By Alden Hathaway, II
My father, Bishop Hathaway of Pittsburgh, credits the late Bishop Festo Kivengere of the Diocese of Rukungeri-Kigezi in Southwestern Uganda with his conversion to the evangelical faith that helped lead the renewal movement in the Episcopal Church and establish a new seminary in an old steel town, Ambridge, PA, just down river from Pittsburgh. Once my father said to Bishop Festo “How can I ever repay what you have done for me and our church.” Festo replied “Alden, you come to Africa and you’ll know what to do”.
My father, Bishop Hathaway of Pittsburgh, went to Africa in early 1997 to visit an orphanage his diocese was supporting. He arrived late after dusk. There was no electric light and the darkness so thick, as my father said, “you could not see your hand in front of your face”.Other Bishops in Uganda noticed the orphanage lighting and asked about their orphanages, schools, and health centers. My father said, “Well if Jesus wills it – we will support”. And in faith, I followed authorizing the order of hundreds of solar lighting systems, when many in Washington, DC said I was crazy to do so. But by spring, 1997, Solar Light for Africa was born with over 350 solar lighting systems shipped to Uganda to initiate the lighting.
Of course, we would travel to Uganda to inspect these first installations. So, in the summer of 1998, my father, son, and I, travelled through Uganda to inspect the installations. As we passed through Bishop Festo Kivengere’s old diocese we descended into the Great Rift Valley where the narrow road crossed a one lane steel bridge over a river. As we crossed, we both noticed a sign on the bridge steel; “Manufactured by American Bridge Company, Ambridge PA”. We were deep in Bishop Festo’s Diocese to cross a relic of an old bridge from the heart of my father’s diocese.
As we climbed the other side of the Rift Valley we entered into the dark Impenetrable Forest near dusk with the Congo border only a few miles further to the west. I looked around the darkening landscape only to find lights twinkling through the deep foliage, and I remarked to our contractor. “Why are we here? These villages all have light. What more could we offer through Solar Light for Africa?” The response from the contractor “Those lights are your lights.”
We visited a small chicken farmer and priest in in the area who used one of the lights to light the room where his chickens fed, so that chickens could see their food to eat. He found that, after installing the light, the egg production doubled, increasing his family’s income significantly, such that, he was able to teach his parishioners to do the same when they received their lights. Each year when we returned his school was larger than the year before and the people around doing economically much better. We could see that the solar lights were literally raising the standard of living, and the bridge in the Rift Valley was confirmation that we were responding in synch with our Lord’s wishes as set down by Bishop Festo in his words; “Alden, you come to Africa and you will know what to do.” Since 1997, Solar Light for Africa (www.solarlightforafrica.org) has installed over 2800 solar lighting systems in nine sub-Saharan African countries in the name of Him who is the Light of the World. This year, after a two-year COVID hiatus, we will be returning with a youth mission to install more light.
About Alden Hathaway
Alden Hathaway, son of Bishop Hathaway, has made fifteen visits to Africa since. He is passionate about this program. To learn more about current projects, please click on this link, https://greencom.io
St. David's supports Solar Light for Africa in an effort to Be A Better Neighbor to those who live in the world around us.