“Kentucky’s Ambassador to the Philippines”
Elder Jeff Winfrey, Pastor
Dawson Springs Primitive Baptist Church
101 East Walnut Street
Dawson Springs, KY 42408
I would like to nominate Travis Housley, Henderson, KY, for the 2009 Governor’s Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service in the category of Kentucky Ambassador Award. In 2009, Travis retired as Vice President of Special Projects, Big Rivers Electric Corporation, an electric generation and transmission cooperative headquartered in Henderson, KY. In addition to being an electrical engineer, Travis is also the pastor of Barker Avenue Primitive Baptist Church. This unique preacher/engineer combination has allowed Travis the opportunity to be an outstanding ambassador for the God he worships, the church he pastors, the company he serves and our Commonwealth of Kentucky.
In 1998, God afforded Travis with an opportunity to carry the gospel that he preaches to the Philippines. I was blessed to accompany Travis on that journey. Many memories flood my mind as I recollect that trip, but let me share with you the one most pertinent to this story. Travis and I were in the little town of Nabunturan on the island of Mindanao. A Filipino preacher named Ricardo Tabanyag, Jr. (Junio) approached Travis and said, “I hear you are an electrical engineer. Is that true?” Travis responded that in addition to being a preacher, he also was an electrical engineer.
Junio replied, “I am a preacher; but I am also a civil engineer. I have a dream. The place where I pastor is a poor village named Matanao. The people have very little. The men know no trades to make money. The tribes in the mountains above come down at night and raid the village. The situation is very bad. However, there is a river that comes out of the mountains. If we had electricity, we could see to defend ourselves at night. If we had electricity, I could teach the men to weld, and they could support their families. Surely, with what you know as an electrical engineer, and what I know as a civil engineer, we could build a power plant on the river, and the lives of my people could be much improved.”
At this point, Travis’ emotions nearly overwhelmed him, as he fought back tears. I did not realize it at the time, but he would soon share with me that he had been praying for a long time concerning the following words spoken by Jesus Christ in the 25th chapter of Matthew.
For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Travis’ persistent and fervent prayers had been how he should apply the particular teachings found in these words to his specific case. Upon hearing Junio’s dream, Travis knew the answer to his prayers. With the help of God, he would get electricity to the impoverished remote village called Matanao. Upon regaining his composure, Travis responded to Junio’s request, “You must take me to the river, so that I can see if we can do it.” The wheels were turning in the engineer’s mind. The heart was stirring in the servant’s chest. The prayers were being answered. This man would be blessed with the answer to his prayers and with his opportunity to serve his Lord by serving others. There would soon be a light in that village.
Arrangements were made, and a day or two later we stood by the river that runs beside that far-away village. The “river” did not look so good to me. I felt like the Bible character, Naaman, must have felt. (2 Kings 5:12) My thought was that we had rivers in Kentucky where we made electricity that were far superior to this little stream. Travis asked if the river ran all the time. Junio assured him that there was a continuous flow of water. The rest of us could not see the action under the surface, but the engineer’s mind was computing. Travis looked toward the mountains above and back toward the valley below. He turned to Junio and proclaimed, “We can do it! The lack of volume can easily be overcome by the fast flow due to the steepness of the terrain.” The Lord had provided a sufficient source of energy. The potential power in the stream could be converted to plenty of electrical power to light up the town of Matanao.
For the remainder of the two weeks in the Philippines we preached, we prayed and we planned for the future. We pushed ourselves to the physical limit, and by the end of our trip, I was exhausted. We finally boarded the plane for the long flight home, and I slept most of the way. But when I would awaken, I would find Travis toiling with long mathematical equations involved in turning flowing water into electricity. He was a man obsessed. After our return to America, my zeal diminished, but that was not the case for Travis. He had a burning in his bones about the Philippines that surpassed mine by leaps and bounds. Some men resist the moving of the Holy Spirit, while others say, “Lord, what will you have me to do?”
