Friday, February 17, 2012

The Lord's Light Within

The Lord's Light Within

Lord we reflect with thankful hearts

On the wonder of your birth

The love you expressed when you left

Your glory to come to earth

For your life was like a beacon, Lord

Shining brightly in the night

Filling the world with the radiance of

The Father’s glorious light

And we, too, long to have inside

Your light for others to see

The beautiful reflection of your grace

And the wonder of your majesty

For as your life indwells our hearts

We can shine wherever we are

And arise to take hold of each new day

With your light ablaze in our hearts

So rekindle the flame within us Lord

So it will not flicker nor dim

Ignite us with the light of your love

So you will shine brightly within

© By M.S. Lowndes, 2007

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

SUTS Installation #20

Herndon United Methodist Church has just completed the 20th Solar Under The Sun installation. The project took place in Mirebalais, Haiti at L'Ecole De Choix.

The team journaled a phenomenal account of the week's activities. For an up close look at a Solar Under The Sun installation week, please click below:

George Billman's Blog
Ashley Broadhurst's Journal

News Stories

To view this article in its original post, click here.

Bringing the power

Sun, Living Waters work together for Solar Under the Sun
JANUARY 9, 2012
It only seems natural that Christians called to bring the light of Jesus to the world would also be committed to bringing actual light to dark places unable to receive ongoing power.
That’s the mission of Solar Under the Sun, a ministry of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Synod of the Sun. Its solar powered systems are custom designed to power the electrical needs of communities that need it the most.
Working closely with sister organization Living Waters for the World (LWW), a mission of the Synod of Living Waters, Solar Under the Sun also can power water treatment systems installed by LWW.
The LWW model and its work actually provided the impetus for the creation of Solar Under the Sun. And a $52,000 Heiserman Grant through the General Assembly Mission Council has helped change lives via the two ministry programs.
Funds for the Heiserman program came from a bequest made in 1966 by Geraldine Heiserman, who was the widow of a Yuma, Colo., farmer and landowner named Lemont Heiserman. The bulk of their estate was left in trust to the church.
The GAMC divided more than $990,000 of that gift among 16 synods to encourage mission projects that reflect partnership between or among two or more synods and-or the GAMC.
“It is a wonderful illustration of how … we can share resources and do things effectively to help critical needs in Third World countries like the need for power,” said Gerry Tyer, transitional synod executive for the Synod of the Sun. “Without the support of the Heiserman Grant and the other donors that support this program it would not happen.”
Just like Living Waters for the World, Solar Under the Sun trains volunteers to install systems so the volunteers can, in turn, go into communities and train local residents.  
“We have now held five solar schools to train teams,” said Ashley Broadhurst, administrative director for Solar Under the Sun. The program has graduated 117 people and more than 50 have been in the field to date, she said.
Solar school training sessions are held at Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center in Little Rock, Ark.
In terms of system installations, Broadhurst said 18 are up and running in Haiti, 16 of which are operating LWW clean water systems.
In two years, she said, the program has been able to get onto the ground in Haiti, and in the next year it will go into places such as Kenya and the Ukraine. There are also many possibilities for the larger church, Broadhurst said.
“Providing solar light not only gives physical light into a community, but also shares the light of Christ,” she said. To be trained in a school like this and to be able to go out into the field and make a difference is fulfilling the Great Commission, Broadhurst said.
Toya Richards, a seminary student Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, writes frequently for Presbyterian News Service.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Presbyterians Today Features Solar Camp at Ferncliff Camp & Conference Center

Presbyterians Today's September Edition featured an article by Ferncliff Camp Summer Staffer Hannah Song on Solar Camp. 

