MARSHALL - When Travis Lorenz of Marshall went on his first mission trip, he was supposed to work on plumbing for his designated project.
Although he ended up doing something entirely different, that hasn't stopped him from making six more trips with the same organization.
In the last four years, Lorenz, a plumbing instructor at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Pipestone, has been on seven week-long mission trips with Construction for Worldwide Evangelism, with the most recent being to Togo, West Africa, in February. He also owns his own business, Pipe Dreamz Plumbing and Heating.
CWE, which is based in Tampa, Fla., was started in 1991 to "serve and better enable local churches to fulfill the Great Commission mandate," according to the program's website.
A few years ago, Lorenz was a self-employed contractor. Business was doing well, and he started looking online for construction missions. That's where he found CWE.
"I wanted to do something different," Lorenz said.
CWE's projects can be for three to four weeks, but volunteers work in one-week intervals. Lorenz said you leave the United States on a Saturday, arrive at the project site area on Sunday and attend church services. From Monday-Thursday, volunteers work on the designated project.
Lorenz's first trip with CWE was to Costa Rica in October 2009 for a missionary training center building project.
"The reason I went is they needed a plumber," Lorenz said. But the man who worked on the project during the first week had already completed most of the work Lorenz was supposed to do.
Since he's done construction work in the past, Lorenz jumped in anyway, basically being a block tender, he said, mixing mud and setting up scaffolding among other tasks.
"It didn't bother me, hard work doesn't bother me," he said. He said that others told him jokingly that he probably wouldn't sign up for any other CWE trips
"I said no, I'll be back," Lorenz said.
"I went on that one and liked what I saw and kept signing up," Lorenz added.
His next trip in January 2010 was his first time to Togo, Africa. Lorenz said that while he was on his Costa Rica project, he heard a fellow volunteer talk about Togo. That project was for a Baptist hospital.
"It was different, but I liked it," he said. "It wasn't as hot as I thought it would be."
A few months later, Lorenz went to Honduras to do block work on a Bible training center in the mountains.
Lorenz started teaching at Minnesota West in 2010. At the end of his first year of teaching, he went to Nicaragua for a church project. Just a couple of months later, he traveled to Bolivia for another church project.
Last summer's mission trip to Haiti was memorable, he said.
"Haiti is an eye-opener," he said. "Haiti makes you just grateful for paved roads and clean water." He helped build a church in Haiti, adding that a lot of CWE's projects focus on churches and schools.
He returned to Togo in February to help build an aquaponics facility. Lorenz said he did plumbing and block work for the project.
"They work really hard," Lorenz said about the CWE projects. Volunteers can lay thousands of block in a four-day period, he said.
In his seven trips, Lorenz said the job site can either be within walking distance or involve an hour-and-a-half of travel. In Nicaragua, the crew had to drive through the capital, Managua, to get to the site.
Lorenz said he's worked alongside engineers, retired accountants, teachers and others during his missions.
"They go and serve and do the best they can, and the job gets done," he said.
Getting up at 5 a.m. and working until 3:30-5:30 p.m. doing labor can be tiring, Lorenz said. There is a free day on Fridays during the mission trips. Lorenz said he went ziplining in Costa Rica, visited local markets and just walked through the areas he was working.
"When I come home from that week, I'm exhausted," Lorenz said.
What keeps him coming back is the experiences he receives, along with the friendships he develops.
"It's almost addicting," he said.
"It's a good way to serve the Lord by using the skills you're given," Lorenz added.