Word of Life Project Trip - Feb 2010

Part I of III
Monday February 8, 2010:
This project trip is working with a ministry called Word of Life (WOL). WOL has been around for over 60 years and is in over 60 countries around the world. Their main focus is evangelism and discipleship for youth, primary using camps and discipleship training centers to reach kids. This will be a different project experience for me as we are only about 20 miles from our house as a crow flies. Alisha and the boys are planning to drive out to visit on Wednesday, which is also Jonah’s 7th birthday.
After a late night picking up volunteers at the airport, the team met at the office at 10am and was picked up by the ministry shortly thereafter. But instead of a 19 or 12 hour drive to the site like my last two project trips, after 40 minutes we were stepping off the mini-bus onto the small soccer field used by the primary school on site. Thomas Obunde, the WOL-Uganda director, greeted us, as did the uniformed school kids from afar as we sized up our initial impressions of the land that will occupy so much of our time and effort in the coming week. Thomas is actually Kenyan, and went to Bible College in the U.S. with his wife. He is a very engaging person and big visionary – the kind of person who you are just drawn towards.

Thomas telling the team the vision of Word of Life Uganda

Walking the site is always step 1 after hearing the vision.

Some buildings on the site are already built, and some are still in construction. The architectural team is checking out what will be the lecture hall for the Bible Institute.

This project will be a little different than my past projects in that the a portion of the site is already completed and in use. The ministry has 20 acres, and a little under half of that currently houses the ministry administration and school for 150 kids (grades K-9). In some ways, our job will be easier since we won’t have to come up with a master plan from scratch. But in other ways, tying in all the future plans for the site with the existing buildings that have been built without a master plan in mind creates a lot of challenges that could make our job much more difficult overall.

Kids at the primary school on site during recess. Most of these kids bus to and from Kampala everyday - over an hour each direction! But the school is based on the American system, and the parents all want their children prepared for university in the U.S. one day.

After a day filled with walking the site and discussing all the dreams Thomas has for the site and going through our extensive list of initial questions, we had a team time to cap off the day where everyone went around telling the story of how they decided to follow Jesus. It’s always great to hear people tell their story, and helps the team unify as well as we all get to know a bit about where everyone else is coming from.
Sleeping for the week has the men and women sleeping in separate large room (with self-contained toilets and showers!) with multiple bunk beds. They are nice but simple camp-style rooms that are perfect for housing an eMi team – it’s always nice to have flush toilets on a project trip!

After hearing the vision and walking the site, the architects try to wrap their brains around the master plan and come up with a 'zoning plan' for the different site functions.

Everyone gives their input as the team tries to narrow in on a master plan.
Tuesday February 9, 2010:
I awoke to the sound of heavy rain on the metal roof above - I love that sound! It soon gave way to cloudy and relatively cool weather - a perfect Uganda day in my book. After a morning worship and devotional time, the architects prepared their initial concept ideas to Thomas and he approved, so the master plan is off and running. We are reworking some of what they have existing to better utilize the site and allow their different ministry functions to interact appropriately. One thing I have personally stressed, in light of the Haiti disaster, is the need to stick to single story construction even at the expense of being able to handle less people and ministry function on the site. Though they were initially wanting two-story buildings, I think Thomas is agreeing that it’s better to do a good job on less than a substandard job on more.

The team runs an initial crack at the site plan by Thomas. Throughout the week, we are constantly going back and forth with Thomas to make sure that our work is in line with what the ministry is wanting.

