Chairman and CEO of CoorsTek, Inc., one of the world's leading manufacturers of advanced material components, made mostly out of technical ceramics – originally a subsidiary of Coors Brewing company. Manufactures everything from body armor for American troops in Iraq to parts that go into semiconductor machines.
John & Sharna Coors: Bringing the Dark Continent into the Light
The 700 Club
CIRCLE OF LIGHT
John K Coors started Colorado-based Community Uplift Ministries in 2002, which is bringing hope to the hopeless in Africa. It is a non-denominational, faith-based ministry with the mission of providing clean affordable energy to meet the needs for cooking and lighting for the people living in the rural areas of Africa. Its mission is to provide energy to lift the world's poor out of darkness. Five to six hundred million people in Africa still cook with wood and have no access to electricity.
THE START OF THE CIRCLE
John and Sharna Coors have nine children (the oldest four are biological, the youngest five are adopted – two of whom are African-American). In 2001, John was flying from Amsterdam to Nairobi, Kenya because he felt compelled to find out more about one of his adopted son's African roots. In the middle of the night, he woke up just as they were crossing from the Sahara Desert into sub-Saharan Africa. He knew there were millions of people living down there, but as he looked, he could see no lights. John felt God was telling them to do something about that. A plan came to mind then soon developed. John had some previous work experience in rural energy development in Africa when he was with a solar electric company in the mid 1990s. That's when he discovered that one-third of the world has no access to electricity. John was shocked. But he couldn't solve that problem working out of the U.S. The Coors decided to partner with a Kenyan ministry called Servanthood and Light Development Foundation. This organization has a great degree of autonomy in carrying out operations.
The goal of Community Uplift Ministries is to provide, for as many people as it can, a low-cost, technically simple, but sustainable source of modern energy. The program the ministry has developed to address the poor cooking and lighting conditions is called the Circle of Light. Through this initiative, Community Uplift Ministries has set up ‘Energy Stores’ in rural communities. They are owned and operated by the communities under the umbrella of a formal co-operative. The co-operative’s board is made up of women, community, church, and business leaders.
At the time a new community is launched, at least 250 homeowners have subscribed and paid to become members of the co-operative (at minimum, 250 homes make up a community, with an average of 9 people per household. So each energy center has approximately 2,000 residents. The smallest community it serves has 25,000 residents, and the largest has 100,000.) This gives them the sense of ownership and pride needed to instill responsibility in maintaining the program. Each family receives a complete home cooking system (2-burner cook-stove, with propane bottle), and a complete home lighting system (12VDC, battery-powered). When the homeowners' propane bottle is empty, they return it to the Energy Store and pay for an exchange. The batteries are brought in as well for a recharge. The sale of the propane and the recharging of the batteries enable the co-operative to become self-sustaining.
The Circle of Light further helps to address serious environmental, health, and social issues. These include de-forestation by eliminating the need for wood, respiratory problems by eliminating smoke and educational limitations on children by increasing their study time with light. The availability of energy further enables the support of other community-based services, such as medical clinics, audio-visual centers, orphanages, water purification projects, pastoral training, HIV/AIDS awareness and vocational training.
Since the implementation of the Circle of Light program in Kenya, John has seen a very distinct and direct correlation between energy and the expression of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When training new members to safely use the cooking and lighting systems, time is spent on discipleship and counseling. Through the Circle of Light, many members have given their hearts to the Lord. The Kenyans can now see and believe that He cares about them.
Currently, Community Uplift Ministries works in 17 communities, totaling more than 6,300 members in Western Kenya. The ministry has constructed an LPG (propane) depot to support these communities in order to sustain them and their members for many years. In 2006, Community Uplift Ministries wants to equip an additional 5,000 homes in rural Kenya with cooking and lighting kits. This brings their total to 10,000 homes by the end of the year. They are also eager to see God open doors to begin the Circle of Light project in a second African country in 2006.
Community Uplift Ministries does most of its fundraising in the United States. While the Coors family originally sponsored the ministry, the organization is rapidly broadening its base of support. John has struggled with asking people to support the cause, but he knows God's been working on other people's hearts just like He has John's for a long time. John believes God has prepared them to get involved in this ministry. Knowing that relieves John from a lot of stress.
The Scripture Circle of Light uses comes from Isaiah 42:6-7, where it encourages believers to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. John believes God has placed a passion in each of our hearts, and when we find that passion, we should give as much as we can. And when we give, we shouldn't just give our money, but we should give our hearts.
JOURNEY OF FAITH
John's mother led him to a personal relationship with Jesus at only six years of age. His first opportunity to exercise that faith came when his parents sent him at age 14 to a prep school in New Hampshire. During the three years he was there, he never found a single Christian on campus. He did all sorts of things to find fellowship there, with no success. So that was the point when John's faith had to become real for him personally.
John really wanted to work for the family business making beer. But in America, beer and Christianity don't always mix. Yet he discovered the words of Jesus in Matthew 15, when He says it is not that which goes into the mouth that defiles the man, but what comes out of his mouth; this defiles a man. So that gave John the freedom to begin his career in good conscience at the brewery, and he worked there for 13 years.
In 1992, John left the brewery, at God's prompting, and moved into the field of solar electricity. He worked for a company called Golden Genesis, a solar electric systems integrator. There he learned much that has come in handy with Circle of Light. He traveled with his company to Indonesia, Brazil, Argentina, and southern Africa, working with rural energy development. He then left that career to come to CoorsTek, Inc. in 1998, never expecting to go back to that work until he took a flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi.
John then took another significant step of faith in adopting children. He and his wife, Sharna, had always had a passion for adoption, but it wasn't something he was familiar or comfortable with. Yet the Lord showed him that was something He wanted their family to do. So they adopted their first child almost twelve years ago, and it's been incredibly rewarding. Had they not made that step then, John probably wouldn't be ministering in Kenya.
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