Total Orphans – by Milton Jones

What is the difference in a partial and a total orphan? It’s sad that we have to use those designations.

David Marangach contacted me today to tell me that we have two new total orphans at our CRF school on Mt. Elgon in Kenya called Milton Simotweet. Caleb Kiplangat and Rehema Churtolin, brother and sister, had their dad die. They had already had their mom violently die, and now the second parent was gone, making them total orphans.

“It was a dark morning!” David declared. “The air was filled with cries and prayers.” Caleb and Rehema lost their only living parent on that day as some unknown people attacked them and shot them to death. If this were not bad enough, the assailants decapitated their father and the other victims. And it happened right by our school.

This area is a violent one. Most of CRF’s hundreds of children here have been orphaned by wars. It appears the SLDF (Sabaot Land Defense Force), a rebel army that was responsible for the war that created the many orphans that we have on Mt. Elgon is back. Rehema and Caleb aren’t the only ones who have seen their parents murdered. Kids in this place have not only been left without parents but also food, shelter, and a means to take care of themselves. Without CRF they wouldn’t be getting an education, meals, or a place to stay. CRF has also provided psychological counsel to the children to help them with their grief over the atrocities they have seen.

I’m thankful for our donors who have sponsored so many of them. I’m also grateful for those of you who have built dorms for them. We still need new dorms, and many children aren’t sponsored currently.

Seeing this picture of Caleb and Rehema smiling brings tears to my eyes. This picture with David was taken earlier that day before they knew the tragic news of their dad. I can’t imagine how much changed in their countenance, emotional makeup and total life when they heard the news.

Pray for them. We still don’t know for sure who committed the murders or why. We think it had to do with the army. Helicopters are flying over our site. People on the mountain are fleeing. Indeed, this leaves a lot of uncertainty and fear on the mountain. Our CRF works there have heightened security and are doing everything possible to protect the children. But we still need your prayers.

David said, “Thank you for building this school. Otherwise, they would have no one else to take care of them.”




Elkatarot Ekamaals 2003-2017


I’m filled with a strange sadness and joy as I try to wrap my brain around the news that one of the children my wife and I sponsor in Turkana, Kenya has died. He drowned in a freak accident—a flash flood in a desert where it rarely ever rains.

Elkatarot was out gathering firewood (a daily ritual in Turkanan life) when he and several other children were caught up in a flash flood. Field workers were able to save the other kids, but Elkatarot could not be reached.

This news made me sad in many ways. Holly and I sponsor several kids from Turkana (my church members collectively sponsor 170 of them!) and I have no less than six pictures of Elkatarot in my office. His photos stand out because he is always smiling. Most kids from this region don’t smile much, partly because life is so hard and partly because certain tribes in Africa don’t smile in pictures. But Elkatarot almost always smiled, because he wasn’t like most kids. He was special, what we would call “special needs” here in the U.S.

I first met Elkatarot when I visited CRF’s project in Turkana in 2013. At that time, the Turkana project only consisted of a schoolhouse and a few wells, but it was the first fruit of a project that has gone on to save more than 100,000 people with clean drinking water! This place was called Nadapal. It was in the middle of nowhere, a mini-oasis in a seemingly God- forsaken desert, made into a community by virtue of a new well. The water brought animals, and a village had sprung up around it simply because of the water. A church met there under one of the few shade trees nearby, and that morning hundreds of people were on hand for services.

After the service and dozen baptisms in a river miles away, my good friend Francis Bii came around behind me, leading Elkatarot. He said, “This child needs your help. He needs clothes and food and schooling and to know about Jesus.” I must have, in my awkwardness, said something to the effect of, “I’ll bet we can do something. I’ll consider it.” Then they left.

Throughout the afternoon, Francis continued bringing groups of ragged, malnourished children, saying “Jim. These children also need your help.” Each time I nodded and replied, “Sure. We’ll see what we can do.” And before an hour had passed every kid within reach was interviewed, photographed, and thus became potential CRF kids. The only thing standing between them and a life with love, food, clothing, medical treatment and education was a willing sponsor. I’m proud to say that my church has never failed to sponsor a Turkanan child since that day, given the opportunity! Lord willing, it will always be so.

But Elkatarot was the first child sponsored in Turkana. He was the one Francis and God used to finish breaking my heart. He was the one, with needs beyond my imagination, needs that could mostly be met for my small sacrifice of $35 a month—a pittance out of the well-spring of wealth God has given me, and given… you. How could I have possibly said “NO?”

Saying “Yes” changed Elkatarot’s life dramatically. And it has changed my life, and the life of my church. God used a African orphan with special needs as the first seed. Because of Elkatarot, “starving orphans” became real to me and to my church. And the church has gone on to support water wells, new schools, missionary residences, churches and farms that weren’t there four years ago. Hundreds of souls have been saved and thousands of people are now alive because they have clean water. Connect the dots and they all lead back to Elkatarot, and the God who made him special, the God who used him to bring about God-sized things. Isn’t that God’s way?

