Our Hub on the Edge of the Kampala District (Uganda)
More than twenty men have been given opportunities to learn new building techniques through becoming involved in our building projects. Compressed Earth Block (CEB) has been our main technique utilized on the land thus far. This economical and ecological option eliminates the need for firewood, as bricks are cured instead of fired, as well as the need for transport, as the material is dug on site. CEB structures offer much better insulation from heat than mud or cement buildings.
Rather than utilizing an expensive tractor, we employed multiple men to excavate our land. Providing employment and fair wages to the men of the surrounding community is a means to contribute to healthy families, while also demonstrating the power of human cooperation.
Francis Lubega, G.O.D. Uganda cooperative, is our expert on Compressed Earth Block. This particular kind of brick is called an “interlocking stabilized soil block,” (ISSB). After a few months of building with ISSBs, Lubega would not go back to traditional brick laying. He says “with ISSBs, one learns to work together. With the old bricks, you would do that by yourself. But with ISSBs, the work goes very fast, but you need a team to work together.”
This triplex is the first structure on the G.O.D. Int’l property in Uganda. The purpose of the triplex is to serve as transitional housing for families as they build their own homes on the land, as well as host students, interns, and traveling teams.
A deep, rich blue sets our building apart from the surrounding dirt-covered landscape. Utilizing vivid, botanical colors are an attempt to imitate the broad hues found in God’s creation, much more vibrant than the monotonous hues of cities. We chose limewash as an alternative to acrylic paint. Limewash is a mix of water, limestone powder, pigment, and a little glue. It is a fraction of the cost of paint, and is made from locally available materials. This non-peeling material soaks into the plaster like a stain. The chemical properties of the lime also keep away mold and deter insects.
This structure was created as a place for meetings, meals, Bible studies, and children’s times, to give shelter to a large group of people. Utilizing traditional African architecture and local builders, this structure gives groups a facility for learning and dialoguing together.
A group of young men frequent the G.O.D. International property in Uganda. Having first been introduced through our weekly Bible studies, these young men are growing to know the Lord, and being given opportunities to thrive. Young men are given the privilege to work, building structures, clearing land, and planting gardens. Even more, they have been given a sense of belonging and a sense of purpose derived from learning the Word of God.
Rylan Aaseby shares from the Word at a Sunday night Bible study, while Peter Kimbugwe (East African cooperative) translates into the local Luganda language. Rylan spoke on allowing God’s Word to shape our language and thoughts so that our words might benefit society, in the same way God’s Word has benefitted us as persons. Sunday nights are a consistent and energizing time to share songs of worship, testimony and teaching in God’s Word.
Bible studies are an interactive time where questions and dialogue are encouraged. We are thankful to have cultivated an experience where young and old, male and female, can learn the Bible together, and feel free to express their thoughts aloud in a communal setting.
In addition, the property includes a children’s playground, constructed from local materials. Having a safe, orderly place for children to play is of utmost importance to us. This is the only playground available to children within a twenty mile radius. Even more important than building the playground itself was demonstrating the concern for children and one’s ability to create a proper space for play (stressing innovation over financial means).
On a Sunday afternoon, fathers and sons participated in wheelbarrow races. Happy, healthy families are, to us, the best sign of lives being holistically transformed by the Word of God. Sundays in Uganda are a good time for families to gather as a community for prayer, Bible study, and fellowship.
On Saturdays, mothers organize a time for children to learn God’s Word for themselves, at an age-appropriate level. Bible lessons are coupled with practical projects, crafts, snacks, and songs as mothers and their children bond as they teach their children the Word of God
Our land neighbors a government primary school where approximately 400 children attend each day. Despite the dire conditions of a student to teacher ratio of 50:1, students and teachers arrive each day eager to participate. Our representatives on the ground have been able to assist teachers with creative lesson plans, and encourage them in the faithful labor they give.
