In his role as president of 1MISSION, Greg Yochim divides his time between the field and the office. When he’s not serving alongside local families on job sites, you might find him putting his engineering mind to use, solving problems behind a desk. Needless to say, he wears a bunch of hats. Greg is also chock-full of adventurous stories. If you ever run into him, ask him about his crazy, awesome life!
In this Q&A, Greg tells us how he first got involved with 1MISSION, what energizes him every day, and shares a story about an encounter with a mama bear.
Your first experience with 1MISSION was a little different than most. What was it like building the third 1MISSION house of all time?
My first trip was in November 2008, the year 1MISSION began. My wife Mirla and I coordinated and led that trip with about 50 people from our church at the time. (Actually, let’s be honest: Mirla did most of the work to coordinate and lead our group.) The house we worked on was for a single mom with seven kids. We really didn’t know what we were doing, but the house turned out great, and it’s still there – so we must have done something right!
We weren’t able to finish the house in three days as we’d hoped. So rather than leaving the house unfinished, we stayed an extra day to complete it with our kids and my mom, who came all the way from Canada for that trip. We worked with a couple of local guys as well as Dustin and Brittany Patrick, a young couple who had moved to Mexico to help establish 1MISSION’s community and housing projects there. It was that extra day with Dustin and Brittany that led us to get fully involved with 1MISSION, volunteering on almost every trip after that.
Image: Greg and Merle Yochim taking a rare break on a build site in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico.
Awesome! Once you got involved, what was it like to lead some of the first build trips?
The first trips were a learning experience. Not just learning about building the houses, but also what it’s like for families living in extreme poverty, and most importantly, the best responses to make the greatest change in the lives of people.
What energizes you about your job?
I’m energized by my experiences in the community, meeting the families, hearing their stories, and then seeing them grow as they serve their community. I love seeing dignity restored to their lives as they discover their gifts, talents, and passions – and how those can be used to make a difference in their community and the lives of those living there.
Every day I spend in the communities, I learn something that I either didn’t know before, or something that I had misunderstood. Hearing real-life stories and getting to know the people who experienced them is life-changing because it changes your worldview.
Image: Greg Yochim participating in 1MISSION’s Bikes Fight Poverty event in February 2020.
Image: Greg Yochim on a build site with Pedro Tapia, 1MISSION’s country director in Mexico.
Switching the subject a bit, you grew up in Canada and used to survey land. Did you ever run into bears?
I spent 15 of the first 17 years of my adult life working across the province of Alberta on oil and gas projects in some of the most remote locations. We were outside in all types of conditions, including working outside all day even when the temperature was 40 below zero.
We saw lots of wildlife from squirrels to moose, but the bears were also pretty plentiful. Some days we might see up to 20 black bears on a single day. It can be pretty tense when you are walking through the forest with nothing to protect yourself but your wits.
But I wasn’t really afraid of bears because one time when I was about 14, my younger brother and I were camping on my aunt’s farm. A mother bear with two cubs tore her way into our tent in the middle of the night and stepped inside with us. Her nose was about 6 inches from my face, but I spoke calmly, and she backed out of the tent. That seemed decent on her part, so I always gave black bears respect and the benefit of the doubt.
Image: Greg Yochim in his former career working on oil and gas projects throughout Alberta, Canada.
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