The boy who harnessed the wind

The book jacket for the wonderful story, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, reads: “William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was mystery.”

This sentence stands out to North American eyes. In our culture, science rules and magic is, well, not such much a mystery but just science yet uncovered.

William Kamkwamba’s fate was altered forever by a severe drought in Malawi.

The country’s crops relied on a rainy season that never came. Family fortunes dwindled and people starved. Without crops, William’s family could not afford to pay his school tuition, so he was forced to drop out.

William had time on his hands, a curious mind and a good memory. He remembered reading about electricity and windmills, so he resolved to use this knowledge to find a way to help his family avoid the ravages of drought in the future. He knew that with electricity his family could irrigate and grow crops any time of the year.

He borrowed books from the library and scrounged scrap pieces of metal, tractor parts and bicycle bits. He began to build a windmill.

His neighbours thought he was crazy.

His neighbours feared this modern science in their land of magic. Superstition and rumours circulated.

But William persevered. He cobbled together his odd assortment of scraps and misshapen goods, and, miraculously, there was light. There was running water. His community, his country, his continent changed forever.

William Kamkwamba’s family sees the change in their lives as a gift from God. They have a nickname for him: Noah. They say, “Everyone laughed at Noah, but look what happened. . .. He saved his family from destruction.”

Stories like William’s remind me of the timeless nature of our Biblical stories. How many modern-day Noahs do you know?

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