Friday, March 27, 2009
Seeing it makes me miss those showers - they kind of turned into a significant moment for me in regards to the bigger picture of our time here and with eMi, as being out in nature away from the city and alone beneath the stars reminded me of where God had brought our family and how following God's plan for your life, though oftentimes difficult and illogical, can certainly lead to exciting adventures and stretch you in ways you never thought possible. It also solidified on my heart a desire to be a part of what God is doing in this world.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Day 6 – Sunday, March 15, 2009:
After a big, windy storm in the middle of the night, we had a late breakfast and headed down to church in the beach village. We arrived 15 minutes late but were greeted very warmly. When we arrived, they informed us that they wanted one of us to preach. I had warned the team of this possibility and asked one last time if anyone wanted to do it. After a long pause and a bunch of blank stares back at me, I could tell I would be given the honor.
The church was a small, one room building about 12 feet wide and 25 feet long. There were only about 12-15 people inside to begin with, so our group of 14 doubled the attendance (though as time passed another 10 people or so trickled in). I quickly identified Syd to the pastors as our leader, since up to that point they were treating me as the leader. It was important to New Hope that this introduction to the village go well since they will be neighbors with these people, and I wanted to make sure that they knew Syd was the guy. After entering, Syd and I (as the preacher) were asked to sit up front. The worship was already under way, led by the two women pastors and a couple of young men playing drums. We clapped and sang for a bit, and then went around the room one by one making introductions. After this came the collection of tithes and offerings. We had decided to not give anything ahead of time at Syd’s request to make sure they didn’t see New Hope as a cash cow; there would be plenty of opportunity in the future for New Hope to help these people. It was a bit uncomfortable as I’m sure they were hoping if not expecting a larger amount in the pot that week, but I agreed that with Syd that it was best to not give anything on the first day. After this, I was up and it was about to get interesting (not because of anything I would say).
I got up and went through some verses that walked through the gospel message. It was the same verses I had used when I spoke in the prison in Iganga nearly a year ago. They had allotted 45 minutes for me to speak, but I only took about 20. After I finished with a prayer that gave people the option to (privately) accept Christ, I sat down to mild applause and a thanks from the pastor. At that point, one of the gentlemen leading worship on the drums spoke up that he had been touched by the message. He pointed to the verse in Revelation (Chapter 3, verse 20) that struck him, where it talks of Jesus knocking on our heart’s door, not barging in but waiting for us to invite him in. He then said that it was just what had happened a few days ago when I had stopped to talk to them and they had invited us to come. Next came a very awkward moment.
Day 7 – Monday, March 16, 2009:
Presentation day! We got up, ate breakfast and went straight to work. It was amazing to see how everyone knew what they had to do and just did it. We worked right up until lunch at 1pm, and all within a very short time everyone was just done. Since I hadn’t seen anything final up to that point, I was very impressed by what was produced.
After lunch and hearing the testimonies of camp director Syd and his wife Andrea, we got the projector ready and started the presentation at just after 3pm. It went very well and the ministry was excited and thankful. After the nearly 2 hours our slideshow lasted, the ministry had a bunch of questions to work through, so we kept going until about 7:30pm. They were very appreciative and were happy with our work. Syd remarked that having a master plan for their vision was very exciting and made it all seem real finally.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Day 3 – Thursday, March 12, 2009: Once again, after sleeping very well in the tent, we were awoken around 6am to the sound of rain. This time, water started pouring directly off the rain-fly into one of the windows in our tent! Fortunately, we quickly fixed the problem so only a small puddle formed. Had we been sleeping and the window left as it was for even a few minutes, the whole tent would have been flooded.
Today was a full work day, and the team got right to work after morning devotions. The civil engineers headed out to dig bore holes and take more water samples up at the spring, the architects continued to work on the master plan, and I started working on some preliminary truss calculations for some of the roofs. Also, the graphic designer worked with the ministry on their fundraising and promotional materials, and during this time they came up with a name for the site: ‘Musana Camps’, which means ‘Light’ in Luganda. They also came up with the motto: ‘Encountering truth; Transforming lives’.
