Will and Ilowee Owens have supported and prayed for missions in Kenya, Africa for many years. In 2005 and 2007 they made missions trips to Kenya to visit friends and see what God was doing. It was during the trip in 2007 that Will and Ilowee became aware of the desperate plight of the Ethiopian women who had been forced to flee their homes to seek refuge in Nairobi, Kenya.
These young women fled Ethiopia because of persecution. Some of them were even sold as sex slaves, their families were often murdered, and their homes burned. Once they fled and arrived in Nairobi, they took refuge in the slums living in small, windowless tin structures no bigger than a closet. Often there would be 10 to 12 refugees in one room. An open sewage trench is their only bathroom and their average life expectancy is a young 33 years.
In 2008 “Garments of Praise”, not yet born, was just a burden heavy on Will and Ilowee’s hearts to help the helpless and hopeless in Kenya, Africa. God brought “prayer partners” alongside to share that burden and many others who gave support and encouragement.
In 2009 help was given to the first refugee trainee and “Mitiki”, successfully completed her training in hair dressing. The dream of opening a “sewing center” to teach skills to “at risk” teens and to share the art of paper bead making to Ethiopian refugees began to form. The goal was to bring hope to these forgotten and downtrodden women, by starting job skills training programs. They need a hand up, not a hand out.
To see how God changed our ministry from a burden to a reality, you can watch a short video on You Tube.
In 2010 Will and Ilowee stepped out in Faith and with help from godly supporters, “Garments of Praise” (GPF) was officially launched. Training in the making of paper beads and unique jewelry was added.
The efforts quickly expanded to include rural Kenyan widows with small children single moms and teens. These teens are either orphaned or have been forced from the family home and left to survive on their own because there is only enough food for the younger children. Since they don’t have an education or job skills training, their future is dark and they often turn to stealing, drugs, alcohol and an early death. The highest suicide rate by hanging in Kenya is young teens ages 14 to 18.
The next training effort began with the “sewing center” with 5 students. This “sewing center” later led to the formation of the “Garments of Praise Training Institute.” In this year the first “mission team” traveled to Kenya when a Physician’s Assistant, Peggy Hubbard, went with them and held medical clinics as Will and Ilowee gave biblical seminars.
In 2011 Garments of Praise, burdened for the plight of the orphaned, abandoned and neglected children formed the first partnership with was with Shalom Learning Center, which helps disadvantaged children. This is just the first of what we pray will be more efforts to provide “Safe Havens” for children where they can have education, food and love. The next “mission team” arrived in October from Calvary Chapel Tucson to share in the work and minister to those in need. With that visit came the burden for “Equipping the Saints” through Bible based seminars and providing greater assistance with tuition for Bible school.
In 2012 a “Mission House” was secured, and Will and Ilowee spent the year working more closely with developing the work and hosting mission teams. This house is not only a residence, but also provides a home for Bible studies, individual prayer and counseling sessions, and a temporary and long term shelter for many. In November GPF launched a “Feeding Program” to help poverty entrenched students with food to enable better learning of job skills. This year also saw GPF blessed to become a part of “Calvary Chapel Tucson, Missions Ministries – Reach Africa”.
In 2013 the work continued to expand and was strengthened with the help of our Kenyan partners and USA mission team workers. Because of the desperate needs of those to whom we minister, a “Jesus Cares Fund” was set up to give emergency aid for ‘medical, food and shelter’ which has made the difference between life and death for some.
The “Garments of Praise Foundation” was registered in Kenya, Africa as “Garments of Praise Foundation Ministry” (GPFM) and gives us legal status to operate in the various areas God has opened up.