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?”
“No. In fact, we have to pay our way to come.”
She paused for a moment. “Oh,” she finally said. “You must be Christian.”
I must confess that she caught me off guard. I’m not sure I’d get the same response in some parts of Canada…
She went on to say that one day she might become a Christian, but that she had some concerns about all the rules and restrictions that the church seemed to have. We had a good conversation about getting back to the basics of what Jesus taught about being His disciple, which is basically loving God and loving people; that many of the traditions and policies of the organized church may be fine in their place, but that in reality Jesus said very little about them. She promised to read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John so that she could find out what Jesus actually taught.
Her comments stayed with me, and as our first month in Swaziland progressed, I was reminded over and over that I get to work with some of the best people around. The Heart for Africa mission base (Project Canaan) is filled with people who have left behind family and friends, not to mention lucrative careers, to simply love people and serve them as best they can.
And the team I had for the month – Ross MacPherson, Craig Skinner, and Prosper Fernando – were excellent examples of that as well. A typical job scenario back in Canada might be filled with office politics, the pursuit of careers, and many other things, but the people who come on a Mercy Tech training trip are simply there to put others first. They come to share what they’ve been given, and to let others take all the glory. I have to say that I count myself blessed to be in the company of such folks, whether they are ardent church attenders or not; their one goal for the time they are with us is to serve, and it doesn’t get any better than that.
Craig and his team of welders built a number of projects in May, including an access platform for the “new” staff truck – a redeployed ex-army vehicle that helps transport many of the 280+ employees of Project Canaan to their jobs every day of the working week.
Ross worked closely with Bongkozi and Menzi, our auto mechanics students, to (among other things) complete an entire engine rebuild in a Pajero SUV that had been out of commission for a couple of years. Prosper Fernando, our local Mozambican instructor, arrived in time to help with the final assembly and installation. It was a proud morning when they finally turned the key and fired it up!
For me, May was a busy month of supervising the team and locating important supplies and spare parts. It was also a time of renewing relationships and building new ones. From parts suppliers to local doctors (due to spraining my ankle on week 3!), I’m slowly learning more and more about the local culture and both the rewards and the challenges that it offers.
In many ways, I think I have one of the best jobs in the world, in spite of the fact that I’m away from friends and family for significant parts of the year. And I want to thank everyone who has helped to make this possible. Mercy Tech Mission began in 2011, and the growth we have experienced since then is amazing. Truly it is only something that God could have done, and continues to do through us, those who understand that our only response to God’s love toward us is to love others unconditionally.
I like how the Apostle John put it in one of his letters: “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion – how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.”
Thanks again for your ongoing support for Mercy Tech Mission as we continue “Changing lives, one skill at a time”, both here at Project Canaan, and at our other locations around the world.
Rick Cogbill, Mission Director
Mercy Tech Mission