Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Story of JAMES

I laid in bed after midnight rearranging words in my mind, experimenting with the acronyms they formed like Thomas Edison and a thousand failed light bulbs. Then suddenly, one name made sense: the "Justice and Mercy Engineering Society" which had the acronym - can you believe it? - JAMES!  You had to use the "and" to make the acronym work, which was a little bit of a stretch, but I knew it wasn't going to get any better. So I literally sprung out of bed and wrote it down, proving its existence to myself like snapshot of a Sasquatch before it disappeared back into the woods of my cluttered, sleepy mind.

[most people don't know that SASQUATCH is, itself, an acronym]

JAMES is the progression of my personal mission to equip service-minded engineers and to use what I have learned to serve the poor. I think it is my calling.  (See this post about callings, Iron Man, and Xanax.) This mission has been evolved over the years, and has been embodied through extra-curricular, curricular, and now post-curricular organizations which educate engineers in various capacities.

The extra-curricular organization is Engineers with a Mission (EM) at Baylor University which I co-founded with students in 2004. EM helps students discover how their technical education and interests can be used for the Kingdom of God through annual service-learning trips to places like Kenya, Honduras, Rwanda, and Haiti. There have been plenty of posts on this blog about our trips and projects.  EM has grown steadily over the years but remains an extra-curricular program. 

[our biggest EM meeting ever in the history of EM meetings]

I happen to really like the millennial generation.  As generations go, their sense of community, relationship, and service gives me a glimmer of hope for our collective futures.  Sensing this growing interest in global, service-based engineering over the last ten years, I spearheaded the creation of a Humanitarian Engineering concentration at Baylor. This program provides a curricular outlet for students to develop their interests in development or missions into a full-blown career. It becomes official this fall, and we'll have our first graduates by May 2016. Students with this concentration will be well-suited for serving in a non-profit organization, supporting Christian missions, or working in the international development sector.  But unlike students starting at Exxon, or Apple, or Boeing, students with vocations in this non-traditional field of Humanitarian Engineering may need some help finding a job!  

So almost three years ago, I gratefully accepted an offer from the local non-profit Mission Waco Mission World (MWMW) to form "6:8 technologies" (which I later renamed JAMES) as a program under their non-profit umbrella.  Here's an earlier post about that.

So what do we do?  JAMES is a post-curricular effort to:
     1. Train engineers, technicians, and tinkerers to do solar projects as ministry within their own spheres of influence
     2. Help Humanitarian Engineers (degreed or not) to find employment through networking and other resources
     3. Use technology to advocate for biblical justice like Enik the sleestack philosopher.

Even as a new organization, JAMES has a strong infrastructure thanks to our parent organization MWMW. They have over 20 years of experience operating as a well-respected non-profit and are recognized as a Four Star Charity by Charity Navigator for maintaining the highest standards of financial responsibility.  Doing this four years in a row puts them in the top 7% of non-profit organizations!

But our partnership with MWMW is about more than just sound accounting and advice, it is about our complementary missions. MWMW’s mission statement is to “Mobilize middle-class Americans to become more compassionately involved among the poor [and to] seek ways to overcome the systemic issues of social injustice which oppress the poor and marginalized.” JAMES is an expression of this mission. We aim to “mobilize” those in the engineering and related professions “to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8 ESV) by designing and implementing tangible renewable energy and water projects.

On our website you can find a series of video lessons detailing how to design, size, and install a solar electricity system. The videos are taught by me and use a high-speed animation of me drawing pictures on a whiteboard, low budget style.  The website also has job-finding tools and other great content. Visit us at We also tweet about job openings in the field, issues of justice, and ministries that could use help @Waco_JAMES and on our facebook.

[example of YouTube-hosted whiteboard talks on solar electricity, they go fast 
but you can pause and rewind over the parts you need help with]

In support of these goals, we also offer consulting services. Let's say your group is supporting an orphanage in Guatemala that needs help with solar panels. We could do any of the following:
a) train your personnel to design and install themselves, with online and/or hands-on training
b) do feasibility studies, design the system, provide cost estimates, etc.
c) send an engineering student or myself to do the installation with your team
d) any combination of the above.

Keep us in mind when you or your group is doing any energy-related work abroad, we would love to work with you!  Together let's work for God's kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.

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