The Story of Kapchorwa
By Joanne Eytzen, Director
Godwill has been partnering with Fathers Kingdom Ministries International developed by a dear friend in Uganda who has become like a son to me. But our story started much earlier…
I met Elly Chelangat in 2011, while on a medical mission trip to Uganda. He was a single man with a heart for the Lord and a vision to help his village in Kapchorwa, in Eastern Uganda, up on Mount Elgon. Our team had a long ride to get there and we had a wonderful meal. We then listened to the vision God had given him, walked the land, and prayed.
He was a single man but had found his “One and only” and was excited to show us his “Bride Price”. Huh? Our team was intrigued. A Bride Price is similar to the old fashioned Dowry, but reversed. The future groom must pay this to the Elder or Father of the bride. It is negotiated until they arrive at an amount both can agree to. Elly’s Bride Price list included: 1 gallon of oil, 5 cows, 5 goats, 10 chickens, 5 Tanzu’s (men’s suits), 5 Gomez’s (women’s dresses), 2 blankets, sugar, paraffin, salt, a box of soap, and he was to organize and purchase all the food and beverages for the family and guests at the wedding. Fast-forward through life a bit and he married Carol. They now have a beautiful son, Elian, who was born in early 2018. I call him Mr. Big Man.
Elly and Carol lived in Luweero, Uganda, about 2 hours North of the Entebbe airport, and worked at an orphanage, but desired to go home to their poor village to bring hope and healing to Kapchorwa, an 8 hour drive north of Luweero. Elly is from there, and still has family there.
Elly had a strong desire to move to Luweero and raise his family and help the community. He is a Christian, and knew he needed to share his love for Jesus with his village. He had been praying about how he was to do this. He and I texted often and he asked me to pray about how he could help his village. He said “I’m a poor man, what can I do, and will you pray with me?” So, month after month, we both prayed, and I even had friends praying. Finally, he said God gave him the idea of buying a sunflower seed oil processing machine, and he’d ask the whole community to grow sunflower seeds, and bring them to him for pressing oil! They would sell the oil to raise money to build a school and orphanage to help his village. Sounded great! How much is this machine and where do you find one? He said he would research it out. After a while, he found a refurbished one and it was $2,300. He didn’t ask for anything, but to just pray. As I prayed, God confirmed in my heart that Godwill ministries would send the money for him to purchase it. After talking to my friends, Ross Black from a local company called Simple Box, gave me half of the money. Plus another friend, Jennifer Holt, gave me $300 and Godwill added the rest. After talking to his boss and a few people who knew Elly well, I felt sure he was a man of integrity and the money was sent. Within a few days, I had a picture of the machine and he was so thankful and excited to get it going.
Kapchorwa is up on Mount Elgon, about a 6,280 ft. elevation. So beautiful; but impoverished. If it was in America, it would probably be ruined by a huge 5-star resort. It is pristine and completely untouched by development. There are tall rows of corn, sunflowers, and banana trees, waterfalls in the distance and caves. The view is impressive and awe-inspiring, to say the least! The people are warm and welcoming, and an ethnic group of Ugandans and Sudanese called the “Sebine Tribe”. They speak mostly Sebei, and Elly was our translator when we visited. I took a team in the summer of 2019: Five women on a mission trip from Luweero to Kobwin with a stop at Kapchorwa to just say Hi and see this sunflower oil pressing machine…Little did we know that they had planned a beautiful program to thank and honor us for this machine and the support we had shown. We were absolutely surprised and humbled.
After an 8-hour drive on Ugandan roads, some of which are dirt and narrow (and bumpy!), we arrived to this beautiful, exotic, mountainous region with a backdrop of corn fields, sunflower fields, and pineapple and bananas everywhere! The road was pretty difficult to maneuver, due to the past rains they’d had. Our driver, Julius, hung his head out of the window to make sure we were not sliding into the deep ruts in the muddy terrain. He finally said “This is as far as the van can go, or we’ll get stuck”.
