Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Greetings

Being a part of the ministry of eMi back in Colorado Springs has been both a challenging and eye-opening experience. I have to say, God knew what He was doing. The more we learn, the more excited we are about the impact eMi has on people and ministries around the world.
Last week, we had a guest speaker during our morning prayer time – a former client-ministry director from India who is visiting the US right now. She shared how the design report eMi did for her orphanage ministry 6 years ago has been a huge part of her sustaining an onslaught of persecution from the government as it has cracked down severely on Christian ministries in the past year. Because they had our project report, including a master plan with extensive plans and specific details of their plans for their site, the government has been unable to shut them down. And when the government tried to steal land from her by providing a false survey of her land that made it look much smaller, she was able to prove that it was her land due to the survey eMi had performed for her!
Also, two volunteers have just returned this past weekend from Haiti who played a critical role in helping Samaritan’s Purse's ongoing response to the growing Cholera epidemic. The press has grown bored with the story, but the problem is growing and could become another major disaster there. Our volunteer civil engineers tested the water at the Cholera Treatment Centers setup by Samaritan's Purse and verified that the waste was being properly disinfected to prevent further spread of the disease.
Unfortunately, they also found that a number of emergency water systems they tested in various locations around the country had been contaminated with e-coli. They were able to quickly respond and get the chlorination levels up to take care of the problem, but thousands of people had been drinking from these water systems thinking they were safe.
Anyway, all of this to say, sometimes it’s hard to relate exactly how far reaching the effect is that your support has, but we feel honored to be partnered together with our friends and family to do this work. We really feel blessed by our supporters, that the work we're doing is part of a small group of people who make it possible through their generosity and committment to God calling them to participate in His work. Our support team is small in size compared to most in eMi and other support-based organizations, so we feel especially close to our support team. It’s very humbling to be the ones receiving the support, but God has shown us that dependance on Him through others is a blessing despite it flying in the face of 'the American Dream' and our natural, inner desire to be independent and self-sufficient.
We love you and thank you again for being on this ministry team with us.
We pray you have a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!
Love, Brad, Alisha, Brodie, Jonah & Graysen
Santa Claus was not very happy about being caught putting stuff in the stockings.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Update - project closeout, et al

The Samfya Bible School Master Plan and project report is almost complete!

Well, the last few weeks aren’t the most glamorous part of my job here with eMi, but they are amongst the most important as we’re in the process of finalizing our design report for the Zambia trip. Between the volunteers, interns and myself, we’ve spent over 1800 hours working on this project so far, and it all comes down to these last weeks before the intern semester ends.
So, while the project trip makes for more exciting and interesting blog posts, as is the case with so many things in life, the real nuts and bolts of the work we’re doing for the ministry takes place back here in the office. We have been finalizing plans, sending things out to the volunteers and the ministry for review and comment, and now we are incorporating all of those comments and making the final changes to finish the report. We’re really excited about this project and how our design ended up, and are especially excited that the ministry will be starting construction of the first new student housing units very soon (they might already be underway).

Interns Rachel (top) and Melissa hard at work at finalizing the project report.
Other update items…
1) I have been working with some of the disaster response stuff in my new role. We have two volunteers on the ground in Haiti right now working with Samaritan’s Purse in the Cholera outbreak in Port au Prince. SP is setting up Cholera Treatment Centers and our volunteers are working to ensure safe drinking water is available and than sanitation is being handled very carefully to prevent further spread of this disease. The latest count I’ve heard is that 1700 have died in this outbreak and they fear this number could rise drastically in the coming weeks.
2) I have been recruiting for my next project trip to Uganda at the end of January. My team is just about full so I am excited and thankful that once again God has provided a great team for me to work with. It looks like there will be 9 of us on the trip this time.
3) We spent Thanksgiving with a family who is originally from Germany but lived in Uganda for 12 years before coming to Colorado Springs 6 years ago to work with Compassion International. They invited us over since we are new to town and don’t have any family. It was so nice of them and we really enjoyed our time, though we found it a little funny that our first major holiday back from Uganda was spent in much of the same way we spent our holidays in Uganda – separated from family and with new friends from another country!

Alisha and Brodie with Andrea, the nice German woman who invited us over for Thanksgiving.

Brodie and I with Wolfgang, Andrea's husband. They are really nice people and we enjoyed our evening with them.

