EMI operates on a semester system, largely to match our intern program to the college system here in America. We have 3 semesters or trip cycles that begin in February, May and September each year.
This past week, 26 new interns and staff stayed at a local retreat center outside of Colorado Springs to go through a very intensive, 9-day orientation to EMI. Topics covered include history of EMI, future strategic planning, personality tests, culture training, testimonies, and many more topics designed to introduce incoming personnel to our organization. I teach the culture training sessions, along with two other staff members here. It's always a great week of getting to know the new people some, though it is definitely exhausting for them. We went through this orientation two weeks before we moved to Uganda, so it was a pretty stressful time of life! Still, we thoroughly enjoyed it.
In just over a week (January 31st to be exact), I depart on another project trip. I am heading back to Sierra Leone to work with Mercy Ships on a very similar hospital assessment project as I led in September. We'll be assessing three rural hospitals in Makeni, Bo and Kenema. We'll be traveling throughout the country since these towns are spread out, so it will be a very different trip from September. Also, the ship has sailed to the country of Togo (a few countries south of Sierra Leone on the West African coast) so we won't be staying on it this time - yes, that means no more Starbucks coffee! Ha!
Since the trip in September, I have read two books on the recent past of Sierra Leone. The books are 'A long way gone' about a child soldier's experience in the civil war that raged from the early 90's until 2002, and 'Blood Diamond', which is also about the war but how it closely relates to the world's diamond supply, some of the worst atrocities ever committed in modern times, and even about how Al Qaeda was buying as many diamonds as they could from the rebels in the three years leading up to 9/11 to liquidate their cash assets in anticipation of the US retaliating to the attack by freezing their bank accounts (which did happen).
Anyway, reading these books has really given me a heart and passion for the country of Sierra Leone, so I am very much looking forward to this trip. It is fascinating and tragic what happened to that country, and how interconnected the conflict in this tiny African country was with the entire world. For instance, at one point the author suggests that as much as 80% of the 'blood diamonds' from this conflict ended up on the fingers of unsuspecting American brides. The Academy Award winning film by the same name (with Leonardo DiCaprio) was based on this book. It's a gruesome and upsetting film, but if you are interested in seeing some of the country where we'll be working and traveling around and also learning a bit about the war itself, I would recommend the movie - but I will warn you that it's not at all for the faint of heart. It is very disturbing that most of the grotesque things depicted in the film actually occurred.
Anyway, as always, we would appreciate prayer for our family as being separated is always hard on each of us. I return to the U.S. on February 20 (we're in Sierra Leone from Feb. 2-13) after spending a few days in the UK on my way home, visiting the EMI-UK office and some of the staff there, as well as some of our friends from our time in Uganda.
Thank you for partnering with us in this work - we are so blessed to have a team of friends and family who stand with us, pray for us, and ultimately are no less a part of this work than we are.