To make a long story short, it turned out that the mathematics involved in the generation of power from that mountain stream were not necessary. Through the blessings of God and endless hours of legwork on Travis’ part, connections were made between Big Rivers Electric Corporation in western Kentucky and power companies in the Philippines. Agreements were reached whereby used materials could be sent from America, and power lines could be extended in the Philippines. The first of these extensions was to a little poverty-stricken village called Matanao.
Since that time forty-five Filipino villages have received electrical power, and through these cooperative efforts thousands of people’s lives have been improved. The Lord opened door after door and blessed His servant to serve in phenomenal ways. There were many hurdles, but Travis kept praying, kept knocking, kept seeking, kept asking, kept going, kept working, kept on keeping on. Travis became a keynote speaker at national meetings of American electrical power companies. He shared his story of how the Lord had answered his prayers. He told of the opportunities to help the impoverished people of the Philippines. Electric companies from all over America came on board. CEO’s, officers, presidents and vice presidents of power companies were writing personal checks, as well as, pledging company support to the efforts. At one point during these events, I asked Travis, “What can our church do to help you financially?” His answer, “I have a rather unusual problem. I have more money than I know how to spend.” Praise God who opens the doors of opportunity and the windows of heaven!!
Spending hundreds of hours, Travis continues to stay on track. The Lord continues to bless and the mission continues to be accomplished. Huge shipments of materials are being sent. Many people are on board. Villages all over the island are being lit up. Yet, in addition to electrical power, Travis desired to help the poor people find means to support their families. Along these lines, a factory was opened in the Philippines for the purpose of rewinding used electric transformers sent from America. A sewing factory was begun in another village. (I was naked, and ye clothed me.) A furniture-manufacturing factory was begun. I have seen bunk beds from this factory that are in use at an orphanage. (I was a stranger, and ye took me in.) In a remote fishing village, an ice plant has been built since the introduction of electricity. The men could catch plenty of fish, but the fish would spoil before arriving at market. Now cold fresh fish can be sold. In yet another village, loans were made for motors for fishing boats. The fishermen can now launch out to deeper waters, where the “big ones” are. In still other villages, goat and rabbit raising operations have been established. (I was hungry, and ye gave me meat.) These operations not only provide food and employment, but there are also agreements that a portion of the offspring animals will be given to others, so that new operations may be established. In all, fifty such “Livelihood Projects” have been established.
Travis continues his many hours of tireless work in coordinating these efforts. He averages about three trips a year to the Philippines. During a recent trip, a woman questioned Travis, “Are you willing to get electricity to a village that is predominantly Muslim?” Perhaps much to her surprise, he told her that he would. Travis was later picked up by men in a large vehicle and told to get into the back seat. The driver made many loops and circles to insure that no one was following them. They finally arrived at a secluded building, and Travis was eventually told that he could come in. At this point, he was escorted to a room where a man was seated—a man that Travis would later learn was the second most powerful Muslim on this island of political and religious unrest. When Travis entered the room, the man went into an extended rant of how the Muslim people had been mistreated and persecuted. Travis said the long moments were tense. I am sure he felt fearful as he stood before this very powerful and very angry man. (Or at least I am sure that I would have.) He said the man finally ended his tirade, and with a voice that seemed to be full of hatred spoke the words, “Now what can I do for you?”
To this question Travis immediately responded with the God-given words, “Sir, with all due respect, that is the question I have traveled 9000 miles to ask you. What can I do for you?” When he answered the furious man with these words, the whole atmosphere changed. The man calmed down, and plans were laid out to get electricity to the town. In January 2010, the “Livelihood Phase” of this project was completed. Electric pumps are now being used to draw good water from deep wells. In addition, a new water distribution system extends this fresh water supply to other villages in the surrounding area. (I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink.)
