Disaster Preparedness Program Organizer, Upbring
Major: Civil Engineering
College: Valparaiso University
ServeHere Internship: Water to Thrive
A native curiosity and interest in solving complex problems comes naturally to most engineers. Less common is the drive to orient those skills and gifts toward serving others, as Lars has demonstrated throughout his college and early post-graduate career.
A civil engineering major at Valparaiso University in Indiana, Lars was the first out-of-state student to participate in the ServeHere program. In 2015, he moved to Austin for the summer to combine his study in engineering with his love for people in an internship with Water to Thrive (W2T).
He might have been from out-of-state, but Lars fit into the ServeHere program like a true native. Like many of his ServeHere peers, he was actively connecting his leadership and vocational interests with his faith. On campus at Valparaiso, Lars led the local Engineers Without Borders chapter as the Technical Chair and focused the projects team’s efforts on the engineering work required to repair a community’s water supply system on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua. Lars also was a founding member of Brothers Reaching Out, a student-led group of Christian men fostering discipleship and service, which grew to support more than 40 active participants.
Water to Thrive was a great fit for Lars’ internship because this faith-based non-profit’s mission is to bring health, hope and water to rural villages in Ethiopia, Uganda, and Tanzania. Headquartered in Austin, Water to Thrive connects community groups in the United States with villages in Africa that need a clean and sustainable source of water. Working in this way, W2T and its partners have dug more than 700 wells that provide clean water for more than 400,000 people.
Lars’ internship project was centered on creating a Best Practices Resource Guide for well construction and maintenance — documenting how Water to Thrive holistically approached both the social and technical aspects of bringing water to rural African communities. Lars worked closely with fellow ServeHere intern Thomas Howard, a Water Resource Management major at Texas State, throughout the project. Their research work included a 10 day trip to Ethiopia where they were able to inspect numerous Water to Thrive wells and interview the project managers and community leaders who were involved in these efforts.
"I was enabled in my position with Water to Thrive to foster critical relationships abroad and to then translate best practices into a technical document and guide. ServeHere further enriched my summer as I connected with other interns and non-profit leaders, reflected on my work, and visualized how it would lead to a more long-term position."
Heading back to Valparaiso for his senior year, Lars’ experience in Austin and Ethiopia had confirmed he was really being called to lead a life of significance. For Lars, he sensed that meant being involved with something every day that he knew could deeply impact the lives of others. Having previously interned and worked for engineering service firms and construction management companies while at school, Lars was ready to make a vocational commitment to serving others upon graduation — he just needed to figure out what that would look like.
It’s not easy for an engineering major to find a job in ministry where you can use your skills and talents to glorify God. Lars was both diligent and patient in this pursuit. While some friends were quickly off to jobs in engineering service firms, Lars spent his first post-graduate summer in an unpaid ministry internship while he looked for the right role. His patience ultimately paid-off and he was awarded an AmeriCorps grant to fund his working for Upbring, a faith-based non-profit back in Austin with a great reputation. At Upbring, Lars is a community resilience-building organizer for the organization’s Disaster Response program. His mission is to develop trainings that prepare ordinary citizens to succeed in responding to and recovering from devastation caused by flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes and the like. Lars will be working with local churches and other organizations to raise up a well-trained force who can bring hope and progress to the people impacted by these types of hazards.
The transition to Austin is giving Lars the opportunity to connect with old friends and colleagues from his previous summer, while getting to know his eight new like-minded roommates living near the UT campus. He has already found a home in the Vox Veniae church, and he’s beginning to help out again at Water to Thrive. A real people-person, Lars is also seeking out opportunities to meet his neighbors by volunteering at the numerous festivals and events that contribute to the city’s bustling social scene.