Saturday, August 10, 2013

EMI and spreading the gospel

How does the work of EMI help spread the gospel?

Connecting the dots from EMI projects to meeting the physical needs of the poor in the developing world is a fairly easy line to draw. Clean water, reliable power systems and safe buildings that our projects create are all desperate needs of the poor in Africa, India and other places around the world. But understanding how the work of EMI promotes the spreading of the gospel sometimes takes a bit more effort.

A recent update I received from one of my former projects provides a great illustration how EMI’s work enhances the spread of the gospel around the world – in this case, Uganda. A few years ago, I led a team of 11 design professionals to master plan a university campus for Africa Renewal University (ARU). Since that time, ARU has taken the plans our EMI team provided and moved forward at a speed that’s uncommon amongst development organizations.

ARU started out as Gaba Bible Institute (GBI) 6 years ago with 35 students.  Within two years it had over 100 students from 7 different East African countries.  Not only was their leased facility quickly outgrown, but a roof collapse forced the students into temporary tent classrooms. Thanks to some generous donors, they were able to purchase a partially complete 23-acre campus with an immediate capacity of 350 students. After EMI’s design help, the campus is planned for 1,000 students, with a long range goal of eventually purchasing enough land to serve 4,000 students.

Joseph's Testimony

One of the adult students able to attend ARU thanks to the expansion was Joseph. ARU’s recent update tells Joseph’s story:

Joseph started his career as a politician and a preacher.  He juggled both positions, but found that he approached church and leadership more as a political dictatorship rather than out of a heart to serve.
When he joined ARU, he was already a senior pastor, but since he lacked training, he found himself simply imitating others, without any real grasp on how to study, teach or interpret the word of God.  He did not see himself as God's servant, but rather saw himself as the owner of the church. 

Through ARU, his perspective has drastically changed!  Joseph has learned that to be a good leader, he should be serving others wholeheartedly and that only God is the true owner of the church.

In Sept 2012, he took what he learned & started a new church in a Muslim community in rural Uganda.  The church has grown to over 200 members, with people from many different tribes and nations.  With the help of a leadership team, they have seen the transformation of families and the community around them.  Glory be to God!
(Story taken from ARU. Names and certain details were altered to protect ARU and its students. )

I love hearing stories like Joseph’s, because it underscores the importance of the work we do at EMI. Clearly, myself and other EMI project leaders are not regularly involved in preaching the bible or evangelizing the masses during EMI trips. The work of EMI is more strategic, using the talents and knowledge of design professionals to multiply the impact of ‘in the trench’ ministries like ARU.

I am thankful that God saw fit to create ministries like EMI, and also that He sees fit to use people like me and others in EMI to help ministries like ARU so that people like Joseph can be reached and trained to then go out and expand the mission even further. What a creative God we serve!

A look back to EMI project #5535 with Africa Renewal University:

Walking the ARU site at the beginning of the trip with ARU
missionary Jeff Atherstone (front).

The ARU campus, partially constructed as a primary school
before ARU purchased the land.

Former EMI interns Alex and Phil helping volunteer Ben Dukes
work on the site wastewater system design.

Volunteers Tom Williams, Rhett McGregor and Jonathan Collard
work on the civil and electrical designs.

Engineers - good at designing, bad at acting!

Interns Alex and Phil, taking some free time to teach a couple
of local kids the game 'Ninja'. EMI trips aren't 100% work - we
do find time to have a little fun.

The final EMI master plan for ARU, perspective view. Several
buildings have been renovated, the water and wastewater systems
partially completed, and all of the mobility ramps on the campus

Sunday, August 4, 2013

USA Update

We're halfway through our visit home to the USA (to renew our UK visas) so we though we would update you all on things...the visas, my last project, and my upcoming project trip back to Uganda...

