15 Aug Building for Christ
by: Elaine Tomski
What does Ohio’s Amish Country and Uganda, Africa, have in common? In one word, growth. The kind of growth only God can ignite in the minds and hearts of people. The kind of heights made possible by laying a solid foundation. The kind of increase experienced when ordinary folks from two completely different parts of the world simply love people and serve God.
Laying Foundations, Loving People and Serving God…this is the mission of BUILDING FOR CHRIST, a homegrown organization birthed in 2011. That year, 18-year-old Miriam Yoder went to Uganda to serve with Watoto Ministries. Her life was forever changed by the people she met and the conditions she experienced there. The following year she returned, this time with her brother Joe in tow. After hours and hours in airplanes and even more hours traveling by vehicle, Miriam and Joe finally met Pastor George Jabulani in Gulu, Uganda. They had traveled to serve with Pastor George who offers a Bible-based education to area children in the Gulu Community Church building. It was Joe who had the opportunity to help build a simple one-room home for the teacher. Because teachers are brought in from more educated areas of Africa, they need a place to live throughout the school year. As you can see, Miriam and Joe were not the only ones who had come to serve in Gulu that year. Joe says, “When I went to Gulu for the first time, I guess my heart just stayed there. A little bit of it, at least. I love to go back and help out.”
GROWING AN ORGANIZATION
The following year, Joe returned to help Pastor George expand the school. As more families became interested in having their children educated, the church ran out of space and the need for a school building became a reality. Joe had construction skills, so it seemed obvious he could be helpful in building new schools. He felt called to use his God-given abilities to promote the growth of minds, hearts and spirits in Africa. Although Joe was now traveling to Uganda solo, he arrived each year carrying with him the support of others back home. Joe, his dad James Yoder, and their business partners own and operate Kline Home Exteriors in Millersburg, Ohio. With his dad and mom’s moral support and the resources they could pull together, Joe offered his presence, helped with construction and delivered financial assistance for the school projects each year. Two years ago, a couple of Joe’s buddies also traveled with him. Joe says, “Now several other people have caught the vision and are involved in fundraising, as well as the travel and hands-on operation of BUILDING FOR CHRIST (BFC).” By early 2017, BFC had gained a 501(c)(3) non-profit status, met their goal to raise $50,000 and for the first time, a whole team of volunteers traveled to serve in Uganda.
GROWING SCHOOLS AND YOUNG MINDS
BUILDING FOR CHRIST assists with the main church in Gulu and its outreach extending to eight Ugandan villages. Each village is located within an hour and a half traveling distance from Gulu. Some of these villages are accessed not by road, but by a single dirt path leading through the bush. Pastor George plants churches in these villages. As the churches begin to grow and the people become Christ followers, the desire for a school in the village arises as well. The new Christians are eager to give their children an education. This is a privilege many African children simply do not receive because of the distance required to walk to the nearest public school. Now these private schools are coming to the villages, providing not only English, math and science for life but also a Biblical education, making an impact for eternity.
To date, BFC has helped build two teacher houses and six schools for preschool through eighth grade. More teacher houses are needed, but schools take priority. Typical Ugandan homes are made round with straw-thatched roofs. Beginning with a good foundation, “Our teacher houses and schools are built to last with brick walls and a metal roof,” says Joe. “Originally our schools were just walls with window openings and metal roofs. We created simple structures so we could move on and build more schools because the need was so great.” Returning with additional funds this year, BFC was able to plaster, paint, install windows and doors and make desks, finishing out two of the schools. In addition, “We have started a vocational school,” reports Joe. It gives teens, who in the past, have missed out on public education, the opportunity to gain skills and make income. The girls learn to sew, crochet and bead while the boys learn trades such as masonry. Joe adds, “Some of the students have worked on our schools as they learn masonry. Those who graduate from the vocational school receive a certificate.”
“Everything we do concerning the schools, we do through Pastor George,” says Joe. “We are not making the people of Uganda dependent on us. We are helping, not taking over. After we leave, their schools run just as before. We’re not part of the operations, only the assistance. The curriculum is set by an administrator who also works in the government schools.” This means the same high educational standards apply to Pastor George’s private church schools.
People’s hearts have been enlarged in the cities and villages of Gulu, Pagik, Pawel Aduk, Palaro, Agung and Kidikul, just to name a few. These people know they’re valuable because kind-hearted folks from another country have cared enough to invest time, resources and relationship with them. You could even say they’re feeling loved. When you learn of the experiences the BFC team had on their most recent trip to Uganda, you’ll understand why hearts are growing on both sides of the giving.