We could see we were very near. We got out and began to walk the final football field of a distance. As we walked, we saw 2 men coming toward us. I’ll never forget it: one man said “Auntie Joanne?” I felt like I was dreaming. How did this man know my name? He greeted us all with handshakes and motioned for us to continue our walk. We then saw 2 women, who were bent down in the field. They stood up and, again, I heard “Auntie Joanne, you are most welcome!” Wow; I was dumbfounded! 2 women then put a green bean vine wreath around my neck. It was incomprehensible, but when something like this happens, you just go with it. Then, accompanied with big hugs, each of our team got a wreath put on them too. We were feeling the love. We could hear in the distance people yelling and singing and even a drum beating. We continued on toward the celebrating people. The ones walking with us were dancing, shouting, and singing. But what are they celebrating? I thought we must’ve interrupted a party? I think our whole team was curious and quite confused on how to feel, but we just kept walking toward the people.
As we reached them, they greeted us with the biggest smiles and the warmest hugs; all without any language, since they spoke only Sebei. They were dressed in colorful skirts and were absolutely filled with joy! It was contagious and, soon, we too were dancing and laughing.
Elly directed us over to a rough, timber-cut shed-like building. Everyone was still whooping and hollering and dancing alongside us as we walked to this shed. Then, I noticed there was a pink ribbon across the doorway. A man handed me a pair of scissors and motioned for me to cut it. What? I was beginning to get it. Tears began to fall. We were being honored. Wow, I noticed my friends wiping tears too. We felt incredibly undeserving of all this hoopla. I cut the ribbon and the noise level amped up. They were truly celebrating. Uncle Elly pointed to the machine and told someone to fire it up. It was loud. Next to the machine were 5 buckets of sunflower seeds he had gotten for us to launch the machine.
I was so honored! We all were. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why all the fuss and festivities. I just had to understand that this very machine meant more than we could ever know. It was a catalyst—a new beginning of growth, prosperity, an answer to prayer. God was moving, and they knew it. Godwill helped them build their much-needed school, where the kids could finally begin to get an education for the first time. There would be a kitchen, pit latrines, and a simple auditorium (A pole building), where they can have meetings, and the kids can play in when it rains. We were able to build a barn where, eventually, they will have a couple cows so the kids can have milk. Progress is happening, and, with this machine, they will press the sunflower oil and put it into nicely-labeled bottles, then deliver them to stores. Raising this money will help supply needs.
I felt tremendous pride as I began to understand. I then thought that was it, and we’d say our goodbyes, and walk back to the van, but Elly motioned for us to continue walking up the hill and around the tall corn fields. As we rounded the corner, we saw the most beautiful sight: 25 smiling children in school uniforms with a few teachers standing poised waiting for us. There was another ribbon, (this one must’ve been 30 feet long across the front), and, again, I was handed scissors to cut it. We were, again, filled with tears, we were unworthy of all of this. I had my team put their hands over mine and, together, we cut the ribbon. As it fell to the ground, the children began singing. They had learned some English Christian songs!
Oh, it was joyous! They had made a pink poster that read “You are most welcome Madam Joanne Eytzen and your team to Fathers Kingdom Ministry International – Your partnership with this ministry is a call from God . Live long Live long” It felt surreal, and all I could do was smile and thank God for this moment I was experiencing. After the singing, they escorted us to 5 holes in the dirt that were dug for us and handed us young mango, avocado, jack fruit, and orange trees that we each planted. Everyone clapped and we were directed to go over to the school. The school was also a rough-cut, timber-style building and there were 2 classrooms. Very modest and small. The “Desks” were simple wooden planks and boards. There was a hand-painted chalkboard in each room and the kids’ work was hanging on the walls. It was really something, learning was happening here in Kapchorwa for the first time ever! The kids looked so proud of their school. We were in heaven to experience all of this. Elly had a small amplifier and a mic, and began explaining the school and classrooms, introducing all the teachers with real love. I could hear it in his voice, and see it in his demeanor. It was apparent this was a community and these people were friends and family. Our team watched as it all unfolded. He took us to the kitchen building, where we met Irene, a sweet widow, who so lovingly cooks the maize and posho for the kids, each and every day.
