Everything will change. A Ministry of WorldVenture.
Benin has been good to me so far. With wide strokes you can paint it the same as Cote d’Ivoire, but stopping to look reveals divergences. And it is the differing details that make me feel like a stranger, or at least stranger than I expected. I stare at every pot along the road wondering which of these familiar yet unknown foods she is selling there, and more importantly, how to get some on a plate without knowing its name or price. I do not know how at home I will feel after only two months, but I also find my mentality towards such things mélanged since coming with the explicit intention of working. During the week I spend most of my time at work, but I have made a few friends, at least in a cordial sense; the guys at work, the youth that play volleyball every Sunday, and my Swiss neighbors. Not quite as dear to me as the friends I left to come, but certainly a blessing. It is just a reminder to always being looking to The Eternal and not to the blessings, for He will certainly continue to provide as needed; be it the encouragement of friends or strength for the travail.
I am working with Trans World Radio in the city of Parakou. With their antenna they are able to transmit radio programs (in various languages) to many of the West African countries (including Cote d’Ivoire). There are two missionaries/engineers and a crew of Beninois technicians who organize the broadcasts and keep the station running. Only a small portion of the site is occupied by the antenna, so they have also started several other projects to benefit the community; including a teak tree nursery, moringa (very nutritious), and other crops to be given away.
The plan remains for me to stay until the beginning of June, and the weeks are going by fast. I have been actively learning how to run a bulldozer (learning as I work), and when it does not work, working with the mechanic to fix it. Most of the dozing has been reworking a reservoir before the rains come and make everything too wet. We did not cover heavy machinery operation at Bucknell (maybe the CivE’s did), but I hope the tendency reading this is not to assume I have given up on engineering or am settling. For it is best that I learn early to work diligently at whatever I am given and let the importance of the work fall to God. That said, being here I get to see that there are well defined opportunities for engineers on the mission field. Most of what I have seen before coming here has been the invention of necessity (or missionary R&D), without a doubt something I enjoy, but not necessitating an engineering degree. And within the engineering work there is also the occasion to train and equip others in the field. So then, I am not really any closer to knowing how God may open a door for me to commit a longer time to working overseas, but it gives hope that it will not involve the backside of a pulpit: I was getting worried since most of the missionaries who were good at R&D were also teachers/preachers.