Tag Archives: Africa

Malawi: God inspired impoverished prodigy to harness technology for his people

William-and-the-WindmillWilliam Kamkwamba was born amidst famine and poverty on a farm in Malawi, but with God’s inspiration he fabricated a primitive windmill to bring electricity to his house.

His ingenuity caught the eye of international organizations that opened doors for him and William graduated from Dartmouth College in 2014.

“With a windmill, we’d finally released ourselves from the troubles of darkness and hunger,” the resourceful youth told the Malawi Daily Times. “In Malawi, the wind was one of the few consistent things given to us by God, blowing in the treetops day and night. A windmill meant more than just power, it was freedom.”

William’s improbable journey from farm subsistence in Africa to international mover and shaker in technology education begins with his father, a rough fighting man who settled down after he received Jesus into his heart.

KamkwambaWebChristianity marked their household as much as poverty. The only boy among six sisters, William shouldered the burden to help his family survive. When rains skipped 2001 and famine clouds gathered, William had to drop out of school in 2002 because the family couldn’t afford the fees.

William dutifully toiled the soil, but he never let go of his hunger for learning and frequently visited an internationally-supported library near his home, where he found a couple of books about energy that piqued his curiosity. One was called Using Energy and How it Works.

As he thumbed through the pages with diagrams, he understood the basic mechanics behind magnetism for generating electricity in a turbine and a windmill. He was a tinkering kid who once disassembled his father’s radio because he thought there were little people inside that he wanted to talk to.

He was not able to reassemble the radio, so when he asked permission of his father to disassemble his bike to build a windmill, his father was resistant. Eventually he prevailed on his father and began to collect scraps of junk to fashion his windmill.

Like Noah building an ark, William became the laughingstock of the townspeople, who watched the formation of his quixotic windmill, resembling a modern art assemblage in the famine-stricken plains of Africa.

But when William brought light to his house in Mastala Village, a section of the country unreached yet by government’s electrification projects, villagers no longer laughed at him.

“When I was making all these, some people were mocking me that I was going mad but I had confidence in what I was doing because I knew if it was written in the books then it was true and possible,” William remembers. “When I succeeded they were impressed.”

He charged car batteries throughout the day, which then were used to light houses or power radios in the neighborhood.

Encouraged by his first success as a 14-year-old inventor, William next devised a plan to build a larger windmill to pump water during the drought. He received donations from outsiders to help his project.

After his second triumph, the town was no longer at the mercy of darkness or drought. Read the rest of William Kamkwamba Christian.

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These are my celebrities #ValleyBoyPastor

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You can have your selfies with actors. I’ll take Aruna and Juliana Bangura from Sierra Leone. They were born in a country forgotten by the world, once classified by the United Nations as the second poorest in the world. As youth, they got involved in a new church being planted by Alvin Smith. The disciples fought over the candles after church to keep reading their Bibles at home (no electricity).

They distinguished themselves as uncommon followers of Christ. They planted a church in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, where they learned French. Yesterday, they were announced in Bible conference to plant a church in Marseille, France. The model of sending Third World missionaries to the First World may seem counter-intuitive, but it seems to have God’s blessing. Another Sierra Leonan is already seeing revival in Marseille from our mission, the Christian Fellowship Ministries.

So you can dote over photo with actors. I’m thrilled to have snagged a pic with someone who’s famous in Heaven.

Power and helplessness

 

powerWhy does Kurtz steal the Russian adventurer’s small bundle of ivory? Because he can. He’ll kill the Russian fellow. There is no law to stop him. Kurtz is his own law.

Power is heady stuff. You can feel powerful when you have limitless money, military power, personal strength, beauty, talent, or whatnot. You’re unstoppable.

Until your mortality catches you. For some, it’s cancer.  For others, it’s addiction. But most of the time when people are brought to their knees, they try keep up pretenses, to project the image. To admit their weakness would be to relinquish power. For many, the illusion of power is what keeps them from seeking God.

Kurtz is broken by sickness — it was something out of his control. Only then does he come to terms with what power has made him. In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Kurtz is the renegade trader deep in Africa who goes native, becomes a chieftain, raids villages to steal ivory and accepts satanic worship to himself. He has heads on stakes outside his hut to inspire fear in “rebels.”

For someone who began with high ideals of bringing civilization to the Dark Continent, his devolution into savagery shows what can happen to any human heart that lacks restraint.

“The horror! The horror!” he utters on the boat going downstream, as he remembers that he is a European and that he he has become a savage. He never makes it back. Kurtz dies on the boat.

We like to feel power. To feel helpless is to feel despair.

