I-TEC backs missionaries

CARA MORNINGSTAR/Sun-Gazette Michael Fisher, solar contractor with I-TEC, points to a new location in Africa where the team plans to set up a power pack this summer. The rest of the map shows the locations where I-TEC has made trips in 40 countries.

With premature babies requiring warmth to survive and life support equipment keeping patients going in critical conditions, power is vital in a hospital setting in order for lives to be saved.

Tom Garber, president of I-TEC, said he met a doctor overseas that told him a story of working on a patient all day with medical equipment running off generated electricity. The problem was that the generators, to conserve power, all were turned off at a certain time each day.

“They can’t do operations, they can’t do surgeries… well obviously, how do you run a hospital with no power?” Garber said.

Whether that patient lived or died after the power was turned off was determined if the patient could breathe without life support machines that required electricity. The power was going off, and there was nothing the doctors could do about it. Garber never learned of the child’s fate, but he said the idea behind I-TEC is to make sure that situation does not have to happen.

I-TEC, which stands for International Technical Electric and Construction, is a company based out of Montoursville that constructs “powerpacks” to take overseas and set up solar power to communities globally that have little or no access to power.

The powerpacks are large trailers, ranging from 20 to 40 feet depending on the job, that are equipped with solar panels, solar inverters and various other preset up items that make installation quicker and easier when they get overseas. By preassembling pieces in Montoursville, they basically are complete electrical systems that can be installed on location.

“Our whole purpose is to support hospitals, orphanages and Christian missions worldwide,” said Tom Garber, president of I-TEC. “We’re not pastors and teachers, but we can sure help those who are.”

Operating for nearly 30 years, I-TEC has sent powerpacks to over 40 countries.

Michael Fisher, a solar contractor with I-TEC, has been part of the team since 2009 and personally has gone on 30 trips to eight countries.

“I started in 2009, and 2010 was my first trip. The calling was there. I was obedient to that calling and available at every opportunity. Last year, I felt the calling, even the compulsion, that God was leading me to serve full-time,” Fisher said.

Fisher said often they go to countries where hospitals are set up based on generators that can only offer power for a few hours a day. Some countries have even less.

“It’s just overwhelming, the need for reliable power,” Fisher said. “Imagine your worst health crisis and arriving at the front door of the hospital only to find that all the lights aren’t working. There’s people inside the hospital, but yet the treatment of serious issues are going unmet because there’s no electricity.”

He said machines, technology required for surgery and most life-saving equipment in hospitals only can be used when electricity is available.

“With power, you can save physical lives. That Christian mission hospital can then save lives eternally by witnessing the gospel of Jesus Christ to them,” Fisher said. “So, I-TEC powers missions. We are a backline ministry, so to speak. We enable the frontline ministry that is actually out there in the field that lives there to more effectively promote the gospel.”

“We consider ourselves just an active part of the whole process of salvation of people because without us, they can’t do what they’ve been called to do,” Garber said.

Fisher said everyone who works for I-TEC is a volunteer. Many come to the Montoursville headquarters to help assemble the powerpacks and gather necessary equipment needed for the overseas journey. The powerpacks then are shipped to the mission locations, and a group of volunteers from I-TEC go to set up the power remotely. By spending weeks gathering materials and setting things up inside the powerpacks, it saves weeks of time having to set up remotely.

Because they are set up to operate both remotely and locally, volunteers can help in both places. More are always needed.

“They can go on a project with us, which obviously, not everyone can do that,” Garber said. “They can donate equipment. Donations themselves help provide. The longer a mission has to wait to provide solar panels, the longer we aren’t able to be effective.”

He said electrical equipment is helpful, and whatever isn’t useful can always be sold to help finance projects.

“So even if someone is not sure if their equipment is of value or not, we can determine that,” he said. “It’s a huge benefit to be able to help supply or support someone going on a work project.”

Garber said donations of helping pay airfare always are welcome, even if people themselves cannot go or donate their own time.

I-TEC currently is working on powerpacks for Uganda and Nundu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. The ministry also is taking on the challenge of setting up a water filtration system for the first time.

“We haven’t done that before,” Garber said. “When we were there doing a survey and saw them carrying buckets of water from the river over to the hospital, we thought, ‘We can’t just give them electricity. We’ve got to do more.’ “

He said though this is the first time I-TEC has offered a water supply system, it hopes to do more in the future and add it to its normal work.

“Those are the two critical utilities in life, really. We’ve kind of coined the phrase, ‘water sustains life; electricity changes life.’ That’s really true,” Garber said.

Because everyone at I-TEC is a volunteer, the only cost the missions have to pay in order to get a powerpack is the bare materials. I-TEC installs them for free.

For more information about I-TEC, visit www.itec.org or call 570-433-0777.

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