Earlier in the day, we went to Starbucks as a family - we couldn't do that on Thanksgiving in Uganda!

Jonah & Graysen built this 'Zoo'

4) We hosted Janet Strike for a few nights this week - Janet worked with me in the East Africa office and has just moved back to the U.S. after living 5 1/2 years in Uganda. She will be working in North Carolina with Samaritan's Purse now - so given my new role with eMi's disaster relief program we should be in fairly regular contact!
5) We are coming back to the West Coast for Christmas and New Year’s. We are excited to spend some time with friends and family, though sadly we won’t make it up to Oregon so we won’t get to see everyone.
We took Janet to dinner - just like old times, except on a different continent!

After receiving over 100 packages in Uganda from family and friends back home, we decided to take our turn to send some. These are 3 of the Operation Christmas Child 'shoeboxes' we had the boys shop for and pack.

Brodie's class is 'traveling around the world' in Geography, so they decided to stop off in Uganda so Graysen could share all about his time there and bring in some Ugandan toys and things to show the class. Alisha went down for a few minutes from her class to help (and make sure Graysen got the facts right! :) )

Intern Rachel came over to babysit the other night...dressed up as a gorilla! The boys loved it!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Joining eMi's Disaster Relief team

The boys out trick-or-treating on Halloween - their first time ever trick-or-treating (it doesn't happen in Uganda)!

I have been asked by eMi to be the interim Disaster Response (DR) Coordinator while the current DR Director is on Administrative leave through the end of the year. Being fresh off the training conference in North Carolina, I feel like I have some idea of what's going on but it's definitely a new program to me with lots for me learn. I am excited to be a part of this aspect of eMi's ministry, especially because it is working closely with some other great ministries such as Samaritan's Purse, Food for the Hungry, Water Missions Int'l, and others.
So, new to this position, I received a call yesterday afternoon from Samaritan's Purse requesting a small team of water and sanitation engineers to come to Haiti this next week to help them set up a base camp for dealing with the Cholera outbreak that is on the verge of exploding into a big problem since it's now reached the capital city of Port au Prince. I was thinking this was going to be an immediate test in this new position, trying to mobilize a team to Haiti in a matter of just a few days!
But fortunately, after talking with some of our other disaster relief people within eMi, the America Latina (Costa Rica) office was already anticipating this so they had a couple of volunteers waiting in the wings for this call. I was a little glad to not have to jump into the mix right off the bat, and also glad that eMi has a solid team of people working on this. It's also really great to see all of these different Christian ministries working together, even before the catastrophe strikes. We've all seen the telethons on TV where the Hollywood stars come on and raise a bunch of money. This is of course good and it's great that they use their fame to help people in need, but what's not as fashionable to report on the news is the way that some of these Christian ministries are on the ground full-time and are ready to respond in a uniquely positioned way that allows them to have a lot of access and clout in disaster zones. This is why it's exciting to me that eMi is building partnerships with these organizations - we are now becoming a part of the on-the-ground, immediate response to disasters all over the world (in the past year, we've sent teams into Haiti, Pakistan, Peru and Indonesia to help with the disasters there).
It's certainly worth mentioning that all of you who are our supporters are becoming a part of this strategic effort as well, meeting the needs of the most needy in their greatest hour of need and by doing so gaining access to the hearts of the people to share the love of God with them. I have no idea why God chose to have us be a part of this ministry for this time, but I do know that He did so by calling some of you to be a part of it too by financially supporting us. So thank you to all of you who stand with us!
Here are some pictures of life these last few weeks:

Alisha's 5th grade teaching team dressed up as pirates for Explorer's day.

Graysen's homemade costume for Egyptian day at school.

Jonah with a teammate on his YMCA basketball team.

Graysen's playing too - we call him 'touchdown toot' since several times a game he gets the ball at one end, and runs with it (no dribbling) the entire length of the court to shoot a basket (he made 1 out of 11 shots this past game and thought he was ready for the NBA!). Brodie's playing too and I'm coaching his team.

I went with Brodie's class on a field trip to the Glen Eyre Castle here in Colorado Springs a few weeks ago.

Monday, October 25, 2010

From Oregon to North Carolina

Graysen in the Portland airport, proud to be a Ducks' fan!

