Engineer Tim Owens of Summerville helped develop the system that Water Missions International uses to provide safe drinking water in developing countries.

He invented a hollow golf ball that's easier for amateurs to hit straight. He sold the rights to a company that's working out a marketing plan.

He invented an air-filtration device for coal plants that never made it to market.

He built his own 20-foot center console boat and takes it out occasionally.

He bought some land for a farm in Ehrhardt and decided he needed a tractor. So he found a 1948 Ford 8N and got it running.

About six or seven years ago, he got the idea for a book. It's not about machines and gadgets, but people and faith. It's called "The Search Committee." Tyndale, a major Christian publisher, released it last month in paperback.

To sum it up, a mismatched team of seven hits the road in an Econoline church van to steal a pastor from another church. Spending countless hours together traveling around the Southeast, they're forced to confront their personal struggles. It's humorous as well as inspiring.

Owens, 53, says he got the idea from his own experience.

"I was on one of those committees about 20 or 25 years ago," he said. "It just seemed like the whole experience was set up great for a book."

He started writing it six or seven years ago and finished it in a year. Then he got 39 rejection letters and set the manuscript aside.

He picked it up again about 2 1/2 years ago, polished it up, added a couple of chapters, rearranged the order and sent it off to five or six agents. An agent in New York City liked it. He advised Owens to enter it in a first novel competition that Tyndale and the Christian Writers Guild were sponsoring.

"The Search Committee" won first place.

"It's kind of like a lottery to get published, to get anybody to even look at your stuff," he said. "So I feel lucky about that. It just kind of feels good that people read your stuff and they like it."

It's a book of faith, but Owens thinks it might have a broad appeal.

"It is ... a Southern book as much as anything else," he said.

Owens was raised the son of a Southern Baptist preacher. Now he's an elder at Summerville Presbyterian Church.

He's married to the former Ruth Aiken. They have three boys and a daughter. He's an assistant Scoutmaster with Troop 725 in Knightsville.

He's co-owner of Meridian Energy & Environment, an environmental engineering firm in West Ashley.

"I'm still an engineer," he said.

He's about halfway through his second novel. He said it also will have a religious angle with crossover appeal.

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.