This article was originally published in the May 2021 edition of ITMI Monthly.
“Though temporary and fleeting food was a crucial part of Project Joseph, the project was, from its beginning, about lasting impact.”
When word of pandemic-related lockdowns first reached us, it seemed for a moment that many of our partners’ ministries would grind to a halt. Schools that were the main point of contact with needy families would be closed. Churches wouldn’t be able to gather.
Home visits were prohibited. While we in the States quickly pivoted to move our work, churches, home groups and schools online, that wasn’t an option for many around the world.
But as we look back at what has happened since this time last year, there can be no doubt that our partners were busier than ever with unexpected opportunities to share the Good News with new groups of people during the pandemic!
Quickly, the situation became dire for those making just enough each day to buy food for dinner that night. People needed food and they needed hope - both of which were in extremely short supply.
Governments wouldn’t allow churches to meet, but they would allow people to hold things like hand-washing clinics, and a Gospel message could be included.
ITMI’s role became clear: help our partners make the most of these God-orchestrated opportunities. Project Joseph was born.
Since the inception of Project Joseph, we’ve distributed over $150,000USD that was specifically earmarked for sharing the Gospel through food distribution outreaches.
Impoverished or hurting families in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Sudan, India, Pakistan, Poland, Romania and Moldova have been exposed to the Gospel and reached with the provision of food.
Our partners involved the local church or other local para-church groups in these outreaches, ensuring that God’s people were on-hand to offer themselves for redemptive and discipleship relationships.
Though temporary and fleeting food was a crucial part of Project Joseph, the project was, from its beginning, about lasting impact.
Lasting Impact: New Believers
For those who accepted the Lord while attending one of Lazarus Yezinai’s hand washing clinics in Juba, South Sudan through these outreaches, the eternal impact cannot be understated.
The same can be said for families in India who received food packages through Project Joseph outreaches done by David and Taru Kumar in conjunction with the local church.
B. Jayaraj is a 72-year-old pastor from Guntakal in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Jayaraj was once a gambler and a drunkard. While laying on a sickbed in 1984, he gave his heart and life to Jesus. He repented and asked Jesus to forgive his sins and for grace to be His witness.
Since then, Pastor Jayaraj has shared his testimony to every one wherever he had an opportunity, and in recent years has been preaching the Gospel and discipling the church in two small villages.
During a Project Joseph outreach with the Kumars, the door was open for this local pastor to share the Gospel and lead multiple families to the saving knowledge of Christ. Today they are members of a local church nearby.
“This is just one of few cases,” David said, and rejoices, “This brings glory to the name of the Lord!”
Mary John, displaced from her home in South Sudan, gave her life to Christ at Lazarus’ hand washing clinic.
A young mother, displaced from her home in South Sudan gave her life to Christ at Lazarus’ hand washing clinic.
Pastor Jayaraj prays with Project Joseph recipient to receive Christ!
Pastor Jayaraj with new believers, now members of their local church.
Lasting Impact: Seeds Planted
One of the first Project Joseph distributions was done by Charl van Wyk and his project leader, Pastor Vuyo. Vuyo is an ex-gangster who planted a church in a tough and impoverished neighborhood.
As he and his church made Project Joseph visits to deliver food, they found that many of those who didn’t make salvation decisions right away responded eagerly to the food parcel, the visit from the believers and their Gospel message. Many expressed interest in a relationship with Vuyo’s church.
ITMI’s Lazarus Yezinai, in South Sudan, reported that a group of three ladies who were taking care of 6 children who were orphaned during the war of 2016 were convinced by the love in action and the message of the Gospel they experienced through Project Joseph to bring their children to church so that they could grow in Christ.
“One lady who isn’t a Christian at all,” Olga writes, “volunteered to help our ministry in Stone Hill last year during the COVID-19 pandemic and she is still helping today. We reached out to her and we are slowly seeing the progress, she even joined our evening church service.”
Olga Tshikovhi, one of Charl's project leaders in Stone Hill, South Africa.
Lasting Impact: Redemptive Relationships Lead to Obedience
Sometimes the Project Joseph outreaches have led to redemptive relationships that develop between our partners or the local church and people whose path they might not have crossed without the Project Joseph outreach.
Leah, another local missionary Charl worked with on Project Joseph, shared this testimony,
“Through Project Joseph, we brought hope to a single mother of two who was hopeless. She didn't know what to do. She had no money for rent but we reached to her with the message of hope, pointing her to the Lord Jesus and encouraged her to continue trusting God no matter what she is going through, God is faithful and present and He will help.
Through meeting with her and talking to her she has grown in her faith, trusting God.
Now she spends time in prayer and she knows that nothing is impossible with God and that no matter what, Jesus does listen to her cries and He will never leave her. She had separated from her husband 5 years ago. This year, in March she called and asked him to forgive her because now she has surrendered her life to Jesus.
We praise the Lord for [what He has done through] Project Joseph.”
Leah is supported by our partner Mark Parris’ Church, Durbanville Community Church in South Africa and works with Hope Under the Bridge, a ministry to people who live in shacks and cardboard homes – literally – under a bridge, near Cape Town.
