Tuesday, December 14, 2010

We Wish You a Thankful Christmas

It's been a whirlwind around our house for the last few weeks with the blessed arrival of our second daughter, Sophie. God has touched our family this year not only with a beautiful daughter, but with His provision in our lives through our friends and family. We never really understood the ministry that it is to bring a family a meal until now. We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love. Its about so much more that the wonderful food. When people come to our home, they are telling us that they are standing with us. We are not alone. God is showing us in a very real way that He will provide. Thanks to all our friends and family for their support and willingness to love us. And thanks to God for reminding us that we have so much to be thankful for.

There are so many people around the world who can not see God's love or provision right now in their lives. We pray that through their difficult circumstances, pain, and abandoment, God will touch them and let them know they are not alone. May God's people stand up this year to show people in a real way that God loves them.

This season we celebrate the birth of God's son. We celebrate our ultimate salvation from ourselves through Him. And we celebrate God's provision for all of this and so much more because of His love for us. May all of our hearts overflow this season with a better understading of just how thankful we should be.

Merry Christmas! The Saviour is born!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tilapia Project Uganda Kickoff Lunch

Parental Care Ministries and the Tilapia Project are hosting a Kickoff Lunch at the Potpourri House in Tyler, Texas. This fundraiser will benefit the Tilapia Project in Uganda (PCM Ministries).
Its TODAY! Tuesday, November 9th, 2010 at 11:30.
Join us for a quick lunch, and for a donation of $20 you will receive a fabulous free lunch. PCM is a great ministry and the proceeds will go towards building and stocking a LARGE tilapia pond for the orphange. Hope to see you there!

Dominican Republic Project Update

Our friend Stefan Schmid was unable to make his trip from Haiti to the DR due to the bad timing of Hurricane Tomas. Instead, Stefan had to make a quick getaway back to the states. So, we will find another way to make contact in the coming weeks. Stay tuned as God continues His work. It's always an adventure!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

October 2010 Update, New projects in the works!

The Tilapia Project continues to move forward despite the lack of posts these last few months. We have been seeking God's direction in our on-going projects, and in finding new projects. It seems God is leading us primarily to ministries that are serving children. What better way to show His mercy than by feeding His most vulnerable people?
Our first project, Kisima Academy, continues to produce fish, feeding and providing money for this orphanage serving over 140 children. The director, Martin, has done a wonderful job of growing additional food to provide for the children in his care. He is not only growing tilapia, but also vegatables and grains. Martin has plans to build more fish ponds in the future in order to provide more security and self-sufficiency to their ministry. If you would like to learn more about Kisima Academy, and how you can help, go to: http://kisimaacademy.blogspot.com/
The Dominican Republic project takes another step forward in November when our primary contact, Stefan Schmidt, will travel to Puerto Platta. Stefan will make contact with Richard James to determine what progress has been made and will bring information about where he can purchase fish in the DR. We will use this trip to establish more reliable means of communication and to ensure that Richard is still able and willing to be the man leading the way in the DR for the Tilapia Project. The DR project will serve Hatian refugee children by providing fish to the school serving the Villa Ascension refugee camp.
Parental Care Ministries, Uganda, is also moving forward with their Tilapia Project. This ministry is orphanage based as well as serving to unify and enrich local Christian ministries and churches in Uganda. PCM is in the fund raising phase of its Tilapia Project. They will be hosting a fund raiser at the Potpourri House Restaraunt in Tyler, Texas on November 11th. We hope to break ground on the first fish pond at their property in Uganda in November! If you would like to learn more about Parental Care Ministries and how you can help, go to: http://www.parentalcareministries.org/
We have another possible project in the planning stages in Chiapas, Mexico. This ministry is lead by Lance Keeling of Living Among Them Ministries. Lance and his family are working with a local orphanage trying to improve the children's lives. He approached me through a common friend about raising tilapia. We've had some great correspondance and he has a great vision for how the Tilapia Project could help these children. Right now Lance is working to find a sustainable water source for the fish. A well would be a great answer to prayer, but they are quite expensive. Please check out the Living Among Them Ministry at http://www.livingamongthem.com/ to find out more about this ministry and how you can help.
Debra and I have been impressed in the last year how many children in this world are in need of help. We hope that if you are reading this, that you may be encouraged by the people who have stepped forward, with God as their guide, to care for these kids and show them and their communities God's mercy and grace. If you are inspired to help, you can give tax deductible contributions directly to Kisima Academy, Parental Care Ministries, and Living Among Them Ministries. Thanks for following the Tilapia Project! Bill

Saturday, August 7, 2010

August 2010 Update

Its been a great summer for the Tilapia Project. The exposure we gained at the Today's Vision Tyler trunk show in June continues to impact the Tilapia Project (Thanks again to Dr. Rudd and her networking genius Todd Hinkey).

