By Chris Moon
Tom Nutt keeps getting requests.
“Right now, I have sent out two so far this year,” he told Christian Standard. “I’ve got four that need to go out in the next few weeks and an additional one that I will ship in March.”
He’s talking about the solar kits Good News Productions International, based in Joplin, Mo., has been sending around the world for the past 39 years.
Nutt, vice president of operations for GNPI, says the organization has sent out nearly 800 of them in its history—all in an effort to enable missionaries to show evangelistic films and videos in hard-to-reach places around the world.
GNPI recently told the story on its website of a Christian worker who does evangelistic work in churches and prisons in Uganda.
“I go where most refuse to go, due to the threat of danger,” said the worker, Peggy Cable. “But God provided this equipment, and I go absolutely anywhere using it to tell people about Jesus.”
GAINING AN AUDIENCE
A solar kit includes a projector that runs on a lithium battery that can be charged with a small solar panel that comes along with the kit. A kit also has speakers, cables, and a waterproof case. A screen is built into the lid.
The whole thing weighs just 13 pounds.
GNPI has found that the kits give missionaries the ability to project videos for a crowd of people—and that in itself is an attraction. In some areas, people will come from far and wide when they hear a missionary with a solar kit has come to town.
The novelty of it is a draw.
“The solar kit, if nothing else, has helped people gain an audience so they can preach to them and teach them and tell them about Jesus,” Nutt said. “The requests for them just keep coming.”
Just this past Friday, Nutt sent one to Uganda, where it will be used in a refugee camp.
And in his email in-box is an inquiry from a Bible translator who wants one for his work. That translator has found it’s easier for a group of translators to study a Scripture passage together if it can be projected onto a larger screen.
“There are additional applications for its use,” Nutt said.
Carrying on the project for such a long period of time—nearly closing out its fourth decade of providing solar kits—has forced GNPI to stay in touch with the latest technology.
In the early days, missionaries showed film strips produced by GNPI. As such, the first solar kits were a far cry from what they are today.
Back then, GNPI would purchase the components and assemble them. One donor to the organization ran a sheet metal shop and crafted the cases for the kits, mounting them onto backpack frames. A solar panel was bolted to the lid.
GNPI purchased a battery, a projector, and a small audio cassette player.
The kit weighed a whopping 35 pounds, nearly three times what they weigh today.
Still, Nutt said, “It was pretty state-of-the-art back then.”
Today’s kits have a projector that is only about six times the size of a cell phone. The projector has an 8-gigabyte micro SD card the size of a thumbnail that can hold 40 hours of video content.
The lithium battery—GNPI no longer uses the much heavier lead acid batteries—can operate for six hours. The speaker system can reach up to 100 people.
“There’s no comparison,” Nutt said.
GNPI puts kits together in three of its offices—in Joplin, as well as in its locations in Kenya and India. They cost about $1,000, including shipping, and are typically paid for through donations. Some are taken to Christian workers overseas by local church groups that visit on short-term mission trips.
THE ‘YELLOW BOX’
Nutt tells two stories that demonstrate the importance of solar kits to mission work.
Back in the 1980s, one missionary in what is now Myanmar left home to go pick up a solar kit. His route took him through some dangerous areas, and he ended up crossing a border and landing in prison. He spent three months doing hard labor as he served out his sentence, Nutt said.
When the missionary finally emerged, Nutt reports, he said this: “It was all worth it because I knew the impact that the solar kit was going to have on my people as I shared the gospel.”
Nutt also recalled a Ugandan missionary who noted that Jesus performed miracles that drew people to him. The missionary said that when white missionaries show up in Africa, their white skin draws people to them.
Then, the missionary, who was black, said his “yellow box,” containing the solar kit, was the thing that drew people to him.
“I think it’s been a great tool over the years,” Nutt said.
Learn more about GNPI’s solar kits at gnpi.org.
Chris Moon is a pastor and writer living in Redstone, Colorado.