This past Saturday evening I headed back out to the airstrip for another visit. I saw the teacher who was one of the two guys I talked to last time, and he invited me to sit down for a while and talk. We had a good conversation about a variety of topics—generating electricity, culture, teaching, the Bible, his community, etc. He strikes me as a pretty neat guy who (so far) doesn’t seem too standoffish around me. He’s from a people group in our area that has been known for being very resistant to outsiders and tough to penetrate with the gospel.
While up there, I met one other new family from a different people group and a lady who is their neighbor from across the strip. I had a nice chat with them as well, delving into spiritual topics some. They have a very outgoing five-year-old girl (their youngest) who wants me to bring Lauryn and Molly to play the next time I come for a visit.
As for generating electricity, that still seems to have possibilities. The teacher is quite interested in the project and doesn’t seem put off by the idea of a simple solar system for one home costing several hundred dollars. I got a better sense of how much electricity families up there use, which will help us be more focused in research. It sounds like most families have a couple of light bulbs, and radios and TVs are common. About four families have a kind of portable, wash-only (no spin cycle) washing machine that many in this area use. The teacher said we don’t have too much else to worry about, so the needs aren’t too intense.
Rob, our church planting coach, was pointing out to me that I should take the teacher along to an internet cafe when I go to do some more study. We want to include the people of the community in each step of the process as much as possible, so they’ll take ownership of the project. To the extent that I do research by myself and bring my findings back to them, they’ll conclude that they’re not capable of figuring these things out. The whole idea of community development is to help the people of a community organize themselves to solve their own problems, eventually without outside help.
I think things are going well out there. I’m looking forward to my next trip out. I had hoped that would be tomorrow, but now I finally have an invite from my friend Don P to his village, so I don’t know when I’ll make it to the airstrip. Maybe Sunday. The teacher mentioned he knows a village about ten hours away where a guy set up a nice solar system and sells electricity to his neighbors. When I expressed interest, the teacher offered to take a weekend sometime and take me out there to check it out. Hopefully we’ll be able to make that happen sometime this summer.
Thanks again to everyone who commented on my last airstrip post or sent me emails sharing your ideas and resources. Your input has been extremely helpful, and I invite your continuing ideas and feedback. I appreciate your being part of the team!