Donna Kriete is putting faith and art together for a cause.
The Hooper woman is selling her art to benefit a Ugandan pastor, who is spreading the Gospel despite hardships and opposition.
Kriete, a Hooper-area resident, was Loft Artist of the Month at Gallery 92 West in Fremont, where her works were featured in December.
On Sunday, she plans to sell her artwork after the worship service at Full Life Church at 2380 Seaton Ave., in Fremont. Paintings and other artwork will be available for sale at noon. Would-be buyers also may contact Kriete at 402-654-2473.
Proceeds will be used to help an African minister, who serves two churches on a very limited income.
Kriete’s own journey of faith and art began years ago. The area woman was a 7-year-old student at Immanuel Lutheran School at Hooper, when a missionary from Africa came to speak.
“I thought I would like to be a missionary and go to Africa, but instead I wound up living close to home as a farmer’s wife,” she said.
She and her husband, John, have five children and 23 grandchildren with another due in March. One year, Kriete’s family paid for her to take a watercolor painting class at Midland University as a Christmas gift. She would take more classes.
And Kriete would go to Africa.
In 2010, she went with her son-in-law, Chad Ruda, and people from the Evangelical Free Church in Fremont to Uganda.
There, she met Jimmy Mwanga.
“He was humble and sincere and he told me he needed peace and joy,” she said.
Mwanga asked Kriete to pray for him and they exchanged emails.
Through the emails, Kriete learned that Mwanga’s parents had both died and he’d been raised as a Muslim. Mwanga was young when he became very ill.
Friends thought he would die.
Then a Christian evangelist shared the Gospel with Mwanga, who experienced miraculous healing and became a Christian. But after he became a Christian, Mwanga’s relatives disowned him and took any property he owned, Kriete said.
When Kriete met Mwanga, he was training with a mentor pastor to become a minister. In 2012, Mwanga’s mentor told him he was ready to have his own church.
So Mwanga and his wife, Peninnah, planned to start a church where her family lived. But Mwanga said he then was told in a dream to start a church in an area where Muslims lived and a place where witchcraft is practiced.
The country, itself, has economic challenges. The World Bank Group lists Uganda as one of the poorest countries on earth. And although described as one of the fastest developing nations, Uganda has been described as a Third World country.
“When you go to Uganda, it’s like you’re stepping into Bible times,” Kriete said, adding that there is no electricity where Mwanga now has two churches.
Mwanga started his first church in 2012 in southern Uganda and Kriete said miracles have occurred.
In 2014, Kriete and her husband and their friend Becky Novacek of Fremont went to Uganda and saw Mwanga’s church, called Glory Rescue.
There, Kriete said she met a girl named, Spae, who had asthma and couldn’t attend school until she was healed.
“She’s not in the hospital every week,” Kriete said.
Kriete said she met a witch doctor, who became a Christian and was in the church.
“The witch doctors don’t like him (the pastor) or the Christians, because people go to this church and Pastor Jimmy will pray and he doesn’t charge. The witch doctors charge you,” she said.
Kriete said there once was a line to get into to see the witch doctor.
“But with Jimmy around, people go to him to pray,” she said.
Kriete noted something else: “Witch doctors have been converted to Christianity because they realize Jimmy’s God has more power.”
In 2017, a family who lived about 25 miles from Pastor Jimmy’s church came with a demon-possessed daughter, who’d been running in the wild in the bush for years and said she was married to demons.
The parents brought their daughter to Pastor Jimmy and asked him to pray.
“And in the name of Jesus, the demons were cast out,” Kriete said. “It’s just like the Bible stories.”
After that, the young woman’s father said: “We need to become Christians and we have more family.”
He and other family members returned and 16 people became Christians.
The man then asked Pastor Jimmy to build a church on his land.
That’s how the second church was started.
Some might wonder why miracles occur there.
“I think they’re desperate,” Kriete said. “They don’t have the money or the medical technology that we have here. And they just believe God and heal them and many are healed.”
In the last year, 163 people came to know Christ as Savior, she said.
Now, Mwanga needs more chairs for his church. He’d like a generator, sound system, keyboard and a pickup truck because he has no transportation.
To get from one church to the other, he must rent a ride on a motorbike for the trip. Typically, there are four to five other people on the bike at the time.
The pastor faces other challenges. He and his wife have four of their own children and have taken in two others. They must pay their school fees.
“In Uganda, you have to pay for your children to go to school,” Kriete said. “If you don’t have the money, you have to stay home.”
Most in Mwanga’s family have had malaria. His little boy survived after being poisoned intentionally by someone wanting to harm the pastor.
The church doesn’t pay Mwanga a salary but sometimes might provide a little something for his transportation or provide him a little food. He has a small garden. People from Full Life Church have helped provide him with support.
Kriete hopes to help out more. Her artwork includes watercolor paintings, pen and ink, and acrylic and ink. Prices range from $40 to $110. Her collection includes abstracts, florals and a peacock feather. She has sold about eight of her 30 works thus far.
Kriete hopes to sell more of her artwork to help the pastor, whom she said has an effective ministry.
“He hangs tight with God,” Kriete said of Mwanga. “He knows the language. He knows the culture. He knows how Muslims think and believe and God just puts him on the ground running. He’s interested in bringing the good news to people who’ve never heard it.”