In 1993 we were shipping useful items – typewriters, tools, medical supplies, office supplies, clothing, etc.- to Rev. Larry & Laura Hills, our United Methodist missionaries in war-torn Zaire. We had never met, and when they came back to the USA for a speaking tour Barbara and I went to Des Moines, IA, to meet them and evaluate our work together.
As we parted Larry said, “Mel, there is one more thing we need. We need a hand-cranked, three-wheeled, sturdily built wheelchair that can go on our rough trails and roads. It should also have hauling capacity.” He told stories of the great number of persons who were leg-handicapped from land mines, polio, war injuries, birth defects, etc.
I agreed to do that and came home and contacted my friend, Earl Miner, of Marshfield, MO. Earl was a professional design engineer who had a heart for the poor. He and I had already worked together in developing the TRAG and a mission airplane.
After some months of his developing and testing prototypes, we came up with a model we thought would work.
Earl is a man with a lot of wisdom. He said, “You can tell about a design engineer by the size of his scrap pile. If an engineer has a big scrap pile that shows that he is willing to try a lot of things in order to find the best.” He had a big scrap pile.
I shipped four of them to Rev. Hills, asking him to put them into the worst situations he could find, and report back. After several months his reply came back. He had thoroughly tested them and the word was “Let’s go for it!”
It is important to note a first principle here. The request for the project came from the area of need, and the response was evaluated by them.
Tomorrow I will talk about getting into production, fundraising, etc.
Mel West