Construction Management and Engineering students chuckled at pictures of hand-cranked concrete machines and framing built with three-quarter inch plywood.
Four of their classmates and one professor, participants in summer mission trips to Africa, shared about their experiences at the division-wide welcome back dinner on Sept. 6. All five men discussed the people they met and the projects they worked on, often in less than ideal conditions and with outdated equipment.
Jim Caldwell, head of the construction management department, commended the students who completed overseas internships.
“I received feedback from both of the teams’ supervisors that these four guys were head and shoulders over other interns,” he said. “They praised our students for living out their faith in addition to completing good work.”
Nigeria Samaritan’s Purse
Junior Moses Clark and seniors John Oswald and Chris Kinzer dedicated three months working to help revitalize a Christian hospital near the city of Egbe. Another intern joined them on the project, under the supervision of a missionary family.
Oswald focused on remodeling 12 of the 14 houses on the compound, including building cabinets. Kinzer and Clark completed a wide variety of other projects, particularly rebuilding a broken-down dam. They also helped by rewiring some of the electrical systems at the hospital and installing ceiling lights.
In one building, tearing up the floor revealed an old well underneath, which Clark and Kinzer had to deal with. At another building, an unexpected return of the hospital’s power while Clark worked on the wiring created an “exciting moment.”
This team faced a variety of issues, including a concrete mixer that constantly fell apart and the necessity of carrying mortar and concrete by hand in five-gallon buckets to the work site.
The poor equipment often slowed down their work efforts, Kinzer said. It is up to the manager to figure out a way to make do with what a team has.
“A lot of times, the Nigerians make things by hand simply because they do not know how to use the tools,” Clark said.
Both Clark and Kinzer plan to do long-term mission project management overseas in the future.
“We have lived in Africa before, so we’re used to that. For us the important part was learning how to deal with construction issues that arise in the type of conditions we faced,” Kinzer said.
Clark said his favorite part was helping people and the interactions with the Nigerian workers at the job sites. Kinzer said he most enjoyed visiting a nearby orphanage and hearing the people’s stories.
Niger Service in Mission
Senior Kaleb Bledsoe spent a month of his summer at a hospital compound in the neighboring country of Niger. There he helped create a new hazardous material incinerator, since the hospital had filled up the old one. He also built stairs for the first time in his life, out of concrete.
For Bledsoe, interacting with the people around him trumped the construction projects as the best part of the trip. He shared stories about a few of those people. An older man laughed at him because he was not married yet, an African cultural expectation.
A young Christian man told Bledsoe that he goes out to share the gospel in his 99 percent Muslim country even though people beat him sometimes. A missionary family loads a sofa onto their truck and camps out in the bush, living in community with the people they seek to reach.
“To Christians, God is here and relevant,” Bledsoe said. “Muslims don’t have that, and that is heartbreaking.”
The missionary who served as his boss, Chad Winzer, is over his head with construction work needs, Bledsoe said. He encouraged his fellow students to consider going over next summer to work.
Bledsoe wants to work with long-term missions in some capacity in the future. God taught him a lot during his time in Africa this summer, he said.
“I learned that I need to become more mature and get ready for something like that,” he said. “It’s God’s work, but I want to be a good tool.”
Jim Caldwell spent part of his summer in the small African country of Rwanda working at the Musanze Opportunity Center. The Center opened earlier this year with the mission of “Helping Rwandans build a stronger Rwanda.”
Four schools on the center’s campus offer training to Rwandans in the areas of English, construction, hospitality services and discipleship. Caldwell taught the first construction class during the summer, in addition to helping with some projects around the campus.
The Center desires to bring in some technology where it makes sense in the African context and then to hire Rwandan labor to do the work, Caldwell said.
For example, during his time there the Center laid a concrete patio which will provide a place for a restaurant. Although they used an up-to-date mixer, they also utilized 100 Rwandans to form a human conveyer belt, passing the concrete from the machine to the pour site.
Teaching construction meets a great need in Rwanda, Caldwell said. In the capital Kigali, people need 30,000 new houses built each year. But there are only enough contractors to build 1,000. The rest are just put together by neighbors and friends who do not necessarily know how to build.
The Center’s four-fold values include launching job-creating entrepreneurs and doing everything with quality and integrity. The construction school aims to use an apprenticeship model of equipping people with skills so that they can go out and not only work but also train other people, according to the Center’s website.