Swaziland (MNN/HCJB) — Ted Miller can rest easy in Elkhart, Indiana, knowing that a refurbished AM transmitter airing Christian radio programming in Swaziland is operated and maintained by a well-trained staff.
The team members were instructed by Miller, a missionary engineer at the HCJB Global Technology Center in Elkhart. In March, he spent two weeks in Swaziland to train six eager technicians to operate and maintain the 50,000-watt transmitter.
He had deemed this training as crucial. During the powerful machine's rehabilitation in Elkhart, he and fellow engineers became acutely aware of what its "Serial No. 1" label meant. The big AM transmitter is a prototype which was modified after the documentation of the unit's inner workings was produced by the manufacturer.
The Elkhart team had thought that "Serial No. 1" was ready to ship in early 2010. But just 90 minutes into the final running and testing stage (called the "burn-in"), the engineers were startled by a large bang.
"A connection on a plug had weakened over time," Miller explained. "Sparks flew inside the transmitter." Assessing and repairing the damage during a two-month period, the missionary engineers determined that a high-voltage arc resulted in blown fuses, transistors that literally blew their tops off, and severe damage to the integrated circuits on a key control board.
Today the transmitter is finally in use by partner TWR in Swaziland. In all, it took about two years to upgrade the digital transmitter, make repairs, create new documentation and ship it last fall for arrival at the TWR site in late 2010.
After the Elkhart project, "Serial No. 1" is delivering a much clearer and stronger signal to Swaziland listeners than the outdated, failing transmitter it replaced. A two-year investment followed by two weeks of training, and now a refurbished transmitter has new life, ready to air Christian programming for decades, impacting people's lives for an eternity.