Read the article here

Arkansas Democrat Gazette, August 27, 2011

Solar Under The Sun was prominently featured in the August 27th edition of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette! Click here to read the article.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Past Installation Stories #1

Holy Spirit Haiti Mission Installs Solar-Powered Clean Water System at Notre Dame Orphanage
September 13-20, 2010
by Bob McCoy

Members of this mission were Elonda and Donald Harris – Fellowship Presbyterian Church, Huntsville; Chuck Arnold – Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church, Erie, PA; Paul Kosinski and Bob McCoy – Holy Spirit Catholic Church, Huntsville.  We left at the usual crack of early on a 6a flight that took us to Charlotte, Orlando, Miami and Port au Prince (PAP) by 4p that evening.  I knew Mother Mary had her hand on the heart of the US Air gate agent when they not only let a couple over 50 lb bags by but did not charge us for any bags.  The PAP airport looks like it has gotten back to its normal running routine.  My general observation of Haiti is that there is a lot of building going on and a lot of clean up being done.  There are also a lot of people living in tents.  However, there were a lot of ‘Work for Cash’ workers in the streets which is akin to our WPA project of the Depression era. The Haitians seemed to be taking more pride in the things they were doing and I can definitely tell you that the people in the Palmiste au Vin area where much of the Holy Spirit and Birmingham Diocese contributions have been made, are really focused on getting their lives back to normal. Fre Olizard has a massive building program going on for the peasants that began with Holy Spirit, but has now branched out to include the Swiss and German Red Cross. They have funded 600 houses of a similar size to the ones HS build for the 13 families.  The Haitians are struggling, but things just seemed more normal to me than in the past 9 months.

Monday Day 1 – At the end of the 2 hour journey from the PAP airport, where we were only missing one bag, we arrived at the monastery about 7p to the open arms of the brothers and some further major improvements since our May trip.  We now had toilets in the new building, alleviating a walk in the dark over rock to the old building (with a concrete roof).  We had sinks and showers right outside the door and the chapel was finished for morning and evening prayer.  I thought I was at the Hilton.  It’s been a long time since we had showers.  Beds were comfortable and the food was awesome.  The new Kubota generator was running, so we had all sorts of light.  Not only do we take clean water for granted, but we take electricity for granted.  I can assure you life is exponentially more difficult without electricity and I appreciated every electron.

Tuesday Day 2 – Up at 5a for morning prayer, breakfast and off to Leogane to Notre Dame de la Charite Orphanage (NDC) which was the main focus of this trip – to install a solar powered water purification system.  Before we arrived at NDC, Fre Olizard gave us a tour of the newly populated chicken coop that produces 750 eggs a day.  This is one of the economic opportunities we have participated with LBST to help them fund themselves.  We also got a look at one of the staging areas for some of the houses that the Swiss and German Red Cross have contributed through LBST; more on this later.

At NDC, months before, a well had been hand dug so they had water, but drinking water had to be purchased and hauled in from town.  We had arranged for Green Energy, a Haitian organization, to put up 4 – 185W solar panels on a 15’ steel pole and leave 4 Rolls 400A, 6V batteries.  This would be the heart of the 24V system.  The pole and panel were up and installed, but the batteries and controller were not.  It made no difference because today we had to get the water system built.  Electricity would wait until Thursday.  Because of how busy Fre Olizard is since the earthquake, we no longer have the luxury of having him as a driver, so I drove everywhere including into PAP to get the missing bag.  We had Bertone and Ignace, two of our trusted Haitian friends with us, so I left Paul in charge of building the system while Ignace and I went to get the bag.  Because of PAP traffic and general delays, this task took us 5 hours to accomplish.  When we got back the team had done an incredible job of finishing most of the system and getting the tanks on the roof ready.  We were on schedule.  And then about 3 that afternoon, the 4 batteries and charge controller showed up.  We are good to go.  By 6:30p we had done all we could and left in the dark to drive back to the monastery.  It was a great day with the girls at the orphanage and in spite of some broken parts, we were on track.

