Senior EMI overseas staff share their stories in 2016
An EMI Calling
by Matthew Coffey, Editor of Inside EMI
During a season of prayer in my life, I was asking the Lord to show me how I could serve Him. It was a crossroad point in my early structural engineering career – the time to sit for professional exams. At the same time, I felt drawn toward greater engagement with a church in Chicago and its discipleship emphasis. To me, these seemed very much like two distinct pathways – an engineering path and a ministry path. The question I was praying about was, ‘Where is God calling me to invest myself?’
Though I had grown up in a missions-minded community, I had never considered that God could use an engineer like me. It was 2001. I was single, I was 24. When I suddenly encountered the idea of EMI in a Yahoo! search, I considered it as God’s direct answer to my prayer. Exploring EMI was the clear next step. At the time, EMI had three offices: The USA home base, a fledgling office in India, and a start-up in Guatemala. Within a few months, I was on a plane to New Delhi. I didn’t know God would totally redirect my life in India. I was just trying to obey what He was showing me.
It is 2016. I have spent more than a third of my life in India. I’ve learned Indian languages and I was married in India to my EMI colleague – an architect from Hong Kong. India has become our adopted home, the third culture of our family. Delhi is where my two sons were born, and Delhi is where we spent seven weeks locked out of our home because it was sealed by police. I’ve been an engineer, a project leader, and for 12 years a director at EMI – all while being a foreigner in India. I helped refine how EMI approaches its clients and projects. I have worked in team with many talented and dedicated people and have had the full share of painful goodbyes. I helped guide EMI India down from its mountaintop birthplace to the megacity of Delhi so we could grow. I’ve seen ribbons cut on projects, and I’ve seen projects get snuffed out like a candle. I have stepped up to lead and I have stepped down to let others lead. Through the joys and sorrows, a deep sense of purpose and calling from God remained. I don’t know why God chose to give me this part to play in the life of EMI’s ministry in India. I was just trying to be a good steward.
As this season in India draws to a close, I reflect that God’s calling had more to do with my availability than my ability. Much more to do with His grace than my work. That is something beautiful about EMI that attracted me from the very beginning. It attracts me still. In this world there is so much talk of changing lives and making an impact. It can easily come to feel like human power and effort is what makes the difference. And some people believe that is true. But at EMI, I have loved being part of something greater and far beyond myself, my effort. Something far beyond EMI.
I have loved being part of the story about how God is revealing His Son to our cousins in a closed country. I have loved being part of a staff team that could truly wash each other’s feet. I have loved being part of a cast of people who sacrificed to build lighthouses in rural Orissa. And I could go on. While this “part” has always been an important one, it has at the same time always been minor. I remember what Jesus said: “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” Between EMI in 2001 and EMI in 2016 much has changed. The picture, however, is the same: Jesus is building. We join hands with others to try and get behind what He is doing. I don’t know all of what God will accomplish for His name in this great country of over a billion people. So many men and women long to see His incredible power at work. Like them, I was just trying to offer my few loaves and fish.
If your significance is found in God, serving people is easy and the sacrifices all seem small. This is an easy thing to write. It is harder to live. So let’s return to the grace of God. In His grace, He has created a unique pathway for you and your technical skills to be part of the work He is doing in the nations. He calls you to build and to plant, to disciple and to raise up. How will you respond?
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