Right now, Johnny Berry is thinking about how to water plants in space.

He works at NASA, coordinating communication between the scientists who design experiments and astronauts who do them. This December, Berry and his team are sending a project called XROOTS—Exposed Root On-Orbit Test System—to the International Space Station. There, circling 248 miles above Earth, the astronauts will test out new ways of watering plants in zero gravity.

NASA hopes to send humans back to the moon in the next few years and then follow that with a manned mission to Mars, laying the foundation for future Martian exploration and possibly, some day, settlement. If that happens, the astronauts will need vegetables, and Berry is working behind the scenes on that piece of the space exploration plan.

It’s all part of a long-range plan, which Berry, a 38-year-old Pentecostal from Alabama, sees as part of God’s plan.

“As I see more and more of science,” he said, “and more and more of the order that is science, I see more and more how amazing God is in my life and how he is looking at all the smallest details and making sure they’re running perfectly all at the same time.”

But though God is a God of order, that doesn’t mean providence moves in a straight line. Not in Berry’s life, anyway. He’s actually pretty surprised to find himself working at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. He didn’t go to the right school or even start out in the right major. Had things gone differently, he might have been a doctor. He could just as likely have become a preacher.

Only a few short years ago, he was a teacher.

But now Berry finds himself in a mostly secular workplace, ...

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