Uganda (part 1)
by Rick Fulton
February 18- 25, Bob Meyer and I had a fantastic opportunity to travel to Kampala, Uganda Africa with John Mitchell founder of On His Path. (Mission: Mobility operates as a part of OHP). Our mission was to meet with Pastor Francis Makoha and to experience the many projects in his ministry that OHP supports.
Francis made a great impression on me when I met him a few years ago when he was in Iowa to speak at the OHP banquet. From that point I felt he was genuine. After spending the week with him, I KNEW HE IS THE REAL DEAL!
Pastor Francis Mokoha and his wife Topista
After meeting him in Iowa and HEARING about his various projects his simple approach to ministry and supporting those in need, I felt his mission embodied James 1:27
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
After this week, seeing and touching his ministry firsthand confirmed my initial thoughts! This Godly man and his ministry is a perfect fit for On His Path!
We visited projects that were mainly visions that pastor Francis had years ago. With the grant help of OHP, these visions have become reality. All with a two fold goal.
- To help socially and economically transform the lives of those in need.
- To share the Gospel at ALL times in the process.
The carpentry shop.
This is the newest venture. The shop consists of several men whomake doors and small pieces of furniture. Their work is very solid and done very well! No power tools here! Hand sanding, hand saws, hammers! No Dewalt power sanders, no Craftsman circular saws! This provides jobs, and it also serves as vocational training for men to go out and get jobs at carpentry shops in the future.
The sewing center.
This tiny shop was busy! We experienced 7 women at the shop. One was operating a mechanical knitting machine. She was knitting sweaters when we were there. There were also scarves for sale, that she had made. The sweater panels were then sewn together by a Singer foot-powered sewing machine. The sewing machine was operated with a HUGE smile, by Topista – Pastor Francis’ wife. She manages the sewing center. The other ladies were doing beading Work. They made bracelets, and purses (large and small). There were also many colorful sewn dresses for sale.
The sewing center is providing opportunities for local widows. They are taught the trade, so they can eventually branch out on their own and sew for themselves to make a living. We read the permit that the shop was granted by the City. It read, (get exact wording). “To socially and economically help to transform…..”
The metal shop.
The shop was quite impressive! There were two men who were in charge of shop. They were the vocational teachers of this shop/school.
Stanley is the primary leader here. He is a member of Francis’ church. He also is completely deaf. Being deaf, many see him as “useless” to society. But God brought him (and many other deaf men) to Francis to prove they can be functional in society, gifted with their trade. Driving up and down the road, there are metal shops everywhere. Tiny shops, like the school, that make iron doors and gates, bunk beds, metal window frames, and small charcoal stoves.
This was but a vision prior to OHP grants. Through the benefit of OHP, they have tools. The welder purchased with the grant provides the primary tool for their craft. We were actually surprised they cut the rerod and tube steel and flat steel with a hand hacksaw! When asked why not use an electric chopsaw. a. They didn’t have one. b. They decided not to buy one because the erratic electricity is a problem. They often go a day without power. “We can always cut metal with the handsaw….power or no power”
We at first laughed at the saw. It wasn’t a saw like we might buy at a Walmart or Menards. This was homemade! From Rerod! It was HEAVY! Stanley had made it! We told them we would buy them good light ones like we have in America. They laughed. “Those are junk…..we break them. We like ours!” Once again, we Americans think we have it all figured out. NOT!
We decided this saw was made by STANLEY Tools -Uganda division! When home we are going to find him a Stanley tools hat and shirt!
We were all humbled and impressed by these men. Especially Stanley.
We also watched Stanley take recycled steel and fabricate a small charcoal grill/stove. EVERYONE uses these. Stanley can personally fabricate 3-4 of these each day. We were amazed!
Since it began in 2012, 120 men have been taught the trade by Stanley, and have moved on to metal shops and are providing for their families.
The school and orphanage.
The WORST part of the trip was that the morning we were to travel 4 hours by car to visit the school and orphanage, JOHN WAS SICK! He sadly said there was no way he could make the drive. It killed us, and John as well! This school/orphanage is the pinnacle of the projects in Uganda for OHP. So, Bob and I were the Ambassadors for OHP today.
We took the long road, east to Busia. This is on the eastern border with Kenya. This is a MAJOR highway. It was very busy with semi traffic hauling fuel and goods from the ports in Kenya to central Africa. I especially enjoyed the drive to see the thousands of acres of sugarcane and tea fields. All done with hand labor!
