Our History

Will and Ilowee Owens 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 was their only bathroom, and their average life expectancy was 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 handout. To see how God changed our ministry from a burden to a reality, you can watch a short video on YouTube.

In 2010 Will and Ilowee stepped out in faith, and with help from godly supporters, Garments of Praise (GOP) was officially launched.   Training in the making of paper beads and unique jewelry was added. Many were trained during the six years we ran this program.

The efforts quickly expanded to include rural Kenyan widows with small children, single moms, and teens. These teens were either orphaned or had 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 didn’t have an education or job skills training, their future was dark and they often turned 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 Tailoring 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 Shalom Learning Center, founded to help disadvantaged children.

The next mission team arrived in October of 2011 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 was not only a residence, but also provided a home for bible studies, individual prayer and counseling sessions, and a temporary and long-term shelter for many. In November Garments of Praise launched a Feeding Program to help poverty entrenched students with food to enable better learning of job skills. That year also saw GOP 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, the 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 Ministry (GPFM) was registered in Kenya, Africa and gives us legal status to operate in the various areas God has opened.