This post has been reproduced with permission from Rick's Mercy Tech Mission blog. To be redirected there, please click here.
May 4 - 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.
The initial plan was to teach only mechanics and welding skills, but thanks to a donation of testing equipment from the folks at AC Motor Electric in Penticton, BC, we'll now include some training on basic electric motor diagnostic and repair. That’s a valuable skill when you consider all the electrical motors used in the Heart for Africa farming operation, not to mention the water systems for their orphan homes.
In just 5 years, Mercy Tech has established training locations in 3 countries, and seen over a dozen skilled instructors take part in training trips, some of them multiple times. On a “Success Scale” of 1 to 10, I’d call that an A++. Sound strange? That’s because these sorts of things can’t really be measured in the traditional way.
Mercy Tech is making a difference, one life, one skill set at a time. We've seen it, and that's why we keep going back.
A person could ask, “Show me on a graph how much good will come from me volunteering or making a donation.” I'm not sure if I can always do that, but I do know what will happen if we don't go and don't give - nothing.
As gifted communicator Andy Stanley likes to say, “You never know what hangs in the balance." We don't, and the bottom line is, we don't want to miss an opportunity to be a change-maker in someone's life.
Thanks for following along as we once again leave home and family to do what we do. If you haven't done so already, join with us in the way that suits you best. Together, we will continue changing lives, one skill at a time.
May 15 - 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.
Craig’s welding and fabricating skills are being used to the fullest on the new dairy barn project that’s underway here at Project Canaan in Swaziland. There’s a lot of heavy steel to be put into place, giving his students Menzi and Msobo plenty of valuable welding time in the process. Not only does Craig work from dawn till dusk (well, almost), but he refuses to let me drive him to the building site, preferring to walk the 1.7km distance four times a day.
In the mechanic shop, the list of broken vehicles and equipment is almost endless, to the point where it’s difficult to focus on the main priority of setting up a maintenance schedule and the protocols it needs to be successful. But in the midst of broken leaf springs and quads that won’t shift correctly, we’ve managed to create a database of the vehicles on the project – 17 and counting – and today we began the process of inspecting and servicing them all one by one. Our hope is that we can get this done in the next two weeks so that my students Bongkozi and Menzi #2 can get a handle on keeping this huge fleet mobile.
Heart for Africa’s Project Canaan is an amazing miracle all on its own. Mercy Tech Mission is grateful to play a small part in the work they’re doing here on behalf of the beautiful children they care for – currently 117 kids five years old and under. My tour through the baby home last Saturday hit me hard as I met some of the youngest of the abandoned children, probably because I’m a new grandfather myself. It’s a reminder that all of life is connected, and that the training we give today will one day translate into a secure home that can withstand the oppression of poverty and the hopelessness it brings.
Thanks for following with us on this journey of changing lives, one skill at a time. And yes, I say that a lot, but only because it’s true.
Sweating the big stuff in Swaziland,
Rick Cogbill and Craig Skinner
Mother Theresa has some wonderful quotes that are worth tucking into our hearts and memorizing. One of my favorites is, "We can do no great things, only small things with great love."
I am in a season of small children, of repetitious days, of a million small jobs that need to be done, not to get ahead, just to keep things from falling apart. It's a season of serving small people in every area of their lives. Every day is an exercise and an opportunity to do small things with great love.
For me this is a season that is often mundane and it is a constant exercise to be fixing my eyes on Jesus and be reminded that He is here in my family, in my four walls, in my constant interactions with my children. He is alive and active and speaking to us and revealing himself to us in our daily routines. He is the God of the mundane, for it is a million mundane moments that shape our character and make up our lives.
Despite myself and my penchant for being overwhelmed in the details and the repetition, I am discovering that so much of my life as a parent mirrors our God's heart towards us. I have begun to look for the parallels. I wait for them. This spring I had one of those moments where God spoke through my children in a beautiful way.
My sweet two year old son was having a day with his Nana and Papa. They'd picked him up in the morning and had him until late afternoon. When they returned him, the first thing I heard from down in our entry was his excited little voice calling up the stairs saying, "Mommy, I got you some 'sowahs' and 'cloklet'."
Like you, I was unfamiliar with these terms until he came around the corner with arms full of a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolate. Nearly as tall as he was, his gift was an awkward burden but his little face was beaming with joy; his entire body lit up with the excitement of presenting his gift to his mom.
