A plumber with a mission
WORTHINGTON -- Four years ago, Travis Lorenz went on his first short-term mission trip with Construction for Worldwide Evangelism (CWE).
He hasn't looked back since.
"I liked what I did and enjoyed the experience of being with other people that wanted to serve the Lord," Lorenz said. "I kept going on more trips and continued to volunteer whenever trips are available."
CWE works primarily in South and Central America and Africa to build churches, schools and other types of facilities. While Lorenz is a plumber, he said he usually does general laborer work with CWE.
"I'm usually a block tender or help the masons, put up scaffolding and work on door jambs and window frames," he said, "but the first time I signed up as a plumber and the last trip was plumbing, too."
Most recently, Lorenz traveled with CWE to Kpalime, Togo --located in West Africa -- to help build an aquaponics (a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics) facility.
The facility, when completed, will raise fish in tanks. The fish leave nitrogen-rich products in the water, which are then circulated through the hydroponics section of the facility. That's where vegetable plants extract the nutrients and purify the water, which is then recirculated to the fish tanks.
"CWE is trying to pioneer stuff in Africa to help the villages be more self-sustaining," Lorenz explained. "We built the first facility, and it will also be used as a training facility. They'll go out and build micro-stations and come back to the one we built to learn how it works."
The facility was built at the Baptists Blind Center, a home and education center for blind and legally blind children.
"It's not like here, where there is support for disability," Lorenz explained. "The Baptist center teaches and feeds (the children)."
The children at the center will be taught to take care of the fish and plants at the facility. The food raised will help feed the children, and proceeds raised through selling the surplus will also go to the center.
Lorenz, a Murray County Central graduate, is the son of Gary and Bev Lorenz and currently resides in Marshall. As an instructor in the plumbing program at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Pipestone campus, and the owner of Pipe Dreamz Plumbing and Heating, a small residential plumbing and heating business in Marshall, Lorenz doesn't have a lot of free time to travel to developing countries. He said the short-term commitment required was one of the things that drew him to CWE.
"Their projects are three to five weeks long, but the volunteers only go for a week at a time," he said. "So, I'll go the first week of a project, for example, and help put up the walls. We'll leave, and then the next groups will come and finish things."
CWE has a very short turnaround time between the start and completion of a project. Seven weeks after Lorenz worked on the aquaponics facility in Togo, there were fish in the tanks.
"They get them up and going right away," Lorenz said. "When they do a church, we'll show up, and a month later, they will be having services there."
CWE has taken Lorenz around the world. To date he has volunteered in Costa Rica, Togo (twice), Honduras, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Haiti. After helping with seven CWE projects, Lorenz has developed friendships with other CWE volunteers.
"Every time I go, there are at least a couple -- maybe two or three -- that have been on other trips that I've done," he said.
Lorenz said he plans to continue volunteering with CWE.
"I try to go at least once a year, but it's harder to get away now that I'm a teacher," he said. "The summer is really the only time available."
The most rewarding aspect of working with CWE, Lorenz said, has been giving back to people who are less fortunate.
"I think a big thing is the sense of appreciation and gratitude you get for what we have here in the U.S., and when you see how other people live in other countries," he said. "It helps your faith when you see people that have less then we have but have the same faith or maybe stronger. It makes you thankful, whether you have a lot or a little."
Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at 376-7322