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



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