October
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Largely considered one of the least religious places on earth Estonia is an awakening country in its second decade of freedom from Soviet control. Find out how a small rural church is fighting hunger.With help from World Methodist Evangelism the Methodist Church is growing. In 2012, the United Methodist Church was fundraising to begin construction in Võru (which is only about 18 miles from the southern Estonian border with Latvia and 25 miles from the Russian border to the east). The church knew that a building does not make a church. They heard the needs and hunger of people in their community and searched for a way to meet the need. a Norwegian aid organization NyStart i Ost started providing food and staples for distribution by the church.

Volunteers receive proceeds from a Christmas fair which was used to feed needy families in Võru County

Volunteers receive proceeds from a Christmas fair which was used to feed needy families in Võru County

As the new church began to grow, in January of 2014 there were new volunteers who had a great passion to help those in need, especially the poor. Three ladies- Margita Liiv, Tea Võro and Siret Vaher  prayed, and visioned together along with the prayer ministry of Võru Tree of Life UMC. The resulted is the Võru Toidupank (Võru Foodbank). The initial result was three women sharing food packages, but what resulted was a much larger organization. A discussion was started with Estonian Foodbanc (larger national food bank) about the possibility of an affiliated Võru Foodbanc. Siret Vaher volunteered to attend training provided by the Toidupank Estonia. On May 29, 2014 Võru Toidupank was launched as a partnership between the Methodist Church in Võru and Toidupank Estonia to provide regular food packages to 25 families in need.

The Estonian Foodbanc, in the capital city of Tallinn, was formed in 2010 by the Estonian-Netherlands charity foundation Sunflower with help from Swedbank. It is modeled after similar examples in other European countries. The Foodbanc (Toidupank in Estonian) fights hunger by distributing food from various sources.

Siret Vaher and Tea Võro are two key volunteers in the success of the foodbanc program in Võru

Siret Vaher and Tea Võro are two key volunteers in the success of the foodbanc program in Võru

They glean excess production from food processing plants. They collect food that is non-marketable (such as food which is too close to expiration date or the packaging is damaged) as well as receive donations from food producers and wholesalers who have excess. They also have a growing group of corporate citizens who see the value in sharing with those in need. Private individuals can also share and donate food which includes Estonia’s growing faith community.

By Christmas of 2014 some 40 packages were delivered to people in the city of Võru and a total of around 140 for the entire county. Regional teams from surrounding municipalities come to Võru weekly to pickup and deliver the food to those in need. The Võru Foodbanc is led by three passionate ladies who volunteer daily, as well as 20-30 other volunteers who assist with other projects.

Goods storage at Võru food bank (Võru Toidupank) await distribution to those in need.

Goods storage at Võru food bank (Võru Toidupank) await distribution to those in need.

For example, three times a year Foodbanc operates a food-drive in supermarkets to collect food for the Foodbanc. Another example is volunteers training families with small budgets on how to cook inexpensive healthy meals. On Christmas 2014, at a special service several food recipients decided to follow Jesus. Now they attend worship services, Alpha course, youth and children Sunday school.

Volunteers of the Võru Foodbanc share the vision of a community that loves and prays for one another. The Methodist who volunteer have the opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those in need in hopes that they will help meet spiritual needs as well as physical needs.

Author’s Note: After hearing about the food bank ministry growing in the city of Võru I reached out to Kaupo Kant, the pastor of Tree of Life UMC for more information. We’ve conversed over e-mail only. It is a blessing to have Kaupo share this information with me. His English skills are fantastic!

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