Archive for November 1st, 2011

November 1, 2011

A new endeavor

Greetings from Italy!  You may not know what I’ve been up to and it is about time for an update!  I am currently studying in Rome, Italy for four months as a part of my undergraduate degree program in architecture at the University of Waterloo.  I am now in my fourth year (almost done!) and have been living the life of a nomad jumping from city to city to pursue studies and complete co-operative work terms.  Studying architecture and traveling to different places has only increased my awe in the Creator and I have grown in a deeper relationship with Him.  These past four years have been spiritually challenging ones as there are very few Christians at my school.  God is still active however and I believe he is opening the hearts of the people I meet.  God has blessed me in this season of my life by putting a few amazing, God-loving people in my path no matter where I have been!  God has placed in me a passion for architecture, but I know that His purpose for me is not to apply my trade in a typical way.  I came across an organization called ‘Engineering Ministries International’ (EMI) when I was searching and praying for a way to use my skills in this earthly kingdom to give people glimpses of the Kingdom of God.  I don’t know yet where God wants me for the long term, but I believe that he is giving me an opportunity to do missions as an important stepping stone of learning and spiritual growth.
I have been accepted as an intern at EMI and will serve at their office in Kampala, Uganda from January until April of 2012.  Engineering Ministries International is a non-profit organization that designs projects in the developing world to help the poor and spread the good news of Christ.  They have offices located in the USA, Canada, India, Costa Rica, the Middle East, UK, and Uganda and have worked on over 900 projects in almost 90 countries, designing desperately needed facilities such as hospitals, orphanages, churches, schools, and water systems.  As an intern I will assist professionally licensed engineers and architects in their design process and will have the opportunity to get involved in the local community in Kampala.  I want to serve at EMI because I know that God can work wonders in this world through those who put their lives in His hands.  I believe that I can be an invaluable member to the EMI team and can use my skills to improve the lives of people in need while at the same time living loud the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As a student, my finances have always been tight, and I have never before considered the possibility of doing missions.  I believe that God wants me on this trip, however, and I know that in following His will everything is possible, even fundraising while currently abroad!  The amount that I need to raise to cover my expenses is $6500 before the end of December.  I ask you to please consider being a part of the team of believers that will take part and play an important role in this ministry through financial support and above all through PRAYER.  Please pray for the preparation process to go smoothly, pray for the people in East Africa and the people from this and many other organizations who are working to serve them; pray that the Holy Spirit will fill me and make me a bold witness for Christ that I may be a shining light both through my work and my everyday encounters.  Pray that the work that I am involved with be physically successful in bringing hope to the lives of people in East Africa.  If you would like to contribute financially please fill out the attached response card and return it to EMI by December 20th.  You can also donate online at where you can give under my name.  All donations are tax deductible.

Thank you very much for your time and your prayers.  If you are interested in following my work in Uganda or even just catching up, please send me an e-mail at  I will also be posting updates on my blog at where you can also follow some of my current adventures in Italy.   I look forward to sharing with you and including you in this incredible journey that God is leading me on.

Trusting in Him,

Elisabeth van Overbeeke

November 1, 2011

The Roman villa

One interesting architectural phenomenon in Italy is the Villa.  Our class had the privilege of visiting several different villas in the first month of our stay in Rome.  Having worked in a greenhouse half my life and having parents who are amazing gardeners, I can appreciate the impact that vegetation can have on a space.

That didn’t even prepare me for the gardens of these villas.  What beauty in symmetry and iconography!  What a sinuous flow between architecture and nature!  What control and precision of something as difficult to command as water!

