Unexpected changes: from engineer to entrepreneur

By Neil Miller | Canada in North America

Photo Blaz Erzetic / Unsplash. Man's hands working on electronics.

For as long as I can remember, I felt that God wanted me to serve in missions when I grew up.

As a child I was always tinkering with electronics, building radios, and anything else I could figure out how to make with parts unsoldered from broken electronic devices. I chose engineering as a profession with the intention of using an engineering degree as a ticket to a closed country or using engineering skills on the mission field.

As I approached graduation from university, I prayed about the future. My heart attitude was, “Lord, here I am, send me somewhere.” To my disappointment, the Lord told me to get a job in Canada. It seemed that my childhood dream of serving in missions was shattered. The passage that God used to speak to me was the story of Joseph. He had to remain in prison for two whole years (Genesis 41:1). Living and working in Canada was akin to a prison for me, but my only option was to do what I felt the Lord was telling me to do.

After university, I got a job in electronics design and prototyping. In many ways, this was a dream job. Not only did I get a salary to do something as fun as my childhood hobby, but I had an unlimited budget for parts and very expensive tools. During this period, I obtained my P.Eng. certification. Looking back, I can see the value of this work experience, both professionally and personally. But at the time, although I enjoyed the work, it felt like the death of my dream of going into missions.

After working there for two years I attended Urbana. Finally, the Lord gave me permission to explore overseas. I wrote to several missions, but SIM was the only one that listened to me regarding the work I wanted to do. Since I had been working in electronics, I wanted to try something different. I asked to work with youth and young adults. SIM gave me the opportunity to teach at a Bible College in Sudan. I resigned my job and went to Africa.

After working in Sudan for two years, I came back to Canada with the intention of becoming a long-term member of SIM and then serving in Sudan for the rest of my career. But the further along the application process I went, the less peace I felt. I could not understand why. Abandoning the process at this stage made no sense. I finally told SIM that I had misgivings about my next steps. I did complete the application process, but the country of service was left undecided.

Several years later I understood why the Lord did not give me peace about returning to Sudan. Issues developing on the field would have made my stay there very short. But at the time all I knew was that I didn’t have peace about going forward.

I returned to my previous job as an engineer as I prayed and researched other countries that could use my skills. I eventually settled on a country in Asia. Over the next two decades I worked in several positions in that country, but never directly in engineering. However, the problem-solving skills I developed during my engineering career served me well in my various roles.

Now, almost 30 years after graduating from university, the Lord is leading me to another career change: to be an entrepreneur. I am building a computer training and e-learning business to reach out to young adults in Asia. Over the years, I have learned several things about change. First, God loves us deeply. He can protect us from unwise choices if we listen to him. Second, life skills in one career situation can be used in another. Problem-solving skills learned in engineering benefited me in other roles. Third, God does speak and guide us when our hearts are open to him. We may not understand the reasons why the Lord is leading us down a particular path, but there are good reasons. Working in Toronto for two years before going into missions turned out to be a wise decision I never regretted. Not going back to Sudan also was an excellent decision, but something I didn’t understand at the time.

Give thanks:

• For the powerful way God uses people’s gifts and life skills like Neil’s to transition to new stages of life.

• For the times the Lord guides us down new paths to glorify him.

• Because God desires to speak to us in our decisions, even when we don’t understand why he is leading us down a particular path.

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