A Civil Engineer out of Nowhere


Udo and Barbara Klemenz

For months I had been looking for an engineer to oversee the construction work in Peru—a man with international experience, who was healthy and strong, and willing to move to Peru for two years. We were also hoping to find someone who would do all this for free. Maybe there was no such person. If there was, we definitely hadn’t discovered him yet.

Two days before an important meeting with the directors of the Constructec company was scheduled to take place, I was sitting in our tiny loft apartment. Next to me at the table, attorney Klaus Schultze-Rhonhof was attempting to explain the 50 pages of “legalese”. The initial draft of the contract contained many terms that were totally incomprehensible to me as a doctor. Mr. Schultze-Rhonhof had offered to assist me with the negotiations with Constructec. All of my hope rested on him, for as “luck” would have it, Olaf Böttger fell ill that week and was unable to participate in the talks with Constructec.

“I too belong to a charitable organization,” the attorney said, pushing his notes to the side a bit. “There are about 20 of us, and we raise funds for the children of prostitutes in San Paulo, Brazil.”

Klaus Schultze-Rhonhof and I were on the same wavelength; I could feel it. His humanitarian efforts piqued my interest. Then he continued, “One of our group used to be an engineer for Philip Holzman.”

I remembered that Philip Holzman had been one of Germany’s leading construction companies before it went bankrupt. The man he was talking about must have a working knowledge of the construction business!

“May I ask his name?”

“Of course. His name is Udo Klemenz. He lives in Solms, near Wetzlar.”

“You wouldn’t happen to have his phone number, would you?”

My voice conveyed a sense of urgency. The attorney bent down and rummaged in his briefcase under the table. A few minutes passed, and it looked like he would come up empty.

“Here it is!” he cried with satisfaction and passed me a small scrap of paper.

“Would you mind if I gave Mr. Klemenz a quick call?”

“Not at all,” the attorney replied, shaking his head. “Maybe you’ll be in luck and he’ll be home.”

A deep voice answered the phone.

“Mr. Klemenz?” I asked, trying to sound friendly.

“Yes, how can I help you?”

“We are a small group of doctors and nurses who want to build a mission hospital in Peru. We are looking for a civil engineer who could supervise the work.” I knew there was no point beating around the bush so I took a deep breath and asked the boldest of questions: “Can you imagine doing the job—for nothing?”

I held my breath, waiting for his response. Truly, my request was nothing short of laughable. My words must have sounded both naïve and presumptuous.

“Yes, I could imagine doing the job,” he said. “It would be best if you could come by and discuss the matter with my wife and me in person. How about this evening?”

“That works for me!” I almost shouted, flabbergasted. I remembered my manners, thanked him politely, and promised to be there in Solms at 7 pm on the dot.

As I hung up, the attorney commented dryly, “Dr. John, you are just the man for this!” After this affirmation, we turned our attention back to the contract draft.

With a press of a button, I turned off my GPS. So this house on the hill was where the family lived. During the one hour drive from Wiesbaden, I tried to imagine what our meeting might be like. Would they be at all interested in our hospital in Peru? Full of hope, I rang the doorbell.

Udo and Barbara Klemenz were expecting me. They ushered me into their living room and helped me set up the projector and laptop. My Diospi Suyana presentation lasted about an hour. Word for word, I repeated for the 250th time Tina’s and my life story, which flowed, as always, into the evolution of our daring dream, the dream of building of a modern mission hospital in the Andes. The Klemenzes followed along in silence.

Surprisingly, it was Barbara Klemenz who spoke first. Her few sentences left me speechless. “My husband and I are committed Christians here in our local church. For the past three days, we have been wondering whether God might have a special task for us to do.” A shiver ran down my spine, and I tried to contain my excitement.

“We have prayed many times for God’s guidance,” Barbara Klemenz continued. “When you called this morning, my husband and I were sitting in the kitchen, thinking about the direction of our lives. Your call was like Divine guidance!”

The it was her husband Udo’s turn. “I worked for Philip Holzmann for 35 years, thirteen of which were in developing countries.” He cleared his throat. “I have the experience you are looking for. The timing of your call this morning seems to indicate that God wants us to go to Peru!”

The drive back to Wiesbaden took far too long. I couldn’t wait to tell Tina what had just transpired. It was obvious that God had acted in an incredible way. When Tina heard, she was so moved, she could not speak. Then she said, “We are all cogs in God’s big wheel!”

Negotiations with Constructec began as planned on February 18, and lasted four full days. Joining us at the table was Udo, who had become a cornerstone of Diospi Suyana overnight.

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