Traditionally, when ministries approach SonSet Solutions, it is for help building a Christian FM radio station with a range of about 10-15 miles. The installation averages about $20,000, and several staff are needed to operate it. SonSet Solutions is working on a radically different concept to help ministries and churches reach the lost in their immediate neighborhood.
We are developing a small, modular Wi-Fi system to “broadcast” Christian content up to about 100 yards, depending on the terrain. It will be a portable, self-contained unit that can be placed on the rooftop of a church, for example, and provide a variety of content to nearby cell-phone users 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The content can be tailored to the needs and interests of the micro-community that the church wants to reach.
It all costs less than $500 and doesn’t require any full-time staff to operate it. Because it is not a real FM radio station, there are no government applications, red tape or delays to deal with. It could be purchased, installed and broadcasting all in the same day helping our ministry partners more efficiently and effectively reach their immediate communities with the Good News of Jesus Christ!
Yes, being a Christian and a techie can be perfectly normal and purposeful in ministry. It is possible to share both profound spiritual conversations and technical discussions. The International Conference on Computing and Mission (ICCM) is the place where people can go to meet other Christian technologists who are striving to advance Jesus’ Great Commission by using their skills.
Understanding the joys and realities that come with combining technical things and ministry allows for networking and sharing the “latest and greatest” ideas and experiences within our rapidly changing world. For example, the “What’s Hot/What’s Not” session is an opportunity to share both practical advice and common struggles. What are you buying? What are you NOT buying? What are you getting rid of? What about anti-virus and malware?
Our own Dr. Leon Amstutz led a session this year discussing electronic equipment power protection and grounding practices. This issue is particularly important in developing countries where electrical power surges can destroy expensive, sensitive equipment. Sharing ideas, observations, and know-how provides an avenue for more effective use of technology, bringing the gospel to every nation.
Sometimes you learn more when something breaks than when it works as planned. You plan, design, build and it looks like it’s working, but then it just quits for some unknown reason. That’s the nature of engineering. If that happens, you study it and figure out why it quit and then redesign it to make it better. And in the end, you end up with a better product than when you started.
That’s what happened to SonSet Solutions engineer Tom Scatliff on a trip to Pioneer Christian Hospital early in 2019. He took a prototype piece of equipment with him so that we could do valuable field testing and collect data in real-life operating conditions. A few days after he arrived and turned the prototype unit ON, it stopped working. But since Tom was still there when it failed, he was able to analyze the problem and do some serious troubleshooting to figure out what the problem was.
We praise God that in His providence, He allowed the prototype to fail while Tom was still on site. We gained invaluable knowledge from this experience and will hopefully be able to incorporate lessons learned into a better product for our partner ministries as we work hand-in-hand to share the love of God to the whole world.
The primary reason our partner ministry radio stations go off the air in developing countries is due to “dirty power” which results when abnormalities occur in the electricity supplied to a piece of equipment. Power that spikes too high or drops too low can damage the FM transmitters’ delicate electronics causing the broadcasts to go silent.
SonSet Solutions has been working on this problem and has taken the monitor portion of our Equipment Power Protection technology to come up with a solution. On a trip to Pioneer Christian Hospital in Impfondo, Republic of Congo, early in 2019, SonSet Solutions missionary Tom Scatliff installed a prototype unit that constantly measured and logged the public utility power and the hospital’s own generators over a certain length of time. It recorded all the spikes, dropouts, surges, or any other kind of dirty power that might damage sensitive electronics. Engineers back at SonSet Solutions can then analyze what the major power problems are for the hospital and the hospital’s Christian radio station, and tailor a power protection solution for them specifically geared to those power problems.
When this prototype is completed, it will be another valuable tool that SonSet Solutions can use to help our worldwide partner ministries be more effective in spreading the gospel to a lost and dying world!
