Monday, November 28, 2011

EMI CEO Jim Hall

Earlier this morning, our CEO here at EMI, Jim Hall, went home to be with the Lord. He was 57. Jim passed after a very brief bout with the reoccurrence of his melanoma cancer first diagnosed in his foot in Sept 2010. He had been given the all clear for just over a year, but unfortunately, the cancer returned aggressively in mid October.

Jim and his wife Nancy had flown to Florida to be with family a week ago Saturday and at that time he was doing fairly well with the help of medication (for pain). On Tuesday they had their family Thanksgiving dinner. But that night, he suffered a stroke and lost mobility on his left side. His symptoms then progressed rapidly, and his communication became less and less. By Saturday, he was no longer responsive and it was clear the end was near.
We are all in a bit of shock here that things happened so quickly – it was just earlier this month when we learned that his cancer had spread and that he’d be stepping away to battle it, and he joined our office Thanksgiving party a week and a half ago on the 18th seeming like the same old Jim.
Perhaps it’s an answer to our prayers that he didn’t suffer on and on, as he was getting more and more uncomfortable with each day. Nonetheless, it has struck us all pretty hard here at EMI as we process no longer having Jim around.

I know when someone you don’t know dies it’s hard to imagine what kind of loss it is for those close to the person, but I can tell you that Jim was a pretty special man. He led this ministry with an open hand, never grasping on to the power of his role or making anyone feel as if they were beneath him. He was a consensus builder, and as such, a very good listener – yet he was a man of deep conviction and could make good decisions quickly. He was equally comfortable meeting with leaders of different countries around the world through the years as he was hanging out in his swimsuit in Uganda with us and throwing our boys in the pool. He had a disarming nature about him that made him a friend to all who had the privilege of getting to know him.
I think what struck me most personally about Jim was how comfortable he was in most any situation. He was anyman to everyman, and was not at all challenged by someone thinking differently than him - in fact he seemed to enjoy the differences amongst people. His faith was strong, and as such he didn’t seem to have any of the typical hang-ups with this or that nuance regarding faith matters. He had a very personal and open relationship with God and expressed it in a way that was very natural and unrehearsed. In a few talks I had with him about God, he never claimed to have a full understanding of God and how He works in the world, but he trusted Him implicitly nonetheless based on how he had seen Him work in and through his own life. When he led our morning devotions in the bible, it was always done in the manner of "let's see what God has for us in His word this morning" as opposed to an instructional tone that might have placed him above those he was speaking to.
Of course I believe every one of us is a sinner that falls short of God’s standard. However, when I think of what Jesus might’ve been like here on earth I am reminded of so many of the qualities I saw in Jim. And in the same way that the disciplines must have felt abandoned and somewhat lost when Jesus left them abruptly at the height of His ministry, I think we at EMI all feel the loss of not having the time we thought we would have with Jim. Of course, EMI will go on. It is afterall God’s ministry that is not based on any one person. But even so, Jim will be a very difficult person to replace and his loss will be felt throughout our ministry for a long time.
We would appreciate your prayers here for the entire EMI family, and especially for Nancy. They both (Jim & Nancy) have been very solid in all of this, confident in the hope that lies ahead for Jim as he prepared to pass into the presence of God for eternity.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

End of Semester update

It's nearing the end of the 'semester' here at EMI (we call them semesters because we match our project seasons up roughly with the college schedule here in the US). That means projects are getting ready to finish, interns are wrapping up their time, and project leaders are ramping up for next semesters trips. Here is a summary of what's been going on at EMI as well as around the Crawford household recently...