Through Project Joseph, Olga was also given opportunities to develop redemptive relationships with people in Stone Hill, where she lives and ministers.
“Through Project Joseph I have reached out to a couple of children in my community and have managed to build new relationships with a few; the project blessed me with more brothers and sisters in Christ,” Olga says.
Lasting Impact: Body of Christ Demonstrating the Gospel
“In our context and culture, people care about whether you are trustworthy or not….and Project Joseph made it possible to build relationships with those we might never have otherwise met - the servanthood of those ministering through this project spoke volumes in terms of “trust”!
-Olga Tshikovhi, Stone Hill
Another way Project Joseph has been instrumental in lasting impact has been aiding the local Body of Christ in demonstrating the Gospel they are declaring.
Stepping out in faith and risking their own well-being to demonstrate the love of Christ to their neighbors became a stepping stone on the journey to Christ-likeness for many.
In Stone Hill, the Project Joseph outreaches provided growth opportunities for young men from the Soldiers for Christ. Olga wrote,
“When our Project Joseph vegetable garden started to supply our soup kitchen with fresh, ‘homegrown’ vegetables, we decided to bring some young men from Stone Hill to come and learn, help, and earn. Siwaphiwe (18-year-old Soldier for Christ) immediately volunteered to help.
Our young men have been volunteering a couple of days a month. We advised them to use their hard-earned stipends wisely, to tithe, and to also save.”
Siwaphiwe learned well. From his meager, hard earned funds, he gave to the Lord’s work, saved his money and made a few responsible purchases, such as a school uniform.
Siwaphiwe, 18, (middle right) and his fellow Soldiers for Christ, growing in Christ through helping with Project Joseph.
“In our context and culture nobody cares if your product, service or story is great; people care about whether you are trustworthy or not….and Project Joseph made it possible to build relationships with those we might never have otherwise met – the servanthood of those ministering through this project spoke volumes in terms of “trust”!
The children of ITMI’s Casa Dorca Children’s Home in the remote village of Prilipet, Romania were involved in the purchasing, preparing and delivering of food parcels to impoverished families in their rural area. Some of them even offered to contribute to the cause from their meager allowances.
Casa Dorca Director, Ionel Lovescu, wrote, “I saw tears in our kids’ eyes when they saw the poor conditions all around that the families had [in the needy Romanian village]. Some of our children reached out and recognized how blessed they are to be part of the ministry that is Casa Dorca.”
Ionel also observed that many of the Casa Dorca children were shocked by the extremely poor conditions that all of the families lived in. He says, “Some of them told me that they remembered and even knew what it was like because they had the same conditions at their homes,” before coming to Casa Dorca.
Casa Dorca children help deliver food provisions to the poor in their community.
Impoverished conditions of Casa Dorca’s Project Joseph recipients. (Romania)
A family in Prilipet, Romania welcomes a Project Joseph delivery from Casa Dorca children and staff.
Ionel encouraged them to share what they know about Jesus. Though many were timid to do so, this first experience in sharing the Gospel with impoverished families they don’t yet know, may be the first of many, serving as a learning experience that can be built upon when future opportunities arise.
Lazarus, too, involved children from his church in the preparations for his hand-washing clinics, giving them the opportunity to participate in the sharing of the Gospel and serving of others at a young and formative age.
Children from Lazarus’ church learn to serve as they help with a hand washing clinic outreach.
Project Joseph has also helped our partners and the local believers demonstrate how the body of Christ cares for one another by making sure that pastors were not forgotten.
Project Joseph has helped many of the Lord’s servants and shepherds, who faced dire situations during the pandemic.
This was a necessary demonstration of how the body of Christ cares for one another and that the Lord honors His servants who are faithful. It also helped ensure these shepherds could continue encouraging and leading their flocks for the advancement of the Kingdom.
David Kumar writes that the pastors helped said,
“Our churches are small and the believers are poor, the collection of the offerings are few hundred rupees (100 rupees = $1.34 USD), now due to lockdown we are unable to pay our house rents, electricity bills and unable to buy medicine even. The donation you have blessed us with will help us to pay house rent or pay electricity bill or buy medicine.”
He also told us of Grace and Gloria, two grown daughters of a faithful Indian pastor, Nathaniel, who died when the girls were young. A few years ago, Grace was widowed and became a single mother when her husband was killed in a train accident.
Gloria is also single, but these two Christian women have been faithful to serve the Lord even during difficult circumstances. The Project Joseph provision that they were given was much cause for rejoicing and honoring the Lord. It helped them carry on their father’s ministry.
ITMI’s Paul and Molly, too, made sure needy pastors in India were cared for through Project Joseph food parcels. These pastors feel overlooked and forgotten, but the food parcels go a long way to communicate God’s care for them, strengthen their marriages and keep them serving their marginalized and persecuted flocks.
One of 200 destitute but faithful pastors in India blessed by Project Joseph!
ITMI would like to keep providing our partners with funds to continue doing Project Joseph outreaches.
Our partners are risking exposure and working tirelessly to reach the hurting with the Gospel. But in order to keep funding these outreaches, we need faithful partners who are willing to step forward in faith and stand beside our partners in equal sacrifice. The impact is immeasurable and the rewards are great.
About the Authors
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.
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