As I write this I’m sitting in the living room of the Medair flat in Eclubens, Switzerland. Prior to heading out into the field I’m being given about a week and a half of training on everything from accounting and project management to logistics and safety and security. I wanted to give a brief description of what my job in Lebanon will be like as well as discuss what could possibly have possessed me to do something this crazy. I’m still not entirely certain what my job is going to entail, so that entry might have to wait until after the team from Medair HQ completes its initial Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) assessment later this month. For the time being, suffice it to say that I will be working in the Bekaa Valley on a household flood and fire mitigation project, and probably some other yet to-be-determined WASH activities.
The second question is actually the easier one for me to answer, since I’ve had weeks, months, and years to think about it, even if it takes me a while to get there. It’s quite a long story, but one that I hope you will find worthwhile. It all started back in high school when I went on a mission trip to work on homes damaged by flooding near Fayetteville, West Virginia… I don’t really remember too many of the particulars of the trip, but I do remember thinking “If I could do this for a living, that would be pretty much the best job ever.” Most of my academic and professional career since that point has been part of making that dream a reality. Except at some point it became about something much more than just traveling, having fun, and helping people; it became a calling.
I remember the summer before my senior year in college. I was spending the summer in Orlando, Florida, as part of a leadership training program with my college church (NLCF) while trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I still kind of wanted to do humanitarian aid or relief work, but I also knew that it would be much easier, and more lucrative, to just find an engineering job in the states somewhere; I was stumped. Luckily God had a plan, as He always does, and knew exactly where He wanted me to be. One day, on my day off, I went to the park to have some quiet time and see if I could get him to tell me what to do. For no particular reason I opened my Bible to the book of James and this is what I found:
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” – James 1:22
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” – James 1:27
“As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” – James 2:26
And now for the kicker, James 4:17:
“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”
I had gone to the park that day to hear God speak. By the time I left the park that day I was pretty certain He had. It hasn’t always been easy, but at no point since then have I really doubted that this was what He wanted from me and for me. There have been times when I wasn’t necessarily sure that it was what I wanted for me, but each and every time I’ve walked away I have been gently and graciously reminded that it’s not about me. It never has been.