Across the world, food insecurity is an ongoing struggle that has been exacerbated in recent years by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing war in Ukraine, and large-scale weather events. Between 691 and 783 million people face hunger and food insecurity.
When families don’t have access to food, they are more susceptible to malnutrition and other illnesses that can lead to chronic health issues. Children who experience chronic hunger are less likely to attend school consistently, and adults are less likely to be able to work, which makes access to nutritious food more challenging.
This year’s NCM Christmas Project supports compassionate initiatives that provide food relief in emergency situations and training and mentoring programs to help farmers find success. Whether in Ukraine, Malawi, Burundi, Armenia, Benin, Zambia, the Middle East, Sri Lanka, or beyond—when you give, you will stand with people who are hungry.
Since February of 2022, the war in Ukraine has forced millions of Ukrainians from their homes to find safety. According to the United Nations, as of July 2023, more than 6.2 million refugees from Ukraine have been recorded globally, and at least five million are displaced within Ukraine. This ongoing conflict has impacted daily life for residents across the country. Approximately one in five Ukrainian families are food insecure, and at least 17 million people live in need of some type of humanitarian assistance.
The Church of the Nazarene is active in Ukraine, and the pastors and volunteers from these congregations are engaged in countless acts of ministry and care. Initially, a compassionate response looked like distributing emergency supplies and providing assistance for people traveling away from danger. Many churches provided safe spaces for refugees or helped secure train tickets or car rides to the border. Other ministries sprang up in other countries to meet the needs of arriving families, like a coffee shop in Poland where mothers and children found community and assistance with resettling.
Recognizing that communities nearby were struggling with hunger, Odesa Church of the Nazarene has continued to provide a food ministry in the towns of Kherson and Izmayíl, bringing meals for 150 people each week. Odesa lies between these towns, and each are several hours away from the church. Nevertheless, two times a week, a steady group of members gather early in the morning to prepare meals and drive to these hard-hit communities to feed and minister to people who are hungry.
"I'm so thankful for the church in Odesa that comes and to help my family,” said Okcana, a resident of Kherson. “We have lost so much.”
Pastor Nabil Babbiesi is the pastor of the Odesa congregation. The church’s determination to alleviate food insecurity was forged through their own challenging experiences. In July of 2023, the church building was damaged by a series of missile strikes that killed six people and damaged dozens of historic buildings in the city. At the time, Pastor Babbiesi shared their perspective on continuing to be a missional presence in their area despite the damage to their facility.
“We’re strong when we’re not concentrating on the difficulties; when we are doing what God told us to do, then we are working in His will,” he said. “And God is helping us to serve these people and help them to know Jesus Christ.”
As of the middle of the summer, the Odesa church had baptized 67 people and opened new meeting locations in the towns of Kherson and Snihurívka. In spite of the danger they themselves faced, the congregation continued to look for ways to share the love of Christ.
“I can see God’s hand in everything we do,” Babbeisi shared at the end of July. “God is changing our focus from the war and anxiety that we have for what we’re going through, and He’s putting our focus into the things that are important for Him.”
Through this food ministry, the volunteers who are serving have often found themselves blessed as they give of their time.
"Being able to help others who are in need is a blessing to my soul,” said Iryna, a church volunteer. “It helps me remember that my situation is in God's hands and he is faithful, always!”
Funds given to the NCM Christmas Project this year will ensure that those who are hungry during times of crisis receive both physical and spiritual care like Okcana reports she’s received from the Odesa church volunteers.
“They bring not only food,” she explained. “They bring hope and love."
When you donate to the Christmas Project, you will support churches like the one in Odesa as they work to provide emergency food distributions for people in crisis. Learn more here: ncm.org/christmas