Archive for August 20th, 2020

August 20, 2020

Ten Years, 369 Posts

And just like that, a decade of blogging has passed. It is hard to believe that ten years ago I was an undergrad architecture student about to go on a study exchange to Switzerland. God has brought me on an amazing journey since then.

It was a decade ago that God was planting the seed in me for what it would mean to be a radical Christ following architect. It is how I came across Engineering Ministries International (EMI) online and also came to discover that a woman in my church small group had interned with them many years ago. The seed took root when I took the leap of faith in 2012 to do a volunteer internship with EMI in Uganda and raise funds to cover my expenses. With my knowledge of french I was put on a project team to design the campus master plan for the Université Chrétienne Bilingue du Congo (UCBC) in Beni in the eastern DRC. When we went there for the two week project trip I was amazed by the vision of UCBC and had a feeling like I would come back some day.


EMI project team

A year later I made it back to Congo on another project trip with EMI to Lubumbashi. Then another year later when I was thinking of a topic for my masters thesis, I began asking myself what design could offer the community of Beni and thought that the design of a mapping framework could be the answer. I reached out to the university to see if there was interest in a collaboration, and learned that the timing was perfect because UCBC’s integrated research institute (IRI) had just launched their GIS program and could use help getting it off the ground. So in fall of 2014 I went back for three months and launched an initiative to create the first digital base map of the city of Beni. Unfortunately October 2014 is when the massacres started happening in Beni and have been happening since. After only a month of being there I had to leave for Uganda along with the other international staff.

International staff “family” visiting CI founders Dr. David and Dr. Kaswera Kasali

The next two months were discouraging as we waited in Uganda. There was nothing we could do but encourage the community from a distance and pray. There were still many things to be thankful for. Despite leaving so soon, we had managed to collect the most part of the data for the Beni base map, and we brought two Congolese researchers to Uganda so that I could train them in various open source mapping tools so that they could pass on the knowledge and finish the project. The base map was the starting point for what became Sharing the Land, a large collaboration between UCBC, the Congolese Government, UN Habitat and other partners to improve land administration in the country. I am thankful for the new friendships I grew with an inspiring group of people very passionate about UCBC and work in Congo. I also got to spend more time with a certain special someone whose passion, wisdom, kindness and humour was making me more attracted to him by the day. But how could it work? We parted ways with a budding friendship that only time would reveal if it could become something more.

The next few years were devoted to finishing my formation as an architect. I spent the next months completing my masters thesis and then started working for an architect in Toronto. I also found a way back into doing some global development and humanitarian design related work by doing a disaster response project trip with EMI to Nepal in 2015 and becoming a part-time research fellow with Engineering for Change in 2017. During this time Othy and I kept in touch long distance and I visited him in fall of 2016. We spent two weeks in Uganda and one week in Congo and I got to visit his family. I also took him to the Harry Lemon on the Nile which was another highlight of our short time together.

One year later in fall of 2017 I wrote the examination for architects in Canada and I passed! In April of 2018 I was finally a licensed architect, over ten years since I began the journey. By that point I was already planning a move to Congo. I had a wonderful farewell evening with my work colleagues and hosted a farewell and 30th birthday celebration that unfortunately (though memorably) fell on the day of a snowstorm. Then one week later Othy arrived for a two week visit and just on time because spring had sprung. We visited Toronto, took a trip to Montreal, and then spent a few days with my family. We decided to get engaged and Othy asked my family for their blessing. It was the end of an amazing season living and working in Toronto. I was introducing Othy to everyone and packing and saying goodbye at the same time. I had built community through work, church, and Adam House. In the beginning of May Othy left to return to Congo and I took a flight an hour later!

Farewell photo with work colleagues

Saying goodbye to work colleagues

Birthday picture with Al and Jen

30th birthday celebration

Crazy face picture with the family

The first few months in Beni were full and good. I was doing training and capacity building with the STL project, got to see Othy almost every day, and was growing into a community. But everything changed at the beginning of August when an Ebola outbreak began in the region and the international staff had to leave again for Uganda. After this point many things did not go to plan. I had to let go and trust that God was in control. I was unable to renew my contract with IRI and so I became unemployed. We also made the difficult decision to change the location of our wedding to Kampala only one month before the day. I had the stressful task of finding a new venue and making most of the last-minute arrangements. The time up to the wedding was stressful, but then the wedding day and the time afterwards were so wonderful! Shortly after the wedding we took a group of our family and friends on a safari to Murchison Falls. Then we had a two week honeymoon that we concluded by traveling to Goma and then on to Bukavu for our friends’ wedding. We lived for almost a year in Kampala and I started working remotely for my former boss. In September of 2019 we finally felt it was time to make the big move to Kinshasa. I was already four months pregnant and so it was important to move soon so that we would have time to settle and prepare for the baby.

Engagement photo at Auberge Butembo

Safari group

Now we are in Kinshasa and are excited because this is where we feel God has called us to be for the longer term. It has taken far longer to get established here than we thought and we have experienced additional setbacks like theft, the passing of my boss, and now Covid19 which has slowed our progress. But we know that if God wants us to accomplish what He has called us to, he will make our projects fruitful in His timing. He has already provided us with an apartment that is a great fit for us, a small community of friends we can depend on, and a healthy baby boy who is growing fast! We are looking forward to growing our community here and having an impact through our relationships and business and community activities. It seems somehow appropriate for this to be the ten year mark of this blog as I feel as though we are entering a new season of life. Whereas the last ten years have been very much focused on formation, we will now be doing the things we have long been preparing for and dreaming of doing. It is also a new season for the world as we are now in the time of Covid19 and the beginning of a climate crisis. Although we are not sure what it will mean for the world and our future plans, God continues to be in control and is sovereign over all things. Here is to another ten years!