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.
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!
It’s important to finish what you start. Deep down we all know the truth that every project needs a start date and a completion date if it’s going to be successful. If you don’t have them, then it’s not really a project; it’s just life.
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.