Lightning Effects

By Rachel Greco

Besides endangering living creatures, lightning can also endanger computers, especially in Cameroon, Africa, during the rainy season. 

At the SIL* Center in Yaoundé, Cameroon, where many Bible translation and literacy projects are in progress, the power surges caused by lightning can wipe out or pause these eternally important projects. 

When lightning strikes one of the center’s buildings, it zips through the copper network cables that connect the buildings, destroying the network that translators and other Scripture workers use to download and edit their translations and other language projects. 

Because this had happened too many times, SIL Cameroon worked on solutions with Bill Mayes, manager of SIL Africa ICT Services, and the SIL GTIS** team located at JAARS. They decided to send over Steve Maddox, a volunteer with SIL, and Jordan Keyton, a member of the GTIS team, to install ground rods, which help disperse power surges, and replace the copper cables with fiber-optic ones. These materials were provided by people like you giving to JAARS Technology Solutions. Thank you! 

Jordan hard at work on the SIL Cameroon center

Several obstacles arose as the team attempted to put all the pieces of the trip together. Because of COVID-19, the fiber optic cable was stuck at JAARS for several months. Then, after JAARS shipped the container, it was delayed in a port in Cameroon. The visa process for Steve and Jordan also took longer than expected. 

But praise God, he overcame all these hurdles in his perfect timing! The fiber optic cable was shipped, then miraculously released from the port just a month before the trip. Steve and Jordan received their visas 10 days before their flight to Yaoundé. “One theme in this [project] was seeing God’s hand at work through all of it, from the very beginning, allowing things to move forward, even when we saw roadblocks come up,” said Jeremy Maller, a GTIS consultant who oversaw the project. 

Not only did Steve and Jordan go to Cameroon to test ground rods and replace the copper cabling, but they also went to train the center’s IT team to maintain the system. “We want to make sure that when something breaks—because it is going to break—that they have the skills and ability to fix it,” Steve said. 

Teaching an SIL Cameroon IT staff member how to install fiber optic cables

While the two were there, the fiber optic cable failed three times, which created excellent training opportunities. “These were great experiences because those are all common things that could happen,” Jordan explained. “This was really helpful in the sense of confidence-boosting.” 

Jordan and Steve taught the staff in a hands-off manner because once they left, the staff would need to know how to maintain the system. And the staff now is ready and capable of doing so. “We’re certain that [the staff] have the skills to go in, diagnose where the issue is, go through the troubleshooting scenarios, isolate the problem, and repair it,” Steve said. 

An SIL Cameroon IT staff member replacing cable

He and Jordan were impressed by the persistence and creativity of the IT staff in solving problems. In the U.S. if you need a ground rod, you go to Home Depot or Lowe’s and grab one. Not so in Yaoundé. The group had to go to four stores before they found the ground rods, and it was piecemeal. They found some parts at one store and some at another. But this never bothered the IT staff. “Their mentality is, ‘We will find a way to do this. We will fix it,’” Jordan recalled. “And it was a great joy to see.” 

It was also a joy to see the importance of their project. A Bible translation team had traveled down from the northwest of the country to create voiceovers for the JESUS and Luke films at the Cameroon center. “When they get these [films] done, people in that [language group] will be able to watch them and hear them in their language,” Steve said. “We’re enabling the linguists and the translators to do this work to develop these languages so that God’s Word can go forth.” 

You too enable God’s word to go forth in Cameroon when you give to JAARS Technology Solutions! Thank you! 

* A partner of JAARS 

**Global Technology Information Systems