When COVID-19 lockdowns reached Uganda this past summer, they cost Pastor Joseph his job, his home and the dignity of being able to provide for his family’s needs.
Located just outside the capital city of Kampala, Joseph’s small Foursquare church couldn’t afford to pay him a living wage; he relied on his teaching salary for most of his income. However, when his high school closed, he, his wife and their eight children faced desperate times.
To make matters worse, when he couldn’t make his next rent payment, the landlord evicted the family. Gathering up their meager belongings, Joseph’s family headed for the church building to sleep while he figured out their next move.
That’s when Foursquare’s Adopt-a-Pastor initiative stepped in to sustain life, delivering monthly food kits to Joseph. That made the difference between starvation and survival. With proper nourishment, the Ugandan pastor found the strength to fashion bricks from mud and straw on the church’s property. After crafting a two-room house, Joseph launched a brickmaking business. Today, he is still serving the community and reaching people with the gospel.
“There’s story after story like that,” says Chad Isenhart, Foursquare Disaster Relief’s (FDR) international response director, of the effort to help pastors in developing nations during the pandemic. “Pastors were helping others as much as they could when COVID-19 hit, but some didn’t have anything left to give. FDR is a crisis organization, and when people have a need, we have to jump in and help. We want to see the proclamation and demonstration of the gospel. Who better than the church and our very own Foursquare pastors to provide that?”
This year’s Foursquare Missions International (FMI) Christmas offering will focus on Adopt-a-Pastor, which was announced in early May. By early autumn, the campaign had raised $250,000, enough to help several thousand pastors.
With money from Adopt-a-Pastor, food boxes are being distributed in 33 countries in five regions: Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Caribbean.
“The most perfect Christmas present we’ve been given is Jesus and His life. Giving a family food to sustain life is connecting back to what Jesus did for us.”
—Chad Isenhart, FDR international response director
While acknowledging that millions in the U.S. have been affected by unemployment and other stressors, Chad says the problems are even worse in poorer nations. The U.S. has numerous safety nets, but for many elsewhere there is not an unemployment office or a food bank, he notes. For those barely surviving before, the impact of COVID-19 and quarantines has put them on the verge of starvation.
“I talk to U.S. pastors on a regular basis, and they’re responding locally, as well,” Chad reports. “They’re reaching out in many creative ways. But I tell them, ‘Imagine being in that situation overseas.’ Pastors around the world have the same heart as those here in the U.S., but when you have to worry about putting food on the table, that’s tough.”
When pastors in developing countries don’t face such concerns, Chad says it allows them to go out to assess needs and provide help by “being pastoral,” serving as a light and sharing the gospel. In addition, without this assistance from FDR, many Foursquare churches in developing nations would struggle to survive if their pastor had to move elsewhere to live with family or find work.
In light of the current difficulties, the best way U.S. Foursquare churches can help fellow churches in other nations is by meeting practical needs that reflect the One behind Christmas, he says. “The most perfect Christmas present we’ve been given is Jesus and His life. Giving a family food to sustain life is connecting back to what Jesus did for us.”
Foursquare churches can get involved by taking a special offering, getting young people to send letters of encouragement or by including ongoing donations as part of their missions giving. Information about how churches can connect can be found in the Adopt-a-Pastor Action Kit, available to download now.
Chad adds that Adopt-a-Pastor is ultimately aimed at reaching beyond the church. “We want to get outside of our four walls and help our churches help their communities,” he explains. “Our goal is to help the church get out into the community and see people transformed by the Holy Spirit. The idea of Adopt-a-Pastor and this year’s Christmas offering is to help people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.”