Archive for February, 2012

February 25, 2012

Day 1: Journey

We left bright and early on Monday morning on the 13th to begin the ten hour ride to the town of Beni in the DRC.  We were packed in a large van and Brittany and I sat in the front for the first part of the journey.  While it was dark and we were still trying to get out of the city, it felt like we were in a video game or something.  There would sometimes be six headlights in the distance as cars and trucks would pass each other at a moment’s notice, seemingly regardless of us approaching in the oncoming traffic.  There were times when we had to drive onto the shoulder to avoid collision.  Once we were out of the city and it began to get light the drive became more peaceful.  There was always activity on the road – people walking to work or students in their bright uniforms heading to school, and people transporting water and other things on their heads or tied onto a bicycle or a boda.  A common thing to see was huge bunches of matooke or plaintains tied onto bikes that were pushed by people because they could no longer be ridden.  Small towns dotted our route, which were filled with ramshackle buildings and these typical painted storefront buildings.  We stopped in one of these towns for a washroom break where I tried a grilled plantain for the first time.  Yum!  Later on we stopped for lunch in a much bigger city called Mbarrara.  We found a booth on the street that made chapatis and we ordered ‘Rolex’s from them which are chapatis made with egg and other vegetables.  Double yum!  In Mbarrara we had a small amount of car trouble as we drove our one wheel into an open manhole, and later couldn’t remove the four-wheel drive we had turned on to get the van out.  People here are always willing to help, but they quite often demand payment after a ‘free’ service is rendered, especially service rendered to a muzungu.  Soon after leaving the city we drove into Queen Elizabeth Park.  There I saw my first wild baboon sitting fearlessly with its baby on the side of the road as we passed by.  The park looked like the picture of what one always sees of an African savanna.  Other landscapes that we passed along the way were fields of tea, banana/matooke/plantain trees, and cotton.  One thing that I was amazed by is that the roads were almost always paved except a few unfinished stretches.  After about eight hours of driving we reached the border to the DRC.


Photo by Bob & Eileen Gresham

We were met on the Ugandan side by two of the staff from UCBC, Mary and Kazito.  Mary is a representative on the board for the Congo Initiative in the United States, and Kazito is a native who works for the UCBC as a human resources officer.  Kazito took all of our passports and had to go to three different buildings/huts to get us through.  We transferred all of our bags from our driver’s van to the UCBC van and an additional car.  Once we crossed over to the other side, we only had to go to one place, but came across a little bit of trouble.  It turns out that non-residents from Uganda are technically supposed to get their visas from their home countries and so they weren’t going to let Erland and me in (as everybody else either got their visas in the states or had work visas for Uganda).  It was also a bit of a power show.  After much convincing on the part of Kazito about all of the great work we were coming into the country to do, and after the officers realized they were not going to get any bribes, they finally let us through and we headed on our way. 


The transition from Uganda to the DRC was stark to say the least.  Paved roads became very bumpy dirt roads, brick structures became mud thatch huts, fields of agriculture and a continued presence of people became a deserted road with dense jungle on either side.  We were vibrating and lurching for the next two-and-a-half hours; I thought it was a miracle that our vehicle stayed intact!  Our driver Kabale did not take the bumps slowly or else it would only take much longer to get to our destination.  It felt like a road rally race as he whipped around corners, honking as he went.  We went over a few pretty scary wood bridges; on one of them we actually started sliding sideways on some loose boards!  We took one stop along the way, and when I got out of the van it felt like I was still vibrating!  When we had only about a half hour to go, I strangely started losing sensation in my hands.  I starting opening and closing my hands to try to keep the blood flowing.  Then as though God were playing a joke on me, when we were only five minutes from our destination, I felt like I was going to be sick.  I shared this information with my neighbor, but I suppose I was too calm for the situation and I didn’t get the message across.  I leaned out the window and puked.  I was practically laughing at myself as we pulled to a stop and I rinsed out my mouth and took some deep breaths.  I got to sit in the smoother riding car for the last few minutes of our journey, which brought us to the guesthouse where we would be staying.  It was a welcomed sight!  We had survived the journey and were finally in Beni!

Tags: , , ,
February 25, 2012

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

I just returned yesterday evening from my project trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  It was quite the trip and there is so much that I want to share.  I’m going to spit this out and see where this blog posting leads.  To give you a bit of a summary, our team is made up of ten people, two civil engineers, Patrick – team leader, Paul, two electrical engineers Bob and Mark, a team mom Eileen – Bob’s wife, an environmental engineer Tim, an administrator and team co-leader Brittany, an architect Robert, an engineering intern Erland, and me.  We visited the ministry of the Congo Initiative at their university campus (the Christian Bilingual University of Congo or UCBC) in Beni.  Our goal for the ten day trip was to get to know the ministry and their needs, and prepare a preliminary design for an architectural and civil master plan for their growing campus.   Enjoy the posts to follow!

Tags: , , ,
February 11, 2012

Preparations, Purpose, and Provisions

This third week in Uganda has been one of preparation.  Almost everyone in the office is either on or preparing for a project trip.  There are three projects being initialized in our office this spring which is very exciting and will certainly keep us busy!  My project team is packing up and preparing to leave for the Democratic Republic of the Congo early Monday morning.  We are a team of engineering and architecture professionals who will initiate the civil and architectural master-planning of a campus for UCBC, the Christian Bilingual University of the Congo.  This university was started by a ministry called the Congo Initiative which has a vision to train and develop strong, indigenous Christian leaders to transform their communities and their nation of the DRC.

