How I became an engineer again…after 15 years
I once made a zero on a college exam, with effort.
Yes, that’s right. I showed up, gave it my all, and my “all” was evaluated and given a score of zero. ”Goose Egg”. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. I wish I could say the exam was subjective in nature, and it was due to something personal the professor had against me. I can’t. This was engineering and multiple choice questions. It was either right or wrong. Either you knew the material or you didn’t, and I didn’t, at least not that day. That was about 25 years ago. The good news is, God works with “zeroes”.
The reason I decided to share the following is not to brag, or to be self deprecating, but to tell a story, God’s story, and what He did to provide for us in an incredible way. I also wanted to answer a few questions. Since launching Legacy Builders we have received a few comments and questions from others trying to understand and get their mind around this new ministry. I can sympathize and relate as the last few months have been a big change…for all of us.
Funny thing, a friend of mine said he got in a humorous disagreement recently when he shared with someone that I had started a new ministry. Apparently he was “corrected” and told “No, he started a new job as an engineer”. In case you are asking the same question, “Which is it? A new ministry or a new job as an engineer”, the answer is both.
While we have made some significant changes from our previous chapter of ministry (and life), what we are doing now is really nothing new under the sun. We have a real ministry, reaching real people, with real results. At the same time, we also have real needs, real expenses, and thus a real budget. The only major difference in our budget is that our ministry is no longer our primary source of income. I receive no income from our ministry and Michelle serves part time as an administrative assistant. We have less emphasis on paid positions, and much more on volunteers, partnerships, and community efforts. With this new model our ministry budget is less than half of what is used to be, and it appears we are actually getting more done. While that may be the case, I know I am doing more of what God “wired” me to do, small groups and one -on-one discipleship.
Since launching this ministry, it has taken shape even better than we dreamed. We have a new parent organization, a new local advisory team, and three partner ministries we work with to offer outreach dinners, small groups and numerous mentoring opportunities each week. This past week I spoke to the men at my church and as I write this, I just helped two more men become mentors at Open Door Mission. I have already mentored a handful of men, and I am currently mentoring two others. Being on site at Open Door and Isaiah House has allowed me to “unofficially” mentor numerous other men. I lead a recovery group each week, and each week move towards me doing less and the men doing more (helping men lead men).
So, why did I pursue engineering again? With two daughters in high school, and one entering college this year, we were seeing God provide for our ministry expenses, but not everything we needed for our basic living expenses. By “basic living expenses” I am not referring to a luxury car, second home, or any expensive “toys”. Rather, we began facing choices like buying groceries with a credit card, or considering another way. We did not fully understand what was going on, or why, but we knew debt was not God’s plan. Thus, without knowing much else, we began to conclude that God had other plans for us.
At the end of last year I received an early Christmas present, an email from the Texas Board of Professional Engineers stating that I had passed the PE (Professional Engineering) exam. Yes, that is correct. I am now a licensed professional engineer. Remember, I am the guy that made a zero on a college exam, with effort. Yes, I graduated, but I can assure you there was nothing “Magna”, “Summa”, or “Cum Laude” about my degree.
This is the part where I feel really irresponsible if I don’t tell God’s story and what I believe He did. Last June, not knowing what God was up to, except something needed to change, I reluctantly, with fear and mixed emotions, stepped down from my role with Waking the Passion, the men’s ministry we were working with at the time. About one month later, I had an engineering job, after being out of the industry (in full-time ministry) for over 15 years. I had more than one person, including me, tell me it might not be possible. About four months later, I wrote and passed the PE exam. So how does a former “zero” and average college student restart an engineering career after 15 years, and pass the PE exam to boot.? Short answer? God.
I had already done everything I knew to find a job, i.e. create a resume, share with friends, share online, make calls etc. I had friends at my old company and others that I thought could be really strategic in helping me get back in. I even joined Toastmasters at my old company (just to get in the building) and after learning some key names, sent my resume via special delivery to the “right person” and the “right time”, all with no results. All along, with each strategic “card” I played it was as if I was saying “I got this”. It’s good to be confident, as long as you don’t forget about God. After “playing all my cards”, looking back, I felt like God was trying to ask me, “Are you done? If so, I’d like to help you.”
One key thing in all this (becoming a professional engineer) was the job God gave me. And yes, let me stress the job that God gave me. I did not know about this company. I had not contacted this company, and honestly was not necessarily excited about working for this company, at first. I attended a church event called “Between Jobs Ministry”, just one time the month before. The manager of the company attended the same event (also one time) and received my name from a list. He asked me to meet for lunch, and a few days later offered me a job. I said YES. When you are drowning and someone throws you a life preserver you don’t complain.
Interestingly, just a few days after hiring me, the company lost a major project and there was talk about budget cuts. Fear and doubt set in again. I remember driving to work, early in the morning, having thoughts like, “it was too good to be true”, and “I’ll be let go after a few days and be labeled a failure. Well, that did not happen. At this point I had one of those rare moments where I felt like God said something very clearly and very emphatically. This time what I heard God saying (not me), was “I got this”. I did not understand, but honestly felt a peace that gave me tears of relief. What I heard was, “I’m not blessing you to mess with you. I’m blessing you, just rest and receive it.” None of this was audible, but it was clear. Why might God say this?
Work did not pick back up, but one day my manager caught me in the parking lot and said to go ahead and study for the PE exam while work was slow. Let me be clear, he was not reluctantly allowing me to study. He was instructing me and telling me this is what he wanted, and needed, me to do in the interest of the company. So for the next several weeks, not only was I able to study full-time for the PE exam, but I was being paid to do so. Furthermore, with business slow, any time I had a difficult question, my manager with 38 years of engineering experience, was literally ten feet away ready to help and tutor me.
After being out of the industry for over 15 years, only God could give me an engineering job that pursued me, that allowed me to study full-time for the PE exam, that paid me to do so, and provided a personal tutor to help me every step of the way. After passing the exam I moved from being “contract” and was hired as a direct employee with benefits. Yes, I studied and worked hard, but I am aware how hard work can still result in “zilch”. In many ways I really feel like God “stacked the deck”, “rigged the game”, and I was just along for the ride. Looking back, the only time it was stressful was when I thought it was all up to me and something I was doing on my own. What a treat it has been to encourage men at the mission who are wondering if they can find a job after being out their line of work for a few months or even a couple of years. We may not have the same background, but I can introduce them to the same God. If you think you have failed too much or done anything “too much”, just know it is never too much for God, and he is never done with us. To God be the glory. Thank you for letting us share and I hope this encourages you in some way.