Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Last post from Burundi

     These last two days have been a blur.  Monday morning, we started out at the THARS facility to finish the final measurements for the electrical installation and install the one 65 watt solar panel that I had brought in my suitcase.

     For those who do not know why I brought the panel, let me give a
     brief history.

     When we were leaving Sierra Leone last year, I couldn’t help but
     ponder what I had just seen for the past two weeks. Here is a
     country, like most in Africa, where just about everyone is
     carrying a cell phone but very few people have electricity.  So I
     asked several people in Freetown and on the way home,

     The answers were varied but the bottom line is, if your village
     does not have a generator, you may have to walk for 5 miles to
     another village and then pay an equivalent of $.25 to have it
     charged. It may be as much as $.50 depending on the cost of fuel.
     (remember the average rural income is $1.00 per day)

     Solar powered cell phone charging stations are not rocket science
     to build, nor do I claim a patent on the idea. I quickly found out
     that there are many on the market and even total village stations
     installed as humanitarian projects funded by grants etc.

     I didn’t know this at the outset, so my goal was to build something
     inexpensive that would provide opportunities for ministry for
     pastors, churches, or an income for widows etc.

     While people are waiting for their cell phones to be charged, let
     them watch the Jesus Film on a small solar powered device or listen
     to bible stories etc.

     The ministry portion needs to be developed yet, but this trip to
     Burundi came up shortly after we received a special shipment of an
     inexpensive style of solar panel that we will be sending to Zambia
     in a container leaving I-TEC in May of 2012.  

     It is a 9ft long flexible Uni-Solar panel that I rolled up small enough
     to put in my suitcase.  The panel needs something smooth, clean
    and flat that is at least 16” wide to adhere to.  Expecting either a
    grass roof or thin corrugated roofing material, I took along an
    11ft. x 24in. piece of roll steel roofing material, (scene in the picture
    with my suitcase,) 25 ft of #10/2 wire, a solar charge controller so
    not to overcharge the battery, an LED light and all the associated
    connectors and tools for the installation. 

     Because I knew many of you were praying and thanks to the patient
     training and information passed on to me from Joe Marino, ) and Michael Fisher, our local I-TEC solar
     consultant and project installer, I was
     confident that my first installation would be successful.

     Well, the pictures tell the story and praise God for the first
    installation that will allow for the THARS training and counseling
    center to charge 6 cell phones at one time or cut hair or ??? what
    ever they might plug into a cigarette lighter adapter powered by the

     Several of these solar kits have been sponsored by Sunday School
     Classes at Open Door Church in Chambersburg. 

     The price of a basic kit right now is $275.00. If you would have a
    desire to sponsor one of these kits, you could actually change the life
    of a widow or person within a congregation.  There are so MANY
    applications for the use of small solar kits in Africa but even at
    $275.00 - $300.00, it is beyond their reach of ever obtaining.

     To find out more, email us at


     My first solar installation ran considerably over budget on the man
    hours necessary, so evening was fast approaching.  We still had a
    2 – 2 ½ hr drive through the mountains and down to Bujumbura
    before night fall.

     1hr and 45min later, we were downtown.  Yes, we made it before
    dark but Linda and I both agreed that our taxi cab driver has missed
    his calling in life.  We just thank the lord that he missed the
    thousands of people walking along the road or on bicycles and
    motorcycles. This is always one of those things that you have to
    experience to really know.  (Side note- There is not one traffic signal
    anywhere in the country of Burundi. Imagine 10million people in a
    country the size of Maryland, and no traffic lights.)

    Tuesday 04/17/12 we met up with John Riches who is a missionary
    to Burundi from the UK.  He has been here for 16 years and is “one
    of us” serving as a technical missionary. 
    He was a wealth of information and took us around the city meeting
    key suppliers and equipment distributors. 
    Solar equipment, generators, batteries, wire and roofing material
    were all on the list and then we ended up at his house by 8pm
     having a meal with his wife Burundian wife Nadine
    and their 4 precious kids. My camera battery died and no charger or
    I would have some great pictures of the family.  Next time for sure!!

      John shared his experiences and the tragedies of the war and
    genocide that has torn apart the countries of Rwanda, Uganda and
    Burundi.  This is now past history and we talked a lot about the
    President and his weekly praise and preaching services that are
    common throughout the country. 

    There really is healing that is taking place in the heart of Africa.

      It has been our joy and privilege to serve these past two very short
     weeks here in Burundi.  We look forward to returning with teams of
     volunteers that will help make a huge difference in the effectiveness
      of these ministries.


   Serving Together,
  Tom & Linda Garber

Powering Missions Worldwide



Friday, April 13, 2012

Week two in Burundi

This is now week two in Burundi and we are getting a better feel for the people and the country.  As always, getting out of the city and meeting the village people in their environment is much more rewarding.
     Last week we completed the on site survey at the property of Sister Connection and have started the process of outlining the options.  In the weeks ahead, we will be able to put prices to these options and present the proposal to their board.
     This week we started the same process at the property of THARS.

     Both of these ministries are about working with widows and trauma victims from years of wars fought here in Burundi.
     Easter Sunday we worshiped with over 700 people in a village called Kibuye.  At the same village, there is a Free Methodist Hospital. Is it any surprise that over the dinner table, talking with several of the Doc’s there that day, the discussion got around to power and that there was a real need to at least have someone take a look at their  electrical system.  Out of the three OLD generators on site, NONE work now or ever will work in the future.  

