Archive for March, 2013

March 25, 2013

Day 8: TESOL Presentation

Team + Mascott

Here is a picture of the team:  me and the boys (project leader far right), and the little bundle of cuteness I’m holding is the daughter of the Swiss couple that was staying with us at the guesthouse.  She sort of became the team’s mascot and we joked that eMi was allowing for younger and younger interns these days…


Photo by Jim Boyer

Photo by Jim Boyer

After two more days of designing, producing drawings, and consulting with the ministry directors and a few other teachers, we finally hit production phase on Friday with the presentation set for the following day at noon.  It was a late night/early morning, but we pulled it together and managed to have everything ready to go.  The presentation went well, and the ministry gave us very positive feedback.


Our lovely hand-drawn parti diagram explaining many of our design decisions

Master Plan

A rendered master plan at full build-out

Coloured Master Plan

The rendered plan showing phasing:  phase 1 yellow, phase 2 orange, phase 3 blue, phase 4 teal

The work isn’t done yet of course.  For the next few months the team will be working via web correspondence (the short-term volunteers doing so in their own time) to complete a detailed report, refined master plan, and corresponding plans for water, waste-water, storm run-off and drainage, electricity, and other details.

March 24, 2013

Day 5: School in Session

Outdoor Classroom


While the civils went back to the site to continue the perc tests, the project leader and I visited the school to see and study the habits of a school in session.  We came to see how the classrooms and outdoor spaces were inhabited, and even more importantly how the kids were picked up by their parents at the end of the day.  Something as simple as a parent’s habit to find the child at a classroom, a habit to  wait in a  vehicle for a child to come to them, where the kids generally like to wait, or if the kids walk home – all these details should influence our design decisions.  That afternoon it was back to the drawing board for me.  A design was coming together, although still needed much refinement and needed to be drafted so that anyone besides myself could understand it!


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March 23, 2013

Day 4: Survey, Design, and Conquer

On this day (Tuesday) the team split up to do specific tasks.  While the civils went with the national architects and some local students to survey, the architects stayed at home and began designing.

Photo by Joshua Horky

Photo by Joshua Horky

Photo by Sang Yoo

Photo by Sang Yoo

Photo by Sang Yoo

Photo by Sang Yoo

Photo by Sang Yoo

Photo by Sang Yoo

Photo by Joshua Horky

Photo by Joshua Horky

Photo by Jim Boyer

Photo by Jim Boyer

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March 23, 2013

Day 3: New Site


On Monday morning we headed out to see the site for the first time.  All we knew prior to this visit was that it was 22 hectares, rather flat, vacant except for a well, watertank, and guardhouse, and unoccupied except by tall grass and several anthills.  We also knew that the site was quite long and narrow, with the narrow edge hitting a main road.  Being the architect who was destined to be inside for the rest of the week, I relished the opportunity to actively explore the site.  We were joined by the ministry directors, a translator, and the two national architects.  We walked the length of the site to determine any grade change, and then took a look at the existing well and water tank.  ‘Tall grass’ we decided was a bit of an understatement.  It was more like VERY tall DENSE grass.  The anthill on which the tank sat gave us a great perspective of the site.  There was a grand total of one tree on the site.  Us architects joked that ‘it would have to go because it would ruin the scheme.’  Mostly we found that joke funny because an architect rarely comes across a site such as this with so few design constraints; in a way it can make the process of design more difficult because the best design has a reason behind every choice that is made.




The civils acquired all the information they needed about the well and did some water testing before we headed back to the guest house.  That afternoon was spent with the ministry directors, pushing our way through the tough questions of program, estimated growth, teaching style, parking needs, teacher-student ratio, and the list goes on and on!  It is easy to forget how much is involved in strategic master planning.


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March 23, 2013

Day 1: Lubumbashi



Now I write to you from the Washington Dalles Airport once again, this time on my way home.  I have an eight hour layover here until I take my flight to Buffulo this evening!  It was a good trip and I feel like we accomplished the task of getting to know the ministry, of discovering their needs, and of working with them to prepare an initial design before we left.

