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Eruption no setback for local missionary

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By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

Steve Liles of Chiefland is one of those folks affected by the ash coming from a volcano in Iceland, but he's not among the folks stranded by it.

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Far from it — literally and figuratively — the Cross City hardware store operator and associate pastor at Lighthouse Word Church is in Kenya on his 22nd mission trip in 26 years. He left Florida for Kenya on April 13, well before the ash became a problem .

He was going ahead to complete arrangements for a missionary medical team traveling from Valdosta, Ga., to join him.

The Valdosta missionaries were grounded before they could leave.

But that is not fazing Liles, who had a second plan in Kenya. He is going ahead with plans to dig a well in a village outside the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

On Liles' last trip in March 2009, he helped dig a 450-foot-deep well for a village. "The rainy season wasn't raining, so it really helped," Liles said. "People over there are in survival mode. They live on 80 cents a day.

"They eat something called ungali, a corn mush." The ungali, according to Wikipedia is eaten with a sauce or stew and is a mainstay of the diet in Eastern Africa.

"Gas is $5-$6 a gallon, although they buy it by the liter and it's 70 shillings per liter," Liles said. A liter is 33.8 ounces.

    "The need is mindboggling," LIles said. Usually he carries extra clothing and blankets to leave with the Kenyans.

    Nevermind that the Kenyans and Liles do the drilling using refurbished old well drilling equipment acquired by Dr. Gerry Kibarabara of Gospel Assemblies of Kenya, a coalition of 100 churches in that country that sponsors the well projects. The drilling rigs come from Wells for Kenya Inc., a Massachusetts based non-profit group.

    "I'm there to get the well going," Liles said. He said if Kibarabara were to hire a well driller it would cost $5,000 -$6,000 to dig the well. And a water tankon a stand would cost $20,000.

    The missionary said it was his years in the hardware business that taught him a little something about "how we drill wells over here." So he set about learning what he did not already know.

    It will take 3-4 days to drill the well, then drop in the pump.

    "It's wonderful to see these elderly women putting their hands in the running water for the first time," he said.

    When he's not drilling Liles says he will work on his primary job, winning souls for God.

    "That's why I am going," he said.