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Windmills help mission of Friends in Action around the globe

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 12/6/17

You don’t see many windmills around Middletown, but you can expect to see some on top of a building just down the road from Saturday’s Market along Route 230 in the not too distant …

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Windmills help mission of Friends in Action around the globe

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You don’t see many windmills around Middletown, but you can expect to see some on top of a building just down the road from Saturday’s Market along Route 230 in the not too distant future.

You probably won’t even notice the contraptions atop the Friends In Action building unless you are looking for them. About 6 feet high and 5 feet in diameter, they are a lot smaller than what you’d think of as a conventional windmill.

You can’t fit a 50-foot in diameter windmill into a canoe going up river or into a small mission plane, and if you are going where Friends In Action goes, those are two of the ways that you typically get there.

Friends In Action exists to support Christian missionaries in some of the most remote parts of the world.

The group works with companies throughout the United States to build the infrastructure that these missionaries and their families need to survive and to function.

That may start with building a house. It could require building a road, an airstrip, or a bridge, digging a well, or providing electricity where there is none. That’s where the windmills come in.

Friends In Action has received permission from Londonderry Township to put the seven windmills up on its roof, to monitor how much electricity the windmills generate, and to see how well the windmills stand up to the elements.

“We can go to the U.S. Geological web page and they can tell us in this area, what is the average wind for a certain period of time,” said Paul Brosey, who ran his own small general contracting business for almost 30 years and who is now projects/teams coordinator for Friends In Action. “For this month it may be 11 or 12 miles an hour. We can then look at that and say, at 11 or 12 miles an hour these windmills are generating X number of kilowatt amounts of power. That helps us when we look at the world system and see what the wind is off the hillside of Peru, and realize down there they average 20 miles per hour. We can calculate and say it will take X number of windmills to produce the electricity that we will need.”

Solar and wind power are game-changers for providing power to missionaries in these remote settings, Brosey said. They are no longer tied to a generator that requires fuel.

Brosey has a daughter and son-in-law who are missionaries in Peru, and who know first hand how challenging that can be.

“It’s not just the fuel but the cost of getting fuel in,” Brosey said, adding that the fuel has to be flown in on a plane that costs $600 each way. “And they can only bring in 1,000 pounds at a time. If we can provide them with some solar panels and with windmills, they can virtually do away with a generator except in extreme conditions.”

Friends In Action has already done a year or two of testing to see how well a 60-foot tall windmill can make electricity in the jungles of Nicaragua.

Testing these much smaller and portable units here will also provide crucial knowledge regarding the amount of maintenance needed to service the windmills.

“Wind has got bearings and moving parts. You have to do some kind of service at some point,” said Friends In Action Executive Director Tim Johnston, who was bound for Nicaragua shortly after this interview. “The question is what windmill is going to hold up best. We have seven going up on the roof. We may try those for a year or two, and then try this other type and if there is a new one coming out that is stronger and better, see how they are holding up. That’s the biggest concern with wind right now — durability — for a people group that has minimal knowledge of maintenance.”

The seven windmills will join solar panels on the roof of the Friends In Action building. The solar panels and the windmills will also reduce the overhead cost that it takes to run Friends In Action here, which means more money available to support the missionaries in the field, or as Johnston puts it, “speeding up reaching” these indigenous people with God’s love.

Friends In Action is a nonprofit organization that started in California and then moved to Mansfield, Missouri.

Friends In Action moved its international headquarters to south central Pennsylvania in 2007. Johnston already was familiar with the region and knew it to be an area especially “favorable” for mission work, in part due to the long-established presence of the Amish and Mennonite communities in Lancaster County.

“Certain parts of our country are warm to missions. People have a greater affinity and appreciation and value for what mission work is all about, so they support it, they volunteer for it, they get involved in it,” Johnston said. “Other parts of this country you will find are cold to that. It would be very hard to find as much interest.”

After working out of a small building for a number of years, Friends In Action acquired ground and spent three years constructing its new headquarters just west of where Deodate Road meets 230.

Friends In Action has been in the building for about a year and a half. Half the building is leased out to another company, making it possible for Friends In Action to have this large of a facility to support the organization’s anticipated need for more space in the future, Johnston said.

The houses, wells, bridges, roads, airstrips and such that Friends In Action has constructed in places like Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Nicaragua, Papua, New Guinea and the South Pacific islands of Vanuatu are built by contractors throughout the United States.

Because Friends In Action is a nonprofit mission agency, these contractors can write off all their expenses for tax purposes.

“Guys go out for two weeks and they help build a house,” Johnston said. “They build houses every day and they just love the idea of going somewhere different, being able to see and visit a new country but also help missionaries tucked away that needs this help.”

Besides providing direct assistance to the missionaries, the projects undertaken through Friends In Action usually provide some kind of benefit to the indigenous people.

That “opens the door” to finding a way to share God’s love and God’s word with the people, Johnston said.

“We built a road in Vanuatu to help 19 villages for the first time have access to a road. That speaks volumes to people that you care enough to do that,” he said.

“The first time it was available to them they kept asking, ‘who is doing this and why are they doing it?’ God sent them here, God cares about you enough that they would come from all this distance. Pretty soon people are right there on the side of the road as the road is being built, placing their faith in Christ.”

To learn more about Friends In Action and its mission projects around the globe, go to www.fiaintl.org.

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