It has been one month since returning from our most recent trip to southern Africa, where a team of six instructors taught such skills as mechanics (both light and heavy duty), welding, fabricating, and some service procedures on power generating equipment at Project Canaan, the Heart for Africa mission base in Swaziland. One of the team members was Justin Taylor, who at 22 years old has been our youngest volunteer instructor to date. Justin shared his thoughts with us about the trip in a summary letter and we want to share it with you. As you will see, the Mercy Tech training trips not only impact the students, but the volunteer instructors as well. Thanks again for continuing to partner with us in what we believe to be life-changing work. Mercy Tech Mission: Changing lives, one skill at a time.
“You have to choose which language you will use.”
This is what my Kenyan friend Denis Musyoka said to me as we discussed the problems of trying to make progress in a culture that is a lot more laid-back than what we are used to in North America.
One of our very first automotive students, Prosper Fernando from Mozambique, was invited down to our training location at the Heart for Africa base in Swaziland to help teach for a week this past April. Thank you to everyone who played a part, big or small, in helping a young man with a limited future become what and who he is today.
Here is Prosper's own words describing his experience:
Through an oversight in planning, we had a slow start in Swaziland by arriving on Easter Weekend. The normally-quick border crossing took over 2 hours because of all the Easter travellers, and then the students were away for two days of holidays as well. But the lull in the action gave us time to set up some equipment and get ourselves prepared for the training sessions. Here is an account of our first week from one of our volunteers, Phil Cote:
It’s no secret that travel is a big part of Mercy Tech Mission – before we can share our skills, we have to go to where the students are.
That, of course, sounds pretty obvious, but when you stop and consider how many miles MTM volunteers have put on since we began travelling in 2011, it’s mind-boggling. By the time you read this, there will have been over 18 trips to places like Mozambique, Swaziland and the Baja, with over 20 different volunteers taking part.
Another successful week of training has just been completed at our San Quintin location in the California Baja. Aaron Rustenburg from Paul’s Auto Service in St. Catharines, Ontario and Rick Cogbill of Mercy Tech Mission have just returned with reports that the mechanics training program at the One Life One Chance mission base is really gaining traction.
Every stage of a Mercy Tech mission trip – from planning to execution to wrap-up – has its own set of challenges, but I find the final days on location to be the most complex stage of all.
It’s a bittersweet time: wishing you had more time to finish a training session or project, yet feeling the weariness of living out of a suitcase; finding it hard to say goodbye to new friends while missing your family back home; trying to confirm a flight on a sketchy internet connection while people are already asking when you’re coming back. It’s not unusual to feel like you’ve accomplished so much, and yet still be aware that there is so much more left to do. It’s at these times that I remember the wise advice of my wife Nan: “See before you the things you can do, not the things you can’t.”
One thing that makes a Mercy Tech mission trip so interesting is that you’re never quite sure what you’ll be doing once you get there. Yes, we come to teach skills so that people can be gainfully employed, but the exact form of that training will be shaped by what you find “on the ground” when you arrive.
Since our early beginnings in 2011, Mercy Tech Mission has completed 6 trips to Africa and 7 trips to the Baja. On each trip our volunteer instructors have taught the basics of employable trades, such as automotive mechanics, concrete finishing, construction and woodworking, wiring and electrical installation, and welding. Now it's May 2016, and our 14th trip begins as I and volunteer Craig Skinner (welder and millwright) leave for Swaziland in Southern Africa. We’ll spend the month of May sharing our knowledge with the local workers at the Heart for Africa mission base, and we're looking forward to it.
It’s been 2 ½ weeks since I returned from southern Africa, and a whole month since my last blog update. Where do the
days go? It was a profitable trip in so many ways, but I have to say it is nice to be back home, even if it’s only for a break
I’m sitting in a friend’s garden filled with beautiful South African flowers and a bunch of somewhat noisy birds. If you know my writing habits you’ll know I need absolute silence in order to concentrate. But that’s not going to happen, so count yourself lucky – it means this update will have more photos than words!