So I’m sad to think that this “son” of mine is no longer smiling under a tree in Turkana. I feel like I need a funeral to go to, some way to do something. But the best thing I can imagine doing is making a life-changing difference in the life of some more Turkanan orphans. I’m sad, but I’m joy-filled to know that in his last four years of life Elkatarot was known, loved, taught, nurtured, clothed, fed and introduced to Jesus Christ. I’m joy-filled that this ever-smiling-very-special-special-needs-child was used so mightily by God. I only got to talk to Elkatarot face to face on two occasions; I only wanted him to know that he was loved and known. Now he knows that in a perfect way. And I hope he knows all that God made possible through him that day in Turkana. Elkatarot, see you in heaven!


Your Church + CRF

At the CRF office, we’re continually inspired by the ideas our partner churches come up with for encouraging their members to make an impact. Whether it’s sponsoring more children or raising funds for a school, health center or water well, it’s incredibly exciting to see a congregation fully committed to changing the lives of children in need for the glory of God!

We wanted to share some recent stories to express our gratitude for the creativity and compassion we see across ALL of the amazing churches we partner with, and to maybe inspire you to incorporate CRF deeper in how your church reaches out to the world!


—  LCBC Church  -  Pennsylvania  —

We are so grateful for the Harleysville, PA campus of LCBC church. They are fully committed to sponsoring children in Honduras. This campus has about 1,000 members and they sponsor nearly 300 hundred kids. That’s an average of more than one per family! They even join us on a Honduras mission trip each summer where they can meet their sponsored children!

We love the way the church displayed all of the children available for sponsorship in their lobby by using clothespins, twine and wooden pallets! The display was also covered with photos and testimonials from families who had already chosen to sponsor a child. Thanks LCBC!


—  Palo Alto Church of Christ  -  Florida  —

It seems like everyone at Palo Alto Church of Christ contributed a creative idea for their water drilling fundraiser this spring. Children carried water jugs and encouraged everyone to contribute their spare change. A group of men built a working well on the stage! Then someone built a six-foot tall water tube complete with continuous bubbles and LED lighting to serve as a visual reminder of the church’s progress toward their goal.

And don’t forget the youth group! They learned that the sum of every number between 1 and 100 is 5,050. Slightly more than the $5,000 it costs to drill a well with CRF’s matching gift program. So they put out envelopes numbered 1-100 and asked everyone to take an envelope and return it with that number of dollars. So far they have raised enough for 3 wells! Thanks Palo Alto!




We are always looking for opportunities to connect with churches and share inspiring CRF stories and messages of hope! Are you interested in hosting a CRF Sunday at your church?

Contact us soon! Email us at



Faces in the Famine

Children LOVE their sponsors!

Here are some inspiring stories of Kenyan sponsored children from our Kenya Director, Emily Whelchel.

Computer (what a great name!) is sponsored by my cousin, Juliana. Computer lives thousands of miles from her sponsor, but she carries her wallet-sized photo in a small plastic bag with her everywhere she goes.

Computer is an orphan, so she feels so loved to have someone to pray for her and provide for her needs.


Teressa was in 8th grade and unsponsored. Teressa’s parents had both died in a war, and we didn’t know that she was being abused by her current guardian. One day at school her teacher found a note that said “My life is hell. God hates me. I don’t want to live anymore.” Shortly before she was going to take her life, our CRF director rescued her and got her a place to board at our school.  She is now in high school.

If you even mention the name of her sponsor, a big smile breaks out on Teressa’s face.


When Ivone was a small girl, rebels came to her home and murdered her family.  Her parents’ blood covered her so that the murderers thought she was also dead.  Ivone was able to survive with only an injury to her eye.  Now Ivone is thriving because she is able to board at a CRF school and receive nutritious food.

Thanks to a sponsor who loves her, Ivone is currently doing well in school. 



Will You Tell the Bad News?

We need some people to be like Agabus.

Do you remember him?

Agabus appears twice in the book of Acts, and both times he is told to tell bad news. Later in the book of Acts, he is the one chosen to tell of the Apostle Paul’s upcoming arrest. But it is the first time he is mentioned that is important to us today. In Acts 11:27-30, Agabus announces a severe famine that would spread over the entire Roman world. He lets people know. And now it’s our responsibility to let people know about a famine.

The worst famine in over half a century is currently hitting the Horn of Africa, affecting more than 10 million people. After losing crops and livestock destroyed by the drought, thousands of families have travelled for days from Somalia to Kenya including barefoot children with no food or water. Malnutrition has reached 37% in some parts of northeast Kenya, and child refugees from Somalia are dying of causes related to malnutrition either during the journey or very shortly after arriving at aid camps.

And hardly anyone knows this!! Can you tell someone? Can you get the word out? Most of our media is covering other things, and people don’t know this story.

No one likes to announce bad news. Wouldn’t you have rather announced the Messiah than a bad drought? But Agabus was telling God’s message. It was the message of the moment. Let’s not forget the message of this moment—people are dying in a devastating drought.

And let’s not miss the response to the message of Agabus. “The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help.” We need to follow that example from the book of Acts.

Can each of you, according to your ability, decide to provide help?
                                                   — Milton Jones, CRF President