Most of us can’t understand the personal impact of life-saving food. We’re blessed to live in regions of the world where we have unlimited access to food. But in these villages, food access is the difference between someone’s life and death.
In certain areas of Uganda, food is not available. Families in Kotido, the northern part of Uganda, have resorted to eating small plants or shrubs and picking leaves off trees for food as nothing grew during a long-lasting drought. However, because they were eating food not meant for human consumption, they developed stomach aches, headaches and other health problems.
The thought of life without food is hard to process. Everyone, regardless of where they live, should have access to nutrition.
ERDO (Emergency Relief and Development Overseas) provides those in need with life-saving food. In partnership with the Pentecostal Assemblies of God Uganda, ERDO is running a four-month food program bringing emergency food supplies to vulnerable families facing hunger. They receive essential items like beans, cooking oil and nutritious cereal. People in Uganda have begun to experience a transformation in their lives—the combined impact of their physical well-being with a spiritual awakening.
Visitors to Uganda notice that you can see crisp, lush green valleys, surrounded by trees, plants and grass. As you enter the region of Karamoja further north, the soil becomes sandier, making it harder for things to grow. Sabrina Shaheen, a member of ERDO’s Programs team, was hit hard when she witnessed the inedible food villagers were eating. She says, “When a village leader showed me a bag of food they were eating, it was just different leaves. The image of people trying to find whatever they can to eat and the food causing all kinds of sickness, it stays with you.”
Close to Death
In Karamoja, the village leaders stood and took turns sharing testimonies of the impact ERDO’s food program had on them and how it saved the lives of many in their communities.
One of the village elders stood up and pulled a piece of paper from his pocket. It listed the names of people from his village who had died of hunger.
He then pointed to several people from his village sitting nearby. These people were about to die when the food from ERDO’s program arrived. But the food came on time; they lived and are here today.
Most of us can’t understand the personal impact of life-saving food. We’re blessed to live in regions of the world where we have unlimited access to food. But in these villages, food access is the difference between someone’s life and death. Sabrina Shaheen says, “It’s one thing to sit in an office and understand the work we do. But to physically stand there and see names of people who died because they didn’t have food is something we don’t think about. It was my first time seeing people who were close to dying and it really stays with you … seeing [the positive impact] firsthand hits different.”
Food to Faith
Another village leader was himself barely surviving when food came to his doorstep. He was shocked that someone was willing to help him in a time of desperate need. He questioned, “What God is this that would bring food to people when they are starving?” Once this leader realized that this God was indeed Jesus, he gave his life to Christ and became transformed by the Spirit, now living his life for the one true God.
In Karamoja, the arrival of food not only brought people to Christ but led to the establishment of new churches. After one of the villages received food, they started a church by a circle of bushes surrounding a tree, where they gathered to praise and worship the Lord. They didn’t have much—there was no roof or stage—all they needed was a few bushes to gather around to thank the Lord for His goodness. Even in the most impoverished places, God is still working and transforming the lives of those in need.
In other areas of Uganda, Karamoja isn’t well-liked. When the drought came, there wasn’t a desire from other regions or the government to step in and help. Our team and our partners were among the only ones responding to Karamoja’s call for assistance. As Christians we have a higher calling. Sabrina says, “We can’t not help people because we don’t like them—that stayed with me. The love of Christ really impacts people because nobody else cared about them. How can we be followers of Christ and not reach people in difficult places?”
How Can You Help?
Help is still needed in these difficult places. In western Uganda, in the region of Arua, ERDO is starting a long-term, three-year agricultural program to assist people with growing their own food.
In Kasese, ERDO is protecting families from risks to their farmlands by increasing food production using conservation agricultural techniques. ERDO is teaching farmers the tools they need to have a sustainable livelihood.
Through your help, we can continue to make an impact in Uganda. Visit https://erdo.ca/uganda-food-security and https://erdo.ca/crises/karamoja-food-crisis to help alleviate poverty and transform the lives of the most vulnerable.
Michael Milne is the communications assistant at ERDO (Emergency Relief and Development Overseas).
This article appeared in the October/November/December 2023 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2023 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photo © ERDO.