This past week, for my birthday, Graysen and I flew out to Portland, Oregon to see the #1 ranked Ducks' football team play UCLA in front of a nationally televised audience. My parents picked us up from the airport and drove us to Eugene, where I went to the game with my dad while Graysen stayed back with Grammy at their RV. It was just a quick overnight trip, but we packed it in with a lot of fun and had a great trip. Most importantly, the Ducks' won big and we were loving being at ground zero of Ducks' fever!

Now this week, I will be travelling to Asheville, North Carolina to attend the eMi Volunteer Conference and Disaster Relief (DR) training seminar. Attending the conference was a last minute decision but one I am excited about. I will be learning about water purification in a disaster relief context, as well as completing a course on structural assessment of buildings after an earthquake. Beyond that, it will be a chance to meet new prospective volunteers and staff.

As you may or may not know, eMi has been developing it's disaster relief program over the past couple of years, and I am excited to receive some training to help prepare me to become involved in this work. eMi has partnered with Samaritan's Purse and Food for the Hungry in past disasters, and we are expanding relationships with other ministries who all serve to form the front lines of helping people around the world after a natural disaster has occured.

Please pray for safe travels and for the conference to be a valuable opportunity for me to learn and connect with other eMi volunteers. You can also pray for Alisha and the boys who will once again be flying solo back home while I'm gone. This is somewhat of a new direction for me within eMi so I'm excited to see how God will use this training in the future.
A few more pictures from Graysen and my trip to Oregon...

On the shuttle at the airport - I'm not sure if you can tell or not but Graysen was kind of excited for this trip!

When we landed in Portland, we had just enough time to stop by Erinne and Travis's house to see them and cousin Traci as well!

Graysen had way too much fun with Grammy in the RV!

The top ranked Ducks doing their stuff! This is a rare picture because it actually shows them at the line of scrimmage - they snap the ball so quickly from one play to the next in their no-huddle, quick snap offense, it's hard to catch them when their still! As you can see, Mom & Dad's season tickets aren't too bad! :)

It was all smiles for Dad and I on this night, as Oregon cruised to a 60-13 pasting of UCLA.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Trip Closing Time - Victoria Falls!

Part IV of IV
At the end of all eMi trips, we try to have a day or two of ‘closing time’ where we spend time together doing something fun and also have a chance to talk through and process some of what we’ve experienced on the trip. On my past trips, this has typically been an overnight at a lodge or something small like that. Other eMi trip leaders have done larger scale activities, such as 3-day safaris or other sight-seeing trips. Well, since we were going to be in the same country as one of the seven wonders of the world, I thought the team would be mad if I didn’t get us over to see Victoria Falls. Since it was around 1200 kilometers from the project site, we had to add in a couple of travel days. But when I went to purchase our airfare, the travel agent told me that we would save about $400 per person if we waited to go home the next day! So, we ended up with a four-day closing time that included two full-days of travel!

Note: In lieu of pictures in this post, I've uploaded a slideshow (with captions) of our project 'closing time' onto YouTube. Go there now by clicking this link: Closing Time Slideshow Link
...If you'd like to get the full story, read on...