Not only do we have to make sure we have all of the equipment we need for the nine-day trip, I’m also realizing more and more the power of spiritual preparation.  I find that every day I need to remind myself of God’s grace.  It is so beyond my own comprehension.  I’ve recently been reading from Isaiah 46.  This chapter really hit me because I feel like I am no better than the Israelites who constantly turned away from God despite the many signs and interventions that God performed on their behalf.  Isaiah writes; “Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth.  Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you.”  And then he asks some tough questions:  “To whom will you compare me or count me equal?  To whom will you liken me that we may be compared?”  And in Romans chapter 8:28-39 there is another reminder – this time about the grace that God provided so that we may be with God.  We are reminded that God is working for our good, that he predestined us and calls us and he conforms us to the likeness of His Son.  Then Paul writes some questions:  “What, then, shall we say in response to this?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? … Who is he that condemns? … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”  Then Paul finishes with the following statement: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  What a proclamation of God’s faithfulness!    

Even before going on this mission trip, I had a huge feeling of inadequacy in my gut.  It was less a nervousness of the architectural work in the office, and more of a question if I was prepared spiritually to do missions.  Perhaps I could have been more prepared, perhaps not, but yet God has called me here for a purpose and that is His purpose.  I have no doubt that this is where I am supposed to be, and that gives me peace. 

So in that, to all of you readers who so wish to be involved, and partners in ministry:  Please pray that a good relationship is developed between eMi and our partner ministry.  Please pray that we can reach decisions smoothly and efficiently about the direction the design will take.   Pray that God fill me with a spirit of boldness as I build relationships with people in the ministry and students at the University.  Pray that God give me the gift of tongues this week as I serve at times as interpreter, and humility to accept and perform any task that needs to be done with a servant’s attitude.  And finally (and this is one you will likely hear again and again), please pray that the work we will do for this project be effective in allowing the University to grow and flourish and accomplish the ministry’s God-given vision. 

I would like to thank you all for your prayers, support, and encouragement.  It really blows me away.  I would like to share some amazing news with you all!  God has more than provided through the generous support of family and friends, and I have fulfilled my fundraising needs for my three months with eMi.  If you were thinking you would still like to support eMi you still can!  Any funds donated in my name can either go towards any future involvement I have with eMi, or towards one of their many projects. 

For His Kingdom,


February 8, 2012

Garden of the Gods

I have now been in Uganda for two and a half weeks!  Time is already flying!  It feels as though it was a decade ago when on January 14th I flew down to Colorado Springs for a weeklong orientation with the 25 or so other interns who are serving at the other offices around the world.  It was an unforgettable week.  Near the end of my time in Colorado Springs, we visited a place called the ‘Garden of the Gods’ which is an area of large, beautiful red rock formations.  It was surreal and I could totally imagine a giant or some other fantastical creature plundering through the almost gravity defying landscape.  Already reflecting on orientation week at this time, I felt as though the week was like what it may have been like in the Garden of Eden, or a shadow of what heaven will be like:  being surrounded by a huge family of Christ followers, all with a passion to serve God with their gifts.  

During the week we did many activities together including cultural lessons and games, lessons about missions and the role of eMi, lessons for designing in a developing country, small group times, prayer times, outdoor hikes, and many other things.  The days were jamb packed and whenever I could get away between activities I would take time to process it all.  It was certainly a lot of information to take in in such a short time.  Not only was orientation week a dive into culture, design, and Biblical mandate, it was also a time of spiritual self-discovery.  By learning more about myself and studying my personality, my strengths, and my spiritual gifts, I was better able to see what my place might be in the work of the Kingdom.  I feel like my nomadic life over these past few years has prevented me from taking on spiritual leadership roles, that I have been in a season of being served and that I will soon move into a season when I will serve. 

I become melancholic when I think I might not see the people again who I got to know that week.  What an amazing group they are!  Their faces and enthusiasm are forever engrained in my memory!  I thank God that I was able to hear so many testimonies, both from young people like me, and professionals who have years of experience serving in missions and in their respective fields.  What a witness to God’s amazing intervention in people’s lives!  In formulating my own testimony, I have realized that God has indeed brought me to serve at eMi for a reason.  Not only will I be serving people in need by being here, I think that God will really stretch me in the process.  Already I am finding I have a greater dependence on God and am hungrier than ever for His Word.  I find that at home it is easier to ignore God and do things my own way, while here I have to depend on Him or I will be overwhelmed.

I find that I miss Colorado Springs a little bit.  It was a beautiful city, quite spread out with the consistent presence of the pre-Rockies looming in the distance.  It reminded me of my visit several years ago to Calgary.  I love mountains because their majestic presence reminds me that for God anything is possible (Matt 17:20).  We had a magnificent view of them from the place we were staying.  It can be easy to forget that creation too is God’s handiwork and that through it also He makes Himself known.  Some of my fondest memories from orientation week are the group hikes in the beautiful landscape, evenings in the hot-tub under the stars with a bunch of interns, and rocking out to music or chatting during car rides – a different set of people every time.  The week almost felt like a dream and I almost didn’t want it to end.  It was time however to do what I had been called to do.  After months of fretting, praying, pondering, fundraising, and at times freaking out, it was time to go serve with eMi in Uganda.  It was good preparation for what was to come.  I couldn’t imagine jumping right into things here in Uganda without taking a week to solely pause, reflect, and pray.

To any of you 2012 interns who are reading this, I miss you and all the very best!  I am praying for you all and your work with the other offices.  We must keep in touch!