Memorable firsts – there’s always a first time for everything.
Some of those “firsts” we recall vividly and some we don’t remember at all. Maybe we were too young or maybe we were just distracted by something else. But those first time exposures can impact us for a lifetime.
It has been humbling to look back over just a few short years (since 2011) and see how the work and influence of Mercy Tech Mission has grown. I hope you have enjoyed hearing directly from Prosper in the previous blogs. In case you missed them, you can check them out at these links: Point of View Part 1 and Point of View Part 2.
In our last post, we shared an article written by Prospa Fernando, the 23-year-old shop manager at the maintenance shop located on the ASAM mission base in Mozambique. It was written just after he was hired for the position, and gives a good idea of his sense of calling to his work. If you missed it, you can read it here.
Mercy Tech Mission has been co-sponsoring Prosper at this position over the past two years, and part of his duties include sending us monthly reports and updates on the work he’s been doing. We thought you’d find it interesting to read about his “daily grind.”
When life happens, we tend to think it only happens one way – the way that we see it.
But in reality life happens differently for each of us. Over the next few blog posts, I want to share with you how the work of Mercy Tech Mission has “happened” to someone who has been on the receiving end – in particular, to Prosper Fernando, who is one of our original students. And I want you to hear it in his own words.
For most people, summer is a time to get away from it all. Who could turn down a tropical beach with friends or family? But for Mercy Tech Mission, summer’s also a great time to get right into it all.
And what is “it all” about? Yup, it’s changing lives, one skill at a time.
We’ve got two quick things to tell you about, and they both involve a lot of hard work by dedicated volunteers.
The first is our brand new website. The same web address, but a totally redesigned look and feel that will make it so much easier to find out what Mercy Tech Mission is all about. Take some time to look around! (There is still some fine-tuning to come, but we were excited for everyone to see it!)
The first trip of 2015 is almost upon us, and it's time to hit travel mode and get dirty.
On Sunday, March 22nd, the six-member Mercy Tech Mission team (along with the 23 volunteers from Summerland Baptist Church) will descend upon San Quintin in the California Baja.
Sharing with others the things that were given to us - that's the theme of our new MTM promotional video, and it will be the ongoing theme of all that we do at Mercy Tech Mission in 2015.
As you watch this video, please take a moment to ask yourself a simple question: "What can I share with somebody else in 2015?"
It's great to be back home, even if it does mean getting used to some colder weather. But we're Canadians, eh? We can handle it, thank you very much. Or is that "Pardon me?" - I'm not sure.
But we're glad to report that in spite of battling a few stomach bugs, we were able to accomplish our goals for the trip. In the last post, I showed some photos of the work area that was built to facilitate our automotive training in the months ahead. It turned out very well, and the next step will be to put up a few walls and a roof to keep the sun off.
It's been a busy week here in the California Baja of Mexico, where volunteer Rich Howard and I have been getting a start on Mercy Tech's latest training venture. In cooperation with One Life One Chance, we are preparing to start an automotive training program that will bring hope to local young men who would otherwise not have access to skills training of this nature.
Our main objectives to this point have been to pour a concrete slab where we can repair vehicles, and to also begin bringing in the tools and equipment needed for the training sessions. What follows are photos of the progress we've been making here. Thanks for following along, and I'll give a more complete update when we wrap things up here at the end of the week.
If you've been following our blog, you'll know that most of the past 3 or 4 years have been spent teaching trades in Mozambique in Southern Africa. But I'm excited to announce that Mercy Tech Mission will be starting a second training location that's a lot closer to home, and therefore easier for some volunteers to get involved.
On November 9th, I and Rich Howard (volunteer from Summerland, BC) will be travelling to San Quintin, on the California Baja in Mexico. As you'll see on the map, San Quintin is the red dot about 7 hours driving time south of San Diego, California.
It takes a lot of little pieces to make something big work well.
Just drop your cell phone off the second story deck and you'll discover a whole bunch of little pieces that are suddenly very important. They always were; you just didn't know they were there.