Mighty God, and the family of believers who share our mandate to disciple the nations. We are not only hopeful that God will hear our prayers and bless our efforts - we anticipate it!”
The amount needed to accomplish Charl’s massive endeavor of purchasing 2100 bags of food at $4.95 each, was USD 5,940.
Charl’s supporters responded immediately, sending a combined total of over $17,000 so that the Gospel could be shared with the needy in South Africa through the provision of food! What isn’t used in Stone Hill will be shared among Chrarl’s other projects, who also work with people in great need.
As for the hungry, their physical needs are being met and their spiritual need for Jesus is made known.
But that’s not all.
The people in Stone Hill who will benefit from this endeavor of Charl’s aren’t random hungry people.
They are people Charl and other believers have been reaching and discipling for over a decade. And while one-off feedings may or may not yield individual salvations in and of themselves, this outreach has a long-term proven track record of effectiveness.
Now there are growing Christians living in Stone Hill, leading with godly lives while reaching their neighbors and friends with the love of Jesus and the Good News of the Bible.
Soldiers for Christ is a group of Stone Hill young men who have committed their lives to Christ.
Give us your family's food!
ITMI’S PAUL AND MOLLY are quarantined at their village home with all their children. They are overwhelmingly thankful for this time to be all together after a year spent in multiple homes, though it isn’t permanent. It has been a much-needed time of discipleship and healing. But it hasn’t been without its challenges.
Local authorities stopped by to demand that Paul share his food with the locals from nearby villages.
Though they were already finding it difficult to feed their family of 25 during this time, Paul graciously complied, leaving his own family with even greater challenges.
It is also a challenge to be separated from their church who looks to them for desperately needed encouragement from God’s Word. Without their shepherd, many new believers feel lost and unable to access spiritual truth through God’s Word on their own.
Paul regularly teaches them that as believers, they can read their Bibles and have been given access to the Father through Jesus’ work on the cross. But this countercultural idea takes years to unravel, and many aren’t there yet.
Paul has been teaching via the internet in place of Sunday gatherings and other meetings, but many of these impoverished believers don’t have access to the internet.
Like the other places mentioned, this pandemic has opened new doors in India, too. Paul and Molly, have already delivered food to widows from their church who were in need.
Although Molly was concerned that riots might ensue, because they of course wouldn’t have enough for everyone who was in need, members of Paul’s church staff were able to accomplish their mission without any unrest.
Thanks to the generosity of our supporters and the wisdom of ITMI’s leaders to keep funds available, ITMI was able to respond quickly to the needs of our partners and help Paul and Molly share Jesus through the provision of food in the “untouchables” village.
A family from the village of people who are labeled "untouchable" by their society.
Catching the Last Flight Back to the US
“Get max back to the US” was the advice ITMI’s Richard and Brooke Nungesser were given early last month.
Since birth, their middle son, Max, has struggled with his respiratory system, which puts him at the highest of risk for a case of COVID-19 with complications. The missionary family was able to get on the US Embassy’s last flight out of Poland and have arrived in Arizona.
Richard continues to shepherd his church online as he was doing before leaving Poland.
Bread of Life continues safely delivering food to impoverished families that come to the New Life Center regularly to pick up food. This gives them regular interaction with the believers who are there to offer love and the Gospel.
The Lord is at work behind these difficult times.
We are honored and blessed to be alongside Him, reaching and loving His people, and those who will be His soon.
If you haven’t had the chance to get in on this unique opportunity to demonstrate and declare the Good News, it’s not too late! Now is a great time to join the Project Joseph cause.
About the Author
Steve Evers has advocated for and served the ITMI partners as ITMI Director since 2001. Approximately once a year, Steve visits with ITMI partners in their countries and brings stories back to encourage supporters. Steve enjoys photography and mechanics, (both hobbies that have greatly benefited ITMI partners!) Prior to becoming ITMI's Director, Steve served on the Board of Directors for 4 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.