Wednesday Day 3 – This day was committed to driving to Les Cayes to meet with Bishop Guiere Pollard to do a site survey for the next system.  Cayes is 100 miles to the west of Palmiste au Vin and Fre Olizard had to be back at 3p that afternoon for a meeting, so we left at 5:30a.  Beside a few potholes along the way, the ride was uneventful.  We were there just after 8a and Bishop Guiere met with us from 8:30 until almost noon.  Chuck presented the Bishop with a letter from his Bishop and a framed picture of their Cathedral and I presented a letter from Bishop Baker and Benedictine Order cross.  Bishop Guiere was very grateful for the gifs and thanked us warmly.  He had dedicated his whole morning to this project and even went on site with us to inspect the proposed house and well.  Before we left we spent about 1.5 hours discussing the covenant and coming to agreement as to what each party is expected to deliver.  We stressed sustainability and early financial independence and Bishop Guiere was very supportive of this position.  He is a very kind and gentle man, but one I sensed was a very serious business man when it came to church business.  Unfortunately the site left some questions yet to be answered especially about the well.  He had a well engineer and electrical engineer at the site with the priest.  The well engineer said the well was 90’ deep and the pump was sitting at about 40’ with 20’ of water above it.  I thought this is great, almost too good to be true.  Then they turned on the pump and clear water stared gushing out, but about 3 minutes later, it turned gray and I knew the pump had to be close to the bottom and they were sucking the well dry.  The well engineer immediately blamed it on bad electricity, but I put that argument to rest with my scope meter and showed them the electricity was just fine.  They have a good place to put the system that will serve the community well, but their water source is going to have to improve before we can proceed with this location.  The bishop of course insisted we have lunch with him, but Fre Olizard knew if we did we would never make it back to Palmiste au Vin by 3, so we left with our goodbyes to a wonderful leader of that Haitian community.  Once back there was plenty of work to be done around the monastery, so we got busy until dark, ate dinner and some hit the sack early.  Fre Olizard and I had much to discuss, so this was our time and we made the most of it.

Thursday Day 4 – Up at 5a as usual for morning prayers and breakfast.  We had a big day ahead of us.  The goal was to get the solar system wired and testing begun.  By 6 that evening we had met the goal.  It was now up to me to see what I had learned at the solar school earlier this year.  Even though we had the distribution box prewired there was still a lot to do.  We had two inverters, two pumps, a charge controller and a battery monitor to wire up, let alone all the lights to be wired in the three orphanage buildings.  At lunch we appeared to still be on schedule and by 4p the first sun power started up the system.  We rechecked the wiring three times before turning on the first breaker.  These are always an exciting moments, especially when things work right.  The panels and charger controller came up just as they were supposed to.  The inverters (which turn DC or battery power into AC) came on line perfectly and finally the well pump and the board pump were tested and all was good in the world.  It would take us another day or so to sort out all the information and numbers that were being produced by the charge controller and battery monitor and I would spend the next couple of evenings reading and rereading the manual, but the bottom line is all was working correctly. We had one problem early on in that the connecter posts on the battery had bolt connections and I had brought connectors like and automobile battery has.  I was able to adapt the two together, but then we moved the positive cable too much and the connector broke.  By the Grace of God, the solar panel installers had left and extra battery cable which we cut in half and then spliced in to the 1/0 battery cable.  We ended up doing the same to the negative cable later which allowed us to shorten these cables to a more proper length and have the correct connector post at the same time.  In Haiti you have to always be ready for the unexpected and adapt the best you can. Back to the monastery after dark to get dinner and some more meeting time with Fre Olizard.  It was a good day and we were very pleased with what we had accomplished so far.

