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Exciting New Developments

We’re excited about two developments regarding Biosand Water Filters!

First, we have  a Metal Fabrication class which is building a metal form, for pouring the filter vessels! This form will be invaluable when we get to Tanzania. We will use it first to make filters, and then–more importantly, we will show it to our local “metal fundi” so he can build more, just like it! It really helps to see what  the finished product looks like, and how it works. Here’s what one of these forms looks like.


We also have just found a set of plans for making one of these forms out of plywood! We found this online, at  I’m fairly handy with wood, so by next week, we hope to have one of these built. We suspect these may not last as long as the metal forms, but the cost is much lower and the technology is much easier. wood mold production

Either of these forms makes a concrete vessel for a water filter that will produce as much as 36 gallons of clean water per day! The science behind these filters is very interesting. In nature, water is purified by flowing through sand and gravel and by exposure to the sun. This system, developed by a scientist at the University of Calgary, removes up to 99% of all pathogens from dirty water!


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RISE: Trying to be effective in the Lord’s work

We keep reading about huge projects that cost amazing amounts of money, and fail to achieve their goal.
That’s not the story we want told about our part in the Lord’s work in Tanzania. We want people to “see our good works and give glory to God” long after we are finished.

Here’s our “filter” for choosing projects. The acronym is “RISE”.

  • Repeatable: Can local people repeat this without our aid?
  • Indigenous: Does it use only materials and skills available to local people?
  • Sustainable: Can this effort be sustained in the local environment, without resources from outside?
  • Evangelistic: Does this effort provide quality time with local people so we can share the gospel?

We have found that Bottle Brick construction of a rainwater cistern gives us a lot of time to build relationships and talk about the Gospel!

Like any good filter, the most important element is the last. Our goal is evangelism; as God’s people we also seek to bless those around us. We are trying to follow Christ’s example of doing good, preaching and teaching.


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Living on Solar Power: More About Our Future House in Tanzania

If you looked closely at the pictures of our rented house in Monduli Juu, you may have noticed that there’s a solar panel on the roof and a power line tied in on the front porch.

The house is on the electrical grid. However, with power available as little as 4 hours a day, that doesn’t help much. We expect that we will depend largely on solar power.

Our impromptu system: One panel, a car battery, a controller and an inverter.

Our impromptu system: One panel, a car battery, a controller and an inverter.

We experimented with this a bit while we were in Tanzania this year. Lewis Short had a working battery, and we purchased a solar panel and the associated parts. The panel provides 12 volt power any time the sun is shining. The controller manages the power loads so the panel can’t overcharge the battery and the inverter can’t completely drain the battery. The inverter converts the 12 volt DC power into 220 volt power. The extension cord runs through the bedroom window. It was enough to provide power for my CPAP and for charging our electronic devices.

This system costs about $150 (plus the cost of the battery). We will need a system about ten times as large as this, to run our appliances and electric lights. The good news is that we can purchase all the parts (except a 110 volt inverter, just in case) locally, supporting local businesses.

Just south of the equator, and at an altitude similar to Denver, we get lots of sun! In fact, we have to be careful to wear a hat when we’re outside, pretty much all the time.  Solar power is a smart way to go.

It’s especially smart when you consider this story from the BBC, explaining that Tanzania has just shut down all of its hydro-electric power plants, because of a shortage of water. The already tenuous power supply is now further reduced.

That water shortage has much more serious repercussions. If there isn’t enough water to run the turbines, there certainly isn’t enough water for people, or for their animals or their farms & gardens. So while we are installing a solar system for our own needs, we’re looking for ways to help our neighbors meet their need for clean water.


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Repost: From African Christian Ministries

This was posted by our friend Lori Covington. You can see why we are so committed to projects to provide clean water.


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Brief Update

Building a bottle brick cistern in Monduli Juu

Building a bottle brick cistern in Monduli Juu

Twyla and I have both been quite active on Facebook, so our friends who are on Facebook will be aware of the things we’ve been doing.However, several people have reminded me that they don’t use Facebook,and they would like to have regular news about what we are doing.So this blog is one part of our effort to keep people better informed. In addition, these posts will have the advantage of being centered around a theme, rather than the “here’s what we are doing now” quality of Facebook.

So for the next few posts, here’s what you have to look forward to:

  • Rainwater collection at Lewis & Tammy’s home.
  • Rainwater collection at Tanzania Christian Academy.
  • Rainwater collection at Andrew Connelly School of Preaching
  • Constructing a Bottle Brick cistern at the Monduli Juu Church of Christ
  • Visiting the Arusha Game Park
  • Our Non-profit corporation in Tanzania
  • We found a house to live in!
  • Learning to build bio-sand water filters
  • Visiting family and friends
  • A vehicle for Tanzania

That’s a good beginning; these topics will give you a good idea what we have been up to since we left for Tanzania in March.

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Getting Ready to Go to Tanzania

There is so much going on, I hardly know where to start. We’re sort of feeling under attack.

When we returned from our trip to Texas, all excited about rainwater collection, we found ourselves totally buried in the details of life, and of getting ready to travel to Tanzania.

We have several houses, and we had envisioned spending time fixing them up and getting ready to sell them, or getting them rented and handed over to a property manager.
New facia front 2We hadn’t expected to get slammed by our insurance companies, who sent a list of “fix this” demands. So at first, we were just running around fixing and not focusing.

Then one of our tenants moved out, leaving us holding the bag for about $2000, and another house in need of fixing.