Sunday 9/12
So today was the second travel day, and we got up early to head down to the bus depot to catch the bus to Livingstone. To my surprise, the bus was very nice (we had paid the extra $3 to ride the business bus!) – here is a list of some of the amenities: it had only two seats per row (on each side of the aisle) and they were nice, plush seats; it had air conditioning (unbelievable!); they handed out a small snack and a drink; and best of all, the bus stopped 3-4 times for us to use the bathroom! Each of these things differs significantly from my past bus experiences in Uganda, so it was all a big surprise to me!
The trip only lasted just under 6 hours, which was ahead of schedule so that was yet another surprise. The place where we’re staying in Livingstone is a backpackers hostel and it’s comfortable with free wifi in their lounge. In all, 1200 kilometers (about 750 miles) travelled since we left the project site in Samfya! Tomorrow we’re off to see Victoria Falls. It should be fun to see, but personally I’d rather be heading home to see Alisha and the boys! 
One thing I didn’t mention the other day about the closing meeting was that at the end, Watabu (the chairman of the board) got up to say a few words. He talked about the important need for their ministry in the rural, village areas. (If you recall, the Samfya Bible School targets pastors who either return to their rural villages or pastors who want to go church plant in rural villages. There are very few Christian workers in these villages (where Bembe is the native language) and they have little access to bibles or good bible teaching.) Anyway, Watabu explained how the Luapula province (where Samfya is) is the largest province in Zambia and there is no other bible training facility available. Consequently, it is very tough for pastors to get a good knowledge of the bible – which results in substandard teaching to the people.
In addition, the agricultural training program will give these pastors a tool to bring to the villages in some cases to help gain access for planting a church, but in all cases to improve the lives of the people. So Watabu thanked the team very graciously for our work and for helping them take their vision from thoughts and conversations into a master plan to move forward. Since they already have some money to start, the first building we designed – a housing unit for married students – will be under construction in just a few weeks!
Monday 9/13
Today was an amazing day. I love seeing ‘water’ landmarks, so seeing one of the seven wonders of the world and one of the world’s largest waterfalls was a real treat. We took a taxi in the morning out to a very nice hotel near the falls. Once there, we walked out to the back deck next to the Zambezi River to board a small, 8-man motor boat that ferried us out to Livingstone Island (an island about 100 meters long that ends at the falls). We got off the boat at the far end of the island, about 100 meters from the falls, and then walked on the Island to the falls. It’s in the low water months, so we were able to walk out right to the edge of the falls on the island (during the high water season, much of the island is submerged in rushing water). It was surreal. I knew Victoria Falls was going to be impressive, but nothing could prepare you for seeing it in person.
This is where is got a bit interesting. We were told that we could swim in a “pool by the falls”, so 8 of us had brought swim suits to swim. We walked over to the North end of the island, took off our clothes down to our swim trunks and water sandals, and then were told that we’d be swimming across to the pool location – yikes! So following the guide, we jumped in and swam across the current about 30 meters from the falls! There was a safety rope downstream about 20 meters from the falls that was there in case the current was too strong for any of us. When we reached the small rock outcropping, we walked over to the Devil’s Pool – all I can say is, wow! The guides gave us specific safety instructions, showed us where to jump, jumped in and then called us out one at a time to jump in and float over to the edge of the falls. I was second to jump. Once we were in the water and up against the think rock ledge that kept us from going over the edge, it really wasn’t as bad as it looked. Sitting up against the rock you could feel the current of water going by and over the edge, but as long as you stayed down in the water it was easy to stay there. After lots of pictures (one of the guides took one of our cameras and did all the picture taking for us), we departed the pool, swam back across the river, and had our breakfast on the island, just meters from the falls. It was quite a morning. We then ferried back to the mainland, somewhat in disbelief over what we had just done!
We hitched a ride on two of the hotel golf carts over to where the falls viewing park in Zambia was (maybe 1/2-mile from the hotel). After perusing through some shops (the vendors were much more aggressive than in Uganda), we headed out on foot to Zimbabwe to see the falls from the other side of the chasm. It was just a couple hundred yards to the border post, and then about 3 km walk to the Zimbabwe immigration building. At the beginning of that walk, we crossed over a very tall bridge over the Zambezi River flowing below in the gorge created by the falls. They have bungee jumping and swinging from the bridge, so we watch some poor lady do a tandem jump on the swing with one of the local guides – talk about crazy! Once in Zimbabwe, it was only another 100 meters or so to the national park entrance to see the falls. The view of the falls from the Zimbabwe side is much better, so we were all thankful that we’d crossed over. Seeing the amazing beauty and power of those falls made it well worth the visa fees and long walk – seeing the spot where we swam earlier in the day was a little scary though!
Tuesday 9/14
Today the team went into Botswana on a one-day safari. We actually were originally supposed to leave today, but we saved $400 each on the airfare by staying an extra day, so it worked out well. In the morning we took a boat ride to see the crocs and hippos, and in the afternoon we did a game drive seeing lots of elephants. Also, for the first time, I saw a leopard! We just caught it from behind before it disappeared into the brush. Chobe National Park, where we were, has the largest concentration of elephants in the world at over 90,000 elephants in 11,700 square kilometers. Elephants make me very nervous since they are able to flip a safari vehicle over with one little flick. But our driver did not share my sentiments, so we found ourselves very close to the elephants on a number of occasions, including once where we stopped 10 feet to the side of the one of them that turned and stared us down (we were in an open-air safari vehicle and I was sitting closest to this 10-million pound beast). I just sat there not looking at it, and thinking about how I think I am more of a fan of zoo’s than I am safari’s.
During the boat trip, I actually got to set foot in Namibia as well, since the other side of the Chobe River is Namibia. So I could say I’ve “been” there (still deciding whether it counts as a flag on my backpack or not), I asked the boat driver to pull over to the bank and let me get out for a picture! Fortunately, he found a spot with no Crocs or hippos near by, though they weren’t too far away down the bank!
I think by the end of the day we were all pretty exhausted and ready to head for home, even though that 18-hours consecutive on a plane is looming in all of our minds.
Traveling - Weds. 9/15 to Thurs 9/16
The long trip home finally came! After a brief trip to the local markets for some souvenirs to take back home, the team was picked up and taken to the airport in Livingstone to begin the trek home. Overall, the trip home took 34 hours. There’s not a whole lot to report from the plane, other than to recommend that if you ever fly to Africa, try to route through Europe where you’ll have two 8-10 hour flights instead of a single, 19 hours on a plane! Including time on the ground for boarding we were on the plane 19 hours straight from Johannesburg to Dakar, Senegal, and then on to Washington DC. Let me assure you, it was as fun as it sounds! The plane was mostly full, so that made it even more fun! Overall, it was a fairly smooth flight except for the last 2 hours or so coming into DC. I have fortunately become good friends with Bonine (motion sickness pills), so I really do well on planes now for the most part. When we landed in DC, we had to pass through immigration, then collect our bags at customs, then pass through security again before heading to the gate for our flight to Denver. So even though we had 2 hours and 40 minutes between flights, we really only had about 15 minutes at the gate before we started boarding. Oh well, I guess it’s good to get it all over with.
Flying into Denver, I could see Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs out my window – it’s funny how I was really excited to be ‘home’, but at the same time felt weird that this was home. In many ways I felt much more at home in Zambia than I do in Colorado, of course excepting the fact that Alisha and the boys were here. I am very excited to see them and can’t wait for school to be out at 3pm so they can come home. I spent 2 hours unpacking and doing my laundry so there wouldn’t be a big mess when they got home. This is my favorite part of project trips – finally seeing the 4 faces I love most!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Zambia Trip - Part III