But before I leave this story of electrifying the Muslim town, let me share with you one more event. When the power is turned on for the first time in a village, it is customary to have big celebrations. And according to human nature, it is not surprising that there are lots of politicians taking credit, lots of back slapping accolades, and lots of speeches at these big celebrations. Travis is always called on to speak. So the first time or two that he was asked to speak, he shared with the people of the village the words that had inspired him from the 25th chapter of Matthew. He told them how the Lord had answered his prayers concerning these words with the opportunities to get electricity to the people of the Philippines. And he concluded his message with the thought that it was “by the help of Jesus Christ, and in the name of Jesus Christ, and to the praise of Jesus Christ” that he did these things. Well, after a time or two of hearing this message, a Filipino electrical engineer named Gil began to use Travis’ story from Matthew 25 as the way to introduce Travis as the featured speaker at these political rallies. Thus, since Gil always introduces Travis with the “serving Jesus through serving others” story, Travis now has to use something else in his message.
So, when it came time to turn the lights on in the Muslim village, the celebrations were the same as always. Those in charge made their speeches. Then came the time for Gil to introduce Travis. Gil took the platform and began to talk about Travis. He explained the teachings found in the 25th chapter of Matthew. He concluded with the proclamation that these lights had come “by the help of Jesus Christ, and in the name of Jesus Christ, and to the praise of Jesus Christ.” Travis confessed that the longer Gil talked about Jesus to these Muslims, the more he feared what might come from the words. But thank God, when the speech concluded, there was applause instead of executions. And thank God for a man like Travis Housley, who in the name of Jesus Christ gets electricity and clean water to thirsty and impoverished people. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”—Jesus.
Though it might not be pertinent to the story I am telling, let me digress just a little and say some personal things about this man who means so much to me. I was just a young man when Travis came into my life as my pastor at the Dawson Springs Primitive Baptist Church. Over the years I came to realize that he had an incredible understanding of the scriptures. (A well-respected minister once said that Travis Housley was “the best kept secret that the Primitive Baptists have.”) God blessed me to sit under this man’s teachings for several years. I was not only blessed to hear his direct teaching of the scriptures, I was also blessed to see his indirect teaching of how to walk with God in this world. Travis taught me God’s principles of doctrine, and he taught me God’s principles of living. It was under his teaching that I learned not only the words of Christ and what they mean, but I also learned the ways of Christ and what they mean. Moreover, through the influence of Travis Housley, God prepared even me to preach the gospel. God provided me with a pastor who led me in paths that I would not have traveled without his guidance. I owe the man more than words can tell. I owe him more than I can ever repay. I am thankful to have been positively influenced by Travis Housley—a servant of God who has lived his life following his God-influenced heart and accomplishing God-honoring things.
But it is not just I, or the honor of God, or Travis’ church, or Travis’ company that has profited by Travis’ labors. There is at least one other entity that has benefited by this man’s efforts. A few weeks ago I made a trip to the Philippines without Travis. As I encountered people in that far-away land, I would introduce myself with words such as these, “Hello, my name is Jeff Winfrey, and I pastor the Primitive Baptist Church in Dawson Springs, Kentucky.” At this point the broken-English response would go something like this, “Ah, I know Kentucky. That is where Travis Housley is from.”
Most hear the word, Kentucky, and think of racehorses or bluegrass. Filipinos hear the word, Kentucky, and think of Travis Housley. The high-level diplomats in Kentucky or in the Philippines may not know Travis Housley as Kentucky’s Ambassador to the Philippines. However, if these leaders were to begin to ask the “little people” in the Philippines if they know a man from Kentucky named Travis Housley, they would find many who would smile and say that they know him well. Indeed, this man from the Commonwealth of Kentucky is well known and well respected in the hearts of the Common People of the Philippines. This man, Travis Housley, admirably represents Kentucky.
I wish to especially thank my dear wife, Christy, for much help in the preparation of this nomination. She has been the “wind beneath my wings” for many years. I would also like to thank a dear sister in our church, Judith Johnston, for her expertise in putting the finishing touches on the manuscript. Finally, I would like to thank my God for His mercy and goodness to one such as me. JLW
(The 2009 Governor’s Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service in the category of Kentucky Ambassador Award was received by Elder Travis Housley on June 9,2010. Since that time Elder Housley has continued to serve his Lord by continuing to serve the impoverished people in the Philippines.)