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