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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.”
Our time in Swaziland is almost over and much has been accomplished. Craig’s construction project with the cattle barn expansion has given his welding students unbelievable opportunities for experience and growth in their skill sets. He has been a major blessing to the mission staff as well, doing many little “extra” projects in the evenings until well after dark.
In the Lusito repair shop, my own students are grasping the importance of preventative maintenance and record keeping as we performed in-depth inspections on the massive fleet of vehicles based at Project Canaan.
It was especially gratifying to see them start using the self-training computer program on the shop laptop even when I wasn’t physically in the shop at the time. In this way some very real training can continue, even between the Mercy Tech visits. The shop also underwent some major cleaning and reorganization of tools, which will make their work much easier going forward.
The “final days” always come with some surprises as well. On our last day here, I was asked to accompany Janine Maxwell to the hospital to pick up the most recently abandoned child who will call Project Canaan home. As I held this little 7-week-old baby girl who had been left in the woods by a desperate 19-year-old mother who couldn’t care for her, I suddenly realized that this child’s life was about to change in a dramatic way. Through the efforts of some dedicated social welfare staff, caring hospital staff, and through the ministry of Project Canaan, this little life was moving from hopelessness to hope-filled; from abandonment and loneliness in the forest to a beautiful children’s campus with 119 other new brothers and sisters. Literally she was moving from darkness into light – the light of hope that every child should have.
And perhaps the most special part for me as we drove home that afternoon was that they decided to name her Emma, in honor of my brand-new granddaughter back home in Canada.
This is the fourteenth MTM mission trip in the past five years, and the transitions between the stages don’t seem to be getting easier. But the reasons for coming at all are getting clearer all the time, and that’s what keeps us focused as we plan even more trips in the months and years ahead.
Fear and uncertainty about our own future can tempt us to play it safe, to stay home, to circle the wagons instead of opening the gate. It’s a kind of stage fright; that fear of stepping out into the lights in front of a mixed audience. Some will “like” or approve your performance, and others may mock it as a waste of time and effort. It can make us doubt our efforts to attempt something so intangible as “changing the world.”
But then again, maybe it depends on who you’re playing to. God, our heavenly Father, is an audience of one, and if you listen closely, the applause is deafening. If you’re looking for approval on caring for the poor and needy, the Bible is full of it from beginning to end.
No, we can’t change the world, but we can change somebody’s world. When baby Emma gets old enough to talk, she’ll be able to tell you that. And so will the students who suddenly have employable skills in a country with 70% unemployment.
Thanks again for following along on this most recent adventure of the Mercy Tech Mission team. Please consider supporting us financially as you are able, and for those who would like to learn more about our future trips to Mexico or Africa, just send us an email requesting more information.
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