Opportunities for Ministry:
Serving the Poor by using Science and Technology

I.O.U. — This is a preliminary version of a page that will be further developed later, maybe in mid-2014, and there will be more than one "service to the poor" page.  This main-page will explain the biblical basis (as in these passages) and general principles, share a few stories and describe projects.  Currently a few links are below, about activities by ASA people, followed by a description of symposia at the annual meetings of ASA in 2005, 2006, and 2007 (plus reports about these meetings in the ASA Newsletter) plus links to the corresponding talk-abstracts later in this page.  Later there will also be links from each of these topics to pages describing the topic in more detail, and a page with all "stewardship of life" abstracts (about a wide variety of topics, including ministry to the poor) from the meetings in 2005-2008.

Other conference themes — such as energy (conserving it and finding alternative sources) in 2005 — will be covered in other pages, and a much wider range of topics is in the homepage for Christian Stewardship.

Some Service Activities by ASA Members

What can we do with coconuts?  You can find out from Walter Bradley (who is on the executive council of ASA) and in articles by Jody Long & inventors conference (re: a 3-month question) & E-Team Summary & Amanda Lewis.   { abstracts in this page: 1  2 }

Martin Price, a former president of ASA, describes the vision of ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization) as "bringing glory to God and a blessing to mankind by using science and technology to help the poor."  Their goal is "to improve the capacity and capability of international community development workers by networking their skills and knowledge with each other. … ECHO exists for one major reason, to help those working internationally with the poor be more effective, especially in the area of agriculture!  We are a technical support organization helping community development organizations and workers do what they do . . . better!"  From their homepage you can explore their Core Services (Problem Solving & Networking,…), a fascinating history of Martin Price in About Us, a virtual tour of six Global Farms (Tropical Highlands, Urban Rooftop,… *), ways to Get Involved, and more.   * "ECHO has designed their station to recreate as many distinct tropical ecosystems as is practical in south Florida.  Diverse tropical crops, forages and fruit trees fill most of the land.  This setting enabled hands-on labs in tropical fruit pruning, grafting, erosion control, agroforestry, basic animal husbandry, and other practical areas." (from a description of an ECHO-class offered by the AuSable Institute)   { abstracts in this page: 1  2 }

• The ASA Newsletter, describing part of our meeting in 2000: "The second plenary speaker Saturday evening was Susan Drake Emmerich, a Christian anthropologist, who became involved in Tangier Island, a closed island subculture.  Tangier Island is located in the Chesapeake Bay with a population of about eight hundred people.  Susan spoke of the way in which she was able to become accepted by the Tangier fishing community.  The watermen would indiscriminately pollute the bay with trash and oil.  Susan convinced them to enter into a covenant to preserve the bay by changing their waste disposal habits.  She did this by appealing to their already-established beliefs, connecting in their minds their faith in Jesus (their Pilot on the water) with their caring for his creation.  She lived on Tangier Island for longer than the two years that most outsiders previously had been able to persist."  You can learn more about this fascinating story in her own words and from NOAA Coastal Services.

• Below, you can read summaries about some of the work being done by ASA members.

More about Service Activities by ASA Members
(described in excerpts, from ASA Newsletters, about our meetings in 2005-2007)

      Technology for Shalom [ASA-2005]
      Every day the equivalent of 20 jumbo jets full of children die from diseases.  Most of these 6,000 deaths could be prevented by providing sources of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.  U of Wisconsin civil and environmental engineering prof Peter Bosscher used those facts to make his case that the developing world needs engineers more than doctors.
      Speaking [at the annual meeting of ASA in 2005] on the topic “Technology for Shalom,” he bolstered his case by pointing out that the average African woman walks 6 km to get fresh water, another six to return, carrying a 20 kg water load.  In the developing world, the average person uses 10 liters of water per day—their full day’s water use for washing, eating, drinking and cooking.  That’s the equivalent of one standard American toilet flush [Ed. note: This would be slightly more than two flushes of a 1.28-gallon high-efficiency toilet].
      Cooperating with Engineers without Borders, Bosscher sends engineering students to implement low-tech/highimpact projects like potable water sources or sanitation facilities.  Some organizations send university students on overseas projects with goals merely to have a good time and to return safely.  But when his students engage in humanitarian outreach, “Engineering has a human face.  No longer is it just calculations and mechanics and calculus.” When they see their engineering expertise help people, many of them make it their life’s career.
      He quoted Bernard Amadei, founding president of Engineers without Borders-USA, who said: “Improving the lives of the 5 billion people whose chief concern is to stay alive another day on our planet is no longer an option;  it is an obligation.”  (more)   { Peter Bosscher passed away in November 2007, leaving behind a productive legacy and many people who loved him and were inspired by him. }

