These yard sales support ministry

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Joanne Eytzen's GodWill Ministries yard sales support ongoing ministry in Uganda. Photo: Joanne Eytzen.

With help from family and friends, I transformed a 50-by-80-foot warehouse into what one customer called the “mother lode of yard sales.” Every item on the 50 tables filling the space had a price tag, and each area was labeled by department‚ kitchen, office, toys and more‚ ready for the constant flow of shoppers during the sale the first two Saturdays of May.

The yard sale‚ my ninth since 2011‚ was the culmination of countless hours my friends and I spent pricing, organizing, sorting and hauling donated items throughout the year for my nonprofit, GodWill Ministries.

It takes an army to run these annual sales. Almost 50 people from my church came to help at my most recent sale, which raised nearly $6,500.

In the past, I never wanted to have yard sales‚ they are tiring and so much work. But the Holy Spirit has given me joy, and what started eight years ago as a fundraiser for a trip to Uganda has grown into a nonprofit organization that continues to support ministry locally and abroad.

I held my first yard sale in 2011 to fund a medical mission trip to Uganda. The trip turned my worldview upside down, and my husband and I began sponsoring Nabwawe, a young lady whose parents died of AIDS and who was living at New Hope Children’s Center.

When the opportunity came for me to return to Uganda in 2013 to see my sponsor daughter, I couldn’t say no. Once again, I had yard sales to raise money. I asked my neighbors and friends for items to donate and sold the nicer items online. The sale was huge and successful, and the Lord prompted me to give the money as he directed.

With ministry in Uganda on my heart, I began to organize annual yard sales. My church family, neighbors, friends and family donated gently-used items, which I priced and stacked to the ceiling. Soon, my house and garage were filled to the brim. With only a path through my house, I was embarrassed when company came. I was being smothered by the very things needed to help me. My husband was supportive, but the clutter was wearing on both of us.

I began to pray for a new place to store the donations. God answered by providing a 40-foot shipping container‚ we now have two containers‚ then went a step further when my husband’s company offered space in a downtown warehouse to host my sales.

Our first sale in the warehouse raised thousands of dollars, which not only paid my way to Uganda, but supported ministries locally and abroad. We purchased shoes for all the children in one village. We helped a little boy get a much-needed surgery and bought treadle sewing machines for high school girls in northern Uganda.

I helped people locally, too, by supporting our church’s youth mission trips.

Many of us have a yard sale and say, “Never again,” but I continued, calling this ministry GodWill.

Last year’s sale made more than $6,000. We purchased a sunflower seed oil-processing machine for the Ugandan village of Kapchorwa, enabling them to sell cooking oil and raise money for an orphanage and school.

This year’s GodWill sale helped fund my seventh trip to Uganda in June with a team of six women. We donated $1,500 so a Kampala orphanage could purchase books for their sparse library, and we helped them organize the library and paint a mural. We also sent $1,700 to Kapchorwa to purchase land on which to build their orphanage, and brought additional money with us to purchase cows to provide milk for Kapchorwa children.

We brought an adult tricycle for an 11-year-old boy with a lame leg. As an infant, he received a shot in his sciatic nerve while being treated for malaria. For two years I’d prayed we could get him a bike. He’s had surgery now and is pain free. We’re helping him get physical therapy.

Equipped with a glasses kit containing 500 frames from Multiply‚ the Mennonite Brethren ministry which facilitates church planting locally, nationally and globally‚ we also held three days of vision clinics, providing screenings and giving away free glasses. It was the perfect opportunity to share our faith.

GodWill Ministries is growing and now has 501(c)3 status with a board in place. Often in my prayers, I ask God to show me where he wants me to use the money. After all, God has, God does and GodWill.

Joanne Eytzen
Joanne Eytzen lives in Ferndale, Washington, a dozen miles from the Canadian border, next to the ocean and surrounded by snow-covered mountains on three sides. A Christian first, she is wife to her husband, Roger, of 31 years; mom to three grown children and grandma to two grandbabies who are four months apart. Joanne, who is retired, leads a women's Bible study at her church, Birch Bay Bible Community Church, a USMB congregation in Blaine, Washington. She calls herself a "Jesus girl" and feels privileged to serve through GodWill and help people who need it.

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