I arrived across the border from Zambia on Saturday morning at Kasumbalesa and took a taxi into Lubumbashi on my own.  Being familiar with how things work in Africa and how the white person or ‘mzungu’ is often exploited (because for good reason we are assumed to be rich), I managed to talk the price of the taxi down from $80 to $50.  It was about an hour drive from the border into the city.  There was a bit of a scare when all of a sudden we were getting flagged down on the road by a mob of people.  An army officer was unconscious and needed a ride to the hospital.  It is a good thing I understood french as the taxi driver explained the situation and asked if I would allow him to take the man in the back seat.  How could I say no?  I climbed into the front seat as they laid the man across the back bench and then off we went.  Fortunately the hospital was not far out of the way and we managed to get him there alright.  The hospital looked as bare bones as a hospital could be!  A week in Zambia had already dulled the cultural impact of the busy, dirty streets with the ramshackle storefronts, dirt lanes, and scattered debris.  Following this adventure I managed to find the guest house easily enough, and had to wait several more hours before the rest of the team was to arrive from the airport.  I met a Swiss missionary couple with their little one-year old daughter, who were also staying at the guesthouse while they were house-hunting.   A few hours later the rest of the team arrived and we went through introductions.  We might hold the record for the smallest eMi team; there were only five of us in total: two architects and three civil engineers.  I was the only team member not exhausted from a long flight.  We went through some formalities and plans for the following day, made ourselves sandwiches for dinner, and then turned in early.

I woke up with a line of twenty-some mosquito bites up my one forearm; I must not have tucked in the netting well enough that night and one got in and went crazy.   It was Sunday and so we went to church in the morning.  The music was as wonderful as I remembered it to be in Africa – full of raw energy, movement, and sincere praise.   The service was in French and I was able to understand half of it depending on how clear each speaker was.  The sermon was on unity, a subject I’m guessing is much visited by the Congolese churches in the midst of a country divided in more ways than one.  The scripture we read from was Acts 2 where the holy spirit comes down on a gathering of apostles and they begin speaking in different languages.  This is amazing because it’s almost as if, just for a moment, God is reversing what he did at the tower of Babel.  It’s kind of ironic that my favourite quote of the week came from the Swiss woman, who, after we were all commenting admiringly on how many languages she knew how to speak, exclaimed; “It’s not all it’s cracked up to be; it’s like having the tower of Babel in your head!”  Division because of language is particularly the case in the DRC.  While the official language is french, the country recognizes the four languages of Lingala, Kikongo, Swahili, and Tshiluba (each representing different geographic areas) though there are many more.  We human beings can try our best to be united through good policies, nationalism, democracy, or maybe even tolerance, but it is only God who can truly unite and bring peace.

My first perceptions of Lubumbashi were of how spread out is is.  It has a population of almost 2 million, and covers an area almost equivalent to the city of Toronto, and yet there are no high rise buildings and no real ‘downtown’ feel.  The guest house was in the center of town, but all there really was were walls and gates set back from the road with several meters of grass between.  It made the city feel more small town than it really is.  Traffic was crazy as Lubumbashi is a through-way of commerce coming from Zambia, and also a center for mining.  There is a lot of building going on, anything at the scale of infrastructure being done by the Chinese who seem to have really put their foot here.  They are constructing things like new airport infrastructure, paved roads, and even a stadium in trade for access to resources.  I wonder sometimes who is getting the better end of the deal.