      A solar cooker is very appropriate for underdeveloped countries.  Physicist Paul Arveson pointed out that many countries have relied so much on burning wood, that they have depleted trees, habitat, soil and watershed.  Cooking smoke kills over 1.6 million people each year, causing acute lower respiratory infection, chronic bronchitis, lung cancer, etc.  Many poor families spend 25% of their income on fuel.  The Cookit, a solar cooker that uses aluminum foil or metallized plastic film to collect and concentrate the sun’s rays, consumes no fuel, eliminates the daily search for firewood, provides business opportunities, and can sterilize water and pasteurize milk.  (more)

      Bradley Aspires to Be “George Washington Carver of Coconuts”
      Baylor U. professor and ASA Council member Walter Bradley champions using technology in creative ways to help the poor.
      In Papua New Guinea he has implemented that goal by converting coconuts into value-added products.  Realizing that extracting milk from the coconut produced substantial waste, he resolved “to become for coconuts what George Washington Carver had become for peanuts.”
      He and associates discovered the various parts could be used:
as fuel, for chip-burning cook stoves and for biodiesel;
as animal feed, containing 16% protein and all essential amino acids;
in construction, processed into particle board;
in ecology, as matting to minimize erosion;
in the household, as cooking oil, glycerin for soap, and the empty shell as a cup.
      Making it even more suitable for developing countries, coconuts grow primarily in soil that is sandy and near coastlines — the very areas where poverty and drought are most intense.
      Each tree can bear continually, producing two to four crops per year, and an experienced climber can harvest about 1,000 coconuts per day.  That sounds like an ideally “appropriate” solution for developing countries!  (more)

      Science and Technology in Service to the Poor [ASA-2006]
      One track [at the annual meeting of ASA in 2006] devoted most of Saturday to the theme “Science and Technology in Service to the Poor.”

      Martin Price led off with the perspective of his ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization) group, stating that its goal is “to bring glory to God and a blessing to mankind by using science and technology to help the poor.”
      He said that if results are to reach the poor, an item generally must cost the recipient nothing or almost nothing.  Exceptions are:  (A) if the goal is to develop something you hope generous benefactors will pay to make available, e.g., HIV/AIDS drugs,  (B) new technology becomes the basis for local micro-enterprises that generate employment, e.g., coconut processing or  (C) it is of help to organizations that will use it in ministry, e.g., test strips for malaria.
      He recommended four online informational resources:
      1. ECHO publication Using Science to Help the Poor: Low-Budget Research Ideas - available as a PDF file at www.echotech.org.
      2. Trees for Life Journal - www.TFLJournal.org
      3. International Journal for Service Learning in Engineering - www.engr.psu.edu/IJSLE/home.html
      4. A document with specific research ideas - http://echotech.org/mambo/docman/usingsci.pdf

      Doctors in impoverished regions of the world often have medicines available to them, but no reliable way to diagnose a patient’s illness.  The problem is especially acute in areas that lack electricity, refrigeration, and running water.  Malaria kills 3,000 people daily, 75% of them under age 5.  In her presentation, “Using Immunoassays to Create Affordable Diagnostics,” Alynne MacLean described a simple diagnostic test that costs less than $1 per patient, now being used in several countries.  (abstract)

      Francis Collins related an experience of diagnosing a lethal condition he had never seen before, and treating it “with his heart in his mouth” by surgical intervention with improvised equipment in Nigeria.  (abstract)

      Other participants in this track shared success stories — converting coconuts into renewable energy and other value-added products, anti-malarial activity of two varieties of papaya, antibacterial properties of several compounds extracted from Moringa oleifera seeds, using velvet bean as food and feed, and achieving sustainable health benefits for community water systems.  (there will be more about these later, in another page)

      Science and Appropriate Technology for the Developing World [ASA-2007]
      {note: the ASA Newsletter for the 2007 meeting has not yet been published, so the description below is from the meeting program}
      Over four billion of the Earth's people live in poverty, usually experiencing a significant reduction in quality of life and life expectancy.  Science and technology have much to offer to improve nutrition through better agricultural practices, access to clean water and sanitation, sources of suitable energy, more efficient means of producing goods, production of better housing, and delivery of better healthcare.  As followers of Christ, we have a special challenge to help meet the needs of persons who are poor.  Papers in this symposium will focus on ways in which science and technology can be applied simply and economically to help meet these needs, the Christian values that motivate us to make this a priority, and the fruits of such work.
      Session Coordinators [for this symposium at the 2007 joint meeting of American Scientific Affiliation (in U.S.) and Christians in Science (in U.K.)] were Ruth Douglas Miller (Kansas State University) and Walter Bradley (Baylor University).