Grace Aaseby and Alyssa Kurtz volunteered twice a week in the primary school classroom, teaching English. It is part of our paradigm to involve our own children in the local schools, and pursue improving the schools by giving of our time, energy, and talents (the human resource). At this particular school, the only teaching tool available is a chalkboard and a simple English book that they can use at school, but not take home. Half of the children have shoes, and a little less than half possess the required uniform.
Alyssa Kurtz assists in the classroom at the primary school near our land. With her help, children were able to participate in creative activities that enhanced learning outside of the limited method of rote memory and repetition. We believe that all children deserve the best, not just our own, and seek to improve the schools for the benefit of all who attend.
Young men assist in transplanting native grasses to regrow the turf around our building. We seek to educate our friends on the benefits of having covered soil surrounding the house. Not only does this reduce erosion and maintain moisture in the soil, it also keeps mud from being tracked into the home.
Geoff Hartnell instructs the youth on utilizing cleared brush to be layered into specific ratios for the compost piles. Utilizing the free resources on our land to build soil fertility is a tremendous gift of knowledge that we can offer to those we work with.
Though many charities are focused on providing water sources for people in East Africa, not every organization is consistent in regards to maintenance and repairs of those wells. In 2013, our on-the-ground research found that 11 out of 15 wells in a 20 mile radius of our hub were not functioning properly. Josh Kurtz was able to perform diagnostics on the wells, as well as completely repair six of them. Since then, G.O.D. cooperatives have repaired a seventh. Kurtz trained a team of men to troubleshoot problems with boreholes, and be equipped to resolve them, a skill that affects thousands of people who depend on these water sources.
In 2002 our organization entered central Kenya. From previous trips in East Africa (1996-1999), founder of G.O.D. Int’l Gregg Garner contacted a pastor, Elias Rukenya, from Central Kenya whom we served alongside to bring biblical education to families in surrounding villages. Pictured here is a moment after an impactful church service that led everyone to river where people made public confessions of their desire to follow God.
We spent days providing bible studies for church leaders who sincerely wanted a connection with God. Every day, they would wake up at the break of dawn to sing songs to God--a beautiful sound to wake up to. Here, pastors who had attended our bible seminars and had committed to serving God with their whole lives were interviewed. Japhet, one of twelve men interviewed that day, shared his heart for people in his village to be educated in God’s Word. To this day we provide biblical education to Japhet’s church community.
2002 was the first year of the Summer Internship with G.O.D. International. Summer interns accompanied us to Central Kenya. During a church service in a humble structure of mud floors, simple wood planked walls, and an iron sheet roof, we sang “You Said,”--a song and prayer asking God for the nations. As interns looked around the room at people who struggled to receive a basic education, feed their children, and stay warm through the winter, they were moved deeply and brought to their knees. They surrendered personal agendas to take on God’s agenda: serving people in need.
Education in God’s word is vital to the health of any society and education in God’s word is our speciality! The men and women we met in central Kenya were hungry to learn God’s word and showed it with their dedication to sit and listen in bible studies that would last 16 hours a day! As a response to their desire to learn we constructed a training center to serve as a safe and efficient place to gather together and study the word. The multipurpose center consisted of 4 separate rooms for sleeping quarters and a large meeting space.
Gregg Garner and Elias Rukenya stand in front of the multipurpose center that was completed in 2004. Our organization hoped this building would be a place of empowerment through education. Hundreds of pastors have continued to utilize this center with countless hours of bible study and dialogue on how to be a true benefit to those in need.
Gregg Garner taught a bible seminar for more than thirty men and women from Central Kenya.
Interns also joined in on these seminars, their eyes being opened as they heard and learned about the struggles our Kenyan brothers and sisters endure. As we learned the bible together, prayed together, cried together, and shared meals together we built deep bonds of friendship with Kenyans whom we still work with today.
