ArticleField Stories

South African Missionaries Feeding the Hungry During COVID-19 Opens Gospel Doors

ABWE missionaries and local national partners in Durban’s townships are seeing God work through mercy ministry.
If the COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that for many, sheltering in place is a luxury.

In Durban, South Africa, two churches distributing food to those critically in need are seeing gospel doors open. Darin and Kathy Ishler are working alongside their South African partners Pastor Dennis Nkosi and Pastor Mzo Mhlongo to provide for the needs of families residing in the country’s notoriously troubled townships.

“Their meager daily jobs bring in what they try to make last for a few days. Now, with not being allowed to work, people are going hungry,” said Kathy.

South Africa’s townships, created during apartheid, initially forced non-whites to the peripheries of larger towns and cities. Sadly, though apartheid has legally been abolished, townships still exist as largely non-white, impoverished communities. Naturally, these settings bore the economic and social brunt of the nation’s recent COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

Darin Ishler making a food delivery to a South African family.

Darin Ishler making a food delivery to a South African family.

Pastor Nkosi and Pastor Mhlongo saw this need among their own church members and began reaching out, providing food deliveries to whole families.

“When Pastor Dennis, Pastor Mhlongo, and Darin went to drop off food to the Gumede family, all the neighbors gathered around to see who was helping and why,” Kathy explained. “After Darin and the others left, the brothers were able to share how their church wanted to help them so that they could share the gospel with their community.”

The motivation with the food deliveries, ultimately, is evangelistic, as meeting these physical needs opens doors for spiritual conversation in otherwise more closed-off communities. Many of the impoverished families live in religious traditions centered around ancestor worship and witchcraft.

“The goal is to share the gospel. We have had to think out of the box and rely on godly wisdom from our local pastors for new ideas,” Kathy said. “It has brought us closer together with our leadership team and members. We probably never would have gone down this path on our own accord, but it is such a blessing to see how God is working in the hearts and lives of everyone involved. To God be the glory!”

“The goal is to share the gospel.”
Kathy Ishler

The Ishlers and their partners also serve monthly hot meals, working with local chiefs towards creative ways of practicing social distancing. Because masks make public speaking difficult during these meals, the team intends to instead use a pre-recorded gospel message played over a sound system, combined with printed Zulu gospel tracts.

The team is funding the new ministry effort through the Durban benevolence fund as they work to reach specific townships and local chiefs. To help maximize their resources, the team met with a local grocery store manager to discuss discounts and potential donated goods.

“We find the lost turning to Christ because they see the love of Jesus being shared,” Darin shared. “Already in poverty and desperate for work, our locals are in need of bread to eat—but most importantly, in need of the Bread of Life. In John 6:35, Jesus declares that he is the bread of life and whoever comes to him will never go hungry. What a practical truth that is changing lives because of your help!”


Editor’s Note: You can support this ministry through the Durban benevolence fund or give towards all compassion projects in Africa.

About the Author

Hannah Strayer is a media specialist serving in Africa with ABWE. Hannah uses her photography and media skills to share the needs on the field, help missionaries more effectively communicate with supporters, and share the gospel with nationals. Support Hannah’s ministry.

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