Stop me if you've heard this one...
An engineer is walking along and finds a talking frog. He quickly plucks it up and the frog says, "Give me a kiss and I will turn into a lady -- but not just any lady, I will be the best girlfriend you could possibly imagine." The engineer shrugs, stuffs the frog in his pocket, and continues on his way. When he arrives home he sets it on his counter. He leaves the poor creature there for several days, always passing it as he comes and goes without so much as a nod. One day the frog confronts him.
"Dude. I told you all you had to give me was a kiss and I would become the girlfriend of your dreams, but you've pretty much ignored me for a week. What gives? " The engineer replies, "Look, I'm very busy. I work 80 hours a week. I just don't have time for a girlfriend. But a talking frog...that's pretty cool!"
If you have ever known a few engineers you can relate to this - - most are not known for being extroverts or people-types (yes, there are exceptions, Kevin being one of them). So you might have also wondered if a ministry called Engineering Ministries International has much of a human impact. Does the work we do only serve to create buildings and encourage infrastructure or is there a relational side? Do we parachute in, whip up some lovely architectural renderings and schematics and jet back home without hugging necks or sharing the Gospel? Of course not.
During our trip to Honduras in 2012 we experienced this for ourselves. While we both spent many long hours in front of computer screens (Kevin engineering stuff, me editing video), we had plenty of time to build relationships. Getting good photos and video footage requires that you first spend some time getting to know the people you want to highlight. In fact, it's about the only way you can hope to create an image that is a true reflection of the soul inside. And if you (I mean Kevin) are going to spend two days with a new acquaintance riding about 18 miles on horseback in an unfamiliar country, not only will you have time to get to know each other but it is imperative. I mean, you want this person to trust and like you enough to not leave you stranded and lost in the middle of tarantula/drug lord/howler monkey territory.
But that was just me and Kevin on ONE project trip. While we were at orientation we heard story after story of how God used staff members to build bridges, both literally and figuratively. We heard of how design teams created such a picture of Christ's love that local people drew near and asked how to find this God they represented, of how clean water projects became the spring of living water and changed eternity for entire villages.
So yes, EMI projects go far beyond the scope of meeting physical needs. In the coming weeks I hope to share a few more of these stories, but meanwhile I leave you with this video from the Halle Project, highlighting one example of our work. Also, click here to see photos and read stories from some recent EMI projects around the world and get another glimpse into the REAL impact they make.
A couple of years ago while still considering Engineering Ministries International, we read When Helping Hurts by Steve Shadrach. It was good. REALLY good. It ought to be required reading for anyone considering missions work of any type or length, in any context or country. The main point is that when we go out into the developing world to help alleviate poverty, we need to be very cautious to do things that actually empower and enable people to solve their own problems and create their own better future. Otherwise, in the frenzy of our good intentions we very often do more harm than good.
I could write a very long post on this subject, and actually, I did start to do that. But then I realized I was going to go on and on and on and yada yada yada...never mind. The point was really that we just wanted to share this video we watched during orientation. It cracked us up and makes the same point: sometimes our good intentions are not helping in the least and we would be wise to think carefully before acting.
Plus, the part where they start singing "Dare You to Move" is awesome.
I read a lot. In the ranking of necessities, books come in just behind oxygen and closely tied with water.
Right now, in the thick of homeschooling and partnership development, reading feels like something of a luxury, an indulgence to be enjoyed only during the planned rest time of a Sunday afternoon. Yet it is my favorite method of educating myself and this is a season when much education is needed. As we prepare for a life of cross-cultural work, some good grounding in the history of people groups and major life changes seems quite important.
To that end this is what I have read recently:
The God Ask by Steve Shadrach
When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert
The Leap by Lon Garber
Into the Mud by Christine Jeske
This Ordinary Adventure by Adam Jeske & Christine Jeske
Seven: an Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker
Rhinestone Jesus by Kristin Welch
Love Does by Bob Goff
Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
Friend Raiser by Betty Barnett
The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
Just A Minute by Wes Stafford
Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider
National Geographic Magazine, cover to cover, every month for the past three years
Then there is what I want to read:
A Geography of Blood by Candace Savage (I am halfway through)
The Fate of Africa: a History of the Continent Since Independence by Martin Meredith (just started...600+ pages long!)
In the Land of Blue Burqas by Kate McCord
Born in Blood and Fire: a Concise History of Latin America by John Charles Chasteen
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
Night by Elie Wiesel
The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons
Cultural Intelligence by David Livermore
Peace Child by Don Richardson
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies by Jared M. Diamond
Lewis & Clark Through Indian Eyes: Nine Indian Writers on the Legacy of the Expedition by Ralph K. Andrist
a lot of stuff by C. S. Lewis and Dietrich Bonhoeffer
And there are the titles that seem to have little to do with missions work, but I can clearly see the related lessons in them so I keep reading and re-reading. These are the titles that examine the depths of human depravity, our relationships, our attempts to control, subdue or force the world around us into some sort of "safe" environment.
The Hunger Games (entire series) by Suzanne Collins
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Giver by Lois Lowry (need to see the movie)
Divergent by Veronica Roth (loved the first book, suffered to finish the other two)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (couldn't finish...
And of course, there is the Bible. Duh, I'm reading the Bible.
So, knowing my goal is to absorb as much good literature (fiction and non-fiction) that examines culture and stirs the mind with worthy questions, what else should I be reading? Any suggestions?
We are missionaries with Engineering Ministries International, based in Colorado Springs, and traveling around the globe to serve.
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