2013 Africa 1200

Changing Lives, One Skill At A Time

Spring Update

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Judging by the wear on my suitcase and the proliferation of stamps in my passport, a lot has happened since my last mission update in October 2018. Time does fly.

In November, it was 10 days in the Baja with veteran volunteer instructor Todd Green for another round of mechanics training at Los Olivos, the One Life One Chance mission base in San Quintin. We also began looking at possible expansion ideas for the program in Mexico, as we would like to see more students taking advantage of the training we offer.

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November Update - Spreading Hope

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I was reminded recently that there hasn’t been an update from Mercy Tech Mission for a while – since last June, to be exact – and I can only hide behind the excuse that it’s been an extremely busy summer for me since returning home from Africa. As some of you may know, when I’m not travelling with Mercy Tech Mission, I am busy running a small renovation business here in the Okanagan Valley, and this year has been busier than most. But the fall season is well upon us and there are a number of upcoming trips that I need to tell you about.

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"You Must Be Christian"

"You Must Be Christian"

Due to some new government regulations, I had a difficult time getting myself a sim card for my phone when I first arrived in Swaziland. After two weeks of frustration I was finally able to make some progress at a local phone store in nearby Tricash. The application process is a lengthy one, and while I was waiting for her assistant to do the paperwork, the store clerk asked me why I was visiting the area. I explained about Mercy Tech and how my team of volunteers had come to teach employable trades to the local people. She asked me if this was my job and did my team get paid. I said no, we’re volunteers; we don’t get paid to do this.

She stared at me. “You don’t get paid?”

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A Different Kind of Gold

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During the recent winter Olympics in South Korea, the world’s attention was on the athletes who have trained so hard for a chance to show their skills to the world, and potentially qualify for a medal – preferably gold. 

Gold, silver, bronze – they are all medals of distinction for the winners and out of all who compete, very few contestants receive them. Yet my wife made the observation that in certain situations (such as a hockey game, eh?), “winning” silver actually means you’ve lost the game. And when you see the disappointment on the team faces, you’d almost think that a silver medal was a disgrace. It’s funny how something so unattainable for most of us can carry such a weight of regret for others.

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The Honest Truth

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Many of you have been following the ongoing activities of Mercy Tech Mission for quite some time now, and it occurred to me the other day that it’s time I shared with you the honest truth.

Okay, I’ll bet you weren’t expecting me to say that.

No, I haven’t been telling lies in the past, and I’m also not referring to what recent politicians have labeled as “alternative facts”. (And actually, if you think about it, the phrase ‘the honest truth’ doesn’t really make sense unless there really is something we could call ‘dishonest truth’. But I digress...)

The truths that I’m referring to are the small but important things that go on behind, or perhaps along with, the larger events that occur...

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An Update from Justin Taylor

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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.

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You Have To Choose What Language You Will Use

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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. 

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A Report from Prosper

A Report from Prosper

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:

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Through an Oversight in Planning

Through an Oversight in Planning

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:

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The 2017 Travel Season Has Begun!

The 2017 Travel Season Has Begun!

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.

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Inspectors of (Automotive) Gadgets

Inspectors of (Automotive) Gadgets

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.

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“Go South-West, Young Man…”

“Go South-West, Young Man…”

Ok, so I’ve been reading too many Louis L’Amour novels lately. But on July 2nd a young man from Ontario will actually make his way west and south to take part in a Mercy Tech Mission training trip to the California Baja.

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Stage Plight

Stage Plight

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.”

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Sweating the Big Stuff

Sweating the Big Stuff

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.

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Measured Success

Measured Success

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.

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The Three Amigos

The Three Amigos

Very shortly our second Mercy Tech team for 2016 will be heading down to the Baja to carry on the automotive mechanics training work at the One Life One Chance mission base in San Quintin. The team leaves March 12th and will be in the Baja for one week.

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“How Are You Over That Side of the World?”

“How Are You Over That Side of the World?”

And so begins a recent email from a young mechanic in Africa.

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Wrenching and Welding, Baja style

Wrenching and Welding, Baja style

A recent iPad photo from my wife tells me there’s snow in our backyard back in Canada, but when you’re in the Baja surrounded by dust and heat, it’s hard to take that seriously. I’m sure I’ll view it differently once I’m home next week…

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Time and Travels

Time and Travels

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

between trips!

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The Stories Within The Story

The Stories Within The Story

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!

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Grand Openings and Big Dreams

Grand Openings and Big Dreams

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.

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Five Flights And a Wedding

Five Flights And a Wedding

When it comes to taking a journey, the only predictable step is the first one. Once you’re moving, all bets are off.

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There's Always A First Time

There's Always A First Time

Memorable firsts – there’s always a first time for everything.

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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.

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Summer Projects

Summer Projects

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.

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The Other Point of View - Part 2

The Other 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.”

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The Other Point Of View - Part 1

The Other Point Of View - Part 1

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.

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Summer Fun

Summer Fun

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.

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2 for 1 Deal!

2 for 1 Deal!

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!)

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March Madness

March Madness

What can you do in four days? Apparently, quite a bit - if you have the right people and a commitment to go above and beyond.

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Breaking In The New Tools

Breaking In The New Tools

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. 

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