The new Samfya Bible School Master Plan

Part III
Thursday 9/9
This morning during our devotional time we had asked Donald (the pastor from New Zealand who has been our main point of contact) to give his testimony. One of my favorite parts of eMi trips is hearing the team member’s stories. When it’s someone from another country it’s especially interesting to hear how God has impacted a life in a distant land. After his testimony, he also shared a verse with us from Colossians 3:2-4: “Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.”
It was a good reminder for me to not focus so much on the world around me, but focus on the things God would want me to focus on. I was thinking how much time I waste thinking and talking about things that really aren’t important, and how I could do a much better job of thinking about ‘the things of heaven’. I’m not even sure I know how to do that or what exactly that means, but somehow I feel like I need to spend some time figuring that out. I think this verse will become my ‘theme’ for this trip and when I get back home I need to unpack it all.
Anyway, work-wise we had another meeting this morning with the ministry and had some more fine tuning to do. On one hand, we’re making changes pretty late in the week, but on the other hand the changes we’re making will ultimately simplify the project completion process. The only drawback will be that we didn’t get as far through the design as I would have liked, so we’ll just have a little more to do once we get back home. But ultimately, the bottom line is the changes we’re making will make it much more likely that the work we do is helpful to the ministry. This is one project where we don’t have to worry about them building it – they plan to start on the first building not long after we leave and have funding for the first 3 to 5 buildings. A big pile of bricks is already on site for the first building, so that is exciting.
Problem-solving on site

Working late to finish for the presentation

Reviewing architect Gene's work while finishing up one of my favorite meals - white rice with sauce.

The couple hundred trees on the site made the survey much more difficult than it otherwise would have been. We located each and every tree so the architects could place the new buildings in such a way so as to minimize cutting down the beautiful trees.

