Tuesday, July 18, 2017
“On the death of a friend, we should consider that the fates through confidence have devolved on us the task of a double living, that we have henceforth to fulfill the promise of our friend's life also, in our own, to the world.” — Henry David Thoreau
We met Jerry and Amy Buckingham after our first trip to Tanzania in 2003 and before we moved here permanently in 2005. They were a Methodist couple from Cherokee Village, Arkansas, who also wanted to do mission trips to Tanzania. Jerry was an engineer and had done training in Canada (at his own expense) to learn how to drill wells and make biosand filters. They made several trips to Bunda and were even here to help us move into the house and mission where we are today back in January of 2006. Jerry brought the plans for a biosand water filter and traveled to Mwanza to buy the steel for the mold, had it trucked to Musoma, and worked almost daily with Francis at Musoma Metal Works to get the first mold finished properly. The filter we are using here in our house (and have been using since 2006) was the first filter out of that mold. Since then, there have been molds made and used in Geita, in Arusha, in the Congo in rebel-held lands, and in the Masaai areas of Tanzania and Kenya. Over 500 biosand filters have been produced and placed just from our place here, not counting those made in other places by teams we have trained. Since each biosand filter can clean enough water to take care of thirty people, that’s almost 15,000 people who don’t have to worry about cholera or dysentery. The District Commissioner here in Bunda has two of Jerry’s filters, one for drinking water and one just for his bath. He said, “Why would anyone want to take a bath in water with parasites?” Good question. Jerry and Amy made many trips here until Jerry’s company illegally fired him for coming to Africa and stole his retirement. Still, he and Amy remain on the board of the One Book Foundation and thus continue to serve others and us.
We hadn’t been here long before I mentioned to Jerry that I had an implanted defibrillator that was due to die in 2007 and figured that I would die not soon thereafter. The operation to replace it would cost over $50,000 and without any insurance, there was just no way we could have it done. Jerry asked me who made the thing. “Medtronics,” I replied. Seems he used to work for Medtronics, and so we sent some emails to that company. They responded quickly and told me if I could get to Nairobi by July 16th of that year (2007), they would replace it free of charge. They would pay for the hospital, the device, the surgery, everything but my travel to and from Nairobi. I went, and the first defibrillator replacement in East Africa took place. So, you could say, I owe my life to Jerry Buckingham. I do know that thousands of children are alive today because of his work with biosand filters and that many, many more are alive because of the work Amy did teaching Sanitation and Hygiene workshops in the villages and here at Maisha Na Maji. You don’t have to look elsewhere to find a couple who have been and are “good and faithful” servants. We love Jerry. We love Amy. We are devastated by what will be a great loss, a rip in the fabric of people doing good, when Jerry goes to his just and well-deserved reward. This one’s for you, Jerry.