Before I get too far into the week, I should introduce the team: me (structural engineer and team leader), Denis (long-term volunteer civil engineer in our office), Rick (volunteer architect from Wyoming), Pui Lai (said “Pearly” - volunteer architect from Hong Kong), Kelly (volunteer graphics designer), Kate (eMi staff accountant in Colorado Springs), Josh (intern architect), Rachel (intern civil engineer) and Matt (structural engineering intern). We are also joined by Eric, who is a civil engineer on staff with WOL at their headquarters in Schroon Lake, New York, along with Eric’s 13-year old daughter Brianna. Eric is acting as a liaison between the home office in New York and the project, but is a great guy to have around – I keep trying to hint to him that he belongs with eMi!
Today was spent finalizing the master plan layout, with the rest of the team somewhat waiting for more finalized information before proceeding to far. A few people did some survey work to fill in some holes in the survey provided by the ministry (the ministry had hired a local surveyor to survey the land about a year ago). Well, our survey work kind of opened a can of worms, as some inconsistencies were discovered and some of the site had been re-graded after the survey. It seemed that the more survey points there were done, the more we saw a need for further points. Also, when we went to load our new points into the existing drawing, we realized that the original survey points weren’t in the drawing. Without getting overly technical, this just means that incorporating our ‘supplemental’ work with the existing will be difficult. So, tomorrow, intern Matt and I will be heading out to do more surveying work, possibly trying to recreate some or all of the existing topographic survey! Each eMi trip presents its own challenges, so I knew coming in that the project wouldn’t be nearly as simple as it seemed…the good news is, at least I was right about something!

Volunteer civil engineer Denis, overseeing some survey work. I've now been on three trips with Denis, who was on my very first trip to Uganda back in 2006 and who now is a long term volunteer here in our office in Kampala.

Wednesday February 10, 2010:
Today is Jonah’s birthday and I am excited that Alisha and the boys are driving out to the project site! Jonah is made for project trips – he loves to be working on some kind of project, preferably outside. This will also be the first time that Alisha has been out to a project trip, so I am excited for her to see what they are like.
I ended up having to go out surveying today with intern Matt as the civil engineers needed to get working on digging holes and doing percolation tests. Things seemed to go well in the morning, but when we took a break for lunch we downloaded the points and realized that we had made an error and would need to redo our 3 hours of work. What we didn’t know was that this would be the first of several surveying problems we’d encounter over the course of the next two days.

Intern Matt, running the 'gun' while one of the local workers on site watches.
But just at lunch-time, Alisha and the boys showed up. It was so fun to have them here as being away from them is my least favorite part of eMi project trips. The boys quickly found the local school kids and began playing and exploring the property. I didn’t get to spend much time with Alisha as I was out surveying, but she got to catch up with one of our volunteers, Kelly, who returned to Uganda after being on my first trip after we moved here 2 years ago. After about 4 hours, Alisha, Brodie and Graysen headed out leaving Jonah behind to spend the night as a special treat for his birthday!

Brodie's smile hasn't yet recovered 100% after being attacked by a dog 2 months ago during our furlough, but it's slowly getting better and better.

Alisha and Jonah after opening his birthday gifts
The kite grandpa brought us over last summer was a big hit with the school children, as well as the villagers outside the compound.

Jonah and I had lots of fun that night. The team all went up to the top of the site to visit with Thomas and his family and have some ice cream. Jonah had spent the afternoon playing with Thomas’ sons Matthew and Simon, so he enjoyed going to have ice cream with his new friends. After walking back in the dark and looking at some stars, we took a shower and I put Jonah to bed. It was after 10pm so he was bushed from a very fun and full day. When I went to bed a little while later, just having him there on the next bunk made this a special night as going to bed on project trips is usually the hardest time to be away from home.

Me and Jonah


Traci Morrow said…
perfect for Jonah Jones, Mr. Project guy to get to come on one of Dad's Projects for his birthday!!!! That will be one of those birthdays he'll remember forever, mark my words. :) BRILLIANT!!!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JONAH from Aunt Ta and the Morrows!!!! You are handsome and getting SO OLD!!! :)

And Brodie's smile looks TONS better!!!!! Wow - Thank You Lord!

Love and miss your faces - fun to see them again on the blog!

XO! Love Aunt Ta! XO

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