Tag Archives: missions

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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Our Future House in Tanzania

Because our mission is an outreach to the Maasai people,we wanted to live among the Maasai. We had seen where a few people had built brick houses in the area dominated by the Maasai, and thought we might be able to rent one. Through a casual connection, we were introduced to the retired Head Teacher from Maasai Girls School, who owns a vacant house in the Monduli Juu area. This is exactly where we wanted to live! We have rented this house in advance, to move in on June 1, 2016.  I have included an album below; I believe you can click on the thumbnails to see a large image.

This is a lovely house, but this community has no water supply. In order to live here, we will need to build an extensive rainwater collection system. With our landlady’s permission, we hope to extend the roof to increase the area for rainwater collection, and to give us some additional covered living/visiting space. With the additional water, we will be able to use the flush toilet and shower that are already built in the house.

When we saw this house, we thought, “We could move in right away!” That’s almost true. It’s a very nice house, but without a water supply or electricity, it would be difficult to live here (that’s probably part of the reason our landlady lives elsewhere). Desert Water Agency estimates a need of 6000 gallons per month for two people.

  • We must enlarge this roof to provide more rainwater catchement capability.
  • We must be able to store at least 2 months supply on location (preferably 3 or more).
  • Estimated cost: $20,000
  • Solar Hot water system $500.00

We will also install solar panels for electricity, because the electrical system here is very undependable. It is often off for days at a time, and rarely on for more than 8 hours a day.We will have a generator as backup, so we will be living “off the grid.” However, because cell phone service (and internet capability) are almost universal in Tanzania, that’s one thing that actually works better than in Memphis.

  • 5 Kv Diesel generator: $1200.00
  • 10 Kv Solar System: $1200.00

Which brings us to the point: We need assistance with these costs. We’re raising money for our support, but we also need money to cover one-time costs like moving, language school and renovating our house. If you, or your church are interested in partnering with us in this work, please let us know.

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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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