As a result of that opportunity, we had an amazing meeting with the founders of Parental Care Ministries (PCM), Dr. Mark Barrett and his wife Monica. One of the ministries of PCM is to provide a home for orphans in Uganda. At the moment PCM is providing a home for about 200 children. They hope to be able to serve over a thousand children as resources and infrastructure allow. As we found out in Kenya with Kisima Academy, the Tilapia Project is a natural fit for orphanages looking to become more self-sustaining. That is just what PCM is looking to do in Uganda. We have already begun working with this great ministry to formulate a budget and a plan to bring ponds and fish to Uganda. Check out the PCM website at: http://www.parentalcareministries.org/

Another result of the trunk show is that we will be giving a presentation to the Bullard, Texas chapter of Rotary International on August 12th. We are looking forward to sharing our vision for the Tilapia Project with these fine men and women. It is always an honor to share what God has done and is doing in our lives.

We are still working on getting the Dominican Republic Project up and moving. We keep reminding ourselves that God has His own timing, and He seems to be on Caribbean time for this one. :) We continue to make slow progress. Because our project manager in the DR has no telephone, internet, or electricity, our communication with him is challenging. However, we should have more specifics laid down with him in the next few weeks.

Thanks to all for your prayers and support.

Monday, June 21, 2010

$1000 donated by Today's Vision of Tyler, Texas!

Dr. Rudd hosted a trunk sale at Today's Vision of Tyler, Texas, benefiting the Tilapia Project last Saturday.
Today's Vision trunk show in progress.

Dr. Rudd pictured above in full Tilapia Project regalia :)
Many thanks to Dr. Rudd and all the Today's Vision employees for their support and hard work. Their donation of $1000 is roughly enough to get a new Tilapia Project going. We met lots of great people, and even made some connections for future projects. God has greatly blessed this project through Today's Vision!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Today's Vision hosting the Tilapia Project this weekend.

Our friend Dr. Neshia Rudd of Today's Vision, Tyler Texas, is hosting a fish themed trunk sale June 19th. Dr. Rudd has been kind enough to sponser the Tilapia Project with a percentage of the proceeds. We will be at Today's Vision from 9 am to 2 pm tomorrow. Come out and see what Today's Vision has to offer!

Tilapia found for the Dominican Republic Project

After over a month of phone calls and internet searching, we have located a local source for fish in the Dominican Republic! Now we will put our missionary project manager in the DR, Richard James, in touch with the hatchery in nearby Nagua. This project is run by Food For the Poor. Our contact there will not only sell us fingerling tilapia, but will also be a great resource as Richard begins growing fish. Progress in the Caribbean is slow, but we're getting there!

First Harvest at Kisima Academy, Kenya.

Kisima Academy Tilapia Project had their first harvest in June 2010. In the photo above you can see them working the nets through one of the ponds. These fish were first introduced as fingerlings (about 2 to 3 inches) in the fall of 2009. The tilapia reproduced before the harvest, leaving many small fish in the ponds to grow up for the next harvest.
The children of Kisima are seen above enjoying a meal of tilapia and ugali (maize flour). The excess fish were sold to local villagers, raising almost $200 for the orphanage. Martin already has plans to expand the Kisima Tilapia Project. He has purchased another acre of land and plans to build more ponds in the future. Great work Kisima! Praise God!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Dominican Republic update - where are we with the tilapia project?

Of course there was more going on during our trip to the Dominican Republic than just touring the various communities in need of help. The main reason I made the trip was to try to work out some more of the details involved in starting a Tilapia Project. One question in need of answer was : could we find someone to manage the project? The answer came to use in the form of Richard James (pictured above). Richard grew up in England, and has quite an interresting story (he joined the merchant marine at age 14, traveled the world, etc...). He came to Puerto Plata with Mercy Ships about six years ago on a 4 week mission outreach. At the end of the trip, Richard decided to stay. He initially lived and worked eith the Hatian refugees in Villa Ascension. His heart and goal has been wholly devoted to helping these people. After a few years he was able to buy a small property nearby.

