Project trip - Men's Training Camp

PART I (of III) – Making Cookies
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.

The top of the site, overlooking Lake Victoria. The ministry director, Jay Dangers, is in the royal blue shirt

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!).
The tents up on platforms - mine was the one in the middle.
Day 2 – Wednesday, March 11, 2009: We awoke around 6:30am to the sounds of thunder in the near distance and wind starting to blow. We just made it out of the tent after dressing and gathering our things and over to the workroom before the rains let loose. There are two existing buildings on the site – a storage room, and a house split in two, one half for Syd and his wife Andrea and the other for a work room where we would do our design work during the week. The only power was from a small generator, and the only water they have near the house is what they collect off the roof during storms and pipe into a cistern built whose concrete lid forms the back porch for the house. They treat the water to drink, and scoop buckets out of it to shower, clean laundry, and do dishes.

From below, the house where Syd and Andrea are living. The left half is where they live, the right half was our work room.
The work room also doubled as the dining room too
After a devotion time and testimonies in the morning, we decided to walk another portion of the site down to the stream and beach area. Two significant things occurred today, other than the beautiful walk through the jungle alongside the stream. First, during the morning devotions which were on Psalm 139 and how God works in our lives, Jay the ministry leader shared an example about making cookies with his young daughter. He explained that he pays for the ingredients, has purchased the house with the kitchen and stocked it with utensils, cooking bowls, measuring cups and baking pans.

Programming meeting with the ministry
He shared how he helps her pour the ingredients in the right amounts, helps her hold the bowl while she mixes it, and then guides her gently as she pushes the cookie sheet into the hot oven. Once they’re done, he carefully helps her remove the cookies, and place them on a plate. At that moment, the daughter will take the plate and run down the hall, shouting to her mom and brother that she has just made cookies for everyone!

Me with Architects Lewis and Mike, meeting with the ministry
He then explained how we are just like that – we ‘do’ something that we think is for God, seeming to forget that it is actually God who has done everything, provided the tools, the know-how, the resources, the opportunity and even orchestrated the result. And beyond that, He could have done it easier and quicker on His own without our help!

Hearing the vision as we walked the site
So why does He ‘use’ us? It’s all about relationship. He wants to spend time with us, having us get to know Him, and feeling good about spending time with Him, our father. Even as eMi on this trip, God doesn’t ‘need’ engineers and architects to carry out His will on this project. But He chooses to use us both for our relationship with Him, but also to use our work to further his will and ultimately develop His relationship with many more people in the future. I loved that example, and it was a great way to set the tone for the team for this project.

Checking out the spring on the site that feeds the stream
The second significant thing that occurred happened during our walk down on the beach. There are 200 squatters who have been living on the beach for a few years. Part of the ministry’s agreement with the land purchase is that the squatters would be relocated (and compensated) down the beach off the property. That is still being worked out, and the ministry is really trying to develop good relationships with these people so there will be no bad blood and they can hopefully minister to these people down the line. But to date, they have had little contact with these people. So, as we were walking by, this lady asked me about my Nalgene water bottle. I was surprised that she knew English, so I started talking with her. I learned that this woman named Lois was 50 years old and was the assistant pastor of the small church on the beach (the head pastor was also a lady (Florence) and she too came over and joined the conversation near the end). They had just recently started the church and were trying to get the villagers to come. Many of the villagers are fisherman and spend most of the day drunk.

Walking through the jungle on site - can you imagine these trails in a youth camp someday?!
They invited the team to church that Sunday, so I told them that we’d love to but will check our schedule (I wanted to get the ministry’s permission before I agreed to anything, but after talking with Syd it looks like we will end up going). But it was significant because that conversation could be the beginning of opening a relationship between the ministry and the village and help work to resolve some of the misconceptions we’ve heard the village has about New Hope Uganda. Hopefully it will open these people up to their new neighbors, and give New Hope some opportunities to minister to these people.

The team walking down to the beach, with the village in the background
One cool, new thing I got to try today was helping the civil engineers dam the stream to build a weir. We used the weir to try to determine how much water was flowing in the stream. After about an hour and a half of building the dam and preparing the weir, we pretty much determined that the weir was not an accurate method since we couldn't restrict the flow properly. So we found an area of the stream that was fairly uniform, measured a cross section of the stream and then timed how long it took for a small stick to travel down a predetermined distance. After dropping the stick a few times, we figured that the stream was flowing at about 850 gallons/minute (a lot!). (Sorry for the nerdy engineering story, but it was fun for a structural guy to be tromping through a stream building a dam out of rocks and mud!)
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.
Another shower under the stars and I was off to bed - I'm really liking the night showers, though the water in the bags has cooled down a lot from the day and it's pretty cool and breezy out. Fortunately, my jet lag is all over with so my nights and days are back on schedule.

Intern Ryan, Volunteer Pat, and helpers Alex & Alan - damming the stream to build the weir


terri said…
So cool, I love the "Baking cookies" analogy, that is such a good word! Brad, I love reading your perceptions and insights, I am so proud of you and your example to me of living a fully surrendered life. What an honor to be the hands and feet and brains of and for Jesus thru leading this design team. Cant wait to hear if you were able to attend that church service or not, sounds like a divine appt for beginning to bridge a relationship between New Hope and the squatters. cant wait to hear part 2. love you bro! So glad you are safe and that all went well! What an faithful God we serve!!!

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