After church we had a lovely meal with two of the teachers and the ministry directors and then we headed out to go visit the existing school facilities.  The TESOL School (The English-speaking School Of Lubumbashi) has been around for twenty five years and has survived despite periods of war in the country, and since 2004 it has grown considerably because of the growing international presence in Lubumbashi and growing Congolese population who wish their children to learn English.  Right now they have outgrown their existing facilities on the campus that they share with the French School and are currently renting makeshift facilities at a second location to house the primary grades.  After visiting the two school locations we sat down outside one of the classrooms and went through another round of introductions, this time to really get to know the ministry that is TESOL and their vision, and for them to know eMi.  That same evening we were introduced to two national architects who had already been doing some design work on the project.  They seemed very excited to work alongside us and learn from us, and we were excited that the ministry had dependable professionals who would bring the project through and who we could learn local practices from.  It was a very full but pleasant day and we were off to a good start!  I was looking forward to seeing what we could accomplish for this ministry.  It was exciting to see a school bringing people with such different backgrounds together, and yet teaching them that they are equal and unified in the sight of God.

TESOL School


“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

Acts 2:1-4

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March 10, 2013


I now write from Lubumbashi, the city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where the ministry we are working with is located.  I arrived here safely yesterday afternoon after spending a week in Zambia.  My time in Zambia is not the focus of this trip, but I thought I would share with you some amazing pictures of God’s creation.  I was blessed to be able to see Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Lake Kariba, as well as the cities Lusaka and Chingola.  I could see the Lord’s hand over the trip.  Zambia like the DRC is a very chaotic place, and it was hard sometimes to feel so helpless in the face of factors that were beyond my control.  It was definitely a lesson to once again put my faith in God and not in my own abilities.  I have so many great stories to share already, but I’m not going to put them all here.  You’ll just have to ask me in person sometime!


Distant GorgeThe Invisible FallsDSCN7763DSCN7790Zambian MealView of Chingola

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March 2, 2013

Another Journey

Hey everyone,

This post is a bit late in the writing.  I am composing this post while sitting at the Washington Dalles airport waiting for my flight with Ethiopian airlines to Addis Abba with two more stop overs yet until I reach my final destination of Lusaka Zambia.

I am about to embark on another mission design trip.  As many of you know, at around this time last year, I was in the middle of a four month internship in Uganda with Engineering Ministries International (eMi), a Christian non-profit engineering development organization. I worked mainly on the development of a master plan for a Christian University in the town of Beni in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and was blessed to be able to use my skills in the field of architecture to help the school in very tangible ways to work towards their God-given vision of raising educated Christian leaders and impacting communities. I believe that God has nurtured in me a passion for work in developing countries, and I have a particular desire to see positive change in the DRC after hearing the testimonies of people I met there and learning much of the country’s history.

Now a year later, I am volunteering to fill an urgent need for a drafter and architectural assistant for a two week project trip to a different region of the DRC, to work on the development of a master plan for a Christian elementary school in the city of Lubumbashi. At the beginning of March I will go there with a team of architects and engineers, to partner with the ministry to discover their needs and vision and work on an initial architectural master plan and corresponding plans for water, waste water, storm water runoff, and mechanical systems.  Upon my return home, I will continue to work with the team outside of my regular employment, to prepare a detailed set of presentation images, drawings, and specifications that will be provided to the ministry several months after our visit.

I’m flying first to Zambia because I decided to visit a friend in the country who has begun a business and a ministry there, and I will cross the border into the DRC by land to meet the rest of the eMi team in a few days.

Please pray for safety for the entire trip, that the eMi team accomplish the best work that we can for the ministry, and for the work of the United Methodist Church (the ministry we are serving) to bring Christian education to children in Lubumbashi.

If you are interested in this project and wish to contribute financially, you can donate on the eMi Canada website.  Please be sure to include my name and the project number 5585 in the subject line.  So that we are able to offer free architectural and engineering services, I must cover the airfare and visa costs for the trip.  For more information on the project you can check out the project profile:  , and go to the eMi tag to discover more about my past involvement with this organization and my previous design trip to the DRC.

Thanks to those of you who follow my posts and continue to support me through prayer and encouragement.  I will see a few of you in 16 hours, a few more of you in one week, and most when I return in 16 days.



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