"You need to go on a project trip," he said. "It's the most important step in getting to know us."
And so we signed up for our first Engineering Ministries International project trip. We had no real idea of what to expect other than needing anti-malarial drugs and some Spanish.
When we looked at all the projects listed, none of them needed a mechanical engineer. And I bet you can guess what else they did not need. That's right -- photographers. But when Kevin spoke with Zack, the Trip Leader for the Escuela el Sembrador project (master planning for a farm school expansion), he told him that as long as he was open God would find a way to use him.
That's how Kevin ended up riding a horse 16 miles around Honduras with a companion named Jose, who spoke very little English. Kevin does not speak Spanish or Horse, but the boundaries of the 500-acre property needed to marked with GPS coordinates and this was the fastest method.
"Being open" is also how he ended up researching methane digesters (Google that, just not while you're eating). As a farming school, El Sembrador has a LOT of cattle, and as you might imagine they produce a lot of....ummmm....well, you know. El Sembrador is also "off the grid," self-sufficient for their electricity needs by using hydroelectric power. However, when the school can double the number of students they serve they will need an additional source of energy. And it turns out there is a lot that can be produced with all that manure.
Fun Sidebar: Ever traveled abroad and wondered about that part of the US Customs form where it asks if you have been to a farm during your trip? I've always thought, "WHO has to check 'yes' on that box? And what happens when you do?" Well, we learned. You get your shoes scrubbed and sanitized by a friendly Customs & Immigration Officer who, when you apologize for the cow poo, will smile and say, "This is your tax dollars at work!"
When Kevin originally spoke with Zack and inquired about my coming along, he said they would love to have a photographer join the team. I told him I would like to document the project in whatever way they found most useful and his suggestion was to produce a piece for eMi and one for El Sembrador as well. While the design team worked their design skills I wandered all around the school grounds collecting great imagery.
Which is how I learned that a carbon fiber camera tripod WILL conduct electricity. I was trying to step over what appeared to be a downed barbed wire fence. When my tripod dragged the wire I noticed a strong jolting sensation running from my right hand all the way to my hip. I am embarrassed to say it took at least five solid jolts before I realized what was going down. In my defense, it was going to be a really cool horse shot.
On other days I followed team members while surveying, testing wells, and gathering site data. I found leaf cutter ants and newborn piglets, spoke with students and practiced my Spanish. I went for walks with Jenny, the wife of another team member, and her infant son. One day we got caught in the middle of a slow-mooving (meant to misspell that) cattle drive and had to press up against the fence. It was an electric fence, but by this time I was on to those sneaky devices and was able to warn Jenny. Had I chosen to follow Eric's group on our first day in country, I would have witnessed him helping birth a calf. You know what that means? It means I can say I know someone who literally had a cow.
Through all that adventure on horses and among electrified fences we heard God clearly. Our greatest yearning at that time was to just find the place where He could use us. This was our third short-term mission trip and the first one where I did not come home and immediately spiral into a month-long bout of depression. Instead, I was totally pumped. I had just spent a week watching God reveal what He could do if we remained open and willing.
I hope you'll keep watching with us to see what He does next.
Click here to see the video from the Honduras trip, or here to see the photos.
From the Keiters:
Here is where we share our daily experiences of how God is using our life in the US and abroad with EMI to draw us closer and to make Himself known.