Tag Archives: community development

Another trip to the airstrip

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!

Saturday afternoon trip to the airstrip

Who can help me with information on inexpensive ways to generate electricity for a household?  If you know something about this or can point me to a good resource, please comment!  Read on to hear why…

In praying about next steps recently, I sensed God leading me to put more effort into connecting with people on the outskirts of our town who have ties to villages.  I felt I wasn’t supposed to take on any new projects (water filters, solar dehydrators, and the like) until I had better relationships with people in need and could more directly respond to needs they wanted met.

On that premise, late this afternoon I headed out to a community about a half hour walk from our house, built on an old airstrip.  The community came to be about three years ago when a number of village families were invited to take small parcels of land and build houses on them.  They did so, constructing one-room houses out of wood and sheets of corrugated tin.  These humble dwellings line either side of what was once a working airstrip in our town, now a gravel runway with weeds poking through it.

The airstrip community enjoys a beautiful view

The airstrip community is an intriguing place, strategically.  Its families come from a number of indigenous villages and speak native dialects.  We (and many missionaries) have found displaced people in difficult circumstances to often be more open to the gospel.  The community is poor, meaning community development has an opportunity to make a more significant impact there than in other places.

I went out with no plan other than to try and connect with people.  I figured I’d let them know that God brought me to the region to come to know Jesus better alongside others and to spread the love of Jesus in any way I can.  Then I’d just see what happened.  Arriving at the airstrip, I saw a couple of guys loading wood into the back of a truck at one of the first houses, so I figured I’d see if I could lend them a hand.  As I got closer and called out a greeting, I recognized both of them as men I’d met last summer when GFM was doing some English classes up there.  (Carl and Lisa, students in the 2008-09 Mission Training School, were the first ones to begin building relationships in the airstrip community, which opened the door for our further involvement.)  The two men recognized me, as well.

We started talking, and in the first five minutes one of the guys asked if I know how to generate electricity for a home.  The families at the airstrip had been stealing electricity from some nearby lines, but they got cut off and fined and are now without electricity.  He explained several ideas he’d heard of involving windmills, solar panels, and car batteries.  I don’t know how to generate electricity for a home, but I told him I would look into it if they would help me make something once I found a design.  He readily agreed, saying to let him know what I found and then he would get people in the community together to chip in money for the project and help work on it.

After a half-hour conversation, he offered me a ride back to town.  I accepted, and on the way back we got into spiritual matters.  I mostly just asked questions and let him talk this time around.  He belongs to a sect based out of Guadalajara called Luz del Mundo.

So now I need some good ideas for inexpensive home power generation!  Does anyone know of anything?  We always say that our supporters back home are just as much a part of the team as we are, we’re just field staff, so here’s a bit of a unique way to participate in the work down here!  I’m looking forward to hearing from some of you.

P.S. I don’t have a photo of the airstrip community, but are there any GFMers reading this who have one they could pass along to me?  If so, I’ll add it to this post.  Update: Thanks to Nick and Sarah for providing the above photo.

Update 05 June ’09: Read about my following trip to the airstrip here.