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.
Together with Isaias, we diagnosed and repaired a clutch issue for Pastor David Ornelas, helped a pregnant single mom get her old car running again, and did some more training on engine diagnostics.
On January 31, 2019 I left for Africa on a 6-week tour of training with some very fine Canadian volunteer instructors. Joining me were Don Bryce, a retired electrician from Summerland, BC; Ross MacPherson, mechanic and shop owner from Carleton Place, ON; Justin Taylor, a welder/fabricator from Grand Valley, ON; and Dan Hollemeyer, a millwright and machinist from Edmonton, AB.
Don Bryce teaching electrical theory classes
Ross MacPherson going deep on vehicle diagnostics
Justin Taylor taking his welding students up a notch
Dan Hollemeyer working with Bonginkosi and Prosper on the metal lathe and milling machines.
We were also joined for part of the trip by Dave and Cheri Peters from Penticton, BC. As one of our Mercy Tech board members, Dave wanted to see for himself how the work is progressing in eSwatini (formerly Swaziland). Both he and Cheri had life-changing experiences as they found multiple ways to get involved during their time there. Cheri’s gourmet cooking was also a major blessing to a guesthouse full of guys!
Some significant accomplishments during our Africa trip included welcoming Prosper Fernando (formerly of Mozambique) to the Heart for Africa mission base as their new head mechanic. One of his first jobs was to start reorganizing the shop.
I was also able to help Prosper locate a good used vehicle for him to use for his trips back home to visit his family, as well as to assist him in future short training trips for Mercy Tech in southern Africa. Prosper has a passion for teaching and wants to make that a part of his regular vacation time, so we will be actively looking for new locations for him to visit.
As many of you know, I began working with Prosper back in 2011 in rural Mozambique, and it is amazing to see how God has led him over the years. In those early days, the focus was on basic mechanics training and obtaining his mechanics license. Later he ran the shop we built at the ASAM mission base there. Now, 8 years later, I found myself having deep discussions with him on business management and on how to manage staff, as well as personal growth and stewardship. Now that we are anticipating Prosper going to new locations and teaching on his own, in places where Mercy Tech staff have not been to as yet, it shows me that you never really know what can happen when you say “yes” to God. His plans are so much bigger than our plans, and it’s exciting to be a part of this journey.
Looking ahead, we have Craig Skinner, a millwright from Langley, BC once again retuning to eSwatini for the month of May to continue the welding training there, and this summer we will be back in the Baja for more mechanics training. Already we are having discussions on the next spring trip to Africa, and there is a feeling in the air that Mercy Tech’s range of influence is about to get even larger. Please pray with us as we seek to know what God would have us do in the months and years ahead.
On a personal note, I have to admit that I am constantly amazed at the remarkable volunteer staff who contact us each year, wanting to take part in a life-changing trip for the purpose of simply giving what they have to others. I can honestly tell you that these volunteers are some of the best people you’ll ever want to work with. They are not in it for themselves, and they often go at great financial and personal cost to themselves. If I could encourage our support base in anything, it would be to support these volunteers to the max, both with finances and with encouragement. They are the front line guys, and they really are making a difference – one life at a time, one skill at a time.
Thanks to all of you for being a part of what we do – Changing Lives, Once Skill at a Time.
Rick Cogbill, Founder and Mission Director
Mercy Tech Mission