The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind and the God Who Made It


imagesI just finished reading William Kamkwamba’s inspiring book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. In the autobiography (co-written with Bryan Mealer), Kamkwamba shares his childhood story of growing up in the impoverished country of Malawi, a country where magic rules and modern science is often viewed with suspicion and mystery. As the son of a farmer, life in Malawi for the young Kamkwamba was a constant struggle with poverty, famine, and a lack of access to quality education. Even as Kamkwamba was struggling to meet his basic needs, he had a thirst for more: a thirst to know and to live for something greater than his day-to-day existence seemed to require.

He was also naturally curious, a lover of learning. One day, as he was perusing the book cart in the town market, he discovered an American textbook called Using Energy, and as Kamkwamba reports, “this book has since changed my life.”[1]

He discovered that you could harness the power of the wind and convert it into electricity. All he needed was to build a windmill.  If he could provide electricity for his family, Kamkwamba reasoned, he could turn their lives around—they could work into the evening, pump water into the house and into the fields, and even add an additional harvest of crops to the year.

But he had no education, no money, no parts, and no know-how. What he did possess, however, was a longing to know and a longing to accomplish something great. And he did. You’ll want to read the story to see how he pulled it off, but yes, Kamkwamba succeeded in building a working windmill that provided electricity for his family, captured the attention of the village as well as those who could help fund his further education. He is now a student at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire and his life has been completely changed.


I am inspired and sobered by Kamkwamba’s story.

I am inspired by this young man’s tenacity, vision, hope, passion, and quest for more. He was not content to accept the status quo in a very hard situation. He strived to overcome. He worked to make things better. He labored to create. Kamkwamba was fulfilling his God-given passion to live a dramatic life; to live a life of significance; to refuse defeat, to refuse to cave and allow this universal human longing to be placated. The many people who generously helped provide educational and financial opportunities for Kamkwamba also inspire me. Most people really do want to make the world a better place.

I’m sobered because the subtext of his story is that education is the answer to man’s problems when in fact it is not. I love learning. I value education. I think that through education we will see a better world, and Kamkwamba’s life is an obvious testimony to this. But, education is not the answer because physical poverty and ignorance are not our fundamental problems. They are symptoms of a deeper ill—the fact that we’ve been cutoff from God due to human rebellion. Man’s greatest need is Jesus and the forgiveness for sin that he offers. The God-given longing for more can only be satisfied in a life lived within God’s story. As inspired as I was, and think you will be too, in reading about Kamkwamba’s story, don’t forget that all the good things in his life (and in yours) are gifts, gifts from a pursuing God who lovingly shepherds and draws us to himself through our hopes and dreams.

Kamkwamba harnessed the wind. God is the maker of the wind. And that wind blows everywhere, inviting you to come and find life:

“He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man . . .the Lord God Almighty is his name.” (Amos 4:13)

Here is a nice video of William Kamkwamba’s story:

Here is a TED talk he gave sharing about his story:


















                  1 William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, The Boy How Harnessed the Wind (New York: William Morrow, 2010), 167.

One Response to The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind and the God Who Made It

  1. Pingback: How Reading Enlarges Us: Or My Favorite Books of 2014 | Paul Gould

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