Just as we were gathering for lunch, I got to see my first deadly snake in Africa! Apparently, one of the guards was using the latrine and noticed a green Mamba inside crawling up on the roof – it was about 2 1/2 feet long and about an inch thick. He quickly got a stick and killed it. They cut off the head, and then squeezed out an undigested gecko that amazingly was still barely breathing and moving (though it soon died as the ants swarmed in to steal the snake’s kill). Anyway, apparently the mamba’s like to climb trees and fall on prey from above. Syd from New Hope quickly cut down the tree branch that was hanging over the latrine to hopefully prevent more snakes from getting in there. Not looking forward to the next time nature calls, since that’s the only toilet on the site!
After a full day’s work and another great meal, we lit a large pile of clippings and tree limbs using a little gasoline and enjoyed a bonfire. Since 4 out of the 10 people on the eMi team are from Canada, we took the chance to learn about our neighbors to the north by asking them all kinds of questions. It’s amazing how little many (most?) Americans know about Canada and Canadians. Honestly, I have always thought of them as pretty much the same as Americans, and though there are not that many differences really, I think a lot of Canadians are a little perturbed that so many Americans don’t really know anything about them or their country. So it was good to learn a little about Canada, and also to get to know these team members better in the process.
We stayed up late around the campfire, so at 11:15pm I braved the cool breeze and stuck to my nightly ritual of showering under the moon.
Day 4 – Friday, March 13, 2009: Since many of us had gone to bed late, we woke up a little later this morning – but once again a rain storm blew in just before sunrise. This time, the tent stayed totally dry thanks to a little tweaking the day before. Actually, being up on a platform and with the tent now staying dry during the downpours, I actually like sleeping in a tent in the rain (a bit of an about face for me, as in the past I have been known to pack up camp in the middle of a rainstorm and drive home several hours rather than to camp in the rain!).
After the morning devotional and a couple more testimonies, we got back to work. I love the testimony part of project trips as it really draws the team together and gives us a view into their lives. It’s amazing how on these trips adults can be so open and vulnerable with people they’ve never seen before in such a short time. It really goes a long way in building team unity.
Today was more of a ‘grind out the work’ kind of day, without much else in the way of activities. The architects worked on trying to get this enormous project down on paper, while the engineers wrapped up their data collection and are set to begin the design process tomorrow.
I’m starting to grow attached to this site, and though being with Alisha and the boys is always on my mind, at the same time being out here reminds me that I really don’t like living in the city. I think if we lived more remotely I’d feel a lot more connected to Uganda than I do living in Kampala. Two of the boys from the main New Hope Uganda site up north are spending 3 months working on this site as a part of a co-op with their schooling and they have been assisting us with all kinds of tasks and learning about engineering. Alex and Alan are their names, and they both want to be engineers someday. They are 16 years old and in level S4, which is roughly equivalent to 10th grade back home. They’ve been a lot of fun to have around. Alex was teaching me some Luganda last night, and has been keeping me posted on Manchester United highlights since he’s a fan too (he hears the daily updates on his radio). Another late night shower under the stars finished off my night, though the full moon is slowly fading and was behind some clouds on the horizon, making for a much darker night and shower.
Day 5 – Saturday, March 14, 2009: For the first time, we didn’t wake up to a rainstorm this morning. After breakfast and devotions, we got to work on the design. Also for the first time, all 10 of us were in the work room all morning as most of the data collection has been completed.
