- Associated Press - Sunday, November 16, 2014

MINOT, N.D. (AP) - Eric Wanner spends his days building homes and businesses in Minot, but his heart is overseas.

In the construction industry, Wanner is a true success story, the Minot Daily News (https://bit.ly/1tZ7iCE ) reported. He started his first business, Future Builders, while still attending Minot High School. He opened a second one, Steen Construction, just a few years ago.

For most of the year, he operates those two businesses, helping meet the growing needs for new buildings in Minot.

But his true passion is overseas on mission trips he often takes with Minot’s First Assembly of God. For years, Wanner has made at least one mission trip a year, helping build churches, orphanages and drilling water wells in Mexico, Africa and even Romania.

“I’ve been involved in it for quite a while,” he said. “I started going to Mexico, and we were building with some church projects. The building thing is my avenue.”

His first trip was a mission to Mexico, where Wanner did the concrete work on a new church. While Wanner was trying to help others during that trip, he realized he was impacted greatly, as well.

“As much as you think you’re going there to help other people, they help and change you,” Wanner said. “It gives you a different perspective. I believe as a Christian, that’s what I want to do.”

Wanner said living in North Dakota, with its short construction season, gives him the opportunity to help others in the winter. While his businesses operate year-round, he makes time to give back in service to God, but also other people.

“If there’s a building project, typically I try to get myself invested as much as possible,” Wanner said. “Once you have that connection, you stay connected with others that are out in certain areas.”

While Wanner has seen a lot of the world in his mission trips, one trip stands out.

“I was in Zimbabwe for two-and-a-half weeks,” he said. “We drilled water wells and we built two churches. Being able to be there was neat. Zimbabwe is primarily a closed community. I couldn’t even get in there last year.”

Wanner explained that because of political struggles in Zimbabwe, it has closed its doors to outsiders. Even when he visited, it was unusual for people to visit the country.

Wanner said one thing that has stuck out to him is how much the Christian community is growing overseas. Even in communities like Zimbabwe, Christian churches are sprouting up.

“It’s really growing,” he said. “That’s the need for all the new churches as they grow and go into new communities. It’s unfortunate we aren’t doing the same in the U.S.”

Wanner said the one trip that touched his heart the most was visiting Romania. While in the country, he helped build an orphanage.

“Romania’s a third-world country, and these kids are abandoned,” he said. “They’re picked up off the street and given an opportunity. They have a boys home, a girls home and a day center. We stayed right in the boys home, which was pretty neat. The kids liked it because it showed we care about them.”

Wanner said living with the orphans led to a strong connection with the orphanage and the work being done in Romania. He said the personal connection will bring him back to the country to help again.

“Seeing those kids grow up on the street, seeing those kids that don’t have a home has created a connection,” he said.

Wanner said most of his mission trips are through outreach at First Assembly of God called About the Father’s Business. Kyle Johnson leads the program that reaches across the globe to help Christians in need. Wanner said mission trips are his true calling.

“I don’t feel a calling to be a missionary or a pastor, but to bring the word of God to multiple areas where they don’t hear it,” Wanner said.

Wanner said his wife is very supportive of his mission work, and he is looking at a couple of trips the church has planned this winter. On those trips, Wanner will do what he does best — use his construction skills to help Christians in other parts of the world. When he leaves, a new church, water well or something similar will be left behind to minister to people for years to come. But the person who will be impacted the most might just be Wanner himself.

“Obviously, you don’t do anything for personal gain, but you are rewarded by doing it,” he said. “When helping others, you die a little bit to yourself, but the things that can be gained are crazy. I’m just an average guy like anyone else.”


Information from: Minot Daily News, https://www.minotdailynews.com

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