We returned yesterday (4/12/12) to do an initial electrical survey as there seems to be a new desire to make significant improvements to the hospital in the coming years.  After seeing their electrical infrastructure, I hope there is an opportunity for I-TEC to return and be able to make the major improvements necessary to provide for quality medical care.  Right now, I can best describe it as hanging on by a thread.  
 What do 12inch adjustable wrenches and X-RAY machines have in common?.................AFRICA

Another sad sight was this man doing the entire hospital laundry out of a bucket.  They use a separate was tub for the surgery room curtains.  
     I think we found the right application for the solar panel that I brought along in my suitcase.  Pray that we will have time to get it installed before leaving for Bujumbura on Monday or Tuesday.  EXCITING DETAILS LATER.
     Burundi is definitely a “Developing Country” and on the road to recovery. It’s great to be here and I hope some of you are able to come back with what has now turned into three different projects.
     The President of Burundi is a Christian and it is my understanding that he travels on Sunday’s with his praise band singing at different churches.  We really are on the other side of the World aren’t we?

Powering Missions Worldwide,
Tom & Linda

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sister Connection Survey Day 7

Easter Sunday was awesome as we attended the Free Methodist Church located next to the hospital at Kibuye. Over 700 filled the auditorium and the message (with an interpreter) and music was excellent. (Notice the 55 gal. barrel made into a drum.)   

This morning, Linda and I said goodbye to Craig, Mike and Bob from Wenatchee, WA. Craig was representing Sister Connection, Bob was looking at ways to train the widows in animal husbandry along with principles in gardening etc., and Mike is a retired power lineman and manager.  I have been corresponding with Mike Babst for a year now and it was really good to have the chance to work with him and work through the electrical survey process of how best to bring power to this new location of Sister Connection.

It has really been a good time getting to know the men and see their desire to see Christ make a difference in the lives of the widows of Burundi.

This is a beautiful location on a hill top called Mt. Hope, just outside of Gitega, in the center of Burundi. Like so many locations where I-TEC provides electrical surveys around the world, Burundi has an electrical grid that you really do not want to attach to without having serious plans for dealing with voltage fluctuations, and multiple power outages that occur daily.

Unfortunately, there are no inexpensive options but I think after several days of walking the site, measuring distances, looking at supply houses with generators etc, we will be able to put together a proposal listing multiple options.  This will give the leaders of Sister Connection enough information to be able to make good decisions.

Thank you for your prayers and Linda and I would ask that you do not stop yet.  Tomorrow we begin our second survey with the mission of THARS.                                     

It too is just outside the city of Gitega so we are able to stay in the same Hotel and will be meeting a new translator and driver, (Charles) tomorrow. A translator is vital for survival just in ordering your meal at the restaurant here at the "Hotel." Many times this week the wait between ordering and actually beginning to see something show up at your table, could be 2 hours.  Sometimes after 30min, we would be told that the item ordered is not available.    

Again, I will try to post pictures but so far, I have not been successful.  Every other building around town is painted bright red with the letters LEO in white.  This is the Internet provider (the only one) and it is often said that if they would put the money from paint into the Internet band width, it might actually work. 
Actually one should not complain about slow Internet in Africa.  Knowing the cost and challenges of getting band width at Macha in Zambia, I am very pleased to have it at all. Forgive me Lord.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Burundi Day 3

Hello from Burundi,

Thanks for your prayers for the team.  All the flights went well and we arrived Wed. evening very weary after 30+ hours of travel.

Today began day one in the capitol of Burundi (Bujumbura) looking for supplies and materials.  We had a really nice interpreter named Felicity but the only problem was, she was probably in her 20’s and had no idea where to find the kind of equipment we were looking for. 

Finally after a few phone calls, a man showed up on the corner where we were waiting and at least pointed us in a general direction with a few “Possible” names of supply houses. With that as a start, we found a quality electrical supply shop with equipment from England.  We took a few pictures and asked for pricing but it appears you need to give them a list and IF they have the items, then the pricing begins.

Remember, Sister Connection is a mission to the widows of Burundi. We were able to take a detour of sorts after lunch and visit a widow that Mike and Melody Babst recently began to support.  It was the high light of the day as this very quite and humble women with 8 children of her own and two orphans at her side met Mike for the first time receiving small gifts for her and her children.  As the pictures show, when a camera is on the scene, the children come from every where to have their picture taken.  We were blessed for sure.

Back at the hotel, we continued to ask questions as to who takes care of their generator and where did it come from?  We were not able to find any quality generators anywhere. 

The man behind the desk quickly got on the phone and we were soon talking to a man from England who turned out to be a very valuable resource.  THANK YOU FOR PRAYING as this was a meeting guided by the Lord.  We ended up asking him to join us for the evening meal.  He lived only 5 min from the Hotel and we spent several hours discussing the culture of Burundians. He gave us some very good suggestions to consider in the days ahead.

The people here are wonderful and a joy to talk to.  We were really blessed to sit in the church of our interpreter for a few minuets, while the choir was practicing for Easter Sunday. Wow! What beautiful voices and that great African rhythm.

We also got to visit the Free Methodist College with over 5000 students.  This is where the office of Sister Connection is located. 

Thanks for following along and for praying for the team.  Craig, Mike, Bob, Linda & I.

PS: I tried to add pictures but not enough Internet speed.  Maybe tomorrow.  We are 6 hours ahead of you.  It is now 12:22am. I thought the speed would be better at this time but OH WELL!!
"This is Africa" 

Monday, April 2, 2012


Were in the air again!!   Well, almost.  Linda and I (Tom) leave tomorrow Tue. 4/03/12 for Burundi, a country the size of Marland snuggled between Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania.
Please access the web sites of both and Sister and you will learn more of the ministries we are about to help.  
As we are able, we will update the blog. We ask that you faithfully pray for Linda and I as well as 3 men (Mike, Craig and Bob) from Wenatchee, Washington that we will partner with on the first week of the trip.  They represent the Sister Connection and will meet up with us in Washimgton Dullas airport Tuesday afternoon.
That should be the site of the next post.
Tom for the Team