August 7, 2020

Amid COVID-19 food shortage, Nairobi Christians help feed Muslim neighbors during Ramadan

Written by  Julia Tsai
Amid COVID-19 food shortage, Nairobi Christians help feed Muslim neighbors during Ramadan During Ramadan, Christians in the Eastleigh neighborhood of the city decided to bless their Muslim neighbors by distributing free food. File photo of Eastleigh, a neighborhood in Nairobi, Kenya. Barry Freed/EMM

NAIROBI, Kenya — As the world faced COVID-19, gathering food for Ramadan celebrations was difficult in places like Nairobi. Many workplaces shut down due to COVID-19, and as a result, many Kenyans lost their income, facing significant food insecurity. Christians in the Eastleigh neighborhood of the city decided to bless their Muslim neighbors by distributing free food.

Joseph Ngolla gathered a small group of people for prayer. “We wanted to see what God would lead us to do. We just thought that we need ... a way to connect with the people,” said Ngolla. 

The group decided to pull together funds to buy essential food items for their Muslim neighbors. They approached local Muslim leaders, asking if they would welcome the prayer group giving out food during Ramadan, which began on the evening of April 23 and ended the evening of May 23. 

“We talked to our friends and told those friends we wanted to support some people that are doing the celebration,” said Ngolla. His friends, who also happen to be Muslim leaders in the community, gave him and the prayer group permission to distribute the food. 

Ngolla is a teacher at Eastleigh Fellowship Centre, a ministry located in the Eastleigh neighborhood of Nairobi with a significant Muslim population. Ngolla is also a partner with Peacemakers Confessing Christ International (PCCI).

PCCI’s mission is to “build a network equipping Christians around the world for life-giving relationships with Muslims.” Their goal is to establish new partners by teaching, modeling, and commissioning them to embrace the network’s commitments.

Andres Prins, a PCCI leadership team member and Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) worker, described how Ngolla’s actions reflected the PCCI’s four commitments of Jesus-centered dialogue, witness, hospitality, and peacemaking. Prins said, “That’s a beautiful expression of hospitality when we follow Christ in helping people with needs such as food.” 

Prins and other PCCI members were eager to support Ngolla’s efforts. Prins explained that it was an opportune time for the prayer group to share food, emphasizing, “especially in Ramadan, when, in the evening, they like to have something a bit more substantial and nutritional to keep them going.” 

Ngolla shared that speaking about their faith in Christ was crucial. He described the first time they brought food, saying, “we didn’t speak about our faith, and so the response was people thought that we were just part of their religion.” He described that the next time they shared food, they decided to talk about the Messiah as the reason for their action.

When the group shared their faith in Jesus, Ngolla said, “We had a different response. It was positive. It opened more doors for us to do more discussions.” 

“It’s also part of the value of dialogue, getting to know [and] understand each other because we are coming together and finding a bit of common ground,” said Prins. He described the commonality as “our need for sustenance, for God to provide for us to eat.”

Ngolla shared that God had sent a lot of people, but not all of the people who came were interested in hearing about the group's faith. The group respected those people and chose not to share more because they felt like God had not opened those doors. 

"We just talked about the love of God," said Ngolla. The group's message focused on sharing that they are followers of Christ, and that is the reason why they can extend God’s love to the community.

Prins shared, “We are giving witness too, that Jesus really loves and cares and has compassion ... and it helps produce peace too, so you can find all four of [the PCCI] values there.”

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