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

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