When we neared Busia, we stopped along the road and saw wild baboons. Pretty much the extent of our roadside safari. We were excited to see them.
Now, I have heard much about the God’s Mercy school and orphanage over the years, but until I got to see it and experience it, I truly didn’t understand. WOW!
The school consists of 200 children. 70 are true orphans. Most of the others are from families who simply can’t afford to feed and educate them. At this school they are provided an opportunity to learn and succeed in life.
There are 10 teachers and 8 support staff at the school, including cooks, house mothers for the dorms and workers.
The kids have breakfast (porridge) at 10 am, after some class. They have lunch at 1 (beans and posho) (posho is boiled corn meal that is like thick oatmeal, but almost the consistency of a wet cake. It is a staple of all Ugandans) and supper at 6.(posho and beans again)
Praise God for Francis and his vision.
When OHP first came to Busia, the school had 3 classrooms, 60 students and 1 dorm, where the kids all slept on the floor.
Following John’s first visit back in 2012, needs were identified, and as the years progressed, this facility has grown beautifully. Thanks to God for putting Pastor Francis and OHP together.
Since this partnership began:
Additional classrooms have been added.
2 dorms have been built. One for the boys and one for the girls.
Triple bunk beds in each so the kiddos don’t have to sleep on the floor!
A large building that is the dining hall and church for the kids and staff.
A brick wall has been built to provide security for the school.
A housing unit has been built to provide living quarters for the 18 staff members. (1 room apartments that are quite nice! A very nice benefit to help retain the teachers)
An expansion project on the kitchen building.
An out building that has a grain mill. Here they grind the corn to make the posho which is a staple in their diet. They also grind corn for people in the community for a fee to help with school expenses.
Solar panels have been mounted on some of the buildings to provide a little electricity. Otherwise, there is no electricity.
Bob and I were awestruck by what we saw and experienced! Such a beautiful facility nestled back in the middle of nowhere. So peaceful. A true Godly sanctuary for these kids! We entered each classroom where the bright smiling faces greeted us. We watched them do their work, and sing songs.
These kids are learning what is important! God first, then the basics of school. They are taught primarily in English!
Many of the kids wore sweaters that we saw being knit in the sewing center. I didn’t ask, bit I would assume the uniforms were made at the sewing center as well.
We were blessed to have an assembly in the courtyard where we were serenaded by a few groups of kids. Bible songs and some recited Scripture.
Psalm 91:1 click on photo for video
The whole forum and setting was beautiful. If only John (and Jean) were here! I know John’s face would HURT from the giant smile that he would have on his face. Not his normal smile, but a smile that I’ve seen all week….a smile that comes from deep inside. A smile of humility that God is using he, Jean and OHP to further HIS kingdom in such beautiful ways. A smile, seeing and knowing that Pastor Francis and his ministry are sincere and good stewards of the grants OHP has provided!
Pastor Francis next showed us that he had purchased property behind the existing school grounds. Property not funded by OHP directly. This property was purchased from the profits generated through the metal shop, the carpentry shop, the sewing center and grinding mill.
Bob and I agreed that this was proof that the seed scattered by OHP had truly blossomed beautifully!
Where do we go from here? The purpose of this trip was to visit and evaluate and see how God has used the donations of OHP to help the ministry of Pastor Francis. Secondarily, to identify future needs. Needs uncovered for future growth of Pastor Francis’ Uganda projects.
- A well inside the compound, complete with electric pump. Currently, they must hand pump water from a well outside the property at a community well.
- More solar to provide light and power the future well pump.
- Funding to help with teacher salaries to retain the teachers.
- Additional funding to supplement the nutritional needs of the kids.
- Funding to establish a small chicken production operation at the site. They could provide eggs for the kids meals. The grinding mill already is on site to produce the feed for the chickens. Bob’s expertise was instrumental in this project.
- Funding for additional sewing machines to possibly open another sewing center
- Funding for tools at the carpenter shop.
- Funding for additional tools at the metal shop.
I will never forget my time in Uganda! I am blessed to have had the opportunity to experience what God is doing in Uganda through OHP. My life has been blessed to have met Pastor Francis and to see his selfless, Godly leadership.
One my favorite reoccurring memories of this week will always be that John and Francis make quite an amazing pair! Throughout the week, while we drove between projects, John would regularly shout “PRAISE THE LORD!” This was ALWAYS, without hesitation, followed by Francis, enthusiastically, and emphatically shouting “AMEN!”
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
“Thank you John. Thank you Jean. Thank you On HIS Path!” Click on photo for video