EMI's CEO, Jim Hall
It's been a tough last few weeks for EMI. Our CEO, Jim Hall, had to step down a couple weeks ago after learning that his melanoma cancer (diagnosed in Sept 2010) had come back and spread to a number of spots and organs. We were all heartbroken to learn this news, as Jim had been given an all clear just this past August. Jim is a great leader whose relational style and steady demeanor have been a huge blessing to our organization for the past 3 years. Jim was a big factor in Alisha's and my decision to stay on with EMI after returning from Uganda. Jim is feeling pretty poorly these last few weeks because of the cancer, so please join us in praying for Jim and his wife Nancy, and all of EMI as we deal with this tough situation. They have traveled to Florida for the Thanksgiving holiday to be near family, and it's possible they may stay on to pursue doing treatment there.

Project complete
The Sierra Leone hospital assessment project report is completed, bound and in the hands of the ministry. My intern, Mike Corsetto (a UC Davis grad!), did a great job in helping get the report out the door over a month early! Mercy Ships has already expressed their gratitude for the team's work and will be presenting the report at a number of health care conferences in West Africa in the coming weeks. It could potentially be a significant new avenue for EMI as more healthcare ministries find out about us and our ability to mobilize engineers to come assess and make recommendations for the many struggling hospitals in the region.

Horn of Africa Drought and Famine
Something else that's been occupying my time the past few months has been the drought and famine in East Africa. The biggest humanitarian crisis in the world right now is the drought-induced famine going on right now in Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia, where 12 million people are being affected by a severe lack of food and water due to consecutive record-dry rainy seasons there.
I have been coordinating with some of EMI's Disaster Response partners (CRWRC and Food for the Hungry) to mobilize 5 volunteer engineers to the region to work on such projects as rainwater collection programs and water source rehabilitation. My job has been to coordinate and track our volunteers during their mobilization. Anytime there are desperate people, the situation can be volatile. Tribal rivalries fighting over water and food can get violent, and a couple of our volunteers had to be evacuated in once instance due to the breakdown in security in one area.
All EMI volunteers have now returned home for the time being, though the impact of their work is still be realized in the area as water sources are being restored to provide desperately needed supply to the people in the region.

Next project
Well, if I would have posted this last week, I would have told you about my upcoming trip to Guinea to do the next round of assessments for Mercy Ships at the two government hospitals in the capital city of Conakry. But last Thursday evening, just hours after purchasing the team's airfare, I received notice from Mercy Ships that they were having concerns about the upcoming elections in Guinea that were now being postponed until around the time our trip was scheduled in early February. So, I spent the next hour contacting the our travel agent's emergency agent and was able to cancel the tickets for a small fee. Had this change in plans not come when it did, it could have cost the team hundreds of dollars each to make the change.

So, after a lengthy discussion with the Mercy Ships off-ship program directors, we decided to change the trip back to Sierra Leone to assess the three rural hospitals scattered around the country. This trip had been scheduled for our May/June trip cycle, but we felt it was best to switch given the unrest in Guinea. So, back to Sierra Leone I go come February! I'm excited to see more of the country - especially after just having read the book "A Long Way gone", which was written by a former child soldier about his experience in the civil war there that ended in 2002. If you are at all interested in West Africa, or in learning more about the atrosity of turning children into soldiers that is happening more and more all over sub-saharan Africa, I highly recommend this book. As a warning, it's not for the faint of heart!

Home and school
Alisha and the boys are off school this week for Thanksgiving break. Soccer season just ended for the boys so we are happy to have our lives back! We have really struggled with how to push back against the culture of busy-ness back in the States. We really miss the slower lifestyle we lived in Uganda, yet we're finding it's very difficult to try to mimic that lifestyle here. Just having the boys do 1 activity makes our life seem like a rat race - we had 7 practices and 3-4 games per week, with soccer on 6 out of 7 days of the week. And that's just one activity - most of the boy's friends are doing 2+ sports at a time. Of course, it's great for the boys to play a sport, but it comes at the price of having any kind of regular family time together. We're still trying to figure that one out.
Alisha's work is going well - she's teaching 5th grade once again. She does miss the lower grades sometimes, but is content where God's placed her for the time being. With Brodie in 5th grade at the school (in a different class), it's been a real blessing having her in the position she's in. She gets to be Brodie's history teacher too.