Sunday, August 29, 2010

Heading out to Zambia

On Wednesday morning around 8:30am, myself and two interns from the Colorado Springs office will board a plane out of Denver Int'l Airport bound for Zambia. We pass through Washington DC where we'll meet up with our full team of 10, and then a 17 1/2 hour flight will land us all in Johannesburg, South Africa before the final 2-hour flight to Lusaka, Zambia. From there, after spending the night we'll drive the final 8-hours to Samfya. We'll return to the US on September 16th, landing back in Denver around 10:30am.
Please pray for: our team's travel to be safe (and no motion sickness for me! :) ), the flight out of DC to not be impacted by either Hurricane Danielle or Earl, our design to be a blessing to the ministry, the lives of all 10 of us team members to be changed, for God to use us as He sees fit to accomplish the work He's doing at the Samfya Bible School. Please also pray for Alisha and the boys back home, especially Alisha as she continues to figure out how to be a working mom with kids in school. (Teaching is going really well, as is my job at eMi, but we're just trying to figure out how to balance our lives as working parents back at the frenetic pace of life in the USA!).
If you want to check out where the project will be, the Google Earth coordinates are: 11d22'00.81" S, 29d33'29.66" E. Here is the Google Earth shot of the site, with the approximate site boundary shown in red:

The Samfya Bible School site, enclosed by the red property line

Sunday, August 15, 2010

eMi Disaster Relief

One of the things I'm really excited about in being at the eMi headquarters is possibly getting involved with our disaster relief program. For the past couple of years, we have been partnering with other aid organizations such as Samaritan's Purse and Food for the Hungry. How it works is, very soon after a disaster one of these organizations will call eMi and let us know that they may have need for our help. Our DR coordinator, Scott, will then begin recruiting for whatever techincal needs the ministry has. Once eMi receives word that the trip is a go, the team of volunteers is mobilized and travels to whereever the disaster is to either scope out what needs to be done, or to actually meet a techincal need.
The week we arrived, I was asked by Scott to join at the last minute on one of these DR trips that was going out to Haiti. They needed one more structural engineer to fill the team that was going down to evaluate 360 houses to let the owners know whether or not they were safe to occupy. Alisha and I prayed about it and felt it wasn't the right timing, as it would have had me gone from July 16-Aug 3 - right in the middle of moving into our house! Well, as it turns out, it was really God's will as the guy who ended up going in my place was a young architect and former eMi intern. While they were there, Samaritan's Purse contacted Scott and asked for some help on designing some multi-use facilities that they could use for a number of projects in the next few years. Since they had an architect on the team, Scott was able to tell them yes and this former intern proceeded to spend his nights (after spending the whole day doing the building evaluations) working up drawings for the project! Seeing Scott give his post-trip report this past Friday made me a little bummed that I wasn't able to be a part of the work they'd done, but also really glad that this other guy had gone instead!
Up next for the DR program, we are sending a two-man scouting team with Food for the Hungry to Pakistan to evaluate what all is needed there. The flooding that has occurred over the past couple of weeks is not getting the attention it deserves. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said he has 'never seen anything like it and was urged foreign aid to come to the assistance of the 20 million people affected by the floods. Here's a picture and caption of the desparation in Pakistan right now that I saw on MSNBC's website:

Marooned flood victims looking to escape try to grab onto a hovering military helicopter that arrived to distribute food supplies in Pakistan last week.

One cool thing from last week - I received an email from a former eMi volunteer who is working with an aid group down in Haiti trying to rebuild houses. He was asking for an eMi structural engineer to review a new design for a foundation they had created to lift the houses up above the flood plain there. I said I would take a look, so he sent me their preliminary designs. I reviewed them and marked them up with some suggestions and options that I thought would work best, and then emailed the drawings back. Well, about a week later, I received this email from the guy on the ground down in Haiti:

My name is xxxxx. I am working on the ground in Haiti building the foundations that you advised for xxxxx. I want to thank you for all of your input! It has been really helpful and as a result of it we are piloting a new foundation tomorrow that is much better than our previous foundation! Have a great day and may God bless you!"

The stories out of Haiti are heart-breaking, so it's good to know that people are on the ground down there trying to help. We at eMi are excited that more and more organizations are learning about eMi and using us when they need some technical help.

Some pictures from our recent family hike at Dome Rock State Wildlife Refuge about 45 minutes from Colorado Springs:

The boys and I mid-way through the 6-mile round trip hike

The trail, looking back. The Rockies are an interesting mix of rock and trees, very pretty. But also thin air - this hike was at 9000 ft.

This little creek was by our side the whole hike - lots of rain here recently so all the streams and rivers are a bit swollen for this time of year. We've had major thunderstorms for the last few weeks - including one that caught us while we were on the freeway and with the heavy rain and hail and 80mph winds, we could barely see and traffic was slowed to 5 mph!

The boys did really well on the hike, though Graysen needed a little carrying for parts on the way back to the car!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Colorado Update!

Well, we are here and finally moved into a house. It’s been a long process with lots of twists and turns, but we’ve finally landed. I’ll get to it and try to tell you as much about the last 3 crazy weeks as possible. A list will help:

The Journey
It took us about 19 hours spread over two days. We drove from Klamath Falls to Salt Lake City the first day (about 630 miles) and then Salt Lake to Colorado Springs the next day (via Grand Junction and the Rocky mountains – about 600 miles). The trip was surprisingly easy and we’ve even talked of trying to do it in one day straight next time.

