BUV Ministry: Back to the Basics
How BUV Ministry's Executive Director Will Austin mobilized his idea of affordable transportation to transform communities in Africa.
On Christmas Day 1998, 31-year old Will Austin was fly-fishing alone on South America’s southernmost tip when “a light bulb went off.” He realized how affordable transportation could transform rural populations in the developing world. “God gave me the idea,” Will said.
Eventually, he would leave his stable job at Delphi and pursue a ministry venture aimed at creating affordable rural transportation for the developing world.
He envisioned a prototype of the vehicle comprised of wood, cloth, and boxes that could be easily produced and replicated in developing countries around the world. He emailed a professor at his alma mater, the University of Illinois, to pitch the idea. The professor encouraged Will to pursue his venture. Will also sought the council of his pastor in Brazil who expressed more caution, besides, as Will expressed “I had a good job, why would I pursue such a risky adventure?”
When Will returned to Indiana he began working on his project. Delphi was surprisingly supportive, allowing him to work 4 days a week and giving him a leave of absence to pursue his work.
As the concept began to take shape, he brought the idea to a friend of his at a Bible study. “I knew he liked to draw,” Will explained, “so I had him sketch my idea.” Will later took the drawing to a missionary who had a daughter doing work overseas. The man, Harley Helmuth, told Will that his daughter “could make good use of a rural vehicle in the field.”
Harley built the first vehicle directly from the sketch. Then he built six more.
From the beginning, Will had Africa in mind, “Africa had always been the key place that needs rural transportation,” he said. The BUV—comprised of manufactured pieces assembled to the rear clip of a pick-up truck—is a three-wheeled high torque, vehicle capable of traversing rugged terrain, but it isn’t necessary built for mountain driving.
The first connection to Africa came through Goshen Christian Church’s Eden Children’s Village in Zimbabwe. The program provides funds and resources for orphans in Zimbabwe. The workers and the village had a need for a rural vehicle so Will supplied them with a BUV. They continue to do repeat orders and use the vehicles for farming, as “school buses” and for the orphanage.
Today, Will runs his project out of a storage unit—both office space and factory. It has a presence in about 20 African countries and in Latin America. Will is looking to expand the ministry to include a delivery service. The BUV Delivery Service or BDS will be administered and run by native workers. The ministry will provide a shipping container to act as a maintenance shop and a fleet of BUVs.
Despite many obstacles and risks, Will Austin proceeded in faith and continues to work to bring community-transforming transportation to the developing world. In a statement of honest conviction Will explained, “I knew my idea was from the Lord, so I kept going.”