1986: Don Rogers takes his first trip to Kenya with his church (Living Spring Christian Fellowship in Garden Grove, CA) as the pastor from USA meets and agrees to a return visit to Africa, but this time, to Tanzania.
1987: Living Spring Christian Fellowship plans a trip to Tanzania.
1988: The Africa trip leadership leave the church and the trip to Tanzania is canceled. The church board informs the Tanzania pastor by letter.
1988: The pastor from Tanzania writes back to the church and invites them to send someone. Don agrees to be the church representative and leaves for a one-month trip to and around Mwanza, Tanzania. God-led encounters, shocking poverty, suffering pastors, and openness to the Gospel turn Don’s world upside-down. Upon his return and sharing the stories of the journey, several people asked to join Don on his “next trip to Africa.”
1989: Don leads the first short-term team on a Tanzania village ministry, holding open-air meetings and simple training sessions.
1990: The church raises funds through garage sales to sponsor two boats and a fishing net to help a suffering pastor in Bungonia, Tanzania.
1990-1994: Don returns each summer to explore and expand some economic projects with the local churches while also holding leadership training sessions for pastors. Several short-term teams join and participate. The first projects, located in Igoma, Tanzania, include the following: propagating and selling tree seedlings, cement water storage jars, a hand-powered washing machine, poultry production, cement roof tile production, Cinva Ram earth block press production, a 55-gallon metal drum oven bakery. During this time, Don meets and is assisted by Kenyan David Tarus.
1994: A pastor of the church and two businessmen meet with Don and encourage him to launch a 501c3 ministry. The first staff join the ministry, as Cathy Bushnell and Wendy Ludovici live in Tanzania to start a Christian pre-school and dynamic youth ministry program.
1995: ELI becomes official. Living Spring Christian Fellowship provides a small office space and access to office equipment. The name of “Empowering Lives International” is chosen as the best representation of the calling and overall goals to see people empowered spiritually, physically and economically.
1996: Don and Amy are married and move to Tanzania. They make an exploratory trip to Kipkaren, Kenya.
1996-2000: Don and Amy move to Kenya to begin ministry and the construction of Training Centers with David Tarus in Kipkaren River and Samuel Teimuge in Ilula. Short-term teams participate and help expand the ministry. Demonstration farms are established and expanded to include appropriate technology, agriculture and animal husbandry.
1998: ELI Tanzania is registered and initiated with its home base being on the shore of Lake Victoria near Bunda, Tanzania.
1999: The Jesus Cross Over Bridge is constructed in two weeks in partnership with the Kipkaren River community, ELI and Hillside Community Church (Rancho Cucamonga, CA).
1999: Anti-alcohol programs begin with a village-wide survey and visit from a short-term team from Lambs Fellowship (Murrieta, CA). The program grows rapidly and passes the milestone of seeing over 1,000 people set free from alcohol within four years.
2000: Ministry in DR Congo begins at the request of Congolese national leadership. The first projects begin in the Keredi slum with a women’s Bible study and soap making project.
2003: Kenya leadership Samuel Teimuge meets Sudan pastor Stephen Reech in Eldoret, Kenya.
2003: ELI partners with the Kipkaren River (Kenya) community and a local village church to begin construction on a desperately needed health clinic.
2004: ELI expands construction in the Keredi slum (DR Congo) with additional school classrooms at the ELI Christian Academy, helping over 300 needy children. The Chihonga village “Get Your Goat” program takes root and grows to help over 200 families.
2004: ELI launches several village-wide HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns that are soon followed with counseling and testing programs.
2005: The first Children’s Home opens in Ilula, Kenya.
2005: ELI Kenya leadership agrees to begin assisting the people of South Sudan. Stephen make his first trip back to Sudan in 14 years. While there, he is given land by the local chief, and in turn, ELI is given 50 acres to begin operations near Bor, South Sudan.
2006: A Christian primary school in South Sudan is launched, being the first school in this location in over 20 years. It begins with 170 children from ages five to 15 – all begin in the first grade!
2006: ELI begins collaboration with a successful training strategy to initiate the “Business For Life” training program in Kenya.
2006: The second Children’s Home opens in Kipkaren, Kenya.
2006: The Brook of Faith Christian School is constructed by ELI in Kipkaren and opens to provide schooling to almost 100 orphans and other children from surrounding villages.
2007: Kenyan Isaac Ruto assists ELI Tanzania leadership to begin a field farmer training strategy that, over the next few years, proves highly successful in terms of results and cost effectiveness.
2008: ELI DR Congo School (in Bukavu) expands beyond primary levels to include a high school program in the slum that would reach over 500 children, who would otherwise not have access to education.
2011: ELI purchases additional acres near the Kipkaren Training and Development Center (Kenya) and begins plans to establish agricultural income generating activities.
2012: ELI establishes an International Extension Training position filled by Isaac Ruto, who begins taking the training strategies of ELI to villages beyond Kenyan borders and into Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, DR Congo and South Sudan.
2012: A woodshop is built and equipped as part of the training efforts for children from the ELI Children’s Homes, recovering alcoholics and others in need who desire to learn skills in woodworking.
2012: A church partnership makes it possible to research and produce the ELITE Grain Storage Bags for farmers. The bags kill grain-destroying pests almost immediately using no pesticides. This enables farmers who would normally lose 30 percent of their crop to store their hard-earned food without the risk of dangerous chemicals, loss or damage.
2013: The first nine children from the Ilula Children’s Home (Kenya) graduate from high school and leave the home to begin higher education.
2013: ELI Kenya leadership connects with village chiefs and local brewers of illegal alcohol to begin training 45 women in alternative skills for income while they also give their lives to Christ.
2013: Following the August 2013 training of 45 women, the positive results of their changed lives has such impact on the local and surrounding village that other women begin requesting the chance to also attend an ELI training. In September, 53 more come and are transformed. In October, 83 come for training with the same powerful results. In November, 91 women come, completely exceeding the capacity of the training center in Ilula, Kenya. The results again surpass explanation. Trainings continue into 2014 and 2015 with over 90 percent of those trained giving their lives to Christ.
2014: ELI secures a simple mud structure and begins a two-month alcohol rehabilitation home and program what can accommodate eight people. Improvements and expansion will be made as funds become available.
2014: Church partners make it possible to purchase an LS300T water well drill in Tanzania. Drilling wells to access clean water in partnership (through cost sharing) with villages begins, providing an inroad for ministry.
2014-2015: In October 2014 through March 2015, ELITE Grain Storage Bag sales surpass 11,000 units. The bags can help rescue between 400,000 to 500,000 pounds of otherwise destroyed grains during the year.
2015: A partner church makes it possible to renovate the Ilula dormitories so that ELI can accommodate and reach more people in need of training.
Present: Training Centers in Kenya and Tanzania continue to partner with families, local pastors and communities to provide training and the message of God’s love to see lives transformed and empowered spiritually, physically and economically.