Thursday, February 27, 2014

Show Mercy Int'l Project Trip, Uganda

The Survey Crew's debut album cover (I play a mean prism pole)

Wednesday January 29th
I helped our surveyor (Sean Williams from South Carolina) all day today out on the site. It was a very hot and sunny day, and the site is very sloped, so it was a physically exhausting day – but a very fulfilling one! We got most of the survey done (thanks to Sean – he knows what he’s doing for sure!).
A completely candid shot - I had no idea my right hand was
taking this picture (sorry - there are long periods of inactivity
during a survey so 'selfies' help pass the time).
But we also enlisted the help of a few of the local guys who work for Show Mercy. Tom and Ronald helped man the rods, and David helped me at the instrument yelling out to the others since our radios weren’t working. :) After spending half the day focusing too much on our work and not on ‘being in the moment’, I finally took the time to start asking David questions. This is what I learned.
Me with David - getting a Ugandan to actually smile for a
picture is no small feat. Most of the time, they don't even
smile in their wedding photos. I could never understand
why Ugandans hated getting married so much until I learned
about the no smile for photos  'policy' in this culture.
 He’s a young man (maybe 21?) who has been with this ministry for a number of years. As a child, he had no parents, and no home. He also had no siblings (that he knows of). As young as he can remember, he merely lived on the streets. When I asked who took care of him, he said he doesn’t know – he just existed on the streets, somehow surviving. (The thought of that was incomprehensible to me – I can’t imagine not really knowing how I grew up, who took care of me, or how I even survived. Being on the streets is hard, but not even knowing or remembering how you got there? When I sit back and think about what that would be like, it bends the mind.)

Around the age of 8, David says that God rescued him. A Ugandan family noticed him and began taking care of him a bit. They also began taking him to church, and got him a small job cleaning the church in exchange for sleeping there at night. He says he soon committed his life to God, and became very involved in the church. At some point (I’m not sure how long it was), he met some of the Show Mercy people, and soon after they took him on as one of their staff members. Now, he helps out with a number of tasks on the site, maintenance, caretaking, and other tasks.
David helping out with the survey. Volunteer Sean Williams
spent a lot of time with his 3 helpers, teaching them all about
surveying. They loved every minute of it.
David is one of 25 local staff members here on the Show Mercy site whose lives have radically changed because of this ministry being here. The pride they have in this place and ministry, the hope they have for their future, and the joy and thankfulness in their heart is all I need to see to know that this ministry is doing something good here. Something very good.
Show Mercy has a public water tap just outside their gate.
It's a huge blessing to the local villagers, who no longer have
to walk several hundred meters down and back up a hill
to fetch water from a stream - not to mention that a clean
water source is a rarity in Uganda.

Some of the nearby village kids

The Dining Hall at the Show Mercy Campus. Each flag
represents a country where they've had an intern from.

The Show Mercy site is actually in the middle of the bush, but
you'd never know it on site. Such a beautifully manicured site.
The locals love just seeing it as it gives them hope and pride
that something so nice is in their say nothing of the
various outreach ministries Show Mercy does for them. They
feed the village kids a huge lunch once a week, they have an
outreach to the elderly, the nearby prison, the babies home, etc. 

The early morning fog in the valley below. Stunning.

A first peek at the master plan taking shape!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Uganda trip - Show Mercy International Primary School

Part I of VI
Mike and I with volunteer electrical engineer Eric, waiting
for the flight to Uganda at Heathrow.
On this trip, I’m going to write this blog differently. Instead of a daily journal of x’s and o’s, I’m going to try to convey things I’ve felt God spoke to me, or ways I’ve seen God working, or perhaps things I’ve learned about mission or the ministry we’re working with. Hopefully this will be a blessing!

The basics of the trip are – we have a team of 15 engineers, architects and surveyors coming to help a ministry called Show Mercy International. Show Mercy’s motto is to ‘mobilize, empower and inspire people to live on purpose’. They accomplish this through three platforms: children’s homes and programs, a medical clinic, and mission’s teams. This is the second EMI trip with Show Mercy – in 2009 we came and master planned a 25 acres site for mission’s guesthouses, children’s homes, medical clinic and staff housing. That original project is now mostly constructed and we are staying on the site, in the buildings EMI designed. It’s a great EMI success story!

For this project, we will master plan a new primary school and leadership training center on a 14-acre parcel a few hundred meters from the current site.
The current site, designed by the EMI team in 2009.

The survey team - heading out to start. The pressure is always
on the surveyor to get the site survey done as soon as possible
since the architects have to wait to see what the shape and
topography of the site are before starting the master plan.

If there were action movies about engineers, this would be
a movie poster in theaters the world over.
Monday January 27th
Riding on my umpteenth plane flight across the world to join another EMI project trip, I don’t know what to think or feel. On my first trip, I was a tangled bundle of nerves and fear, almost in shock of what I was doing. Now, 1 month shy of 8 years on from that trip, it all feels so routine, so normal.

In some ways, because I’m not full of fear, it’s hard to feel the emotion or connect the mental dots that this is something I’m doing because God called me to do it. Shouldn’t that be the case if I’m doing something for God? Shouldn’t it be scary, or hard? Of course, leaving Alisha & our life together for two weeks is very hard. In fact, I hate it really. I love our life together and really have no desire to do anything separate from her or the boys. But I will say, once I’m gone, I’ve grown to settle down quickly into my ‘trip mode’, albeit with the feeling of having half of me not there.

But nonetheless, I do believe God has called me to EMI. I know that he has led me on this path, first giving me the engineering abilities and training, and then helping me learn how to lead teams of all sorts of designers, and then giving me the opportunity to learn about the bigger picture of how he wants to use both missions and development work for his purposes. He’s brought people and circumstances into my life that have allowed me to learn about all kinds of things that relate to not just EMI, but the global effort of Christians and Christian organizations trying to help people in need around the world, help give them an opportunity where none existed, and ultimately to point them to Jesus as the one who sent us in their time of need.
Hearing the vision whilst sharing the 2.5 square feet of shade.

Taking a break - transitioning from a climate whose weather
systems are dictated by the North Atlantic and North Sea to
one dictated by Lake Victoria isn't easy. (i.e. it was hot).
So yes, I may not feel some of the same, faith-stretching pains and fears I used to feel on project trips. But, that’s a sign of the work God’s done in me, and the preparation he’s given me for whatever lies ahead in the future. Because if I know one thing about God – though he delights in our achieving things or growing to new levels, he is not interested in our achieving ‘comfort’ in this life. Contentment? Yes. But that contentment is found in relying on him, regardless of whatever new and stretching circumstances he brings our way. In other words, God never loses sight of our potential, and will always keep us growing towards it.

Schooling a little Ugandan child. If I'm honest, this is a
masterful job of shielding a clear 'shirt grab'  from the referee's
vision (with my left hand). 
It's not all fun and games on EMI trips though. There's plenty
of time for lounging around too.