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Not-so-retired engineer devotes 3 decades to overseas ministry work

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Columbus resident John Boldt said retirement shouldn’t be solely about fishing and golfing. You’ve got to have an interest in something. A passion.

“I lecture people who are approaching retirement, ‘Before you retire, find a passion for something,’” the 77-year-old said. “The Lord put a passion in my heart for serving the poorest of the poor through his ministry.”

For nearly 30 years, Boldt has dedicated his time and talents to Engineering Ministries International.

It all began in 1988 when he responded to an ad in an engineering magazine seeking recruits for EMI, an association of Christian design professionals, including architects, engineers and land surveyors.

“I think there’s a little bit of Peace Corps in everybody,” Boldt said. “I’ve a little Peace Corps in me and I wanted to use my skills to serve the poor. So I made a phone call, and three weeks later I was in Haiti.”

During his first trip to Haiti, Boldt was one of a dozen engineers and surveyors brought in to design a 95-acre property intended to house a ministry center for the Florida-based Love-A-Child mission.

His first “Haitian Vacation,” as he calls it, changed his life forever.

Additional trips, comprised of five to six volunteers, only served to reinforce his belief he is doing the Lord’s work.

Since he began in 1988, Boldt has taken 35 mission trips — including 13 to Haiti — and participated in more than 29 projects.

“What this is all about is changing lives,” he said. “Taking these design professionals out of this paradise we live in to places like Haiti, you see how the rest of the world lives and how blessed we are. You come back a different person.”

After 19 years, Boldt retired from his position as storm water management director for Collier County in Naples, Fla. He and his wife, Judi, moved to Colorado Springs, Colo., to serve on the EMI staff part-time.

But moving from an elevation of seven feet above sea level to 7,000 feet proved a bit too much for the couple to adjust to, so they moved to Columbus to be near family.

For more than 20 years, the retired engineer has focused his talent on three main projects in the Haitian region of Port-Au-Prince, including helping to design a 62-acre village that contains a church, schools and more than 500 homes.

His most recent project, helping to design a 17-acre marketplace intended to employ village residents, is near completion.

“The marketplace will have 10 major buildings, including 600 vendor booths,” John Boldt said. “Individuals from the village will be given micro-loans to start a little business and create an economy.”

In 2010, the father of three traveled to Haiti to assist with rebuilding efforts following a massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 300,000 people and damaged more than 150,000 structures in the Port-Au-Prince area.

Currently, the Boldts spend their time recruiting for EMI at secular conferences across the U.S.

The idea is to let people know there is a ministry if they want to be a part of it, Judi Boldt said. And spouses of recruited engineers, architects and land surveyors are more than welcome to come along.

“When I went with John, I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Judi Boldt said. “But I ended up teaching school, washing babies and holding the survey rod and talking with the missionary’s wife.”

Judi Boldt admits she has had a love for missions since she was a little girl.

“Three things in my life have been very important since I was about 3 years old: Jesus, missions and music,” Judi Boldt said.

Very proud of her husband’s missionary work, Judi Boldt doesn’t see him slowing down anytime soon. And neither does he.

“My middle name is Never Give Up,” John Boldt said.

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