All humans are basically helpless — despite our much vaunted human achievement — and we need God.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern need to live

rosencrantz-and-guildenstern-are-dead-In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are unwittingly betraying their childhood friend, Hamlet, and playing into the hands of the usurper Claudius, who by killing Hamlet’s father and marrying Hamlet’s mother seized the throne of Denmark. Hamlet appeals to them to remain loyal to him, but since they’re sycophants, they fawn over the king and don’t perceive his treachery.

So Hamlet kills them summarily.

They were — unknowingly — escorting Hamlet to his death in England. Hamlet opens the letter sealing his fate while his friends sleep on the boat from Denmark. Needless to say, Hamlet doesn’t appreciate them being his conduit to death (the letter orders England, a vassal state in the play, to execute Hamlet). So Hamlet rewrites and reseals the letter changing the object of execution to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Hamlet himself changes ship and boards a pirates’ vessel and heads back to Denmark while his comrades continue onward to their death in England.

Was Hamlet wrong to kill his buddies? Shakespeare leaves his audience with the sense that they got what they deserved.

But where Shakespeare leaves his audience happy with their death, Tom Stoppard in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead picks up their cause. Because they acted unknowingly, they deserved life.

Of course Stoppard is describing his existential cosmovision, a bleak view that life is meaningless, death inevitable and destiny cruel. I don’t share his vacuum view of leadership, but I heartily applaud his taking up the cause of the anonymous, the defenseless, the voiceless.

Every life is valuable. None should be disposed of because of convenience. One person cannot assign importance — or lack thereof — to another human being. God has instilled incalculable value to every human being.

Meanwhile we throw away a stadium full of food every day

food waste

The Huffington Post reports that Americans dump daily enough food to fill a stadium. What wasters we are.

Meanwhile, malnutrition plagues Africa, Asia and Latin America. Ugh. I hate waste. Yes, I’m one of those annoying people who tells his kids to eat everything on their plate. And the wise-alecks who tell me to send it in the mail to Africa, I wana sock ’em. (Yes, my faith goes on hold momentarily).

We don’t have a lot of money, but I always try to have plenty of food on hand in case anybody is hungry. We live on the same property as our Christian high school in Santa Monica, and most of the time that means hungry teens can traipse into my house, open up the fridge and help themselves — the only requirement for them is to clean up afterwards and NOT waste.

What can we do to eliminate waste and help the hungry?

Photo: Pinterest.

Who is Scrooge?

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Ralph Bowen with his wife, Brenda, when they were missionaries in Africa.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more unscrooge-like Scrooge.

Ralph Bowen was a missionary in Africa for 20 years of poverty, self sacrifice and uncommon generosity.

The script “The Re-Turn of the Scrooge” – being produced at the Pierson Playhouse Sunday through Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. – calls for something like Donald Trump in the central role. Even if he conjures every drop of acting juice, he is wrangling against every antithetical, altruistic cell in his body.

Even his response to a reporter’s question shows self-effacing unmiserliness.

“I’ve been a Scrooge person all my life. Just ask my wife and kids,” Bowen said. “We’ve all had some greedy moments.”

His actions contradict his account. Starting in 1992, Bowen was a missionary in Sierra Leone when it was rated the second poorest nation in the world by the U.N. He also pastored in The Gambia (1996-2002) and Senegal (until 2012). He and his wife, Brenda, adopted three African orphans.

Since his stint facing down malaria and rebel forces, Bowen has returned to the States, where he confronts the lesser adventures of trying to make a living as a handyman, a popular preacher at the Lighthouse Church and as a gifted actor. This article originally was published on the Santa Monica Patch here.

Medical Mission Impossible

Dr. Bob Hamilton on the medical mission in Guatemala of Sept. 2015.

Dr. Bob Hamilton on the medical mission in Guatemala of Sept. 2015.

Forget about Tom Cruise. The new star of Mission Impossible is Ludving Navarro.

The pastor coaxed a medicine shipment through Guatemalan Customs – a week-long process of frustrating and tedious paperwork that led to a heart-attack arrival at the church at 8:00 p.m. Sunday – literally just in time Monday morning clinic.

“We always have a challenge getting our medications out of Customs,” said team leader Dr. Bob Hamilton, a Santa Monica pediatrician who founded Lighthouse Medical Missions. “We literally got the medications the night before our clinic. We thank God for His perfect timing. It was last minute.”

Read the rest of the article about medical missions.

Privileged to have on staff a 20-year missionary

Christian school staff

With her brood on 50s day, Brenda Bowen, a missionary for 20 years in Africa.

With an art degree, she became a high-powered finance manager, then ditched it all to be a missionary’s wife in Africa for 20 years.

After so many unusual twists in her life, Brenda Bowen is now teaching 6th grade at the Lighthouse Church School.

Good thing she was a military brat. She got used to moving around.

Actually, it’s hard to describe Mrs. Bowen as a brat because she’s so loving, sweet and humble.