Pounding in a control point during the survey
One other note – yesterday volunteer Gene saw a 12 foot long, green snake hanging from a tree. We aren’t sure what kind it was, but we were all about to make him sleep with the dogs because he didn’t tell any of us about it (we were all outside in a meeting with the ministry at the time, so he said he didn’t want to interrupt!). Making matters worse, he didn’t snap a picture of it! It’s Ok, we forgive you Gene. Apparently Gene sees snakes all the time back home in Florida so he didn’t think anyone would be that interested in seeing it. Also, earlier in the day, Donald had found a skin (about 5 feet long) that had been shed from a spitting cobra. He found it about 20 meters from the front entry to the guesthouse we’re staying at, right next to where we had set up the survey instrument just 2 days earlier!
Friday 9/10
Presentation day! Finally all of our work culminates into a presentation to the ministry. We finished the final touches (volunteer Robert stayed up most of the night finishing the master plan) and presented at 3pm. Overall, it went very smoothly with only a few questions and ideas from the local board. That’s good as it means we can just go to work once we’re home and don’t have to worry too much about making changes. The master plan looks really good and the ministry was very thankful for our work. It gives them both excitement and a physical way to begin fundraising – Donald is leaving the same day we are to begin a fundraising trip to South Africa, the UK and the US. And even more exciting, the first buildings will begin construction in the next few weeks!

Presenting our preliminary designs to the minstry for one last chance for input before we return home and finalize the report.

Civil Engineers Jason P. (L) and Jason C. (R) present the water and wasterwater findings.

Interns Melissa (L) and Rachel (R) explain the site survey

Volunteer Roger presents the preliminay Agricultural design, while I play Vanna White with the computer since the power went out briefly.

Architects Gene (L) and Robert review their design
That evening, we went out to dinner to celebrate and I had a very interesting conversation with Wathabu, the chairman of the board. We were talking about the difficulties of westerners coming to Africa and understanding and being accepted by the local culture. It was fascinating to hear him speak so candidly about something few Africans I’ve known have been willing to open up about. What’s interesting about Wathabu is that he gets to experience both sides of the dilemma, as his main ministry currently is to travel deep into the bush to disciple the local people in the remote villages. He said when he goes into these places, he is very much an outsider just as if he were a westerner. He said that getting to the point of the village accepting him is ry, very difficult and takes many years. Just as it is for westerners coming to Africa, it’s such a hard circle to cross into that it’s likely not the initial missionary’s generation that will be accepted, but rather his children! He spoke of how many westerners come and think they are figuring out the culture, but really it is almost impossible for them to do so even after many years of living there. He said that the differences in the two cultures run so deeply that he couldn’t even explain to me how or why things work the way they do in his culture.
The example he gave was about relationship, which is very important in the African culture. In fact, it’s everything. So much so that oftentimes minor little conflicts can shape the relationship between two families for years. He said if he were to have a small disagreement about something, even as small as mistaking a cup of water as his when the other person thought it was his. If they have a brief disagreement about it and then move on without resolving it, all relations between those two families would cease – they wouldn’t work together, spend time together, or associate in any way with them. To our culture, that seems petty and silly, but to them, it’s very important.
The conversation with Wathabu only lasted about 30 minutes, but it was a lifetime’s worth of golden nuggets, and ones that I’ll surely use when I teach the cultural training aspects at the eMi orientation for new interns and staff beginning this January.

Some of the drawings the architects produced during the week
Saturday 9/11
I was mindful today of the anniversary of 9/11, and all the lives lost in New York and Washington DC. It’s hard to imagine that was 9 years ago. So much has changed since then – particularly in air travel. I don’t think 9/11 would be possible anymore as no one in their right mind would sit passively by as terrorists flew their plane. It seems like the days of hijacking planes and holding passengers for days at a time like used to happen back in the 80’s are over. I suppose it could still happen, but I think a passenger revolt would keep it from lasting more than a few minutes. Anyway, I digress!
Today was a travel day - we got an early start at 6am. It was a very long drive (9 1/2 hours with stops) and I was really battling sleepiness the whole way. Fortunately, God watched over me and kept me awake, but I was really fighting it. It was like a form of torture really – I was so tired but was trying to will myself to be awake. But there was nothing I could do to get rid of the sleepiness – very frustrating to be so tired when you don’t want to be.

This was our view for over 9 hours today - not much change in terrain so this is pretty much what we saw the whole time.