(for talks, described above, at meetings of ASA in 2005-2006)
(abstracts for other talks are in another page)

      Sustainable Solutions for Rwanda: A Case Study — Peter J Bosscher [in 2005]
      Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa and also one of the poorest.  The community of Muramba is representative of Rwanda in that the most basic problem facing people is the lack of potable water and available energy sources.  Children and adults spend hours every day retrieving dirty water from an outdated gravity-fed system.  Tests on the water quality have indicated the presence of coliform and E. coli.  Frequent illness is associated with the unclean drinking water that the community is unable to purify.
      The Engineers Without Borders organization at the University of Wisconsin-Madison traveled to Muramba to assess, design, and implement strategies for improving the quantity/quality of water and identifying alternatives to harvesting firewood which has led to deforestation and soil erosion.  The goal is to train local experts to implement sustainable solutions which can be maintained and duplicated in other regions of Rwanda.  This paper will describe our experience with this effort.

      The Kingdom and Sustainability Principles — Peter Bosscher [in 2006]
      Sustainability is slowly but surely finding its way into university curricula.  In engineering education, an overview of the progress from 1992 to 1997 is contained in the report, The Engineer’s Response to Sustainable Development, dated February 1997, and published by World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO).  In the US many engineering colleges have developed extensive programs with special courses on the environment and sustainable technologies.  Internationally, other institutions have also integrated these concepts into their courses.
      Is the topic of sustainability morally neutral?  Can the principles embedded in sustainability be arrived at from multiple worldviews?  How should a Christian respond to the motivations for sustainability?  Is sustainability a Kingdom value?  This paper explores the principles of sustainability from several worldview perspectives and finds some worldviews are notably silent on sustainability while others speak loudly.

I'll find the abstract for Paul Arveson later, but a summary of his talk is now available in PowerPoint or HTML.

      Converting Coconuts into Value-added Products for Developing Countries — Sarah Gibson, Lindsey Mack, Walter L Bradley [in 2005]
      The coconut is a very abundant renewable resource in the very parts of the world that are most underdeveloped.  Coconut palm will produce batches of coconuts every three months or four batches per year for seventy of the eighty years of their lives.  We believe that coconuts can be converted into electric power, food for pigs and chickens, particle board for housing, filters for water, and fuel for cooking.
      The challenge is to convert coconuts into these basic human needs of energy, clean water, food, and housing using technology that is inexpensive and sufficiently simple that it can be used and maintained by rural villagers.

      Converting Coconuts into Renewable Energy and Other Value-Added Products in Developing Countries — Howard Huang, Jason Poel, and Walter Bradley [in 2006]
      Cocos nucifera trees, otherwise known as coconut trees, grow abundantly along the coast line of countries within 20 of the equator, since they prosper in sandy soil and salt water.  A single coconut tree will produce more than 120 watermelon-sized husks per year, each with a coconut imbedded inside.  There are three constituents of the Cocos nucifera that can be used for fuel;  the husk, the coconut shell, and the coconut oil that is in the white coconut “meat,” or copra as it is usually called.  Thus, the coconut tree is a very abundant, renewable resource for energy.
      We have been investigating the production of energy from these three constituents of coconuts.
      1. The white inside of the coconut, called the coconut meat or coconut flesh, can be removed from the shell and subsequently squeezed to expel the coconut oil.  It takes about 10 coconuts to make one liter of coconut oil.  The coconut oil can be processed using lye as a catalyst and methanol as a reactant to convert the coconut oil into a bio-diesel fuel, with a processing cost of $0.69/gallon.  The coconut bio-diesel has been found to run very nicely in a diesel generator, allowing the conversion of coconut oil into electricity.
      2. The coconut shell has a specific gravity of 1.2, which is very dense compared to hard woods which usually have a specific gravity of 0.6 and soft woods which are between 0.2 and 0.4.  This much greater density suggests that the coconut shell should have a greater density of energy as well, which it does.  Ten kilograms of coconut shell produces 3 kg of charcoal and 5.5 kg of combustible gases, giving a remarkably high yield of fuel compared to wood, which typically gives only 1 kg of charcoal from 10 kg of wood.
      3. The coconut husk can also be used as a fuel.  It can be processed in a biomass system where it is converted to combustible gases that are then used in a gas turbine to generate both electricity and heat for warming homes or offices and for making hot water.  One coconut husk can be used to make about 0.25 kW of electricity.
      In this paper, both the technical details of the conversion of the three constituents of Cocos nucifera into various fuels will be presented along with an economic analysis of the feasibility of using Cocos nucifera as the primary source of renewable energy for rural villages.
      The hardness of the coconut shell also makes it a likely additive for stiffening and strengthening engineering plastics as a filler.  Grinding it into suitable fine particles is required to make this possible.  Recent results from our labs will be presented.
      The husk can also be pressed in to excellent particle board, with the pith acting as a polymer matrix and the fibers acting as the reinforcing agent.  Recent results from our lab for this process will also be presented.   {soon there will be links to more about the possibilities for using coconuts}

