March 19. 2014 4:38PM

Grace Lutheran Church plans International Food Festival Saturday in Nashua

Union Leader Correspondent

NASHUA — Members of Grace Lutheran Church support several international missions that help people all over the world, but several years ago they decided to focus closer to home.

The church launched the Across the Street Mission to reach out to people in Greater Nashua, and this Saturday, members will hold one their biggest events, the International Food Festival, a celebration of the their multicultural heritage. The community dinner, which is from 5 to 7 p.m. at the church at 130 Spit Brook Road, is free and open to all.

“People from our church cook something that’s from their ethnic background,” said Jane Smith, assistant to Pastor Michael Meyer.

Dinner is served buffet style, and guest have a chance to meet new friends and make new connections while sampling everything from hot curries to enchiladas to spicy Asian noodles.

Smith, who described her ethnic background as a little tame, said she is cooking with other members who share her English, French and Scots ancestry.

“We’re bringing the hors d’oeuvre,” she said

The dinner is also an opportunity for the church to highlight some of the work members do overseas, and in the United States. The church supports mission in India and has been involved with Project Video in Thailand, a mission that translates Christian films, musical recordings and other faith-based resources into ethnic languages of Asia.

The church’s Youth Mission made several trips to New Orleans after Hurricane Sandy to help rebuild the city and the Men’s Mission has travelled to Indiana to helps communities hit by devastating tornadoes.

Last year, both youth and adult members were in Vermont lending a hand with rebuilding projects that have been ongoing since Hurricane Irene hit in 2011.

This year, Smith figures there will be a lot of attention of the church’s mission in Kiev, Ukraine, which was started by a string of random coincidences, if one believes in random coincidences. Smith does not.

“There aren’t any coincidences,” said Smith. “It was a God thing.”

Smith happened to see a request for a pen pal from a member of a Lutheran Church in Sweden. She wrote, struck up a friendship, paid her pen pal a visit and happened to meet Tanya and Nick Tyshchuk , a Ukrainian couple who run an after-school club for disadvantaged kids in Kiev.

“They have different activities and they are always helping families in need and young people at-risk,” said Smith. “It’s their way of bringing kids into a Christian environment.”

The church has been supporting the Tyshchucks’ programs ever since. Smith, who has been to Kiev to see the club and the work the couple does, is especially concerned about the couple now because of the escalating tensions between Ukraine and Russia. She hopes to share some recent correspondence that describes the current situation in Kiev.

The International Food Festival is a chance to share all those stories while sampling dishes from all sorts of cultures cooked in local kitchens.

Beyond building a sense of community, Smith said the other goal of the food festival is to draw people into a church.

“It’s not important that it’s Grace Lutheran Church, for some people, our church might not be what people are want,” said Smith. “What we hope is that people will find a church and a way to connect with God. That’s what we hope to convey.”