Photo: Engineering Ministries International
Wes Vanderhoek works in the field.
Photo by Engineering Ministries International

As a volunteer for  Engineering Ministries International, Wes Vanderhoek recently had a chance to mix his Christian faith with his training as a civil engineer.

A member of the Christian Reformed Church, the University of Alberta graduate was part of a team of engineers and architects from around the world who volunteered their time with Engineering Ministries International (eMI) to develop a campus expansion plan for Shalom University of Bunia in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Shalom University prepares students to respond to the needs of African society in areas such as environmental stewardship, community development, administration, and church leadership. 

While members of the team worked on other things, Vanderhoek and a German civil engineer spent a week testing water sources, giving suggestions for improved water storage, sorting through waste-water solutions, and determining locations for future wells for a new campus site for Shalom University.

“Specifically, we determined the university's current system and water usage and what their future needs would be based on their planned growth,” says Vanderhoek, who attends Woody Nook CRC in Lacombe, Alberta.

“We also performed a couple tests related to water system design. From there, we made some basic recommendations that are going to be explained in more detail in the final report.”

Vanderhoek is currently working as an intern in eMI’s Calgary, Alberta office, helping to finish up design work for the Shalom University of Bunia. Engineering Ministries International will provide Shalom University with a final report and construction details in the coming months.

“My work with eMi and in Bunia has been humbling and rewarding,” says Vanderhoek.

During their week on-site, the volunteers met with campus leadership, staff and students to catch the vision for the university and to examine the existing buildings and infrastructure.

The team worked on preparing a master plan for both the 12 hectare main campus, which currently serves about 900 students, and the new 40 hectare west campus. 

As it did in the Democratic Republic of Congo, eMI International designs facilities that serve the poor in developing countries. These facilities include orphanages, clean water projects, medical centres and more.

In doing the work,  eMI partners with overseas missions and indigenous ministries who have a vision to help the poor and present the Christian gospel.

“It is amazing to see God's work being carried out through this ministry and in Bunia. To see the passion these people have to spread his word and show his love is inspiring,” says Vanderhoek of eMI.

Although he was only there for one week, Vanderhoek says he learned a great deal.

“One thing I was not prepared for going to DRC was seeing how invested in their country the university was and how much hope they had for the future.”


I'm not sure why this article suggests by implication, as it does, that one has to go to a foreign country to have a chance to "mix his Christian faith with his training as a civil engineer," or for any other job or profession for that matter.

If there is a tradition that does, or should, understand that we mix our faith with our work -- or decline to -- all the time, without a moment's exception, it is the tradition developed in this and other reformed churches. This isn't to say of course that Vanderhoek shouldn't have gone to the DRC to do what he did. But that shouldn't be cited as Vanderhoek "recently ha[ving] a chance to mix his Christian faith with his training," as if he no longer has that chance having returned from the DRC.

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I am always surprised how some can see the negative in everything, as displayed by the comments by Doug Vande Griend. Instead of seeing the positive in the work that Wes has done Doug instead chose to dwell on what most would see as a positive commentary. I would remind Doug that Wes did not get paid for his work in the DRC, nor for the four months he has spent with eMi!

Wes was using his training and talents to help out those in another country who have a need for such. He did this in response to a calling that he felt and did so in faith.

I know from personal experience that Wes lives each day mixing his faith with his whole life, not only in his work but in the rest of his life as well.

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