In late February and early March of 2017, the team of Joe Yoder, Tonya Yoder, Glenn Troyer, Dan Yoder, Travis Kaiser and Eva Mast traveled to serve. Communication was relatively easy since the national language in Uganda is English. Anyone who has any education in Uganda can speak English; usually it is the younger residents. Older residents may only know a tribal language, and many of the people in the area also speak the Acholi language. The team made their way into some very remote areas of Uganda. Joe’s wife Tonya recalls, “In some of the villages, the children had never seen white people before. The teacher would tell them, ‘They’re the same as us. They have the same blood, just a different color of skin.’ The children were so afraid of us. It took a long time before they would even play games with us.” While the guys worked on construction projects, the gals played games with the children. They also shared Bible stories and lollipops with them.
Because the kids have so little in the way of possessions, they appreciate every little thing. In one of the villages, 150 school children had only one soccer ball, or as they say, futbol. That’s an easy problem to fix when you have a sharing attitude. They cut the ball in half and then had two futbols to kick around! So, Dan Yoder decided to have a sharing attitude as well and bought two new futbols. Joe says, “When we were blowing those soccer balls up outside the van, the kids’ eyes got big and their smiles wide.” Pastor George asked the children if they’d like to play with the new balls. Joe says, “They just yelled like crazy. They were so excited!”
Resources are scarce inside the classroom, too. The teachers have to be creative. They must draw pictures and write out everything on the chalkboard. There are no textbooks. Tonya says, “Each kid has a plain blank notebook and usually one pencil. We took some donated used picture books and the kids loved them! People back home had donated a ton of books. We had the opportunity to read some Bible storybooks to the class. The children’s eyes were glued to the pictures. They had never seen such a colorful, beautiful book.” Now, the schools have libraries where kids can read the donated books. How wonderful!
The generosity delivered by BFC doesn’t stop with the children. Whole families and villages benefit as well. According to Joe, they hire laborers and skilled masons directly from Gulu and surrounding communities to build the schools. Therefore, the funds offered by generous US donors not only build schools but also support the local economy. “We use all local materials of mortar, stones and brick. We take nothing with us except for the finances,” reports Joe. “We pay the laborer, masons, and carpenters. They’re hard workers. They work from sunup till sundown.” The many desks they built during their last trip also created jobs for local carpenters and welders.
At times, water is also scarce in the village. With enough finances, BFC can hire local well drillers to dig much-needed wells. Villagers go to a single well, operated by hand pump, to access clean water for living. In one village, the well has gone dry. Joe says, “They only have a spring where they dig down in the sand every day to get their water.” BFC can hire a local well-driller at the cost of $5000 to $7000, depending on how deep they must go. The deeper they dig, the longer the well will last. The BFC team has experienced how critical the need is for a well. They desire to supply financing for wells, as needed.
The generosity delivered by BFC doesn’t stop with Africa. They also do construction, basic repairs and roofing for local people in need. Earlier this year, a lady from Mansfield, Ohio, had contacted Kline Home Exteriors. She needed a new roof. She also needed to pay for the roof over time. One of their salesmen went out to assess the need and found Sandy, with kids of her own, also caring for three boys whose parents were in prison. She had a big heart, a lot of bills and a terrible roof. Joe says, “We decided at BFC we could pitch in and give her a new roof, so that’s what we did.” With the financial assistance of local suppliers and a local church, Sandy’s roof was soon new and her big heart was filled.
Another local project will take place this year in Barnesville, Ohio. Travis Kaiser, a member of the 2017 team, is from Barnesville. He’s already planning to return to Uganda next year. Joe says of Travis, “He raised a lot of support from that community, so we want to give back. We are looking to do repairs for some folks there.” It will certainly lift the spirits of people when the BFC team shows up in Barnesville to serve them. The community that contributed to laying foundations in Africa will, in turn, be served. This is what it looks like to build for Christ. To simply be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Can you imagine the greatest moments the BFC team experienced while being the hands and feet of Jesus in Uganda? It was the times they handed Bibles to the teachers. Joe says, “Not one of them had their own Bible, not even those who served as Sunday School teachers. Bibles have been so scarce they had to be shared. They were so thankful someone had brought Bibles for them.” BFC is grateful for the local people, churches and stores who donated the Bibles and funds to make sharing them possible. Tonya says, “We took a bunch of Bibles to distribute, which was pretty amazing.” They took 200 English Bibles and also bought Acholi Bibles in Uganda. Tonya had the opportunity to help Pastor George’s wife Irene with women’s ministry while there. It seems Ugandan women are not highly valued in their culture. They are often vulnerable, used and neglected. How their spirits must soar when the Bible is opened and they discover how much Jesus loves them!