“Mrs. Bowen is really good at art, and she loooves to help kids,” said Ana D.,  her student. “She’s hip. She won’t yell at you. She’s very understanding. She knows when something is up, and she’ll do something positive about it. She’s a well-rounded teacher. She does tons of things. Just the other day we did clay.”

She never got her second degree in education because her father, a major in the Air Force, looked askance at perennial students. So with a bachelors degree from Southern Florida University, Mrs. Bowen landed a job with 1,000-employee Dun & Bradstreet’s Insurance. Read the rest of the story.

Get involved in something bigger than yourself

Walk to Africa

To make sure walkers stayed on the course, I held the sign at Montana Ave. and Lincoln Blvd. in Santa Monica

Today we mounted the large-scale event, the Walk to Africa in Santa Monica, a walkathon that raises funds for Lighthouse Medical Missions. I’m exhausted.

I set up at the Fun Zone at 7:00 a.m. I directed traffic and cheered on walkers at the 6-mile mark. I packed up at 2:00 p.m. I was one of a hundred people staffing the event.

To help achieve a bigger goal than my own agenda is grand. You should try it. Especially if it involves serving humanity and serving God.

Marathoning doctor raises funds for African medical missions

hamilton marathonAt the sprightly age of 61 years old, Santa Monica pediatrician Bob Hamilton is running the L.A. Marathon this month – and he’s subjecting himself to this grueling pain just to raise funds for medical missions in Africa.

“You just do it,” Hamilton said. “You have to keep moving or you become inert. It’s an opportunity to further the cause.”

Then, with a mere 10 days to recover, he’s leading his 23rd group of doctors, nurses and other volunteers into the most desolate corners of the earth. Twenty-two brave souls are heading to Mwanza, Tanzania, March 25 – Apirl 6 where they’ll diagnose patients and hand out free meds, toys and reading glasses.

At his age most doctors are thinking only about visiting the golf course, but Hamilton shows no signs of slowing. His Lighthouse Medical Missions has become a regular contributor to health in West Africa. A container of food and supplies recently arrived there from Hamilton and crew.

Read the rest of the article here. This is my article that originally posted in the Santa Monica Patch. Dr. Bob goes to my church.

Off to Africa

Social scientists can’t understand altruism.

Africa medical missionsMost of them chalk it up to “wanting to feel important.” This makes me laugh. If I just wanted to feel important, why wouldn’t I make a lot of money and be important? There is more to altruism than they want to recognize.

A number of us are going to Africa Thursday to participate in a medical mission. By any measure, it’s not tourism. It’ll be a whole heck of a lot of inconvenience, uncomfortableness, hard work, sweat, and endangering our own health. So why are 50 people WANTING to go on the Lighthouse Medical Mission’s trip this year to Gambia and Guinea Bissau?

I was packing vitamins last week with Dal Basile, whose self-effacing service to humanity inspires me. She’s the nicest lady, but she’ll turn feisty if you so much as drop one vitamin on the floor. They cost 20 cents each, she says. Donations cannot be wasted at all. Thankfully, I didn’t drop a single pill.

If you wish to donate to Africa medical missions, feel free to go to this webpage.

Help me get to Africa!

Lighthouse Medical MissionsActually, I already have the airfare, but I’m missing supplies. Recently I revisited my ministry in Guatemala. Now God is sending me on the Lighthouse Medical Mission to Guinea Bissau, and I don’t have supplies. A few hundred is all I should need for food, mosquito netting and the like.


Someone donated for the whole airfare already! Thank you! I’m not a doctor but a reporter. I want to spread the good news of this endeavor through various online media. Once I was a reporter for the New York Times, and I want to put those skills to God’s service.

Africa Medical missionDr. Robert Hamilton’s medical missions bring the only care many people get in years — some, in a lifetime. Acute chronic poverty keeps the huddling masses out of medical care in Africa. They even perform minor surgeries. They have saved lives.

Not only do they disburse free meds, the also give soccer balls and the like to bless outright kids who have never known a Christmas gift. If you would like to helps sponsor me, click on the donate button.

If you would like to donate to Dr. Bob’s missions in a bigger way, check out their website here.

Pray for my trip to Africa.

Africa Medical missionDr. Bob Hamilton has done medical missions in Africa for years, and finally I’m going. If the mustardseedbudget.wordpress.com has ever blessed you, then please pray God raises up $3,000 for air fare, hotel, food, visas, immunizations, etc. The trip is March 27 to April 6.

I have written in the capacity as a journalist about these medical missions before (a 3-part series that starts here), and now I want to report firsthand in support of this awesome ministry. Thanks for your prayers!

Oh yeah, you can read about the Lighthouse medical missions on its website here.