Josh's (UK) concern for finding answers to humanity’s big problems—especially sustainable energy solutions—sparked an interest in engineering that eventually led him to serve in Ukraine.

Combining engineering with God’s mission

Josh's concern for finding answers to humanity’s big problems — especially sustainable energy solutions — sparked an interest in engineering that eventually led him to Ukraine.

Josh grew up in a small, safe middle-class town near Aberdeen in the northeast of Scotland. His parents moved there from London to work in the oil industry, hence his lack of a Scottish accent.  

Remembering attending church as a child, Josh said he “knew the Bible stories but didn’t have certainty of my salvation. I basically thought I was being judged on good behaviour to get to heaven.” At age 12, when Josh attended an annual summer Christian conference, he spent time with Christian kids his own age in sessions led by people who were “interesting and cool.” It was when they studied the Sermon on the Mount that the gospel really made sense to Josh: “God showed me my true sinfulness.” He found certainty in the salvation that relies fully on Jesus’ sinlessness and sacrifice. Then, at age 16, a friend invited Josh to a youth group where he was encouraged and discipled in his faith.

Choosing a path

Obsessed with rugby as a child, Josh knew all the names of all the players on “every team,” he said. “Since rugby dominated my thoughts, I thoroughly expected to be a pro-rugby player. But then all the players whom I grew up with became enormous, and I didn’t, so that dream quickly faded.”

Although he would have also loved to be a journalist or podcast host, Josh chose a different path. By the time he finished high school, his concern for finding answers to humanity’s big problems — especially concerning sustainable energy solutions — sparked an interest in engineering. Josh explained: “towards the end of school, I started to understand how scientific and mathematical principles can be used to practically improve the lives of people. Studying engineering was a clear path to be able to do this.”

A keen interest in the world and different cultures, combined with a longing to see how God worked through people to relieve suffering and injustice, led Josh to go on his first missions trip. Together with his local church, he journeyed to South Africa to support their missions partner who run a ministry reaching orphans.

“These trips really sparked a longing God gave me to be placed somewhere in His worldwide mission, and even better if it could be combined with my engineering studies and perhaps also support the care of orphans,” he described.

‘I had to come back’

Ukraine had never been on Josh’s radar. However, when a planned trip to support refugees in Greece did not work out, Ukraine was suggested as an alternative. Josh accepted. Though he did not enjoy the heat, humidity or basic food, the trip did lead Josh to meet Wayne, the leader of OM’s work in Ukraine. Wayne runs sustainable missions projects, such as Waste2Energy, which is developing a technology to convert plastic waste to marketable fuel. The goal of the project is to sustainably reach forgotten communities in Ukraine with the gospel. “This was a very direct answer to my prayer to combine engineering with God’s mission, so I had to come back,” Josh said.

And he did. A few years after the initial trip, having just finished his engineering degree, Josh joined OM in Ukraine full-time to work with Wayne. After two years with the team in the Kyiv province, Josh spoke passionately about the project and its potential for impact: “We, and many other mission projects in Ukraine, have benefitted enormously from external donations from generous missions-minded supporters. With our Waste2Energy technology set up as a functioning enterprise, we project to generate a healthy profit margin to have the freedom to both expand our operations and be generous in supporting local churches, new church plants and the training of pastors and missionaries who may be sent from Ukraine in the future. This will allow missions in Ukraine to move from full reliance on external funding to being more internally sustainable.”

With a heart still longing to see God’s work in “far-off places,” Josh dreams of how the project could open doors in hard-to-reach places. Regardless of whether a country is open or closed to the gospel, plastic waste and the extensive use of hydrocarbon fuels remain a global issue. Josh noted that: “With this technology, we will start tackling the major local ecological issues showing the community that Christians also care about the practical issues facing them.” Job creation and discipleship in the workplace create gospel access for people who might otherwise never have met a Christian, much less visited a church. “And with our enterprise closely linked to a local church, it will allow the lives of other Christians to start impacting our workers and their families in their discipleship journey,” Josh explained.

At present, there are still a few issues for Josh and visiting interns to address before the technology is fully operational. However, once tried and tested in Ukraine, such enterprises could be implemented in places hard to reach with the gospel.

The personal impact of the war

Just before Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Josh and a few other team members were evacuated. During the months that followed, Josh decided he could not sit idly by while team members were still in Ukraine. Since he could not immediately return to Ukraine, he spent many weeks serving Ukrainian refugees at the Polish border.  

Now back in Ukraine, Josh is focussing on Waste2Energy while loving the displaced people living with the team.

With the fuel shortages in Ukraine in the summer of 2022, the need for fuel became more evident than ever. “We would love to already be running our enterprise, producing fuel from plastic waste,” said Josh. But, for now, with the fragile electricity network in Ukraine, the team is developing a wood gasifier to produce cheap, sustainable electricity from wood chips.

In December 2022, Josh committed to three more years of serving in Ukraine and: “if He would like me to stay longer, I am certainly open to it. It is a privilege to have been called to serve the people of Ukraine. My love and respect for them continues to grow through the war as they endure in ways foreign to my home culture.”

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