Joe says, “We just try to be a light, to show Jesus to people through construction.” People young and old in Gulu and the surrounding villages know they’re valued when BFC volunteers take time to invest in their lives. Currently, over 900 students fill the Shalom Christian Schools. This is the name given to the schools Pastor George has built with assistance from BFC. In the years Joe has traveled to Gulu, he has noticed a difference. He says, “You can see their education makes a huge difference. They realize an education is a privilege.” Families willingly pay a minimal charge for their kids to attend school. “Some families pay with chickens, rice or posho,” says Joe. Posho is a porridge made with cornmeal. The students receive one meal per day, so in addition to growing intellectually and spiritually, they are becoming physically healthier.
The BFC team has discovered Ugandans are content even though they don’t have much. While building schools alongside the vocational students, Joe heard them singing praise and worship songs. He said, “It was awesome to see that, to be a part of that as we served. I commended them for their happy spirits.” The spiritual truth demonstrated here is this; contentment comes not from what one has or where one lives. Rather, it comes from the hope of Christ placed in one’s heart.
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. Ephesians 3: 17-21
Christ alone supplies the contentment, well-being and wholeness we crave. The complete peace he gives is the meaning of the word “Shalom.” How right it seems for Shalom Christian Schools to have that name.
Yes, God is in the business of providing and multiplying above and beyond anything we can imagine. BFC has experienced this firsthand. Joe says, “It’s awesome to see how many people have become involved. God has put people in place where they need to be.” BFC has grown to include an administrative board. Joe says, “Every board member goes to a different church, so we get a lot of support from many churches. We’re not affiliated with any one church, but many.” The all-volunteer BFC board meets the second Tuesday of each month and consists of James Yoder, Director; Joe Yoder, Missions Director; Tonya Yoder, Volunteer Coordinator; Miriam Yoder, Public Communications; Dan Yoder, Lead Trip Volunteer; Paul Weaver, Secretary; and Lindsey Chupp, Treasurer. All funds are secured at US Bank in Sugarcreek, Ohio.
The number of servants has grown and list of building projects has increased. Therefore, the greatest need today is for finances. Joe says, “This coming year the plan is to build more school houses. We are limited with what we can do, depending on what funds we raise.” In 2018 there will be two teams, possibly three, traveling to Uganda from the end of February through the end of March. Joe says, “It works out well to go during our winter while construction work and farming is a bit slower here.” Speaking of farming, Tonya’s uncle Glenn Troyer will initiate improved farming practices. On the next trip, he plans to rent some equipment in Uganda to help clear land for more agricultural fields. Not having enough open space to grow food is a problem in Gulu and the surrounding area. Because they can’t afford equipment, all clearing is typically done by hand and is painfully slow. Glenn hopes to clear some land, help with the planting and share any knowledge an Ohio farmer might give, to their advantage. Because Tonya loves kids, she serves little ones while in Uganda. She suggests, “Find what you’re good at. Discover the abilities God gave you and use them to bless others, no matter where you are, Africa or the USA.”
As you can see at BUILDING FOR CHRIST, construction is not the only skill used for serving. Farmers are welcomed, women are welcomed, there’s so much to do. The plan is to be obedient to God and follow where He leads. Look what He has accomplished already through the hearts of people willing to lay foundations, love people and serve Him.
Now that you know how others serve through BUILDING FOR CHRIST, perhaps you desire to be part of the mission. Here are some ideas for you to consider.
FIND OUT MORE AT:
Or call (330 )763-1381
with questions and to express your desire to serve.
Building for Christ Fall Festival & Fundraiser
October 14, 2017 from 3:00-8:00 p.m.
Located at The Pier, 10470 Winesburg Rd., Dundee
Enjoy a BBQ Dinner, Gun Raffle, Basket Raffle, Music,
Bounce House & Children’s Activities
Sponsored by Kline Home Exterior
MAIL DONATIONS TO:
Building For Christ
3809 Township Road 154
Millersburg, OH 44654
When you join forces with BUILDING FOR CHRIST, you do more than build schools and replace roofs. You contribute to growth, the kind of growth only God can ignite in the minds and hearts of people. The kind of heights made possible by laying a solid foundation. The kind of increase experienced when ordinary folks from two completely different parts of the world simply love people and serve God.
“Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
– C.T. Studd