By Caleb Raber (with contributions from Dad)
Caleb Raber is 16 and lives in Woodburn, IN. He recently visited New Hope’s Kasana Children Center with his family. Along with using his writing skills to recount life experiences, Caleb enjoys playing the alto sax in marching band, contemporary Christian & jazz music, riding his four wheeler, and serving with and around children.
A few months ago, when God called us as a family to serve half way across the world at New Hope’s Kasana Children’s Center in Uganda, we had no idea that we would be bringing water to over 500 people. Between six months and a year prior to us coming, God spoke to my dad about beginning to prepare his family for a mission trip. So Dad kept praying and God led him to New Hope.
Just a couple short years before, we had helped our church, Blackhawk Ministries in Fort Wayne, Indiana, send Caleb and Alair Mitchell off to the ministry of New Hope Uganda.
Just about the time we started really knowing that this was what God wanted us to do, New Hope had been without power for six days, and without power, water becomes a difficult problem. So my dad, Rick Raber asked Caleb, “Have you guys as an organization ever thought about solar powering your well?”
“Yes,” he replied, “But even if we had those resources, to design and coordinate it and get everything put together to work the way that it would need to work here is still a difficult task.”
At the time Dad had been working on solar power things for his vocation, so he just looked into it a little more and said to our family, “I think that we, along with help from God, can give them solar power to run the well.”
So he told Caleb and asked him to discuss it with the New Hope Leadership team, who said, “Well (no pun intended), if you can design it and get the materials here, we would be very excited that we would have water even when there is no grid power.”
So the chaos began. Contacting different companies for the solar panels which would fit onto British Airways as checked baggage, obtaining the right pump and controller combination, running to stores to get the nuts and bolts, and getting the boxes custom built to fit the solar panels in for shipment. God provided a contact with Leon Bontrager, a Christian man from near us in Middlebury, Indiana, to sell many of the solar components for the project at cost, saving thousands of dollars. One of my Dad’s packaging suppliers, Covington Box, donated a custom designed box to protect the solar panels during their flight to Uganda. With provision from God, the gifts of different people, the finances and everything came together.
We were on our way to Kasana to provide water powered by the sun to a ministry who was providing the Living Water of the one and only Son. It is very interesting that “Kasana” means sunshine in Lugandan.
The time came to head to the airport. Thanks to some of our friends, we loaded up one of our churches mini-buses (thankfully everything fit) and set off some four hours to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. We got everything into the terminal and got the bags checked. But the solar panel boxes had to go to another loading place. That is where God’s hand had to completely take over. We would not see those boxes again until we arrived in Entebbe, Uganda.
When we arrived in Uganda, God’s favor on our trip became even more evident. There were multiple lines to get our visas and out of nowhere a lady, appearing to be the manager, came up to us and told my dad to come with her. She took him to the front of the line and bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, five stamps later, much to the surprise of those who remained in line, we were in.
Next, we had to go to baggage claim. The solar panel boxes counted as checked bags and that was what we were really concerned about. Around came all our suitcases and then came the big stuff. “It must be coming now,” we said. Sure enough around came the big boxes. We got them off and saw that there was “Security Transportation Administration, INSPECTED” on the boxes. Yes, airport security had opened them but, praise God, they did not cause problems or any issues. That was one thing dad had been praying for.
When it came time to go through claims, the man stopped us and said, “Do you have anything to claim?”
“Like what?” was dad’s reply.
“Like THAT!” he said firmly and pointed to the big 63”x 29” boxes.
“It is solar panels and the other box is control mechanisms for [the panels],” Dad said. Dad then mentioned they were for New Hope Uganda and Jay Dangers.
“Oh, okay, I see… welcome to Uganda.”
YES! We made it! Well almost. The boxes were so long didn’t want to go through the door! But with a little pushing and shoving, twisting and turning, they went through. Waiting at the next door was our good friend Caleb Mitchell. Welcomes and Thank You’s were exchanged and we were on our way to Kasana and New Hope Uganda.
