The grief felt by Jacqueline, widowed in her early 40s after losing her husband to famine in 2014, was doubled by the loss of a child two years later. She had begged money to buy medicine, but without food to accompany the medication, her child died four hours after swallowing it.
Pelagy’s pain is also unimaginable. She lost all four family members to the famine that has plagued Central and East Africa in recent years. Pelagy expected to die herself, until relief unexpectedly arrived.
These women are just two of the thousands of individuals helped by Project Nourish, the outreach launched by The Foursquare Church and Foursquare Disaster Relief (FDR) in spring 2017. Currently, the initiative regularly feeds more than 1,100 families a month. FDR delivers such staples as rice, beans, salt and a cornmeal mixture to people in five nations.
Besides the distribution in Kenya, South Sudan, Burundi, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, significant regional displacement and mixed migration mean this relief affects an even wider population.
“Because of Project Nourish and local Foursquare pastors’ efforts, we’ve seen thousands of people give their lives to Jesus and four new churches opened in Burundi alone,” reports Chad Isenhart, FDR’s international response director.
“This program is transforming communities and saving lives,” adds Serges Nsabimana, Foursquare Burundi’s national leader. “The church is reaching many families and communities, and reaching unreached people.”
Also assisting with efforts on the ground are Charles Lasu, Foursquare’s national leader for South Sudan; and John Kamanzi, Foursquare’s national leader for Uganda, who also serves as a regional chair for Foursquare’s Global Council and leads Project Nourish.
This outreach ministers to people in dire need facing a combination of poverty, recurring drought, civil wars and environmental degradation putting millions at risk of starvation. Christian-based international relief agency World Vision says more than 15 million children in several nations are struggling to get enough to eat. Twenty-two million East Africans need help to secure their livelihoods and acquire adequate food.
Recurring drought makes it difficult for farmers and herders to produce crops and feed livestock. Seasonal rainfall has been above average in some places, with rains this year on drought-stricken lands resulting in flash floods that have washed away crops and shelters, and killed more than 300 people. Floods increase the risk of cholera and other water-related diseases.
Such scenes of devastation are why Jacqueline felt overwhelmed by gratitude when a group of Foursquare pastors came to see her, pray for her, and promise food would soon be on the way.
“We could go a whole night and day without eating,” she recalls of those dark days. “One pastor told me after praying for me that, by God’s grace, they would get food to help. It was unbelievable.”
“I was at my last days when some Foursquare pastors visited me,” Pelagy says. “They began giving me food on a weekly basis. I thank God for them. I have seen God through The Foursquare Church. God bless them.”
Alphred Misago lost his wife to famine after departing from home for Tanzania to work. Three weeks after he returned home for his wife’s funeral, Alphred’s third-oldest child died. He decided to “go to die” at a nearby Foursquare church. Instead, he lived after members showed him love unlike any he had seen in any other church.
“Foursquare saved our lives,” Alphred affirms. “They are giving us food on a weekly basis. God bless The Foursquare Church. I don’t have words to use to express my appreciation.”
Such stories are why Burundi’s national leader says the gospel of hope and peace through Christ is bringing restoration and healing. People are realizing the benefits of worshiping together and finding answers after once doubting God’s existence, Serges says.
“The program is giving life and movement to the church in Burundi,” Serges states. “Many people who fled the church before because of hunger are coming back. The church is doing the Great Commission, people are receiving Jesus, and the church is growing physically and spiritually.”
Because of Project Nourish, Chad says nearly 21,000 people have accepted Jesus as Savior. In addition to 15 new churches and missions works launched during the effort, 25 leaders are currently being trained to pastor or plant churches.
These pastors will help bring hope to people like Peter Nyandwi, who had lost his wife and two children to famine despite his efforts to cultivate their small plot of land while trying to find work. One Friday, as he lay in bed awaiting death, a Foursquare pastor came to pray for him. More important than prayer alone, the pastor brought food.
“In the following days, Foursquare continued to give me and other people food,” Peter says. “Now I’m alive and thank God. Before, I didn’t believe in God because I thought even He had forgotten us.”
Project Nourish proved He hadn’t.