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What We Do and What We Love

What We Do and What We Love

FALL/WINTER 2019    |    5.5  MINUTE  READ    |    VINCE ARCHER AND ALEX GERGLEY


“I’ve been collecting electronic gadgets since I was ten.”

Franco Mazzocca has always been an innovator. When he first got involved in 3D printing a few years ago, he didn’t go out and buy an expensive pre-built printer—he created one himself, pieced together from discarded components.

“It was made out of spare parts. It would break all the time.”

He would have nightmares about it. Originally, Franco placed the printer in his bedroom and would set it to print his designs overnight, because the complexity of 3D printing means that it can take hours to produce something only a few inches in size. But Franco struggled to fall asleep amidst the humming and clicking of the machine at the foot of his bed, and he would wake up in a sweat, worried that his printer had malfunctioned or his design had fallen apart. It didn’t help that 3D printing a prosthetic hand or arm can take up to twenty hours at a time.

“I do all the printing in a workshop now,” Franco says through a laugh, referring to a closed-in space of his back yard that functions as a work area.

Photo of Franco working on a prosthetic

And that’s a good thing, because what was once just a one-person hobby—a love for creating three-dimensional objects out of raw materials—has turned into a multi-person ministry for Franco and his small group of enthusiastic friends.

The City Christian Community project—cleverly acronymed as C3D—is where Franco’s innovation, his passion for electronics and robotics, and his love for the Lord come together. It’s where the lines between hobby, vocation, and calling are blurred.

Franco began studying the open-source technology and software surrounding 3D printing years ago through the internet. As his knowledge of it grew and his experimentation turned into expertise, he began to wonder how he could use this unique passion to do something lasting. He was inspired by other online projects involved in 3D-printed prosthetics, such as the Robohand campaign and the international organization Enabling the Future.

He saw that in Argentina, prosthetics are difficult to come by. They’re expensive, clunky, and impractical for many—especially children who can outgrow them in a few short months. Franco suddenly saw that there was a huge opportunity to empower the people in his community who were left behind.

“I thought about presenting [the idea to 3D print prosthetics] as a project for the university or approaching the government, but [the latter] only wanted my help if I aligned with a political party.” Franco eventually connected with a prosthetic group from Buenos Ares and printed one model that was based on their own proprietary designs. But, unfortunately, the child who received it was unable to use the prosthetic.

So Franco did what he does best—he innovated.

Franco reached out to the child himself, just weeks after he presented the company-designed prosthetic arm and offered a new solution. Franco designed and 3D printed him a new arm by himself, using only online resources and what he had in his own bedroom—and gave it to the child free of charge.

It fit like a charm.

“I didn’t know it, but this was the reason I got into 3D printing,” Franco says. “God called me to do these things for people. God used everything I know and everything I love.”

a photo of two boys who received prosthetics

From there, the story of what Franco had done began to spread. People in his town found out about his project and contacted him on Facebook—some who were looking for help, and some who wanted to help alongside him. A ministry opportunity had opened up—Franco saw that there were people who needed prosthetics and could benefit from his passion.

It was apparent to Franco that he needed to ramp up production. He moved the printer out of his bedroom and into a bigger area near the back of his house, began taking orders, met with children and families, and pulled others onto his team. He connected with men from a church in his community, and he came to WGM global worker Vince Archer, whom he met through his apologetics class, about possible next steps for the ministry. Vince offered to bring back materials and needed resources from the United States, and with the help of people in the local church, Franco and the newly-founded C3D team began to focus on hosting special presentation events for recipients—a time of incredible celebration and joy for the children who receive the prosthetics. During the ceremony, families, neighbors, and friends come together to celebrate something that was not thought possible.

For Franco, Vince, and the local church, it’s an incredible opportunity to witness and use the C3D ministry to spread the love of Christ.

“We want this to be a really happy day,” Franco says about the presentations. “But what could be a happier day than getting to hear the salvation message?” Vince agrees that “it’s a neat moment because you give something so big and there’s an openness that might not be there normally.”

photo showing Franco giving a high-five to a prosthetic recipient.

In total, C3D has designed and printed around eighteen prosthetics for Argentinian children and adults. In one instance, a young girl named Mary was told by doctors that it would be impossible to create a prosthetic based on her specific needs. Her family heard about C3D and drove 650 miles to reach the team, and after a quick redesign and refitting, Mary was equipped with a specialized arm—again, free of charge. C3D is accomplishing something very unique in Argentina.

“The purpose of the C3D prosthetics are for them to actually work,” Franco says. “People put off getting prosthetics until they are older, but that isn’t good because the muscles don’t develop, and people can’t train them. Our prosthetics allow them to build their ability as they grow older.”

Franco’s vision for C3D is that they be able to not only continue printing more prosthetics, but that they create resources and content to help train more prospective designers and printers. “There’s a lot of people interested in learning, but they don’t know how,” he admits.

As a partner and friend, Vince shares a similar vision. He looks to continue working alongside the local church and C3D by transforming the ministry into a life-changing opportunity for entire families and neighborhoods. “The main focus of this project is to show the love of God by meeting very specific physical needs, all while trusting God to open doors for sharing the Gospel,” Vince shares. By partnering with C3D, Vince hopes to leverage the resources and network-ing power of WGM to help raise more money, send potential volunteers, and train workers.

But for now, Franco is happy in knowing that what was once just a small hobby of his is transforming lives. “There’s something about serving God with something I love,” he says thoughtfully. “If you’re giving Him your time and your skills, it’s different than when you’re giving Him everything you love. It’s great.”

Franco’s story is a challenge to us as Christians who enjoy neat barriers—barriers between our work life, our hobbies, our passions, and our calling. As someone who isn’t a missionary or church worker by vocation, Franco has found a way to reach the lost in a way that is uniquely him.

Photo showing a prosthetic hand.

Maybe, when Christ called us to live a missional life, He also asked us to offer up both everything we do and everything we love. Maybe, because of His call, we should begin living in a way that allows them to intersect—to innovate, to create, to love.

ACTION STEPS

GO: Has God challenged you to use your passions in service for Him? Just like Franco, God can take what you love and make it an opportunity to be Christ to others. Whether you’re interested in short-term trips or long-term service, opportunities to serve in Argentina are always opening up on www.wgm.org/serve.

PRAY: Almost all the recipients of prosthetics have come from non-churchgoing families. Will you ask God to use this project to share the Gospel and the love of Christ to the unreached? Pray also that God would supply more team members and partners for C3D and that sufficient resources can be stewarded to grow this ministry. Finally, pray that God would guide Franco as he attempts to scale his workload and manage the C3D team.

GIVE: Although 3D-printing technology continues to improve, resources and materials are expensive and hard to come by, especially in Argentina. The C3D team is looking for funds to purchase more raw materials, more printers, and for the money to create training resources. If you feel led, you can give to help WGM come alongside and encourage this C3D project in Argentina at www.wgm.org/c3d.

The Call (Fall/Winter 2019)

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