Richard has done amazing things on this property. His green thumb and way with animals is evident. The property is full of vegetables, fruit trees, chickens, ducks, pigs, and the like. The people come to Richard when they need help in the forms of food and medicine. He is the ideal man to manage the Tilapia Project at Villa Ascension, and he has been praying for just such a project. One additonal benefit - Richard's wife teaches at the school in Villa Ascension (pictured above). We were agreed that the best way to initially distribute the fish, without furthering the handouts and entitlement that continue to wreak havoc among these people, is to use them for meals to be served at school. As the project grows, Richard will try to get people involved in the harvest. We hope that God will raise up willing people to begin new projects in other communities.

The next question that needed to be answered was: could we find tilapia in the Dominican Republic to start our project? This proved to be tougher than it sounded. Over the course of our stay in Puerto Plata, we spoke with numerous people who were said to be connected in some way with aquaculture. This process even lead us to speak with the Assistant to the Bishop of the Diocese of Puerto Plata. We left Puerto Plata with more connections, but no real answers concerning the availability of fish. However, in following up on some of the leads obtained in Puerto Plata, I contacted a lady named Kathy Skipper. Ms. Skipper workes with an organization called Food For the Poor, Inc. They started a similar project in Nagua, just under 100 miles from Puerta Plata. She is currently ironing out the details of allowing us to purchase fish from their project for the Tilapia Project at Villa Ascension. We're getting close!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Dominican Republic Trip Re-Cap - Aguas Negras

A roof top view of Aguas Negras. This is a predominantly Dominican slum in Puerta Platta. As you may have guessed by the name (black water) this place does not smell too great. The whole of Aguas Negras is built below the waste water treatment lagoons for Puerta Platta. When the heavy rains come, Aguas Negras is flooded with sewage. Nearly every home we entered had high water marks two feet up the walls. Aguas Negras has no sewage collection system of its own. As you can see in the picture below, the privys and toilets drain out to the street, and down to the ocean shore untreated.
My faithful guide, Stefan Schmid. Stefan has been working in Aguas Negras and Villa Ascension for over 10 years with Mercy Ships. Everywhere we went, people would call out to Stefan telling him how glad they were to see him. He has worked hard through the years to do more than just build houses for the poor. He has developed real lasting relationships with the people in these poor communities. Stefan showed me that we have to do more than just come to build houses for these people. They need training and skills in order to find jobs in order to pull themselves out of poverty. They need help, not handouts. Stefan has an idea to bring teams of skilled people down to Aguas Negras. These teams would build homes for people, but they would work with local people to teach them how to build, how to use computers, how to do electrical work, etc...
This is my young friend Chico standing on the shore of Aguas Negros. Behind him you see a powerplant. This is also where the sewage runs to. You and I would never even consider swiming in these waters, but the people of Aguas Negras not only swim, but fish here.

This is the school in Aguas Negras run by an amazing lady named Sandra. She told us her story my first night in Puerta Platta. She has an amazing testimony for what God has done in her life. I hope to tell her story more completely in a later post. The school is a bright spot in a very difficult place. She is truly devoted to these people, she is one of them. That is Sandra's daughter in the picture.

Dominican Republic Trip Re-cap, Villa Ascension

This is the view of the Hatian village called Villa Ascension from the hills above. Out of view to the right is what they call the Old Village. That village is on "Company" land. The sugar cane industry originally brought Hatians to the DR to cut cane. When the processing factory folded years ago, they left their workers with no place to go, no work, and no hope. Notice the sugar cane in the foreground and surrounding the village.

The one and only road into or out of the Hatian villiage.

One of the dwellings in the Old Village. Richard James is the man we are talking to about raising tilapia to help the people of Villa Ascension. He was our guide as we walked through the village. He came to the DR with Mercy Ships about 6 years ago - and never left. He lives among the people in the same conditions. Now he has a small piece of land in the hills above the villages. The people come to him when they need help, food, or have medical needs.

A girl and her baby sit in front of the local voodoo preist's place. Voodoo is no joke here. It is real and a part of the culture. This was the place where I felt most uncomfortable during the trip. Stefan explained to me that it was normal to feel that way, but what have we to fear? The creator of the universe is our God. These "priests" are in need of God's word and salvation too.

Just a typical dwelling with a family in front. Seeing the children was difficult for me. That could be my Emma sitting there naked, dirty, and hungry.

Babys sleeping on the concrete floor of a Company dwelling with Mama watching over.

This little Hatian girl lives in the shack behind her. It was very humbling to walk through their village and take photos of their homes. The people of Villa Ascention and the "Old Village" were very gracious and open. They invited us into their homes and offered to share what they had.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Getting ready for the Dominican Republic trip!

