Engineering and ministry. The words don’t seem to go together naturally.
And yet, while missions can require leaving your career behind, sometimes it just means taking your professional skills into the missions context. Engineering Ministries International (eMi) provides opportunities for professionals to do just that.
In early 2010, architect Rick Derksen of MQN Architects in Vernon joined eMi for a project trip to Bon Repos, Haiti. The purpose was to design a church, school and health centre for EMAS Canada and the El-Shaddai Baptist Church in the earthquake-devastated country.
Derksen had been looking for an organization to volunteer with for years. “I have enjoyed working with consultant teams in my professional life,” said Derksen, “but this team was like a special forces unit that had an esprit de corps.”
He found the fit between his skills and the mission a good one. “I think the important aspect of the eMi ethos is working together closely as a team — and with the local client. We are not simply ‘airlifting’ expertise but rather creating a very intentional situation where partnership can thrive… Our work, not to sound too spiritual, is also an act of worship.”
Abbotsford resident Mitchell Braun, a recent civil engineering graduate from UBC, decided to combine his faith and his skills through an internship with eMi Canada.
“I hope this is my first step in becoming an engineer involved in missions work on a regular basis,” he said. He’ll get a chance to put his schooling to good use in Niger, helping design a SIM hospital in Galmi.
“I believe that my strongest skills lie in the ability to help improve the lives of those in poverty stricken areas, and to share God’s love through my actions,” he added. “That is why I became an engineer.”
Patrick Aylard, a civil technologist from Kelowna, said a 2008 volunteer project with eMi literally changed his life: “I had a great life and job, but this project revealed a much bigger world than I had ever known.” After two more trips as a volunteer, he felt God was calling him to offer his skills to the developing world.
In May 2010, Aylard – now a staffer with eMi – moved with his family to Uganda. Despite what he called “the constant puzzle of how to adapt my skills to be effective in another culture,” he has helped design a clinic, two schools, a hospital and a waste water treatment plant.
In March 2011, he will lead the designing of a vocational training centre for widows in Burundi.