Plugging a Leaky Dam

By Rachel Greco

A massive wall of clouds marches across the sky in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Soon a torrent of rain unleashes on the unsuspecting city while lightning sizzles overhead. 

Damien, an IT Technician at the Bible translation center in Ouagadougou, huddled at home with his wife as the storm raged that night with unnatural ferocity. Damien worried about the network equipment at the office, wondering if it would survive the storm. 

The server room at the SIL office in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso

He had good reason to worry. When he went to the center the next day, he saw that thousands of dollars of their equipment—servers, computers, refrigerators and air conditioners—had been destroyed by surges of electricity through the power lines. 

Some of the damaged equipment at the translation center

To ensure this wouldn’t happen again and that the lightning rod was protecting their center as it should, Damien reached out to Bill Mayes, manager of SIL Africa ICT Services, whose projects are funded by JAARS. Bill reached out to the SIL GTIS team located at JAARS for their help. 

At first, the GTIS team didn’t realize the scope of the need. “We thought it was just a little thing,” said Jordan Keyton, manager of the project. Then the team received more emails from Damien and realized: “This is a lot bigger and a lot more important [than we thought].” 

Jordan and his team assured Damien that the lightning rod in Ouagadougou was fine. The huge surge of too much electricity that had come through the power lines had caused the damage. Jordan and his team then formulated a system to help prevent this from happening again. They sent Karl Crossman and Dan Boone over to install the system, a service made possible by people like you who give to JAARS Technology Solutions. Damien said, “We needed Karl and his team to help us investigate and secure our appliances and equipment and also do an electricity audit of the existing installation and see what we can do to improve the old installation in terms of electrical security.” 

Damien at one of the many network switches for the classrooms

Getting over to Burkina Faso at the beginning of January 2020 was not easy for Karl and Dan. Civil unrest had broken out in the northeast part of the country, and there was much discussion and prayer about whether the unrest would make its way to Ouagadougou and whether they would be safe. 

After they spoke with the Africa Area Communications Director, they received the go-ahead to fly to Burkina Faso for two weeks. 

When they arrived, the center was hopping with people running workshops and courses on translation and literacy material. According to Corey Wenger, another member of the team who worked on the project from JAARS: “If the server goes down or an air conditioner goes down, then [all the] language, translation, literacy, Scripture engagement projects just come to a screeching halt.” It was of utmost importance to protect the equipment from future electrical surges. 

With help from Damien and a local electrician, Dan and Karl tested and measured the existing grounding installation, installed surge protectors across the center, and installed power transformers. 

Damien installing the network telephone surge arrester

Damien said about the team’s hard work, “We all appreciate the work they did by installing the grounding and surge protectors and the protective equipment [we] received.”

After two weeks in Burkina Faso, Karl and Dan headed to a Bible translation center in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, to perform similar preventative work. But the work is far from being done! “Just because we went doesn’t mean it was finished,” Karl explained. The team left a long list of items still to do in Burkina Faso, one of which is installing fiber to better protect the center’s equipment. 

Correcting the power problems in Burkina Faso and elsewhere in Africa is like plugging one hole in a dam when water is still spewing out through numerous other holes. If the lake above the dam loses too much water, it disappears. When the supply of vital electrical power is compromised, Bible translation is slowed or stopped.

Your gifts to Technology Solutions enable us and our partners to plug holes so Bible translation continues to happen in Africa.