Knowledge is power. The Kimia Leprosy Center operated by the Pioneer Christian Hospital in Impfondo, Republic of Congo, has taken that saying to heart. Driving deep into the Congolese rainforest, they set up temporary bases where they diagnose new leprosy patients and show films. One film educates about the treatability of leprosy. The other is the Jesus film. On a recent trip, 500 villagers accepted Christ after watching the Jesus film!
Sometimes the Kimia team gets stuck in the middle of nowhere with no cell service and no way to call for help. The hospital has no idea where they are or if they are in danger.
SonSet Solutions has been working on a solution adapted from our satellite-based clean water well monitoring technology. On a trip to Pioneer Christian Hospital early in 2019, SonSet Solutions missionary Tom Scatliff mounted a satellite modem on top of the Kimia truck to monitor its GPS location. SonSet Solutions also programmed the modem to act as an emergency beacon. Now if the Kimia team runs into trouble on one of its trips into the deep jungle, they can flip a switch and the hospital will know the exact GPS coordinates of the truck and can send someone to retrieve them.
More than a year ago, a SonSetLinkTM water pump monitoring device encountered a technical hurdle. A satellite modem critical to this device was declared obsolete by its manufacturer. Having been given no prior warning, it caught SonSet Solutions’ engineers Cody Hall and David Palmer by surprise — scrambling to ensure that monitoring devices would still be available while a challenging redesign ensued.
Since then, after much prayer and hard work, a new version has been completed. The new design, although primarily suited for one of our partner ministries, can still be used by any other ministry with similar needs for water pump monitoring.
Specifically, the redesigned unit measures flow in gallons or liters (from solar-power or electric pumps), temperature, time-in-use of the pump each day, battery level and flow history data (in case any transmissions are missed).
How does this differ from the previous version? The new design incorporates the SmartOneC satellite modem, is more compact, includes many improvements for easier production, and has several aesthetic changes. Lord willing, this new water pump monitoring device will clear the way for a steady production flow of units to ministries around the world.
For over 30 years, SonSet Solutions has been helping ministry partners around the globe establish their own radio stations. Radio planting is part of the fabric of who we are as a ministry, making it possible for millions to hear the message of hope and salvation. But what happens if equipment becomes damaged or fails to work properly? SonSet Solutions is ready to come alongside our partners with technical assistance whenever they need us.
There is a variety of support steps that may be used, depending on the complexity of the issue(s) at hand:
- Parts may be sent directly from SonSet Solutions to the partner ministry, with instructions on how to replace faulty components.
- Transmitters may be returned to SonSet Solutions for repair.
- One of our technicians may travel to the field to do the repairs. These “hands on” trips often include additional training of capable, local personnel.
- Occasionally, ministry partners travel to Elkhart for technical training.
Regardless of the necessary steps, the goal remains the same: to quickly and effectively identify and correct any issues at hand, restoring the equipment and resuming broadcasts of the gospel message.
“We would like to start a radio station.” What happens when a call like this is received by SonSet Solutions’ Broadcast Services Department?
The initial step is the vetting process, which includes a set of questions designed to determine whether SonSet Solutions and the potential partner share basic beliefs and common ministry goals. If so, the two form a partnership by jointly signing a Memorandum of Understanding.
We work closely with the new partner to determine what is needed to establish their broadcast ministry. A radio signal coverage study is key, as it helps determine the best location for the antenna and how powerful the transmitter needs to be to reach the intended audience. We also provide a list of additional broadcasting equipment that will be needed, such as microphones, audio mixers, and automation equipment. The partner is responsible for handling the infrastructure, tower construction and licensing. With funds from the partner ministry or donations from other organizations, SonSet Solutions purchases, tests, and ships the equipment, and when needed, provides on-site installation assistance.
When initial broadcasts have been successful, SonSet Solutions then stands ready to assist as needed with further consultation, equipment repair, and training. Over the years, SonSet Solutions has helped establish over 500 radio stations around the globe.