We are one week away from the Dominican Republic trip. I'll be meeting Stefan Schmid in Puerto Plata on Thursday, April 29th. While there we hope to get the details worked out to start raising tilapia under the direction of locals in order to help the Hatian refugees in the area. I want to thank all those who have given encouragement and funds. You have made this possible. I'll try to take lots of pictures and give a detailed account upon return. Please keep this project in your prayers.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Kenya Update and Beyond - March 2010

The Tilapia Project is starting to move around the world. What began in East Texas is already working in a Kenyan orphanage and we are hoping to help Haitian refugees in the Dominican Republic this summer. Here’s a quick recap:

1) Tilapia in East Texas: Success! Last May, we introduced about 35 small tilapia into a pond to study their growth and productivity. Over the summer the fish proved to be tough and prolific in reproduction. The fish grew to over a pound each before being harvested in October. With winter approaching, we collected over 1,000 of their offspring and moved them into the storage shed behind our house. The plan was to over winter them and stock them again the following spring in several ponds. Then came winter! We found it wasn’t economically feasible to heat the little shed after our electric bill went up in December. We had learned what we needed to know, so we gave the fish to a friend who does organic gardening for fertilizer. We were sad to end the local project sooner than we planned, but it didn’t make sense to spend the money on heating our shed when there are more projects to be implemented and better ways to spend the funds God has given us.

2) Tilapia in Kenya: God is working in Kenya! In November, we sent $1000 to the Kisima Academy, an orphanage serving over 100 children in Kenya. Within one week, the director of the orphanage, Martin Simiyu, had two hand dug ponds finished and filled with water and fish! Today those fish are growing and doing well. Martin has planted a garden and plans to raise chickens in the area around the ponds. We expect the first fish will be ready for harvest in six to eight months. In the mean time, the fish will reproduce, making the next generations of food for the children of Kisima. Please check out the Kisima academy website http://kisimaacademy.blogspot.com/ and support them as the Lord leads you.

What’s next you ask? The Tilapia Project will be heading to the Dominican Republic in June! Stefan Schmid has been working with Haitian refugees in the “DR” through Mercy Ships since 2003. We will be investigating the feasibility of growing tilapia in some ponds near the town of Puerto Plata. Puerto Plata is on the northern coast. We will develop a plan with the people growing the fish that will allow them to help families in need without creating another form of dependence that could lead to more hunger in the future. If everything looks good, we hope the fish will be used to supplement the diet of children attending a Christian school that works primarily with Haitian refugees.

Kenyan Orphanage Opportunity - October 2009

We have several exciting developments in Project Tilapia to report since our last update. First things first, the project here in Texas has been a success! We started noticing baby tilapia in the brood pond the first part of July and every day we see more and more. These fish are rugged, quick breeders, require minimal care, and adapt well to change. The water level in the pond dropped a foot before a recent rain and the water was quite warm, yet the fish were un-phased. We will begin our first harvest in October. The research phase of this project is about to take a back seat as we prepare to step into the real world and provide practical help to some people in need.


In June, I was put in contact with a gentleman, Martin Simiyu, from Africa who runs an orphanage for about 100 children who’ve lost their parents in the recent political turmoil in Kenya. The name of his orphanage is Kisima Academy. Please check out this website for more information and pictures of his amazing ministry: http://kisimaacademy.blogspot.com/ Martin has been praying for some time for a way to supplement the orphans’ diet with an affordable, sustainable protein source. Through our correspondence this summer, we believe we have a viable plan to breed tilapia and help feed the children at Kisima Academy on an on-going basis.

We are now partnering with Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church, of Loudon, Tennessee (long time supporters of Kisima Academy) in order to offer tax deductions to donors. We are seeking partners to help with the following one-time expenses:

Construction of ponds (includes a water pipe system) $ 738

Purchase of starter fish, fish food, and equipment $ 375

Purchase of ½ Acre of land on which to dig fish ponds $2,305

The largest cost of this project is the purchase of land. Land is very valuable in Kenya because it is one of the indicators of wealth in their culture. The land currently owned by Kisima Academy is already being used for teaching and living space for the children, as well as a large vegetable garden and grazing pasture for a singular cow purchased to provide milk for the orphans.

Please consider joining us in this ministry to the children of Kisima. We are giving financially to this need and hope you will too. Every dollar donated will go towards this project.

East Texas Research - May 2009

I want to take a moment to give you an update on what’s happening with the tilapia project. It has been a very interesting couple of months since you heard from me last.

First of all, I would like to thank so many of you for your prayers, supportive words, and financial assistance. Your support has allowed us to purchase the equipment and fish necessary to get this project off the ground. I would also like to thank those friends who have contributed their time helping me get the ponds ready for fish.