      Using Science and Technology in Service to the Poor: Where Does One Begin? — Martin Price [in 2006]
      We have been unbelievably blessed in our personal and national lives by benefits brought to us by advances in science and technology.  Most of these benefits become available to us because we, our parents, or our government spend considerable amounts of money.  What would research in science and technology look like if the goal was to help the extremely poor, especially in underdeveloped countries?  What can I as a scientist or engineer develop that a person earning a few hundred dollars a year could take advantage of?  The bottom line is that the result of our work must be something that costs almost nothing to the end user.
      This talk will give brief examples of several research efforts (or research opportunities) that meet this criterion.  The talks to follow in this symposium will give concrete examples of scientists and engineers who are already involved in just this kind of work.

      Called to Care: For the Poor, the Earth, and the Great Commission — Martin L Price [in 2005]
      In this slide-illustrated talk, I explore briefly whether there is a food shortage or food surplus, discuss what kind of problems missionaries encounter when they want to help small farmers, give examples of technical questions missionaries have asked, talk about some of the most interesting underutilized plants in our seedbank and show pictures of methods used to grow gardens in light-weight beds above the ground on pavement or rooftops using recycled or waste materials.  I conclude with some personal challenges.  Calling and career opportunities are also a theme.

more:  You can explore the website of ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization) and the story (told by Martin Price, its founder) of how ECHO began its global ministry.

      Using Immunoassays to Create Affordable Diagnostics
— Alynne MacLean [in 2006]
      In the poorest regions of the developing world, there is often no electricity or refrigeration, and no running water.  Lack of these basic amenities makes diagnosing diseases very difficult.  Daily, people are dying from preventable diseases due to not being diagnosed.  A number of years ago, the lack of diagnostics was less of an issue—simply because doctors did not have medicine to dispense even if a patient was properly diagnosed.  Now, there is a new situation arising.  There are medical professionals with medicine, but without an adequate means to know who needs which medicine.
      Within the US, the majority of tests to diagnose diseases require expensive equipment, electricity, trained technicians to run the equipment, and maintenance personnel to repair the equipment and replace worn parts, etc.  Hence, we cannot simply “transplant” typical US technology to the developing world.  This is why we need an appropriate new technology brought to these regions for diagnostics.
      An appropriate diagnostic is one that is affordable, does not require refrigeration or electricity, can withstand heat and humidity, and can be performed quickly.  Immunoassays can meet all of these needs.
      This talk will take you through the development of a rapid diagnostic test for malaria.  Every single day, more than 3,000 people die from malaria—and 75% of those who die are children under the age of five.  According to the World Health Organization, “a prompt and accurate diagnosis is the key to effective disease management in malaria patients.”
      Each aspect of the diagnostic test will be discussed: from production of polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies, conjugation of antibodies to dyed latex micro particles, and striping antibodies on membranes, to preparing sample and conjugate release pads.
      At the end of the talk, we will to see how these tests are being used in the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal in Community Health Evangelism efforts, in Mexico by mobile medical teams, in a hospital in Haiti, and in clinics in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

      Learning About Life and God in West Africa
— Francis Collins [in 2006]
      Following a longstanding urge to do more for the developing world, I have volunteered on two occasions to serve as a physician in a Christian mission hospital in the delta area of Nigeria.  To add to the significance of the experience, I was accompanied both times by my daughter, who has subsequently gone on to become a practicing physician.  The experience was exhausting, terrifying, and life-changing.
      Faced with overwhelming poverty and medical needs in the clinic and hospital, separated from my familiar environment of high-tech medicine, and challenged by the need to diagnose and treat tropical diseases I had never seen before, with little to go on except my hands, eyes, and ears, I was forced to lean on God and not my own inadequate abilities.  Looking around me, I learned to appreciate the incredible blessings that I had taken for granted in living in a country of great abundance.  But I also was sobered and inspired by the courage and spiritual strength of the Christian Nigerians I spent time with— they seemed to have so little, and yet their abiding trust in God put my own to shame.  In one particular instance, an encounter with a critically ill Nigerian farmer who had come to seek my care left me with an unforgettable lesson about God’s love.

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