Though the photograph is dark, it is a sign of the dedication we had to teach the Word, and the hunger the leaders had to learn it. Studies would go well into the evening. Through these conversations and studies we began developing the relationships we still hold with our Kenyan cooperatives today, ten years later.
Part of our educational efforts involve a distance learning program where individuals are allowed the opportunity to continue their studies of the Word, even when we don’t have representatives on the ground. We invested into these men (left to right: Simon, Danson, Kanjogo, John, and Rueben) who were eager to continue learning. Books were donated to give them the extra resources necessary to study the bible. To this day, these men are studying God’s word, participating in the Institute for G.O.D. Int’l’s distance learning program. Institute classes are recorded and extended to this group of men in Kenya, who are faithful to listen as well as complete homework, which they send back for grading.
During our time in Central Kenya we visited numerous rural communities who asked us to share the good news of God’s word, facilitate wound care clinics, run kid camps, and share meals together. Hundreds of men, women, and children would come to hear the word spoken and receive treatment for wounds.
After having to push our bus through mud in order to reach this remote village, we were met with a polyphony of beautiful voices singing songs of thanksgiving to God, and welcoming us to their village. They guided us to their church, which was on top of a large rock bed, and we sang songs and shared the Word of God together. Many individuals with ailments and diseases were prayed for and touched by God, as were our hearts. We are still in contact with this community through our Kenyan cooperatives who visit this area every month to teach them the bible.
The Kenyan cooperatives that we trained from 2002 onward have a passion to share God’s word with their neighbors. In 2010, some local youth wanted to know why these men helped their neighbors when they too experienced their own need. Our Kenyan cooperatives took this as an opportunity to share with them what they had learned from the bible, incorporating the young people into a weekly bible study.
In addition to taking time to learn the bible together, we spent time doing daily tasks together with our Kenyan brothers and sisters. Pictured here is Celesta Bargatze, working with Irene Rukenya to chop grass to feed cattle. Every day Irene had chores around their “shamba” (house and farm) that ranged from feeding cattle, harvesting and preparing food, cleaning clothes, cleaning the house, and fetching water--all without electricity. These experiences helped us understand what daily needs our dear friends have and how we can help.
In 2006, one of our Kenyan Cooperatives Erastus Kanjogo, shared that he and his wife were in need of more provision for their family. One idea they had was to start a hair salon and charging station. Our organization provided them with the starting fees for their salon and charging station that they were able to run for three years in their village and provide for their needs.
A common building technique in Africa is to build with sticks and a mixture of mud, cow dung, and plaster. These houses don’t last very long and pose as a danger to their residents. At the home of Elias Rukenya, we were able to help tear down one of his son’s homes and build him a new house made made of wood.
John Njeru is also a cooperative who will bring a smile to those around him. His musical talents have always proven to pump life into any situation. He’s also been involved with our organization since 2002. When visiting his house, participants in our organization noticed he needed a new toilet. Like many of his neighbors, John’s toilet was made of rotting wooden planks over a 20 foot pit. Our organization was able to provide funds and help provide the labor to rebuild a safer toilet with a concrete floor over a new pit. Sadly, in East Africa it is a common incident for children to fall into these pits and sometimes even die. John and his wife no longer have this worry.
A majority of deaths in Africa are caused by preventable diseases. Since 2002, our organization has provided education seminars on how to prevent these diseases through washing hands, eating a healthier diet, malaria prevention and controlling animals around their compound. Here, Heather Munoz teaches on the necessity of healthy diets as a way to maintain one’s immune system, while Risper translates.
Celesta Bargatze spent her 2007 summer in Central Kenya with her husband and daughter, living with our Kenyan cooperative families. During her stint she taught primary health care classes to mothers of our cooperative families. Following these classes and the mother’s employing what was taught, the families testified that no one in their families experienced sickness for an entire year! Before this, someone in their family was sick at least once a month. When G.O.D. representatives returned the next year, they found our Kenyan friends looking healthy and strong, and testifying to the simplicity of the things they learned and implemented.