Global Reach of Local Faith
There are thousands of people from all over the world who come into the Michiana area every year to study at Goshen College, Bethel College, and Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary – based on their religious affiliation and faith.
There are hundreds of local businessmen who bond through their beliefs and support one another’s ventures materially. There are also several hundred pieces of equipment that are sent around the globe to support religious missionary and humanitarian work, again, based on faith. There is local faith with a global reach.
SonSet Solutions sends products to an average of 70 countries every year including radio receivers, solar lamp poles, and water monitoring devices. In the last 15 years it has reached approximately 165 nations, mostly Third World countries. With a staff of six along with more than 50 volunteers, SonSet is a faithbased local nonprofit business that calls 17th Street in Elkhart its home.
(NOTE: A very large portion of the 50+ people are paid staff and not volunteers. They are just paid by another mission organization who “loan” them out to SonSet Solutions.)
SonSet has water monitoring devices in places such as the Amazon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, and the Central African Republic. These instruments report water use and other information to satellites and measure the chemical makeup and how fast the water is being used – and how much longer a well may produce.
For other nonprofit organizations working in that area and which are trying to help the local population, such technology offers an opportunity to make better decisions about water usage, when to begin digging a new well, or when to treat it. This prevents the residents from returning to using unsanitary water and, in turn, prevents diseases and death. Near one of these wells one may also find SonSet’s solar powered lamp pole. It stands approximately 20 feet in the air with a solar panel at the top and an LED light connected underneath. The light is usually directed in the area of the hand-pump water well.
“Elkhart is home to great minds and big hearts that enable us to bring transformation to people’s lives in even the remotest of communities,” tells David Russell, President and CEO. “We leverage our expertise in engineering and technology to advance the gospel.”
Additionally, the energy collected by the solar panel not only feeds the LED light bulb at night, but it also feeds a mobile phone charging station that is attached to the pole at chest height. Yes, even though Third World countries may go without electricity, smartphones are pervasive. The charging station also is programmed to emit a wi-fi signal that transmits a Christian message.
Then, there is SonSet’s most-known product: the solar powered radio, which connects people in Third World countries to Christian-based radio stations through pre-programmed stations – the only radio stations these radios can tune in to. Plus, in situations such as the earthquake in Nepal or the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the radio stations transmit emergency information and instructions to assist.
Seven Additional Facts about SonSet from SonSet:
1. There is no direct mention of the activity and product line that has been our bread and butter for 28 years: Community Christian radio stations. SonSet Solutions has provided equipment and technical assistance to establish well over 400 of these stations worldwide. Our main supplier of low-power FM transmitters is IREC (Crown Broadcast) on the north side of Elkhart. We manufacture our own broadcast antennas systems.
2. The local radio stations that the SonSet solar radios are pre-tuned to are typically the ones that we have helped people establish in their communities.
3. In addition to sending products abroad, we provide extensive consultation, troubleshooting and repair services.
4. Besides helping to curb disease through clean water, we are helping to improve rural economies. The less time needed by people to fetch water for their families, the more time they can devote to growing crops or tending to livestock.
5. The actual average count for countries served over the past five years is 64, not 70.
6. We can’t substantiate the figure of how many nations we have been involved in the past 15 years. Perhaps a separate detail of interest that could be included is that over the past five years we have provided technology-based solutions to an average of 118 like-minded groups in those countries.
7. Another important point that could be made and that is substantiated by our statistics is that partnership with like-minded organizations is a big part of our DNA.
Faith and the local economy
Twenty-four years ago the vision from a group of Christian businessmen in our community brought us the first Community Leaders Prayer Breakfast. Since then it has become one of Elkhart’s premiere annual events bringing messages of inspiration and encouragement from nationally recognized personalities such as former athletes Clark Kellogg (now sports commentator), Tim Brown, and Mike Singletary along with coaches Bobby Bowden, Tony Dungy and Joe Gibbs.
Other speakers have come from outside of sports; Senator Bill Armstong, Adolf Coors IV, Vice President Dan Quayle, Oliver North and Lt. Col. Steve Russell who told of his experience of the hunt and capture of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. “Christian Business Men’s Connection had been active in the Elkhart area since 1974,” explained Charlie Miller. Charlie was our area’s first CBMC chair and the one who led the launch of the first Community Leaders Prayer Breakfast.
This year’s breakfast, slated for Friday, July 10, will feature retired Lieutenant General Boykin, US Army. Born in New Bern, North Carolina, Lieutenant General William G. “Jerry” Boykin currently serves as the Executive Vice President of the Family Research Council in Washington, DC. He is also the Wheat Professor of Leadership Studies at Hampden-Sydney College in Farmville, Virginia.
Previously, LTG Boykin served at the Pentagon as Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, overseeing the gathering and exploitation of intelligence during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. For more information on this upcoming breakfast, go to www.cbmc.com/event/ElkhartPrayerBreakfast.
The greater Elkhart area ... local faith with a global reach.