This was one area that was different, right before we crossed the sprawling but shallow Luapula River an hour and a half out of Samfya. Those sharp, needled mounds are actually termite mounds. Much different from the mounds in other parts of Africa that I've seen. The sandy soil presumably is the reason.

The dry landscape along the road - much different from the countries that lie a bit further to the North along the equator.

Everywhere, people were burning the dry brush. We learned later that this is primarily to prevent overgrowth that would bring snakes when the rainy season comes.
We arrived at the guest house in Lusaka and for the first time in 11 days, I shaved! I have never grown my beard as long as that, so I was very happy to shave it off. I was going to try to make it the whole trip but I couldn’t stand it any longer. I snapped a few pictures – it looked terrible!

Judge for yourself...

You will probably never again see a picture of me with a mustache - this one only lasted about 3 minutes, just long enough to snap a photo. I think I look like a crooked used-car salesman! Terrible!

We had dinner in town tonight, and much to my surprise there was a Subway here! We didn’t eat there, but it was amazing to see it here since Uganda had no American chain stores whatsoever.
Volunteer Jason C. in front of the Subway in downtown Lusaka. The fact that Zambia is so close to South Africa means they have easier access to Western products. The prices at this Subway were surprisingly cheap too - about $2 for a sub.

The food we ate was really good, and then afterwards we stopped in at a grocery store to buy snacks for the bus ride tomorrow. Much to my surprise, there were a lot more American items for sale than there were in Uganda, and they weren’t exorbitantly priced as they were in Uganda. Overall, it does seem a little more developed here in Lusaka compared with Uganda, though Uganda has many more people in a much smaller area. It’s pretty clean here and the roads are very orderly. It’s weird to see the differences, even though many things are obviously the same (friendly people, the way certain things work, electricity outages and poor water quality to name a few).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Zambia Trip - Part II

The smoky skies make for beautiful sunrises at Samfya Bible School, overlooking the waters of Lake Bangweulu
The eMi team with the Samfya Bible School Board and Pastor Donald and family from the partnering church in New Zealand

Part II
Monday 9/6
We had our first devotional time this morning since all the testimonies were done. We studied Psalm 139 about how God knows us so completely, down to every action and thought, and the ramifications of that. It’s both comforting and a little scary to know that the creator of the universe knows every thought we have and has our days numbered. For me, it’s been a part of the process of letting go of fear, which plagued me for most of my life. But getting rid of that fear and placing confidence in God’s will for my life has allowed me to do things like this project trip – it wasn’t too many years ago when I wouldn’t have been caught dead flying overseas for 2 weeks.
So today, we met with the ministry leaders (four local Zambian men who comprise the majority of the Bible School Board) and Donald, the pastor from the church in New Zealand that partners with the school. We reviewed the preliminary master plan options volunteer Robert had developed in order to get their input on any changes. It went really well, and they gave some good feedback that will help us move forward.
After the meeting (around lunchtime), I went out and helped the interns survey for the rest of the day. We really started moving fast, and much to our surprise we were able to finish the bulk of the survey by dark (6:20pm here). We still have a few random points and trees here and there to pick up, but we’re pretty much done. If you would have told me on Saturday that we’d finish this survey in two full days (two half days and one full day) I wouldn't have believed it. So we were thrilled to have made such good progress. The next big hurdle to jump is to get the survey downloaded. It’s a new program we’re using and it’s fairly complicated, so we’ll see. But the rest of the group is now waiting on that, so we really need to figure it out quickly.
I spoke with Alisha (we purchased a calling card ahead of time as it’s much cheaper that way) and she has an even worse cold than I have. I feel so bad for her being home sick with the boys while I’m gone. It’s been good to talk with her each day though and keep up with what’s going on back home, though it does make me miss the four of them. I know people leave their families all the time but I just never get used to it. Someday I would love to bring Alisha on a project trip with me, and maybe the boys too when they’re a little older (one at a time!).
One other side note – the New Zealand family hosting us has fed us like kings and queens! We really aren’t toughing it one bit in the food department!
Me with Pastor Donald from Riverbend Church in New Zealand
Tuesday 9/7
It was nice to finally have a work day in the work room without having to be out in the heat surveying. We had a morning meeting with the ministry to continue hashing out a few issues. Apparently, the local leaders of the ministry made a deal with a nearby church to give them a piece of their land to build a chapel on. So, the church has been slowly building this chapel over the past few years as funds have come in – so far just the foundation and brick foundation walls are in place. Well, the chapel is located in a terrible spot, eating up probably 3 or 4 acres of space (even though it is a small building) when you factor in access and such. So we are trying to get the ministry to renegotiate with the church to move the chapel – which will likely require them to reimburse them for the work already done (probably just a couple thousand dollars, which is fairly small in the grand scheme of things). Anyway, the chapel and the location of the soccer pitch are probably the biggest remaining issues to be resolved. The biggest hurdle in resolving them has been finishing the survey drawing. We’re still trying to work out the survey kinks, so unfortunately the architects still don’t have an accurate site plan to work from. I think I’ve learned my lesson and will try to recruit a surveyor on future trips, even though interns Rachel and Melissa have done a superb job filling in!
We had dinner at one of the chapel elder’s houses tonight. It was a small house with 2 bedrooms and a living room. We all crammed into the living room and really enjoyed our time. The food was of course traditional Zambian food – white rice with a few sauces, fried chicken and fish, various greens (pumpkin leaves, cassava leaves and another spinach-like dish), some local breads and peanut sauce. We all really enjoyed the food and it was fun to be invited over to one of the local people's houses.
Me and Justin, the local church leader who invited our team over to his house for dinner.

