Wednesday, February 01, 2012

What’s it like to be a…..missionary—with an engineering background?

My job title is: Missionary
My actual position is:
Project manager / fundraiser / administrator / teacher

What does a normal day look like? Is it consistent throughout the year? If youíve had this position for a while, how have things changed?

From the outside it might look like a desk job with lots of meetings, errands, and time doing strange things. While it is true that most of the work happens behind a desk or at a meeting table, the job is different every day. The goal is to make ministry happen as an engineering-type person. Some days the need is to prepare detailed plans, other days, detailed budgets. I might head out on some days to the projects or to the workshops or a training session. There are enough projects to work on that the ministry activities and special projects kind of average themselves out around the calendar. But the fall is generally the season for starting things and summer gets almost too hot to be outside. One big change over time has been a growing appreciation for the difficulty of doing international ministry. We deal with things the old-timers never considered Ė anti-terrorism laws, child protection policies, anti-money laundering systems, complex immigration laws, and other such things. Business and legal knowledge is a big part of ministry today.

What other, if any, positions have you held prior to your current job? How did you get to where you are now?

I have been a practicing hospital engineer, product designer, software engineer, business owner, and missionary field director. I got this position by trying to do the right thing when it was time to move on from the previous thing.

What kind of training/education did you have? What would you suggest? What qualifications/skills/attributes make someone successful in this position?

I have a Masterís Degree and a bit more in the field of Biomedical Engineering. I have tried to keep up with continuing education ever since. I wish I had studied a bit more economics, politics, and communication theory as they seem very relevant in todayís world. But I strongly suggest that people study what excites them. Project management requires the ability to see both big picture and details of the goal, plus the skills to keep people and things moving so that the goal is met.

What are the rewards in your position? Challenges? What makes a good day for you?
It is very rewarding to see something happen. In this context that something is ministry, so that is extra rewarding. Challenges consist of dealing with people who donít want to see something happen because they live in a small world where they benefit by keeping things the way they are.  A good day is when something happens.

What trends or changes do you foresee in the next 5-10 years?

More and more international regulations.

How could a person find out more about your field?

By talking to people doing any type of ministry in the geographic area of special interest.

Can you suggest any careers which are similar to yours?
There are a thousand ways to do project management in the for-profit, non-profit, or ministry worlds.  The problem solutions are very similar. The non-profit and ministry worlds may have a broader focus, while the for-profit jobs may be more specific.

When you were growing up, did you have any interests that you have built into your work?

I love to build physical things. I view my job as building things Ė but I deliberately take the time to make things on my own as well.

What obstacles have you overcome to get to where you are today?
Finances and health are sometimes an issue with you choose to live in a 3rd world ministry context.

What was your first job like after college?
Formal engineering. I learned a lot, including that I didnít enjoy the formal engineering environment as much as an entrepreneurial environment.

Are there any web sites you would suggest for more information about your field?
http://www.calvin.edu/academic/engineering/ces/webSites.htm
Try to Google engineering and missions, I got a load of sites.

 

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 02/01 at 11:40 AM
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