Thursday, June 4, 2009

Exciting things are happening

I once made my living as a writer for the University of Louisville Health Sciences Center. I loved my job, because every day, I learned about a world that was new to me, that of science; I have an undergraduate degree in history, not biology or chemistry or physics. And I loved my job because I had to write clearly, engagingly, and quickly about difficult subject matter.

This Tuesday, I felt as if I were back at my old job.

I sat in on a press conference at the Jordan Valley Innovation Center in downtown Springfield, taking notes the whole time. I heard the center's director, along with President Michael Nietzel of Missouri State University, a major partner in the center, describe Jordan Valley's highly technical, sophisticated, and even secretive work.

After a luncheon, I, together with others toured the $20-plus-million facility, which is financed by public and private money.

We looked in on a defense contractor's lab and saw technicians in space-like suits, working in clean rooms, making....well, that was super secret. But whatever it was, it involved thin silicon chips about the size of one of those old 45 rpm records.

A Christian with a pacific inclination, I am uneasy about the military research being done at the center, but if it protects people and saves lives, especially civilian lives, ultimately, then I think it's a good thing, or at least not so bad a thing.

In contrast, I am utterly enthusiastic about Jordan Valley's other work. For instance, a hospital lab at the center has developed a special operating room table attachment upon which a child or infant can be positioned, supine, for cranial surgery.

This attachment is the invention of a local surgeon who was tired of improvising with pillows and sheets and decided to create just what he needed, with the help of the lab technicians. And now the attachment is being produced, marketed, and used in operating rooms.

Another physician developed a special contact lens that will make it possible for patients to see and, at the same time, receive medication administered through the lens itself.

As I toured the Jordan Valley Innovtion Center, I felt increasingly excited, for the center demonstrates what human beings can do when we think creatively and act collaboratively. We can do the impossible, or at least the improbable, when we put our intelligence, creativity, ingenuity, and will to it.

According to the speakers at the press conference, this center will position Springfield to become a major research hub in Missouri and in the midwest, spurring innovation and product development, manufacturing and marketing, and creativty in arts and design, which is also a component of the center.

And Jordan Valley will be a powerful stimulus to the growth of downtown as a center for highly educated, well-paid people to work, live, shop, relax and recreate, and, yes, worship God.

Those engineers and technicians at the center are not only physical beings, but also spiritual beings who hunger for God, who need to worship Him and who want to find their meaning and purpose in Him, although some of them may not yet realize that they are seeking God.

There are churches downtown, including my own Christ Episcopal Church, that understand that science and religion are partners in promoting the flourishing of the human family and that will eagerly welcome the people of Jordan Valley Innovation Center.

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