TRAVELING WITH FIA: USING CIVIL ENGINEERING TO IMPACT ETERNITY
It will stretch you and sometimes make you uncomfortable, but it will be a life-changing experience,” shared Jim Boyer, speaking about his recent short-term trip to Vanuatu with Friends In Action.
Boyer, currently the President and Managing Principal at David Miller Associates, Inc. in Lancaster, PA, has over 30 years of engineering experience. But don’t let his credentials intimidate you. “FIA is all about enabling everyone to be part of the Great Commission,” shared Paul Brosey, FIA’s Project and Team Coordinator. “We need all types of skilled and unskilled laborers, those with a heart to serve, and those wanting to go deeper in their relationship with God.”
Jim Boyer and a team of volunteers visited the interior bush regions of Vanuatu late in 2019 to get a first-hand look at the terrain and conduct field topography measures for a water project to benefit the NiVan people. “I’ve been an advisor for the Engineering Collaboratory at Messiah College, which is how I became involved with the Vanuatu water project. As the students developed the preliminary designs, we quickly realized that more detailed topographic survey information was needed to determine the feasibility of the project and to eventually develop the final designs.”
The project was in response to the desperate need of the villagers and local pastors who reached out to FIA leaders about the severe hardships caused by water scarcity in their region. “Our children and people are sick due to disease and sanitation issues from water shortages, especially in the dry season,” reported Manuel, a nurse practitioner who serves a population of almost 2,344 villagers (500+ households and 50-60 villages).
The top 3 health issues in Vanuatu are water-related:
2. Skin diseases
The villagers must walk an hour each way to catch water in containers that often previously held kerosene or oil just to have enough drinking water for one day.
Jim and his fellow volunteers, led by FIA’s Executive Director Tim Johnston, accomplished tasks critical to getting Phase I of the project underway. After making the strenuous climb to the top of a mountain containing a clean water source, Tim saw first-hand evidence of the NiVan’s water need.
“When I turned around, what I saw just broke my heart.” Two little NiVan children, probably under the age of five, had made the same steep climb up the side of the mountain to get water. They were not off playing. They were not at school. There were no parents around to watch over them. These little ones were braving the jungle terrain alone to fetch water as their parents were busy tending their small gardens of kumala (sweet potato) or island cabbage to keep their families fed.
While working in the rugged mountainous terrain, Jim and his fellow volunteers labored alongside the NiVan men as they cleared jungle debris for the surveying efforts. During the exceptionally hot and tiring work, Jim offered one of the villagers a drink from his water bottle. The man was hesitant to take what was offered, knowing how precious and necessary water is. “I was touched that he was reluctant to take any of my water even though he needed it as much as I did. You can quickly see that FIA has developed a trust and respect with the people that goes both ways,” Jim shared.
The WASH initiative (Water And Sanitation Health)
Boyer and his fellow volunteers have prepared the way for future workers to continue this life-changing WASH initiative. FIA has secured a source of water in a high mountain spring that produces 48 gallons per minute, enough to meet the demands of thousands of villagers nearby. Over the course of the next five years, more volunteer teams will work to run 16 miles of gravity-fed piping from the source to 30 villages, three schools, and two clinics below, providing clean water to more than 3,500 people. “There is so much value in the work that FIA does,” reported Jim. “It’s more difficult for people to understand the message of Christ, if they are without basic needs. But if those needs can be practically met, it opens a lot of doors.”
Pastor Gabi, an indigenous pastor in the area agrees with Jim. “The water project will open a door to reach all the villages. It will be a tool to reach the hearts of the people with the Gospel. Many people don’t know who Jesus Christ really is. They believe in custom beliefs and the water that belongs to the witch doctors. When the water project reaches those villages, it will be a way to share the Gospel with the people. It will teach people that Jesus is the only true water that gives life.”
Join Us in Vanuatu
FIA is currently recruiting more volunteers for additional trips to Vanuatu planned in June and August of 2020. Laborers are needed to continue progress on a base camp being constructed to house future teams working on the water project as well as a projected Youth/Bible conference center
used to equip indigenous leaders to take the Gospel into neighboring villages.
“Past teams have made great progress repairing and repainting machinery, constructing cabins and bunk rooms, and beginning work on a kitchen/ dining building,” relayed Paul Brosey. “But we are still in need of individuals to help with plumbing, painting, construction of kitchen cabinets, and laying of tile floors, plus electrical wiring of the kitchen/dining building.” In addition, two or three individuals are needed for two weeks each to run a dozer, track-hoe, and a skid steer to construct a road to assist the water project in August.
Trips can be paid in full through tax-deductible donations from family and friends.
“I would definitely go again and encourage others to travel with FIA,” assures Jim. “I find that I receive so much more than what I give on these trips, and you will too.”