Looking to “Electrify” Rural Africa

Posted on April 17, 2013

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By David Ettinger

At one time in his life, First Orlando member Jim Dotson was all about music, sound and recording. Now, he’s seeking something a little more electrifying — both spiritually and practically.

Caption: This dramatic satellite photo shows how saturated Europe is with electricity, but how lacking Africa is.

Jim is the founder of a ministry called HEsentme.org, which is dedicated to improving the quality of life for people in developing nations. “We’re increasing awareness of renewable energy by providing electricity via wind turbines to people in need,” Jim said. “Our vision is to glorify God by offering hope to the spiritually and physically poor.”

For Jim, the practical reasons for bringing electricity to Africa are intricately tied to the spiritual ones. “HEsentme.org is about helping people,” he said. “We’re about bringing electricity to small villages in developing nations. These people need to hear the good news about Jesus Christ. They also need food, water and a safe place to live and recover from illness.”

Considering that Jim, 51, spent his career working in music with such megabands as No Doubt and The Offspring, and in sound recording with Disney on numerous projects, including the “Tower of Terror” attraction, the move to African electricity seems like an odd one. And, indeed, it is something Jim had no designs on less than a year ago. “I had been thinking for years that God had something for me to do, but mission work was definitely not one of them,” he said. “I’ve always contributed to missions, but I knew that [being a missionary] just wasn’t me.”

But then came his son’s graduation from boot camp in June of 2008 in San Antonio. “I was captivated by how dedicated these kids are to serving their country,” Jim said. “It really got me thinking.”

Caption: The botanical-gardens exhibit in Washington D.C. where Jim first got the vision for his ministry.

Immediately following the graduation, Jim and his wife Holly took a business trip to Washington D.C. While Holly was in meetings, Jim had several free days to sightsee. “The last day we were there, I had this long list of places I wanted to go,” he recalled. “But there was a problem, there was not a single parking space in any of those places.”

So, Jim decided to visit the last place on his list, a botanical-gardens exhibit near the Capitol building. As it turned out, there was one available parking space. “I thought to myself, ‘Is this God trying to tell me something?’ ”

The answer was “yes!” “My original reason for going was to get some landscaping ideas for my yard,” Jim said.

But the Lord had something far greater in mind. “As soon as I got in, right in front of me was a solar and wind exhibit — renewable energy,” Jim said. “It fascinated me and totally drew me in. But I kept thinking to myself, ‘This is not why I’m here.’ ”

So he decided to browse for a while, but found himself back at the exhibit. “I started reading the material and took some home with me,” he said. “After I got home, I got this absolute obsession with wind technology and started doing a ton of research.”

Caption: Jim and his wife Holly.

He and Holly began to discuss developing a wind-technology system for their home so that they could be more self-sufficient. That further fueled Jim’s research. “One day I was driving, and it was like God said to me, ‘Now that you’ve done all this research on wind technology, I want you to take it to Africa.’ ”

The revelation was a shock. “I had never been to Africa and know nothing about [Africa],” Jim said. “I wouldn’t even know how to get started with something like this.”

Meanwhile, at church one day, First Orlando Senior Pastor David Uth was speaking about mission work. Following church, Holly said to Jim, “You need to go to Africa.”

Eventually, Jim became acquainted with longtime First Orlando missionary Lynn Kennedy, who serves in the West African nation of Burkina Faso. One thing led to another and now Jim is scheduled to go on First Orlando’s mission trip to that country later this month. The goal is to install electricity at two locations: Lynn’s ministry center and the site where a school is to be built. “Lynn has set an appointment on August 4 for us to meet with government officials,” Jim said. “We’re looking to get approval from them and the power company. We still have some more money to raise, but I know the Lord will do this.”

The wind-turbine electrical system Jim hopes to install costs about $70,000. It’s steep, but he is not worried. “The way I look at it is that this is God’s ministry, not mine,” Jim said. “If he wants this to happen, then he’ll provide the funds. What we really need from people is prayer.”

For Jim, electrical-system installation is but a first step; he believes the Lord has given him an even greater vision for Africa. “I’m hoping to one day build a manufacturing plant there that will employ local people,” he said. “After the systems are installed, they will need maintenance, which will also involve local residents. This will provide paychecks for people who never had anything. This could stimulate a whole new economy.”

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Posted in: World Missions