Friday Day 5 – This is the test and training day.  This is where it all comes together.  Yesterday we found the trash filter head was cracked in shipping so we took it out of the system until I could get a new head shipped into Haiti.  To minimize ‘stuff’ coming in from the source tank, we flushed out the source tank really well and then put a 90 degree elbow inside with a 6” stub facing up.  It means we can’t get the last 6-8” of water in the tank, but that is not important.  We also found that one of the pressure relief valves on the big blue had come off and of course the spring was missing, so we commandeered a ball point pen spring and modified it to fit. So when we left yesterday all was working.  The morning was spent flushing the tanks and system with chlorine, checking for leaks and monitoring the electrical system.  I had promised Fre Olizard that I will drive into PAP with Ignace to pick up the replacement Lister-Petter generator that had finally cleared customs.  I left Paul in charge again and Ignace and I headed to PAP only to get a call about an hour later that the electrical system had gone down.  My worst nightmare;  this was the component I was least familiar with, so troubleshooting was not the same as the water system I had installed several of over the years.  Basic trouble shooting kicked in and I told Paul how to isolate the problem with the meter.  Turned out to be a lose battery cable and was fixed in a few minutes.  Thank you Jesus!  Picking up the generator was uneventful except for the 1.5 hr wait for people to get all the pieces together.  We then headed up into Delmas to see if we could find a replacement for the broken trash filter, but none was to be had.  I found out on Monday when I returned home though that all the driving in PAP took its toll on me from breathing the dust from the vehicles.  Looking around some of the places you do not want to imagine what was in the dust, but for 5 days my respiratory systems was not functioning properly.  The last time Ignace and I went to PAP and were gone ¾ of the day we were accused of sitting in the ice cream bar in PAP.  Little did they know that I knew a place in Leogane where you can actually buy ice cream in paper cups, so we stopped on the way back to get one for each of the kids as well as the crew.  There was total unbelief, especially from Chuck when they accused us of the same thing and we produced 50 cups if ice cream.  It was a fun time for all.  The crew had finished all the testing and Bertone was now into the training which is more intense than one might imagine.  For the next four hours he went over all the aspects of how to run and manage the system.  Earlier I had covered some of the solar training and would do more on Saturday and Sunday.  It was well after dark by the time we got back to the monastery, tired, but grateful for a good day and another successful installation under our belt.   We are still sorting out all we need to know about the solar components, but the more I learn the more I think we really made the right move for this location.  Eliane is not even remotely close to any possible electrical source, so the things she will now be able to accomplish with electricity for the kids are truly a gift from God.

Saturday Day 6 – This day was dedicated to reviewing the housing program that Holy Spirit and the Diocese began in January and which has now mushroomed through Fre Olizard’s efforts into a full scale operation.  The Swiss and German Red Cross have committed to build 600 houses in the Palmiste au Vin community.  They are similar in nature to the ones we funded originally except they have metal frames made in Vietnam and plywood sides and metal roofs.  Fre Olizard has put 12 teams of 5 men each to work building these houses which take 5 days to build from beginning to end.  We watched some of the materials being carted to the site by hand, one piece at a time.  It is incredible how this has galvanized the community and I cannot help but to think of St. Benedict and St. Ignatius and St. Therese and all the other religious who put up one or more monasteries in a community and how they were the center of education and economic livelihood during some of the darkest times of Europe’s history.  We are seeing this very same think being played out in Haiti where the religious are quietly leading the community through example and with gifts from so many who care from around the world.  This is Christ in action. We then went back to the chicken farm where we set up another battery system with an inverter for Fre Olizard so they had power for the incubator and the watchman’s cell phone charger.  Since we were close to NDC, we checked in on the kids (a favorite pastime of the team) and the system.  All was running well.

The rest of the day we took a side trip to Jacmel to accomplish two things.  One was to do a monthly inspection of the water system in Jacmel and the other was to give the crew and opportunity to see another part of Haiti.  The trip through the mountains is breath taking going up to almost 4000 feet and then back to sea level.  The inspection did not turn out as well as hoped and we found that the log records were not being kept in a manner prescribed.  In addition the pressure had dropped 20 lbs on one of the gauges and as we suspected a filter needed changing.  This was confirmed by the patho test turning dark way too early.  Bertone would go back later in the week with new filters and flush the system.  We are also getting a new operator. 

Jacmel had changed from the time I visited in 2008.  Some of the touristy places had closed and a couple of the hotels on the beach had closed.  The town seemed active, but the area along the beach did not unfortunately.  None the less, Elonda found some things to bring back home and she even bought a Haitian made cigar and haggled for it like a pro.