Naturally, it stole my heart. It was so precious to me; I was instantly smiles and tears to see my still tiny man bring his mama flowers and chocolate. I found a vase to hold the flowers and kissed his little face approximately eighty times. He was determined I should open the box of chocolate and eat them immediately (very difficult demands) and guarded me from his sisters who all wanted a sampling of the goods. This little boy's gift seemed to create a glow that carried us through the rest of the day.
That very evening I was having a conversation with a dear friend about our preparations for the upcoming IF conference. We began talking about our own inadequacies and feelings of "not enough-ness" because, come on, who are WE to lead out in this way. There are wiser, godlier, more mature women all around us who should be doing this work. We can't offer what they can. By comparison, we are pathetic in our bumbling, immature offerings.
Mid-conversation, I had a mental image of my little boy walking into the kitchen with a gift he could barely carry. What if I had greeted him with a patronizing laugh? "Oh sure YOU bought me a gift little one. You don't have any money. You wouldn't even have known that flowers and chocolate are something you buy for a woman so it obviously wasn't your idea. Also, you're two feet tall and a baby, which means you didn't drive there. You couldn't have seen over the counter to order, and you couldn't even carry this if it wasn't strategically placed in your arms just so. And then you waltz into my kitchen and claim this as YOUR offering. Nice try. I know Nana is behind this and you're just getting the credit. How about you wait to bring me gifts until you're a grown up and not such a poser?"
Of COURSE I wouldn't say, or even think those things! All I could see was the delight of gifting on his face, a heart desiring to bring me something special, a body willing to use every little bit of muscle to carry me his treasure.
What if this is how God sees us and our attempts, however bumbling or unpolished or baby brand new in our enthusiasm? What if His face breaks into delight just because we are there? What if He counts us and our offerings as His treasure? What if there is simply no measuring stick or evaluation form or scale when we come to him? What if the end goal is simply a heart turned towards God? What if my desire to walk towards Him, offering all of me, makes His heart burst with the overwhelming love I felt towards my precious child when he walked into the kitchen that day.
I realized, I never imagine God delighting so fully in me the way that a mother delights in her child. Oh sure, I use the language but surely this visceral, gut reaction of delighting so strongly in your child that it makes you cry, is just a bit much for how God feels towards us? Putting my subconscious beliefs into an actual sentence often helps clarify truth from lies and the truth in this is that, God is the author of this kind of unconditional love. Yes, this is exactly the visceral, gut reaction He has! Towards ME. Towards YOU.
So now, in the many times my inadequacies threaten to take center-stage in my own mind and discourage me from attempting to serve God, I have a beautiful picture of a tiny two year old with big flowers and the way my heart leapt in response. And I hold the image close as a picture of how our God is a good good Father. And we are the delight of His heart.
Way back in February we held our Money & Me Faith at Home event for children in grade 4 and their parents. We looked at ways to develop God-honouring money management skills at home and we had a lot of fun doing it!
Pastor Lee led us in a game of The Price is Right where the kids had to guess the price of items using giant number blocks. The parents might have been giving a few subtle hints along the way.
Heather led the families in a discussion about what we would do if we had one million dollars to spend. We wrote out on sticky notes the ways we would like to spend it and then spent some time categorizing all the sticky notes into needs and wants.
Bree talked about the love of money and what the Bible says about it, and then each child was given $100 to figure out how much they would like to give, save and spend. There were donation tins available that respresented many of the ministries SBC supports and the children added their 'give' money to the ministry of their choice.
And of course there was a prize store so they could use their 'spend' money... lots of tough decisions to be made here!
Then each family got to make their own give, save and spend jars to take home with them so they could continue the practice at home.
We would like to take a moment to thank a few women who have a passion for faith at home and have worked hard to see that Faith at Home Events continued during this year of transition. Thanks Pam, Heather and Sue, for working so hard on these last several events. We appreciate all you have done!
This year we have been learning about the fruit of the Spirit. In the lesson about gentleness we learned that being gentle does not mean you are weak, but that God's Spirit in us helps us to treat others in a caring way. Knowing how to be a true gentleman will get the boys far in life.
We also looked at Rules to Being a Gentleman: say "please and thankyou" ~ work hard ~ be humble ~ look people in the eye ~ open the door for a lady ~ offer your seat to others ~ love well ~ stand up tall and straight ~ offer a firm handshake ~ mind your manners ~ be punctual ~ respect your elders.
And here are a few shots of our little gentlemen...