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.
Rick Cogbill, Mission Director
Mercy Tech Mission
Photo Credits: Phil Cote
After all of the experiences on the trip and the support before and after, I’ve decided to write a letter giving an over view of how it went. Sorry it took so long, but it was a lot to take in, and I still don’t think I can accurately describe it in a letter. Especially since I’m not good with words, but I’ll give it a shot.
I wasn’t sure what to expect on the trip, all I knew is that I’ve always wanted to do a missions trip in welding so I went in faith that God had it figured out. The amount of support back home was awesome. People understood the importance of welding around the world. And to teach people to be able to figure out problems themselves, instead of the temporary fixes that end up causing more work and possibly injuring someone. So after talking to Rick Cogbill on the phone a few times, it turned into “see ya in Africa, don’t miss your flight”.
Lusito Wokshop, Project Canaan, Swaziland
The first week there was amazing; I immediately started off my week with doing stainless steel work on a milk tank and continued my week working in the green house. Before the trip began I was worried I wouldn’t be busy enough, but it was quickly made clear that I could work as late as I want and still have more work to do. I had two guys at the start to teach, Senzo and Menzie. Both of the guys really focused on learning. Menzie was a challenge because I had to teach him to break some bad habits, since he had about a years’ experience. Senzo was a fresh guy that was the typical challenge of getting the basics and “feel” for welding. He caught on quick though, and after the first week he could stick weld a decent bead on thicker steel.
Justin & Senzo
Then the weekend came around and I went to the church that all of the orphans go to. They sing their songs, and listen to the message that was about how special they are and that God cares for all of them. The kids were so happy to see us and so full of life and energy! It was that moment where things got almost surreal, watching these orphans running around and playing, and realizing that if it wasn’t for this place in particular (Project Canaan), that most of these children (all under the age of 6) would be dead. Most of them were either abandoned or abused, just because of where they were born. Then I started to realize that while I was there, I was working for these kids. To help train welders, to help keep the project going, to keep bringing in more helpless kids, to save lives. I would have never thought that welding could bring me to a place to be able to work for such a meaningful purpose... After that it made working at home in Canada worthless. I enjoyed my first week, but after seeing the kids in church, the rest of the trip took on a whole new view on what I’m here for. Not short term handouts, but long term investments into people’s lives.
Visiting a local homestead family (Rick Cogbill, Justin Taylor, Phil Cote, Craig Skinner, Anthony Ellendt)
The second week we wrapped up the previous weeks projects and then began working on the dozer rake. The dozer rake is just a big frame, with big teeth welded onto it, to pin into the bull dozer. The idea was to be able to uproot brush and leave the top soil to clear farm land. It was great for the guys to practice on (thick steel) and get more experience doing “critical” welds. By the end of it, they could do flat welds pretty easily and got introduced to doing out of position welds. That is always a challenge, but they began to understand it, and just needed more practice.
Building the rock rake for the bulldozer
A millwright arrived that week named Craig, he was great with helping me out a lot on getting things organized and taught me a few things along the way. The next learning curve presented itself that week; it was all new to me to have to worry about running out of material or other items. I started to get stressed about waiting but then I remembered I’m here for teaching above production. So in the down time I would try to take a guy aside for 1 on 1 welding tips. I feel that it worked well as a filler to have them get a better understanding of the “black and white” techniques and tricks of welding in general.
Teaching a new welding student
Justin & Senzo
Things were going well; we had great chats and interactions with some locals and the heads of Project Canaan. Ian and Janine are amazing people and it was good to talk to them about their testimony. Not very often will you meet people that just leave all they have to move to Africa. The change that has gone on since they listened to what they believed God was telling them is amazing. You cannot look at that orphanage, see the lives saved and changed and think that it was all just a big coincidence. The progress there since 2009 is huge even for North American standards, never mind being able to accomplish that in Africa. It’s impossible. And it all started with a group of people being obedient to God, who they believed in.
Handing out clothing on a hometead visit
I was able to talk to several different people and hear how God has moved in their lives. Dennis is a Kenyan that is now head of the construction and shop crew, he told me a lot about some of the stories in his life and his faith. I also got to talk with Anthony who was kicked out of his house at 15 simply because his parents couldn’t afford him anymore. He got into the Mully Children’s Family home in Kenya and then moved to Swaziland to help with Project Canaan. He is now almost done his education as a fully registered nurse. Everyone I’ve met there has more happiness and trust in God, it would put any of us Canadians to shame. They trust God with their lives. How many of us Canadians can honestly say that?
Denis Musyoka (PC Maintenance Manager) and MTM Mission Director Rick Cogbill
Near the end of the trip, it actually started to feel like home and I didn’t want to leave. The guys we were teaching didn’t want us to leave either, they just wanted to keep learning and building their skills. They have accomplished a lot there, but there is definitely lots more work to be done. I would like to think I could possibly go back next year, but I will have to play it by ear with my apprenticeship coming to an end and possibly starting my own business. But if I can make it work with all of the help and support that I’ve had on this trip, I will definitely jump on the opportunity. If anyone would like to hear more about the organizations and find out how they could help out, you can look them up online. The trades organization is “Mercy Tech Mission”, they send tradesmen out all over the world and make a huge difference! The mission base I was at is called “Project Canaan”, under “Heart for Africa”. They are making leaps and bounds in Swaziland saving children, creating jobs and changing the community that’s around them. I’ve seen it firsthand how they put all donations to the best interest of the children and community.
Cutting Torch Training
I very much appreciate everyone who has believed in me to make a difference in others’ lives in Swaziland, and helped me out to be able to go on this trip! I hope to get the chance to go again and help those people out even more. It was a huge learning experience for me, and has given me a new outlook and direction for my life. If you see me around, don’t be afraid to ask more about the trip, thanks again for all of your support and prayers throughout this opportunity!
Mountain top on Project Canaan property