The project has evolved in the past few months. I believe the Lord gave me the inspiration to begin. I took the initial idea and made it my own. And now, in the last few months I think He has been taking the reins back from me, and asking me to allow Him to show me how this is really supposed to work! It’s been a real faith builder. The plan has changed and I have no doubt that it is for the better.

We purchased and stocked Tilapia brood fish on May 18th! These fish will spawn this summer, not in the ponds we’ve dug, but in smaller ponds that friends have allowed us to use for the project. At the summer’s end, we will remove the offspring from the ponds, and place them in small pools to ride out the winter indoors. Next spring we’ll move the fish to the ponds to grow them out for harvest.

Meanwhile, my friend Stephan Schmidt with Mercy Ships will be going down to the Dominican Republic in June. He will be gathering information to determine the best path to bring Project Tilapia to the people down there who need food so desperately. At this point we believe the startup costs in the DR should be similar to what we found here in Texas, depending on availability of supplies. One additional cost will be the airfare down there to help get the local people going in the right direction.

We are seeking partners to help with these expenses and to join us in prayer for a fruitful project and future outreach opportunities. Every dollar donated will go towards this project. Any extra funds raised will be used towards future outreaches related to this project.

A Heart to Help - the Tilapia Project begins - January 2009

About three years ago, I was looking for a way to serve. I had several friends with YWAM (Youth With A Mission), a missions organization based here in Tyler, and they suggested a short term medical missions trip. Before I knew it I was all set to go to Cambodia on my first medical missions trip with YWAM Mercy Reserves. Unfortunately the trip was canceled at the last moment due to unavailability of the doctors who were planning on making the trip. I was saddened that my first mission trip failed to leave the ground, but the experience of communicating a need to friends and family, and then seeing God provide through you was a true faith builder. After that experience, I continued my search for a way to serve. I was praying and asking God what my place in His plan was. I asked Him how I could serve Him instead of myself. I found the YWAM website and started looking at their many bases around the world. One base in particular caught my attention. This YWAM base in the Cook Islands of the South Pacific listed aquaculture as one of their needs. I was excited! This was right up my alley – almost. Yes, I am an aquatic biologist, but I had never raised fish in anything but an aquarium before. I began investigating fish culture and the techniques and fish that might be most useful around the world. It was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be! One of the biggest roadblocks I faced was my own lack of experience. How could I instruct someone how to grow fish if I had never done it? At that time it was a roadblock that I could not see how to overcome.

Quite a bit has happened in my life since that time. My bride Debra and I were married on April 14th, 2007. Nine months later we were blessed with beautiful Emma. Now Emma is one year old, walking, and talking (well, sort of talking J ). Over the past year and a half, Debra and I have both been increasingly searching for ways to serve in ministry again. And now, three years after the initial idea, the roadblocks seem to have disappeared!

In December 2008 we presented a proposal to the directors of the YWAM base in Tyler that would allow me to gain experience in tilapia culture. They have given permission to construct three small ponds on the YWAM base for the purpose of finding a low cost way to produce tilapia in remote areas of the world. The fruits (or fish) of the research will provide fish to feed the YWAM base. Ultimately we hope to be able to put together a guide to help missionaries around the world supplement their protein needs and gain valuable inroads into the communities that they serve by producing tilapia. In the long term, I would go on short mission trips to interested ministries around the world to help implement and shape their own tilapia projects. We already have a friend working with Mercy Ships who is interested in starting a project in the Dominican Republic! The possibilities are without end as long as there are hungry people in the world.

Work has already begun! YWAM has graciously allowed us to use their backhoe to construct the ponds. With the help of my friend, Clint Wright, one pond is already finished. We hope to have the remaining two ponds finished soon in order to fill up for summer with the spring rains.

The outreach will cost each of us about $3000 (around $1750 will go to the Airlines). At this time I am seeking partners to help me with these expenses and to join me in prayer for a fruitful and safe outreach. One hundred percent of the funds raised will go towards the outreach. Any extra funds raised will be donated to this Cambodia mission. Will you please pray and ask God what He would have you give?

  • (3) small ponds, each approximately 50 feet in diameter

  • (800) tilapia fingerlings, 1 to 2 inch fish, $200

  • (1) 50 foot seine, ¼ to ½ inch mesh, $200

  • (2) large dip nets, $50 each

  • (2) large coolers, $50 each

  • Commercial floating fish food, $16 per 50 lb bag

  • Automatic feeder, $100

  • Weighing scale, $50