The spread served to the team at Justin's house - way too much food!
Wednesday 9/8
One of the things about project trips that is ever-present but hard to predict is the cultural aspect of working with multiple cultures. One thing that can further complicate things is the donor side of things. Oftentimes, the ministry board is comprised of a mix of mostly local but some Western members. The donors, typically, come from the West. When it gets down to making decisions, the local board has the final authority, but donors have a lot of say too as their money is what allows the project to move forward. If the plan deviates from what the donors thought they were giving money for, the money may dry up and the ministry left with nothing. This can be a good thing - somewhat of a system of checks and balances, but it can also be a delicate situation to balance.
Often, part of our job is to bridge any gaps there might be between these two sides to make sure that the project goes forward. It’s a tricky balance and certainly has nothing to do with engineering, but it’s often one of the biggest roles we play in a project – we are consultants for the ministry and our job is to help them think through all aspects of their project. If we just show up and provide engineering and architecture, that is very often not enough to get the project moving forward. We have to provide a whole host of other services that include (but aren’t limited to) cultural context, strategic planning and fundraising direction. Many times, just being present and talking and thinking through ideas and plans with the ministry brings up these issues. It’s a good thing, and a vital part of what we can help a ministry with, but it definitely keeps us on our toes.
Me with Watabu, the chairman of the Samfya board and a very wise man. Listening and learning from him was a highlight for our team.
I mention all of this because this is the role we played today! I think things turned out Ok in the end, but there were a lot of meetings and discussions as we sifted through how our design needs to mesh with all sides involved. Fortunately, both Donald (the ministry contact from New Zealand) and Watabu (the local chairman of the board) were very helpful in explaining things to us. We can only help when we have good information, and these two guys have been great to work with. Watabu is a Zambian gentleman who is probably approaching (or at) 60. He is an amazing man. He is very soft spoken and wise, and his understanding is way beyond his actual cultural experience. He has been a critical player in our working with the local board to create a plan for moving forward with the campus. He is clear thinking and has an amazing ability to process a lot of information quickly and speak wisely and gently about how to move forward. He typically doesn’t speak directly about something to soften the delivery, but when he’s done talking you are clear on what he meant. He really is an impressive and intelligent, yet humble man. I am thankful for this chance to work beside and learn from him culturally.
At the end of the day, we had moved forward not just with our work, but in our understanding of the ministry and the project and how it needs to go forward, and how we can be the most help. We will change a few things to help bridge some gaps (maybe simplify some things and rework a few others), but overall they were very happy with the direction we’ve been heading.
At night, I had intended to go to bed early but found myself in a great conversation with intern Rachel and volunteer Robert about the nature of God and how each of us try to best understand how we as finite beings can relate to this all-powerful, infinite being. It was too good to go bed and miss, so once again I got to see the other 1 o’clock. I guess not getting enough sleep will hopefully help me battle jet lag when I return home in a week.

The 'War Room' - we only brought 3 laptops on this trip so a lot of work was done by hand