The first two days were spent adjusting our bodies to the new time zone, doing tours and orientations. Then the work began. First, the holes for the support post and grounding rod were dug. It is a good thing we worked as a team with our new Ugandan friends because my brothers and I would not have been able to dig that hole by ourselves as Dad had indicated to Uncle Gabe that he thought we could. The ground is so hard shovels don’t work. You must use pick axes and shovel size hoes to dig into the ground.
Next, we replaced the water pipe to make it all the same size. Those in the carpentry shed, found great joy in watching us try to roll the large 100m coils of pipe from the barn. Replacement of the pipe took the better part of two days. Then we had to orient the pole and the frame where the panels would be pointing to the south. That was interesting and none of our guesses were close. Thanks to some sun tracking sites which we found through Google, we figured out which way was south.
After that, we exchanged the old pump and controller with the newer, more efficient pump and controller. This went fine and when it was back in the well, we were pumping water with the new system being powered from the grid. Finally, it was time to raise the pole. Only one problem, when we went to put it in, one of the braces broke. So we took it to “the fix it man”, John Biedler. He not only welded the one brace back on but put on more for extra support. We had some difficulty putting it up the second time but once we did we were quick to tie it down.
Now for the cement, we had to fill hole 4.5’ deep x 3’ in diameter. In Uganda, we discovered , mixing enough concrete to fill the hole is as big a feat as digging it. We used shovels and wheelbarrows to hand mix and pour over two cubic yards of concrete. By the end of the day, we had a hole full of cement.
Now for the tricky part, getting the panels up into the frame. We were not entirely sure how we were going to do it. But finally Uncle Gabe Williams (NHU’s Construction Manager) scaled up the ladder to end up perched atop the center of the frame to receive the panels from Dad who was hoisting them up the ladder. Once we got the panels in place, we needed to bolt them down. But the frame is 116” (about 9 ft. 8 in.) long. Here came an example of why God created us all different. God didn’t give my dad the gift of height or long arms, I don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to this engineering stuff, and my little brother Josh Raber is also vertically challenged and doesn’t know what to do either. So God gave us a little gift, more like a big gift, in a man from another team named Josh Fennema. He was able to use his God given height and long arms to screw in the bolts and secure the panels to the frame.
Finally the only thing left was the wires. First, we wound the grounding wire around the grounding rod and covered it with sand and charcoal. We were now so close to being done we could feel it. We hooked the solar panel wires into the control box, flipped a switch, and…it was too late in the day; the sun wasn’t high enough in the sky to produce the energy to get the pump started. We had to wait until the next morning.
Now, our family was scheduled to go on a safari the next day so we wouldn’t be able to switch it on. So Caleb Mitchell went down to the pump that next morning, very excited and flipped the switch, but when he listened for the water there was none moving! So he stepped back outside the pump house and realized that the sun was coming up but the morning was cloudy so it would not work. So he switched back to grid power and later in the morning. God must have decided it was time to let us find out that it was going to work. So Caleb went back down and flipped on the solar panels and, sure enough, a few seconds later he heard the water coming up and running to the water tower. For the last four days of our time at New Hope, Kasana’s primary bore hole (well) was pumping on solar power.
And that is how God used our family, the Raber’s, from a small town in Indiana, USA to bring water pumped by God’s “kasana” to Kasana, the village of New Hope Uganda and a community of surrounding Ugandans. We have had the privilege of observing God doing something only He could do. While using people surrendered to the Son of God and their gifts, God gets glorified.
About the Rabers
Rick and Diane Raber reside on small farm in Woodburn Indiana, just outside of Fort Wayne. They celebrated their 20th anniversary in May and feel blessed to serve regularly alongside their sons – Caleb(16), Joshua (14) and Zachary(11). They serve in various ways at Blackhawk Ministries, the same sending church of Caleb and Alair Mitchell, New Hope staffers @ Kasana. In addition to their passion for shepherding and the kingdom, they enjoy their beef cattle and other animals on the farm. Outside his responsibilities as CTO for Northern Apex , Rick and the boys love fishing, hunting, American football and many any other activities where high levels of testosterone are released. Diane loves to be with her family and excels at canning & gardening as well as making her house a home and haven of rest for “her 4 men” as well as her mother Jackie, who also lives with the family.