Word of Life Project Trip - Feb 2010
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.