Josh Williams came close to quitting his engineering degree, as he couldn’t see a way of connecting it with his passionate Christian faith. Then a 2017 trip to Ukraine with OM changed everything …
As final year university students receive their end of year grades, graduate, and begin looking ahead to life after university, I am reminded of my last few months there as well. I chose to study engineering but spent much of my fourth-year despairing about whether I wanted to continue with my degree.
Though I was passionate about what I was learning, my faith had deepened over the course of my degree – including being strongly influenced by several mission trips –and I increasingly found myself asking: how can I connect my studies to my faith?
Like a lot of young Christians in university are undoubtedly doing as I write this, I asked God to show me how he wanted to use my education for his kingdom. The answer came out of the blue, in a way and at a time I wasn’t expecting.
I increasingly found myself asking: how can I connect my studies to my faith?
In 2017 I went to Ukraine to serve the summer camp ministry there with Operation Mobilisation (OM). Through conversation with others there, they immediately saw that I had a lot of similarities to the leader of OM’s work in Ukraine, a man called Wayne.
Wayne is pioneering a series of innovative projects such as the Waste2Energy initiative, which designs equipment that converts plastic waste into usable fuels through a process called pyrolysis. With this technology, he plans for this new fuel source to support local communities in need, through stable employment and by helping to tackle major ecological issues in the region.
At the same time, it would show local non-Christian communities that Christians care about their practical needs, not just their spiritual ones. Furthermore, they want to send portions of the project profits to support the local church, community, and wider Ukrainian church mission so that it may become self-sustaining instead of relying on external funding.
This was a direct answer to my prayer asking God to use my engineering expertise for His kingdom. After graduating, I jumped at the opportunity to get involved and join OM in Ukraine full-time.
Just before the war started, I briefly evacuated, and spent many weeks serving Ukrainian refugees at the Polish border before returning to work on the project. As fuel shortages became widespread in the summer of 2022, the need for the Waste2Energy initiative became more evident than ever. We would love to already be producing fuel from plastic waste, but for now the team is developing a wood gasifier to produce cheap, sustainable electricity from wood chips. This was a response to the missile strikes on Ukraine’s power generation infrastructure starting in October 2022 and will guarantee our electricity supply in the coming winters.
Serving in Ukraine has been the biggest learning curve for me. It’s humbling to start from scratch in so many areas, from learning a new language to dabbling in finance, project management and Ukrainian bureaucracy.
Spiritually, my approach to sharing the gospel has benefited from my time here. As a mathematical and logical thinker, I used to argue, considering only the points of contention when discussing my faith. Now, I’m more relational in how I speak about God, considering the experiences and background which may have brought the other person to their point of view.
The whole experience has brought out my character flaws and helped me to grow. More than anything, it has helped me better appreciate God’s sovereignty in new ways. Living in a country at war with so many unknowns, so many uncertainties and so much not going to plan everyday means that we can more easily see that nothing we do or achieve is by our own strength but by God’s enabling.
There’s a tendency I’ve noticed in myself to separate things which are spiritual from those which are not. The spiritual things being prayer, missional work, and anything to do with church, things that I perceive to be holy, while everything else is often considered non-spiritual and separate from my life under God.
I have come to understand that all the gifts and skills God has given me can be used to bless others
My experience in Ukraine has helped to snap me out of that subconscious and incorrect way of thinking. I have come to understand that all the gifts and skills God has given me can be used to bless others, to serve him and to bring him glory, and that includes my professional skills.
God can use your professional skills to serve his kingdom too, just ask him to show you where he wants you to apply your talents and be open to being surprised.
To find out more about how you can combine your degree or your career with your passion for reaching people overseas with the good news of Jesus, visit uk.om.org.