After lunch, we walked down to the beach where I had arranged for a boat to take us out on the lake for a little break from work. First, I had to go buy some ‘petrol’ for the boat (see the picture of the ‘gas station’) and then we had to wait while they repaired the boat. While we waited, the local kids from the village gathered around us and we got to play with them. I kicked a small ball around with these 2 kids for nearly an hour while we waited for the boat. It was a lot of fun. I also got to practice some of the Luganda I learned the night before. It was funny, one time I said ‘How are you?’ to an old man, and his face lit up with excitement as he started saying a bunch of things in Luganda, to which I had to reply that I only knew a little. His face immediately turned back to normal and he said, “Oh, ok” clearly disappointed. I guess that’s what I get for trying out the language!
We finally got on the pretty old, wooden boat and headed out about 2 miles to this small island, maybe 150 yards long and only about 20 yards wide with steep, rocky cliffs up about 25 feet above the beach. After a choppy ride that took over an hour, we arrived on the uninhabited island and were told by the boat drivers to be careful because crocodiles were regulars to the area around the island (now they tell us!). Within a minute of being off the boat this was confirmed as we spotted a dead, 12-inch long baby crocodile.
The ride back to the mainland was very rough. Our wooden boat (actually more like a canoe) was tossed about pretty good by the large swells in the lake. Generally the waves were around 3 feet, but a couple of them were 5 feet tall and gave our boat a pretty good teeter. At that height, the waves were taller than our heads as we sat on the bench down in the boat – a wee bit unnerving. The boat is made of 1x wood planks, attached together with 1 1/2" metal strapping. You could feel the waves bending the boards under your feet every time we hit a wave.
We were also greeted by the assistant pastor, Lois, who had an older gentlemen with her who wanted to meet me as well. They re-invited us to church, and we told her that we’d be there. We’re all looking forward to that – it should be very interesting.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
The following is my daily journal for my most recent project trip, where I led a team of 10 architects, engineers and designers out to a very remote but amazingly beautiful property on the shore of Lake Victoria to design a Youth Camp and Young Men's Training Center for New Hope Uganda. It was an amazing trip, and an amazing design team to be a part of.
Day 1 – Tuesday March 10, 2009: The ministry showed up right on time at 9am at our office to pick us up. The team had gathered and last minute packing of office supplies was finishing up. The project site, though a mere 40 miles from the eMi office on Google Earth, is 91 km by car and takes over 3 hours to travel to due to a lack of a direct route and very poor roads. We loaded our stuff on the ministry’s two Landcruisers and piled into a matatu to set out for the project. Alisha and Graysen came to see us off – saying goodbye to Alisha and the boys is never a fun part of project trips. Traffic was bad and we had a few stops for supplies on the way, so the journey took just over 4 hours. It was a hot and dusty day and though I was happy to have a window seat in the matatu, when we arrived I was covered in dust from the open window. We got our stuff unloaded into the tents we’ll be staying in - the tents are huge canvas safari tents, and the ministry had built wood platforms to set the tents on up out of the soil and rainwater runoff. We were all a little road weary, so after hearing the vision of the ministry from Jay the New Hope Uganda Director and Syd, the new camp director living on the site, we all set out to walk some of the massive 670-acre property and get some fresh air. With amazing panoramic views of the lake, open grass areas on top and dense jungle with a stream cutting through below, this was one of the most beautiful sites I’ve seen yet in Uganda. We returned around dusk, and after a delicious rice and stew dinner, a cold ‘bag shower’ in the outside shower stalls (showering under the starry African sky reminded me how unbelievable God’s plan for your life can turn out to be - I would've never thought I'd be showering out in the pitch black night in the middle of Africa...not me!), I headed to bed, sharing a 15 ft x 15 ft tent with civil engineer volunteer Chris and civil intern Ryan (there was room for another 3 people inside!).
As the first work day wrapped up, it was fun to finally be making progress towards our design after spending a good deal of time talking to the ministry about their vision. The site is huge, so the challenge for us will be to limit what we do to the most immediate needs, saving much of the future work to another eMi team. I told the ministry that their goals for the site could easily require 2 more full eMi teams to come to design those future aspects.