UK Visa update

Good news on the visa front - we just found out a few days ago that our UK visas have been approved! It was an answer to prayer that they were not only approved, but the approval only took 11 days (they only guarantee an answer within 12 weeks). We had allowed 6 weeks in the USA before our return flights (a bit of a risk!), so fortunately things worked out. Now, we are all set to head back to the UK on August 27th. Now, about those driver's licenses...
A brief summary of our time in Colorado Springs, though
most of my time was spent at the EMI office and meeting with
other EMI staff people. It was a busy but great visit for us, as
we got to see a number of friends (not all though, sadly) and I
got to play in a soccer tournament with my old team! Thanks
to our dear friends the Reynolds' family for hosting us in
their home for the week. Sarah Reynolds (pictured with Alisha)
is British. Her friendship has been such a blessing to Alisha,
particularly this last year as they've texted back and forth regularly.
It's a nice British connection for us back in COS. 

Last project update

Students from the Mustard Seed Academy. Sadly, one of the
students from the school passed away recently due to an illness
that came on quite suddenly in the night. The lack of facilities
that would allow the children to board full time on a site with
constant adult supervision contributed to the child's inability to
get proper treatment in time.
The Mustard Seed Academy primary school we designed on my last trip to Uganda in February is already moving forward! The ministry has received some sizable donations and are moving forward with plans to begin construction in the Fall, still hoping to move the school from its temporary location onto the new site in time for the new school year starting in February. Also, the ministry directors were honored at a dinner with the President in Washington DC along with other recipients of the ‘Presidential Points of Light’ award. This exposure has helped them get the word out to other prospective donors, so things are looking up for the kids at Mustard Seed Academy!

Next project update

When I was a kid, I was a big Keith Green fan! For those who don’t remember Keith, he was one of the very first Christian recording artists to make it big with his music. Keith was pretty radical in his faith, always pushing people out of their comfort zones. He died in a plane crash at the age of just 28, but by that time he’d left his mark on the world, including me.

Keith's era was the 70's 'Jesus Movement', known
mostly for it's popularity with the hippies from the
60's and the large number of new Christians who
were passionate (and perhaps a tad cheesy!) in their
brand of Christianity. Case in point, this album cover
for one of Keith's albums (minus the text)! 
During his last months on earth, he was introduced to Youth With A Mission (YWAM) and instantly was touched by their passion for overseas missions. Almost overnight, Keith became an advocate for missions. I distinctly remember him saying that all Christians were called to missions, and only those specifically called to ‘stay’ shouldn’t go. As a young 7 year old, my mind instantly went to Africa and the fear of what if I was supposed to go work as a missionary in Africa someday. Scared to death at the thought, I put it out of my mind and dismissed such a preposterous idea! But growing up, whenever I heard something about YWAM, I would instantly think back to Keith’s words and wonder what it all meant. Eventually, I would find out!

Another album cover with a tad of
cheesiness was the inspiration for a
picture Alisha and I took this past year
while in the UK...
In September, I will be leading my biggest team yet of 14 engineers and architects to design a primary school for YWAM’s Uganda base. YWAM has been in operation in Uganda for 25+ years at their Hopeland Base, running clinics, women’s shelters, a nursery school, medical clinic and many other community and AIDS awareness programs. Now, in response to the local people’s request for education for their children, they have decided to build a primary school on their property. EMI completed a survey of the land this summer, just in time for our team’s master planning trip to design the school and all the necessary utility systems to support it. The trip will be from Sept 3-18.

The most impressive part of this picture is that I was actually
able to convince Alisha to participate in it!
The coming year
Though we’ve thoroughly enjoyed (and are still enjoying!) being with family and friends, we’re also looking forward to returning to the UK and the work at the EMIUK office. Our goal for the coming year is still to find additional UK staff members to come along and help keep the office growing. The major accomplishment of year one was that we have a backup plan in place now – a partnership with Serving In Mission UK to help interested UK design professionals have a path to work with the other EMI offices as staff and long term volunteers. We hope that the EMIUK office will continue on in its current form beyond next summer when we leave, but at the very least, with this partnership with SIM-UK, we have an avenue forward for people to join EMI from the UK.

Thanks so much for your prayers and support!