At the school, they only had a big pot and would typically cook out in the open. But, the rainy season was coming, so Godwill sent money for a building to cover the kitchen. Irene is a very sweet woman who loves the children and her role. We then looked at the fields of sunflowers and Elly told us about how he had to convince neighbors to trust him to plant some of their fields into sunflowers. It took some talking, but they agreed. All the fields were in full bloom, and the big yellow sunflowers were standing tall and almost ready for harvest.
We then were escorted over to the makeshift auditorium building, and all of the parents sat down in chairs. Up front, there were 5 chairs, and a coffee table. We were to sit down and the children came in and sang another song to us. It was so special! Elly introduced the board of directors for the school, which is called Kings Royals School. It was a beautiful thing to see parents at school in the auditorium so very excited to learn, know us, and thank us. Then Uncle Elly said “This is the first time Muzungu’s (white people) have ever been here; it’s a special day.” We all looked at each other, and were stunned.
I stood up and, through the interpreter, told all the watching parents and children that, yes, we were white girls, but more than that, we were 5 Christian girls. I told them of our sacrifice to be able to journey all the way across the world to come here. How we had to work and take extra shifts, hold massive yard sales, have bake sales, and save our money. I really wanted them to know we aren’t just made of money. They see white people and think we are rich. They assume it all comes so easy. I wanted them to see we are just working people, who love the Lord, and it’s by God’s power and design alone that we were able to even be there. We trust Him for all the details.
Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.
Since our visit, they have added 2 more rooms to the school. So many children keep coming to the school, that they had to turn some away for the first time, which is heartbreaking. It is their first time to go to school. One item heavy on my heart is paying for a cement floor for the school rooms. Currently, the floor is dirt, causing the kids to get “jiggers.”
The ages range from 5-12, all beginning at the same place academically: Learning their letters and numbers. The needs are great. I want to bring school supplies, and more books and clothes! As soon as the borders are open, I will be going again. I want to encourage the blessed teachers who only get paid when money comes in (they volunteer mostly). Godwill sends some money, which is divided up between the staff, and getting more supplies and food for the children. They recently got a much needed “Boda” (motorcycle). They didn’t have transportation and if someone gets hurt, and needs quick attention, they now have a way to get them to the clinic or hospital. Thank you, Godwill Ministries and the SUUBI Foundation.
I mentioned the needs are real and truly immense. What Uncle Elly has done through God is so special. I honor him and see his huge heart. He is selfless and pushes himself on a daily basis to work with and alongside others, sharing the load. He leads, gives, teaches and continually pours out all he has for God’s children. I love that, and the Holy Spirit in me recognizes that. God prompts me to want to do what I can, and I see that same prompting in Elly’s heart.
After all, Jesus said, we will always have the poor in this world. But I know that, if we each do a little something, we can make a huge difference in the lives we interact with.
If you feel led to contribute financially to Fathers Kingdom Ministry International, or to further the work of Godwill Ministries, please click on the ‘Donate Now’ button. The needs are great; for teacher staff wages, children’s school fees, uniforms, or clean water and food. Water is a major problem here. Now they have a hose that comes from a neighboring area. But, they have a natural spring on the property; they just need to access it, it’ll take thousands of dollars to build what they need to sustain the school and families there, but it can be done, and I’m trusting God for His provision.
God continues to grow and build up Kapchorwa. He is getting into hearts, lives are being transformed, it’s causing a ripple effect.
Please pray for this beautiful village in Eastern Uganda and the people who live there. They are so precious and I’m so thankful that they are in my life.