Tom Rhodes started working with Third Lens Ministries nearly six years ago. He was introduced to Third Lens’ president Lee Carroll through a man at church. Carroll brought Rhodes on as an architect for Third Lens’ projects, and now Rhodes serves on the board of directors as the Secretary/Director of Design.
Rhodes is a principal member of Bradfield, Richards, Rhodes and Associates, an architecture firm based in Atlanta, Georgia. He has been working as an architect for nearly 35 years after attaining both his undergraduate and master’s degrees at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He also studied at the Le Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, France.
During his partnership with Third Lens, Rhodes has worked on projects in Uganda, Haiti, Cuba and other locations. He has also traveled to China and Venezuela to do mission work with his church.
Rhodes says he has learned valuable things about himself from his work with the people who live in these countries.
“I think it’s taught me to be more stubborn in a good way,” Rhodes said. “I mean, not stubborn in a negative connotation, but just stubborn, persevere. Do your best and let God take care of the rest.”
A large part of Rhodes process in completing these projects is spending time in the country where he is working. Part of this is for practical reasons, like coordinating with local builders, and another part is to really see how the organizations Third Lens is working with operate in everyday life.
“I just got to go down and see it, smell it, feel it, breathe it, talk to the locals,” Rhodes said. “And I just keep going back to this particular case in Haiti, the staff, just having conversations with them. What would you like to see, what would work for you, join sketches with this one. What about this? What about this? I recall one time I did a preliminary sketch, and I took it to the directors down there. And they very politely said this, this doesn’t really work. So, to me, the first the step is actually on the ground, seeing where it’s going to be built, looking at orientation.”
While the spiritual aspect of doing God’s work is a large part of why Rhodes is so passionate about these projects, he is also really excited about the economic and lifestyle improvements made in these communities.
“When we get down in Neply, the little kids come out and greet us and the people are very excited to see us,” Rhodes said. “They recognize that we have kind of elevated the micro economy of their village where we have people working down there, we have got general contractors, they’re working. And so it’s just one of the things, I didn’t really think about the micro economy of it, but we’re helping people to support themselves, helping people to have gainful employment, respect for themselves, but then there’s the whole spiritual aspect of it. Just knowing that what we’re doing is going to affect so many people’s lives. I think that’s what I really get out of it, too. Gonna be a lasting impact long after I’m gone.”
Rhodes hopes he can get the message out to young or potential architects and engineers that work similar to what he does with Third Lens can be extremely beneficial to their careers and give them a lot of hands on experience early on.
“I think it’s huge for potential architects or potential engineers to be able to get involved in something like this,” Rhodes said. “So so many projects in school are just really abstract. You know, they don’t actually get built but to be able to work on something that probably will come to fruition. It’s really rewarding for us to execute their dreams.”