And we discovered that my retirement fund (which we had planned to use) wouldn’t be available to spend on  all of these repairs. Time for a loan…

In addition, when I went to the brokerage to discuss said retirement funds,  I learned that we won’t be able to keep my retirement fund in that brokerage: they won’t deal with missionaries and other people who live outside the country.

So we have LOTS of stuff going on, and we just don’t know quite how to handle it. So we need your prayers. And if you want to help fix houses, we welcome volunteers.

So here’s the good news.
We have nearly reached our fundraising goal for our personal expenses. Not doing quite so well on the expenses for building the rainwater collection system, but fundraising is coming along. And we have high hopes.

We have scheduled our tickets. We will be leaving for Tanzania on March 16, and arriving there on March 18 (we have an overnight stay in Amsterdam).

We have a place to stay, or rather, several places. Among the Short family, the Allison family and the Smelser family, we should have a bed to sleep in the whole time we are there. We weren’t too worried about this, but it’s nice to know.

And we have compared schedules and we will be able to spend time with all of those families, getting to know them better, building relationships and talking about plans for future mission work.

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A Thankful New Year

On January 1, 2015, I would like to express my thanks for the people who have blessed us this year.
First, thank you to Twyla, who said that we should seriously consider moving to Tanzania, to do the Lord’s work there. Many people think I’m dragging her half-way around the workd, and they want to know how she feels about that. It was her idea, and I’m thankful to be married to a woman who is devoted to the Lord’s work.
I’m blown away by the support we have recieved. So many people donated money for our trip in May, and again for the trip we are now preparing for. We have been coached by Everrt Huffard and Brian Davis, both of whom bave been a true blessing.
I am particularly amazed by the support from my co-workers at FedEx. One coworker was the first person to donate to our work. My boss, Mary Harvey Gurley, went above and beyond. She was instumental in raising over half our funds. My upper management and the management team that I supported were very generous.
We have been adopted by Lewis & Tammy’s parents. Both couples spent many years on the mission field, and invest their efforts in supporting missionaries. We are blessed by our own heritage of family members who are veterans of the Lord’s Army.
And this week, we have been blessed to be guests of Billy and Mary Kniffen, who have been teaching us about rainwater harvesting. Today, Billy taught me how to weld, and we built a modification for the rack on my truck.
We are thankful for all of these, and for many others we haven’t mentioned.

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Last Day at FedEx

If you’ve watched my activity on Facebook, you know I’ve attended some parties this week. I’ve also been packing up stuff, throwing out stuff, and generally getting ready to vacate my office.
It’s a bittersweet moment. This morning, as I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed the long line of trucks waiting to drop off their load of Christmas packages, and I thought, “Peak looks great this year!” Then a new thought, “They’re taking care of my retirement.”
Never thought much about retirement. Figured I would have to sometime. I’m not retiring because I’m tired, or I want out. FedEx is a great company to work with, and the Air Ops division has been a huge adventure.
I’m retiring, because we feel called to serve in the Lord’s Army, in Tanzania. This coming year, we plan on building a rainwater harvesting system for Tanzania Christian Academy, and next year, we plan to move to Tanzania.
We hope to develop an Adult Literacy program, and to do more rainwater harvesting projects, all with the ultimate goal of teaching people about the love of Christ.
So it’s bittersweet. Leaving a job I love, but looking forward to new and exciting things.
May God bless us in this new work!


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Global Missions Conference

We had a great time at the Global Missions Workshop at Goodman Oaks Church of Christ in Southaven! Saw many old friends, met new friends.

One of the highlights was getting together with Mark Brazle. I’ve known Mark most of my life, but we haven’t seen each other in 30 years or so. His Dad, Clinton Brazle, was a Bible teacher at Western Christian College, and Mark’s brother Paul was in my graduating class. Their younger brother was a year behind me, and the three of us played on the same football team. I bought one of my first cars from the Brazle boys, a 1962 Plymouth Valiant for which I paid $25. I drove it for at least 2 years before a friend wrapped it around a tree.

Later, Mark was a missionary in Belgium, working closely with Blair Roberts. Blair and I were interns together in Brandon, Manitoba. My sister-in-law, Holly James, was an intern in Belgium with Blair and Mark. To top it all off, Mark’s daughter is a missionary in Tanzania! I’m sure that’s not a coincidence.

IMG_20141017_164431 So, we’ve got lots in common, especially common friends and experiences. It was very good to see him.

Also got to spend some time with Robin Cannon. Like me, Robin is a TCK (third culture kid), having grown up in Japan, and then in Papua New Guinea. His Dad was one of my heroes, a Canadian who was a missionary in Japan, Papua New Guinea, Irian Jaya and Ukraine. Robin and I went to the same colleges, and studied under the same teachers. Robin is almost as weird as I am. Robin’s step-mother, Betty Dollar Cannon has been a good friend for many years. Like us, she was a missionary in Ukraine.

And it was great to see Lewis and Tammy’s parents, Ed and Sharon Short and John and Beth Reese. Their families and ours have been tangled for quite some time, even though we only recently met them. They have  become like family, as we prepare to move to Tanzania to work with Lewis and Tammy.

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A few pictures of the kids

I noticed that my page is very short on pictures of the “babes.” Here are a few to make up for the shortage:

Here are Timothy, Jeremy and Sophia working on a homeschool science project: Testing the strength of some “hollow bones.”

Homeschool science project

Timothy got into his mother’s Tumeric. Now he’s the yellow kid. Maybe we should get him a long night shirt with odd sayings on the front?

Tumeric Timothy

Sophia made “flower cookies,” filled with homemade jam.

Flower Cookies

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