The Villa D’Este in Tivoli

What struck me most about this villa was the loggia (the gallery at the back of the house facing the gardens), and the passage through the gardens.  The villa was high up on a hill and the garden went down in stepped terraces from the back loggia eventually leading to a gate connecting to the street.  From the loggia one can see a sweeping view of the gardens and the horizon beyond.  The paths through the garden are juxtaposed and designed in such a way to give very specific character and views to each area.  There are areas where one gets a straight view but no access, areas where there is a straight view and direct access, there are private cloisters where all one sees is a huge central fountain embedded in a wall, areas where paths wander, areas of sweeping traversal views, and the list goes on.  The amount of water used in the gardens is also astounding.  It is literally present in every corner of the garden and is constantly moving.  To  supply the fountains water was diverted from the ‘Aniene’ river about a kilometer away, brought into a cistern beneath the courtyard and channeled through what must be a very complex hydrological system to each and every fountain.

The Villa Farnese in Caprarola

In the case of this Villa it was the building more than the gardens that drew me in.  The original structure of the building was constructed to be a fortified castle and for that reason the plan became pentagonal in shape.  When the role of the building changed from a fortification into that of a villa, the architect Vignola masterfully followed the shape of the old foundations.  The movement through the rooms of the villa is like poetry.  We began in the summer apartments whose walls and ceilings portrayed paintings of significant events of the time and activities of the Farnese family, and moved to the winter apartments which portrayed religious scenes and geography.  A separate summer and winter garden serve each wing connected by drawbridges, and a beautifully proportioned circular courtyard lies at the center of the plan.  There was outside the main villa a series of outer gardens that lead to a small summer house or ‘casino’.

The Villa Lante in Bagnaia

The Villa Lante was all about the garden.  The villa itself was even split in two ‘casinos’ or ‘houses’ with the garden traversing between them.  This garden was all about a path of water that flowed from one end of the site to the other, often the water physically being channeled from one fountain to the next.  I found myself tracing the connections and details between each one.  There was such a beautiful play with the water and each fountain almost represented a different quality of water by the way it was handled.  Some fountains fanned it, some shot it straight up, some surprised the passer-by and got them wet, some were almost perfectly still, some channeled it and showed its speed and power.  Then at the vary bottom of the hill the water terminated at a majestic fountain and pool that stood directly below the villa in front of the main gate.  What a flaunting of prestige this must have been!

I will never quite look at a garden, a hedge, or a pool of water in the same way.

November 1, 2011

The sounds of Roma

Rome is filled with so many interesting and wonderful sounds!  The first sound in the morning is the opening of shop fronts, a nasty, gritty sliding sound that signals a new day.  Next comes the roaring of trucks coming to stock up the nearby shops and restaurants with goods.  Unknown birds cluck mechanically in the distance (we are still trying to find out what kind of birds they are).  Next comes the loud chorus of the street cleaners – a load brushing, roaring, and spraying sound.  At quarter to seven the bells of a nearby church begin to ring and go on for several minutes.  The day begins early.

During the day the sounds are more typical of any city.  There is the sound of (Italian) chatter, of cars passing, an occasional dog barking, and the calls to-and-fro of daily business.  The sound of an occasional (foreign) street musician can sometimes be heard, or the whirring of some toy that a street vendor is trying to sell.  Dusk brings the sound of street performers.  Accordion and violin players line the restaurants or claim a fountain at the center of a piazza.

When our class was preparing to head to Rome, we were warned how much tighter the living is and closer the quarters.  When I arrived at my apartment I was quite surprised to find it quite spacious despite the fact that several of us have to share rooms.  There was one day however when I heard my first Italian neighbour rivalry.  One night when I was cooking my dinner I heard the sound of a nearby organ playing.  I thought it sounded beautiful, but a few other people didn’t.  After only a few minutes they started complaining and shouting for the poor organ player to shut up.  It was very amusing because he continued playing for quite a while despite the catcalls and almost responded to them with his music!

Another moment when I recall a memorable sound is when Vikkie and I went together to see the Spanish steps late one evening.  The stairs were filled with a hundred or more people sitting, talking, arguing, drinking, and one group specifically that was singing.  I found it impressive how something as simple as a large stair on a piazza could draw so many people.  Everywhere in Rome the sound of the people in a Piazza is filled in with the lovely sound of moving water from a nearby fountain.