It only seems natural that Christians called to bring the light of Jesus to the world would also be committed to bringing actual light to dark places unable to receive ongoing power.
That’s the mission of Solar Under the Sun, a ministry of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Synod of the Sun. Its solar powered systems are custom designed to power the electrical needs of communities that need it the most.
Working closely with sister organization Living Waters for the World (LWW), a mission of the Synod of Living Waters, Solar Under the Sun also can power water treatment systems installed by LWW.
The LWW model and its work actually provided the impetus for the creation of Solar Under the Sun. And a $52,000 Heiserman Grant through the General Assembly Mission Council has helped change lives via the two ministry programs.
Funds for the Heiserman program came from a bequest made in 1966 by Geraldine Heiserman, who was the widow of a Yuma, Colo., farmer and landowner named Lemont Heiserman. The bulk of their estate was left in trust to the church.
The GAMC divided more than $990,000 of that gift among 16 synods to encourage mission projects that reflect partnership between or among two or more synods and-or the GAMC.
“It is a wonderful illustration of how … we can share resources and do things effectively to help critical needs in Third World countries like the need for power,” said Gerry Tyer, transitional synod executive for the Synod of the Sun. “Without the support of the Heiserman Grant and the other donors that support this program it would not happen.”
Just like Living Waters for the World, Solar Under the Sun trains volunteers to install systems so the volunteers can, in turn, go into communities and train local residents.
“We have now held five solar schools to train teams,” said Ashley Broadhurst, administrative director for Solar Under the Sun. The program has graduated 117 people and more than 50 have been in the field to date, she said.
Solar school training sessions are held at Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center in Little Rock, Ark.
In terms of system installations, Broadhurst said 18 are up and running in Haiti, 16 of which are operating LWW clean water systems.
In two years, she said, the program has been able to get onto the ground in Haiti, and in the next year it will go into places such as Kenya and the Ukraine. There are also many possibilities for the larger church, Broadhurst said.
“Providing solar light not only gives physical light into a community, but also shares the light of Christ,” she said. To be trained in a school like this and to be able to go out into the field and make a difference is fulfilling the Great Commission, Broadhurst said.
Toya Richards, a seminary student Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, writes frequently for Presbyterian News Service.