Moving Forward in 2021
Not too long ago I ran into an acquaintance outside the local Tim Hortons, and he asked me (somewhat facetiously…I think), “So what’s happening with your mission? Is it down the tubes because of Covid-19? Like, is it all washed up now that you can’t travel?” I declined to buy him a coffee, but I assured him Mercy Tech was alive and well.
But I know that some of you have been wondering the same thing, as it has been a while since our last update. So as 2021 begins, I want to give you a snapshot of where Mercy Tech Mission is at.
In my May update I mentioned how our most recent team had returned from Africa just as the travel restrictions were coming down. We made it home safely, but since then we’ve had to cancel two planned trips - one back to Eswatini, Africa, and another to the San Quintin valley in the Baja, Mexico. It also looks like our “regular” trip to Africa in February will not happen until later in the year.
But although we are not travelling at this time, Mercy Tech Mission is far from being “down the tubes.” Rather, like everything else in our current world, we have had to adapt to the current situation and we will continue to adapt as things progress.
A major move forward for us this past year has been the recent appointment of Prosper Fernando as our Field Representative for Southern Africa. As many of you may recall, Prosper is a Mozambican young man whom I began training in mechanics at the ASAM mission base in Mozambique back in 2011. Since then he went on to obtain his certification as a licensed mechanic and was hired to run the shop we built at that location. Part of his work there was helping to train other young men in the trades.
After 4 years in that role, Prosper was then offered the position of head mechanic at Project Canaan, the Heart for Africa mission base in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland).
(Note: Project Canaan is the location in Africa where our teams now go to conduct our training).
In the PC maintenance shop, Prosper now oversees a staff of 4 and a fleet of over 20 vehicles and pieces of farm machinery. Project Canaan is a 2,000 acre property that hosts a children’s campus for over 250 rescued children, a dairy farm, schools for the children, a 5,000 chicken egg-laying operation, a large crop farming operation, a staff of over 300 and much more. It is the perfect place for Prosper to use his skills and grow as a leader and mentor to his staff. Obviously, he’s come a long way since his early days in Mozambique.
Prosper’s new role as Mercy Tech’s representative is in addition to his full-time job at Project Canaan, and it means that on weekends and holidays, he goes out into the community (usually with one or two of his apprentices) and conducts training.
He is also in charge of some projects back in Mozambique where some of our former students have struck out on their own, starting small businesses and developing their careers using the skills they learned from past Mercy Tech volunteers.
Gabriel Lucas is one example. In his new carpentry shop in central Mozambique, Gabriel builds and sells furniture to the local community, while at the same time training his oldest son Lucas and two nephews in the trade.
Through Prosper’s help, we are remotely assisting Gabriel in this new venture and it is thrilling to see how the training he received is now being passed down to the next generation. Young Lucas recently sent me this message via WhatsApp: “I made seats for a lady, she liked (them) a lot, and she needs 50 seats. She has a small hotel and needs chairs. I am very thankful, pastor, and thanking God and my father (for) giving me a good job that can help me in my life. I am very happy for the work.”
Another way that we here in Canada are continuing to stay connected with our students is through our WhatsApp Advisory groups. In both Mexico and Africa, our students stay in contact with their teachers, asking our dedicated volunteers for advice on repair problems that they are running into as they put their training into practice.
In addition, we have been providing training advice to countries we haven’t even visited yet, such as a local pastor in Haiti. Pastor Jeff Fortune and his wife need to keep their ministry vehicle running so that they can deliver food to those in his village who are hungry, as well as transport people to hospital when needed. Because it is so difficult to find a knowledgeable mechanic in his area, we help Pastor Jeff diagnose and repair his vehicle through WhatsApp.
One final update I’ll mention here is that last fall we had opportunity to ship some tools to Africa via a container that was delivering food to Project Canaan in Eswatini. Because of some generous donations by our supporters, we were able to load 400 lbs of hand tools that will facilitate the training work that Prosper is doing in our absence.
So to reiterate the answer to my friend, no, the work of Mercy Tech is not “washed up” - far from it! And I’m confident that when foreign travel opens up that we will once again be leading teams of volunteers to bring training to eager students. Thank you for staying with us and trusting us to stay strong in our goal, which is to “change lives, one skill at a time.”
Finally, on behalf of the Mercy Tech board, I want to wish you all a very blessed new year, filled with strength and peace as we continue to navigate these uncharted waters with God’s help. COVID will not always be with us, but He is.
Rick Cogbill, Founder and Mission Director
Mercy Tech Mission