OM’s pyrolysis project to transform Ukraine’s trash and hearts

By July 2, 2018

Ukraine (MNN) — Sustainable missions. For Operation Mobilization this means financially sustaining global workers within their communities. It’s also a way to provide sources of income for locals along with community development in the process, and the opportunity for workplace discipleship.

Business for Transformation

Wayne Zschech, who has been with OM since 2011 and is currently the OM field leader in Ukraine, has been putting this concept into practice over the last 15 years. First endeavors into projects which could create jobs and income for both local residents and Gospel workers started back in 2003.

Then, during the process of getting the biodiesel fuel project off the ground, by transforming used French fry oil into fuel, Ukraine had its second revolution in 2014. This led to the decline of the Ukrainian economy. There are still jobs in Ukraine, but they’re often low-paid and it is hard to make ends meet.

Biodiesel project (Photo courtesy of Operation Mobilization)

When the project came to an end, it was time to move onto the next project on the list, and that was the pyrolysis project — also referred to as the “Clean Soul-Clean City” project.

Providing a snapshot of what sustainable missions, also called “Business for Transformation” (B4T), looks like in the country, Zschech says:

“If we’re going to be involved in community development and community transformation, then we need to plug into the resources, assets — in this case, waste — that’s around in copious amounts.”

Transforming Ukraine

Zschech’s long-term vision for B4T in Ukraine includes a cradle-to-grave idea, where the business practice can be localized, but transformative. Tackling Ukraine’s waste problem provides the perfect opportunity.

“It’s an hour or so travel between my town and the capital. There’s another city in between and often I would drive past that city and there would be a truck driving past and it was just chock-a-block full of plastic waste. We, later on, discovered where they were stockpiling it… as an open landfill and it’s still there. Hundreds of thousands of tons of this plastic,” Zschech describes.

Ukraine has over 4,000 landfills, 2 waste incineration plants, and zero waste processing plants. The lack of waste management is a problem. It’s not uncommon to see trashed scattered across town or in piles to be burned in the streets.

But even in the process of dealing with the trash, there are still problems. For example, in 2014, Zschech studied and researched the process of pyrolysis. Through his research, Zschech came across numerous people who were attempting to use this process to break down car tires.

“What I saw [in] the application of them doing it was basically — I would call it a precursor to hell. Looking at this big black smoke billowing from these open fires with this big pot or something over the fire. And then you look at the workers, it’s not doing good by the workers and it’s not doing good by the environment. So, I came up with a way to avoid those particular issues,” Zschech explains.

Pyrolysis Project

Since 2014, new technology has become available to deal with the process of pyrolysis in more efficient, safe ways. It’s ecologically sound and can provide jobs as well as practical community transformation and bridges for Christ’s story to be shared.

Still, what is pyrolysis? A simple explanation is it’s the process of heating waste, with the absence of oxygen, to produce combustible gases, liquid, and solid fuel. This process even works with plastics. After his research, Zschech created the first prototype in 2015 and modified it 46 times in the first year.

Building sustainable businesses for transformation in Ukraine (Photo/caption courtesy of Operation Mobilization)

Now, the project is on the cusp of life and nearly ready to be launched as a viable business in the area. It currently has two full-time workers. All that’s left is finishing up the legalization of the business. Zschech says his Ukrainian business partner, who he’s partnered with on other projects in the past, is excited to see this project come to life. But the dream doesn’t conclude with the start of an official work day. There is also the hope of the “Clean Soul-Clean City” project being replicated abroad.

“The countries where the Gospel is spreading the fastest are the poorer countries. And they’re also the countries that have the biggest problems with waste. So, we are looking at how do we capitalize on Ukraine being like a, in the spectrum of it’s industrialized, it’s mechanized, but it’s not anywhere near as expensive as the West. And it’s not as poor as many of the other countries,” Zschech explains.

Long-Term Dream

However, replicating the work done in Ukraine has another aspect, capitalizing on the knowledge of Western Christians. Through short-term trips, Zschech hopes to help Christians discover how their gifts and talents can be used for God’s glory and help people simultaneously.

Recently Zschech had three engineering students from the United States check out OM’s pyrolysis work in Ukraine. The students had the opportunity to study the pyrolysis technology and perform experiments. It also gave OM in Ukraine the opportunity to inspire these students, too.

“They love Jesus, they love the concept of missions, but they would never have thought that they could use their training, their gifting, or their education for the Kingdom of God,” Zschech explains.

Part of Zschech’s long-term vision includes not only creating an integrated method of dealing with waste through multiple projects, but to also integrate the global Church.

“We would want it to be a training school that can bring people in from countries that we call the global south. And inspire and hopefully find a link or a fit where we could either export this technology or modify it for them so that they could actually be the ones who would be literally transforming their communities, where the evangelists and church planters would be able to be supported by the Christians on the ground in those countries,” Zschech says.

Hope Among Discouragement

Furthermore, this work brings community transformation by bringing both practical and spiritual hope, and the example of Christ lived out through lives of people like Zschech. And it’s as simple as having a good work ethic and taking time for devotionals in the workplace. In Ukraine, this is powerful. The country has faced a lot of challenges, heartaches, and many of the country people are hopeless and discouraged.

(Photo courtesy of Operation Mobilization)

“People believe that nothing good will ever happen to them because that’s what their history has told them,” Zschech says. “That’s not going to help people take initiative. It’s not going to help people grow into leaders, it’s not going to help people impact their community.”

For Zschech, enterprise is one way to apply the Gospel to people’s lives. So please, will you be a part of the heart and trash transformation that’s happening in Ukraine?

Be Prayerful, Be Active

Start by trusting God, praying, and then following where He leads. Don’t let the inspiration God has given you to fade without being given back to Him. Not sure what that inspiration is? Then take an OM short-terms trip as one way to find out.

OM has short-term options for people who want to see what’s happening in Ukraine and get involved. There are also long-term opportunities for people who want to join the team in Ukraine and elsewhere.

Learn about these opportunities here!

And please, pray for this pyrolysis project in Ukraine. Pray for the necessary people needed for this project to join, the mechanics of running a business, and all the legalities which come along with running a business.

Also, pray for Zschech as he engages with people who are discouraged or distrusting. Ask for people’s hearts to be softened to Zschech, his ministry, and ultimately transformed by God’s redemption story. And pray for the success of this new business, for Zscech and his family, and for all others involved with this project.

Want to financially support OM’s work in Ukraine?

Click here and donate to “Ukraine – Business for Transformation” account!


(Header Photo Courtesy Wikipedia)

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