Ever wondered what you should do about your old PC? You know, the one you want to get rid of, but don't know where to go or who to give it to? Why not give it to Christ? Well, not physically... give it to some guys who are trying to help Christians and others who are needy, and spread the Gospel as they do it.
Computers4Christians is a group of four guys who recycles freely given "worn" computers, wipes hard drives, tests hardware, mixes-n-matches parts, installs Ubuntu 10.04 LTS and various Christian-related applications and gives them back out for free in Cheyenne and Laramie, WY.
A Couple Of Questions
I had the opportunity to chat to Eric Bradshaw, who heads up Computers4Christians, and ask him a few questions.
How did the project start?
As Christian computer geeks, we were fixing computers for others, in our churches and elsewhere, separately. We discovered we were all doing similar things and a couple of us were loading Christian-related software on the computers when we gave them back. A conversation in which a couple of us were comparing what software we installed on different people's computers led to the idea of giving away computers to people who didn't have one.
Each of us already had at least a couple of older computers we weren't using ourselves. We made a small flier requesting donations (of computers) and put them up at each of our churches. Two of us attended the "God's Mighty Men" conference where we got to set up a demo computer running Christian video clips in a loop and have those same fliers available. We also ran a video advertisement/request for donations of computer hardware and had it on our web site.
We tried things like Craig's List and Listia, but by far the biggest responses have always come from Freecycle (an informal and decentralized organization which encourages people to give used but still useful stuff to others to continue to use it).
Why do you use open source software?
Freely you have received, freely give. (Matthew 10:8)
Each of us had already been using open source software on our own computers and had been putting things like OpenOffice.org and BibleDesktop on other people's machines. There was no need to convince anybody of the value of, or need for open source software. We needed a free operating system we could install on all the different computers we might get for donations because the licenses for Windows and/or the Mac OS would be way to expensive. There was never any doubt GNU/Linux would be used.
Do you work on this full time?
No. Each of us have regular day-time jobs and families. Computers4Christians is a volunteer effort. We probably put in a 40 hour work-week with about 10 hours each from each of us. We pick up, work with and deliver the hardware separately.
The only exceptions have been setting up several computers at the same time for a church or organization. Even so, it was never more than three of us at once. We "meet" online via e-mails, phone calls, a shared Dropbox folder, a private web page (from a public Dropbox folder), and private online surveys. All four of us still have yet to be at the same place at the same time.
If you give computers away for free, how do you keep the ministry going? It obviously costs money to refurbish the computers.
We each give what we can, when we can, for whatever is needed. The server space we use on WebNet77 was donated for a year. When the year is up, we may use some server space one of us already has for a side-business. There are some expenses here and there. 512MB RAM sticks are something we just ran out of before Christmas - I ordered more on my credit card - not something I want to keep doing.
We obviously need to become a non-profit, but it hasn't happened yet. We are still deciding if we want to go "under the wing" so-to-speak of a more established ministry that has offered, or try to go it alone.
Is there anything else you'd like to say?
I can't take credit alone either. The other guys are Roger Galitz, Neal Heupel and Grant Johnson. Grant Johnson and I go to the same church (Calvary Chapel Cheyenne) - Grant volunteers in the "sound" booth while I'm I volunteer in the "slide" booth. Roger Galitz goes to Yellowstone Baptist Church in Cheyenne and with his wife runs both TeamKids and the Youth Group. Neal Heupel goes to the Laramie Christian Center in Laramie, WY and I'm embarrased to say, I don't know exactly what he's involved in with his church.
If Computers4Christians sounds like something you'd like to do, I encourage you to go for it. These guys have put in a bunch of effort, and they would really like to see other "chapters" of Computers4Christians starting up in other places. If you need any help with setting up your own local chapter, feel free to contact them via their web site, http://computers4christians.org/