We thought we had a house picked out, but when we got here the house was not at all what we thought and was way too small for our stuff (and the rent price didn’t reflect the size!). So, we called a realtor named Steve Kenney here in town on a recommendation from eMi and Steve was a godsend. He cleared his schedule and took us around town the very next day and by days end we had found a house that would work well for our family. The catch – it wasn’t available for another two weeks! So Steve made some calls and found us a place to stay for the next week. I should mention here that Alisha’s parents flew into town the day we arrived, intending to help us get settled. So this very nice couple named Laurel and Fred Beck took all 7 of us into their home and let us stay with them. They offered to house us the full two weeks, but we didn’t want to wear out our welcome. So, we moved into the Residence Inn and split a one bedroom suite – 7 people with 1 bed and 1 bathroom was not ideal!

Alisha’s work
The Monday after moving into the hotel, Alisha started a two-week long college course required by her new job. On that day, she met with the principal who asked her if she would be willing to teach 5th grade full time right from the beginning of the year! Coupled with the huge amount of work the class was, Alisha was overwhelmed to say the least! (If you didn’t know, she was supposed to teach 2nd grade part-time until November, before moving over to the full time 5th grade position.) After much thought and talk, we felt like God had brought this her way and that she should accept – even though it was a huge increase in stress! To make matters a bit more challenging, the college class had 3-5 hours of homework the first few nights, so by the end of that first week she had just about hit her limit (on Friday morning of that week, the moving truck showed up with our stuff so she wasn’t able to be there when the truck was unloaded.)

Moving in
We took possession of the rental house on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning at 9am the moving truck arrived with our stuff. By 1pm, the place was full of boxes and ‘stuff’ that we hadn’t seen in two and half years. It was very surreal. The movers would ask us where something went, and even after they unwrapped it from the packing sometimes we had no idea what it was! But over the next 2 days and nights, we stayed up until after 2am unpacking and arranging. Seeing how much ‘stuff’ we had after living fairly simply over the past two years gave us a heightened motivation to purge, so we started a rapidly growing pile of stuff that’s going to either be sold or given away. But come Monday morning when I was ready to start work and Alisha was set to return to her class, we had 98% of the boxes opened and unpacked and most rooms in the house set up.

Brad’s job
I started work in the office this past Monday, though I have been working remotely for sometime now preparing for my project trip to Zambia departing September 1st. I am really excited that I have a full team for the trip, and in fact, on my first day in the office I purchased 10 plane tickets for my team’s travel! We’re designing a new campus for an existing bible school that has been in operation for a few decades. Their buildings are beyond the point of repair, and their partnering church in New Zealand is going to help them tear down their existing buildings and rebuild a new campus. I’ll be writing more about that trip of course when it happens! But the team is two architects, two civil engineers, an agricultural engineer, an electrical engineer and his wife, two eMi interns and myself. I’ve had two of the volunteers on previous trips and one of the interns was an intern in Uganda this past winter so I’m excited to be working with a few familiar faces.

The boys
The boys are adjusting well to their new hometown. We have taken them to a few of the touristy places in town to help them get acquainted a bit. They are so used to new places now that I think in some ways they are citizens of the road! It has been nice to be in a place where food for Brodie’s special diet is so easy to find in a grocery store, though we’ve noticed (surprisingly) that it’s more difficult to eat out here for him. I think the difference is, in Uganda, a chef at even a modest restaurant views his/her job as a career, so the challenge of being able to make food for anyone who comes in is something they take very seriously. Here, it seems that most places we eat at (which admittedly aren’t 4-star restaurants!) are more interested in sticking to their normal menu and the efficiency of mass production. That’s just my hunch of what’s going on, but it could just be the culture too, since Ugandans want to please people (especially guests to their country) whenever possible so they will go to great lengths, even at a high personal cost to themselves, to make you happy.
But back to the boys, they are looking forward to starting their new school on August 19th, and meeting new friends. We have been warning them that soccer is not as popular here as it is in Africa, so they may not be able to play it at every recess, every day!

What’s next
1) The boys start school (and Alisha starts teaching) August 19th.
2) Brad’s project trip goes out September 1st.
3) New intern orientation the week of August 15th-23rd (Brad will be training to lead the discussion on culture (two nights, from 5pm to 11pm) as the current intern coordinator is leaving).
4) Alisha’s parents just left and Brad’s parents just arrived to help with childcare before school starts. Thank you grandparents - these few weeks would not have been possible without them.
5) Getting fully unpacked and settled and purging as much ‘stuff’ as possible!
6) Alisha's class ends Monday - it has really stretched her to the limit with all that's going on in our lives. She'll then have a week and a half to figure out how to teach 5th grade, which is an all new grade for her. Needless to say, she could use prayer right now as she's going through a pretty rough period. I think once school starts, she'll feel better because the boys will be at the school with her and the looming task of learning a new grade level will be underway.

(Sorry there are no pictures this time, in moving around we lost our camera charger so we can't turn it on at the moment!).