Sunday Day 7 – We slept in until 6a this day, got breakfast and went to mass at 9a in the LBST chapel by the clinic down the road from the monastery.  A priest supposed to be there, but at the last moment something happened and the service quickly became a communion service with Fre Olizard presiding since he is the prior of the monastery.  There was a lot of singing by the young people’s choir with the bongo drum as the only instrument.  Homily was just a long and given by a wonderful lay person who is also one the teachers at the LBST school and he is a great teacher.  After Fre Olizard presented the host (which came from the monastery tabernacle) he asked me to come forward to the altar.  Not knowing what to expect at first I realized he was asking me to be the Eucharistic minister.  I could not have had a closer moment than at that time, looking this community in the eye one by one as I said the words “This is the Body of Christ” and presenting it to each recipient.   There was one lady, Madame Danio whose house we funded and whom I met back in May.  She is at least 90 and walks up and down the mountains as if the hills are not there.  She has beautiful eyes and I had a very difficult time maintaining my composure as she came forward.  She has gone through so much and just takes it all in stride.  She cornered Paul outside the church after the service and talked his ear off for ten minutes.  We have no idea what she said, but seems that it was thanks for the support of her community.  Sunday would not be complete without one more trip to the orphanage, so after lunch off we went.  Unfortunately at the bottom of the mountain in Dufort we were stopped in the road waiting for a minor traffic jam to unsnarl and a 10 ton box truck backed into the right side window of the Kia.  And here we are with no Haitian to interpret.  Fortunately no one was hurt, but Chuck got a considerable amount of glass on him from the window exploding as the event occurred.  I immediately called Fre Olizard who showed up several minutes later.  I had expected Haitians shooting at me for whatever reason, but for some reason everyone was quiet and several helped clean up the glass from the window.  Olizard told me afterward that many people knew it was a monastery truck and the driver was scared to death because he knew he was at fault.  So Olizard makes sure no one is hurt and signals for me to go on.  That evening he said we could have gotten names, the driver would have probably lost his job, we would have spent lots of money with lawyers collecting damages, or we could pay for the window and go on.  Perhaps there is a lesson we can learn here about accidents in the US.  It all seemed very sensible and civil.
We got to the orphanage and none of the girls were in sight.  A sit turns out they were all in the back under a tree with a small video player and TV plugged into their new found electricity watching a video Eliane had procured for them.  The water system was running well and Eliane had run her first batch of water.  They had lights the night before and life has changed quite a bit now for those in the orphanage.  I pray for the better.  I couldn’t help but to think about the double edged sword we had brought them through TV and the Internet.  The age of innocence can disappear rapidly.  Time will tell.

Monday Day 8- Up at 4a to leave by 5:30.  Chuck’s plane was at 9a and we had plenty of time until we got to the fuel terminal in PAP and the city came to a stop.  When cars start stacking up in a traffic jam, Haitians just make more lanes, typically out of the left hand lanes for oncoming traffic.  It’s sort of who gets there first.  This obviously just exasperates the problem.  Olizard found an escape route out to another highway only to be blocked again be a truck unloading and blocking two of 4 lanes.  Patience and Olizard’s skill in driving through PAP on streets narrower than alleys and God’s Grace got us to the airport with about 30 min until Chuck’s plane took off.  What takes 1.5 hrs took 3.  Welcome to PAP.  All arrived home by midnight, glad to see our family but knowing we had left a piece of ourselves behind as we always do.  We had seen the light of Christ in those whom we had visited.  Kepoze.

Past Installation Stories

Ever wonder what it would be like to be trained in Solar School and join one of our installation teams in-country? Over the next week, we'll post a series of past trip reports to give an glimpse into the day-to-day life of a Solar Under The Sun installation team.

What makes Solar Under The Sun different from most other non-profit organizations is the fact we train up everyday people to make a difference in extraordinary ways. At our Solar School, anyone can learn the skills it takes to install a solar powered system. These systems can be installed to run clean water systems, light a school building, or provide the first light for a dark home. Anyone can do it, and Solar Under the Sun will provide the training and support necessary to succeed on your mission.

The reports have been written by our solar school trained leaders, and we hope the stories will inspire you to follow in their footsteps to bring Solar Power and Light to the World!