Thursday, August 23, 2012

Seven full years and counting...

Seven Full Years.  August 2012 marks the beginning of my eighth year on staff with eMi Canada and our eighth year in Calgary as a family.  From arriving with three young children under 8 to now having two teenagers and from transitioning from my main role as a project leader to becoming eMi Canada's director, to say a lot has happened would truly be an understatement.

After a slow and challenging start as strangers in a new city, our family now no longer feels alien on this lee side of the Rocky Mountains.  From church to school to work to sports & recreational programs, we have established friendships and found community.  And in each step the Lord has shown His faithfulness.  The hope and strength we find each day to forge this new life away from established friendships and all our family in Vancouver has come from the Lord's promise to always be our Help.

"I lift my eyes up to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." Psalm 121:1-2

We have leaned hard on the Lord in times of loneliness and uncertainty and He was our strength.  With that strength we learned to serve, extend friendship and love.  And in the Lord's economy, these have been returned to us in ways more abundant than we can imagine or dare to ask.

Designing a World of Hope.  My role at eMi began as a project leader and although I now wear many more "hats", project work continues to be a significant part of my service with eMi.  The teams of interns and volunteers I travel with for projects often start out as a group of strangers but quickly, subtly a transformation happens and these strangers become brothers and sisters, many becoming friends I will value for life.

For many volunteers their time with eMi fills a special longing to apply their professional skills to missions and so it is that our projects do bless those who serve as well as those being served.  And those being served have been many and very diverse:

- New moms with little education and even fewer means in Niger, on the edge of the Sahara Desert, visiting SIM's Galmi Hospital clinic for newborns and receiving medical attention and an education in nutrition for mother, child and their whole family

- Children orphaned by AIDS in Cambodia but who have been raised with love and in community at Place of Rescue orphanage who now can live in the House of New Dreams transition home in the capital with familiar friends while attending university or attending vocational training

- Men with little education and few skills to find work to support their families can now attend Haiti Arise Vocational Training School and learn a trade, learn English and learn about Jesus so they can take care of their family's many needs

- Pastors serving in a region hateful of Christians in Patna, India who nonetheless wants to love their neighbours by operating Transform India Movement and Emmanuel Christian Fellowship Centre, provide skills training, education for local children and training local pastors

These are some of the people for whom we design a world of hope.

Staying the Course.  There is no "end game" in sight.  The path of eMi continues to run into the future and opportunities to serve this ministry and be a part of its mandate to serve others only continues to grow.  One day the Lord will bring another person to fill my chair.  I'm OK with that.  But today the chair is mine to fill and with the support of brothers and sisters, friends of mine and of this ministry, I will simply continue to obey and say "Yes, Lord".

Thank you for praying.  Thank you for your encouragement.  Thank you for providing financial support that takes care of our family and allows me to continue serving with eMi.  Each life touched by my efforts is as much your doing as it is mine because without our team of partners I would not be here and many of these projects would simply not be done.

But let us not forget, this is not my work or even our work.  It is the Lord's work and He will see it done whether we step forward or not.  But isn't it amazing to take that step and become a part of God's work to redeem the world?  And, as my church here in Calgary puts it, in our own way we each can glorify God and change the world that is into the world that ought to be.

Thank you,

Greg, Julie, Caitlin, Cameron and Connor

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Fresh Perspective on Education

Kigali is often described as the "Eden" of Africa
Going Beyond The Three R’s.  Education that transforms a person and a nation requires more than teaching the basics of Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic: it requires instilling character, discipline and an understanding of the individual in the context of the larger world.  Rwanda continues to rebuild its country in the years following the 1994 genocide, its goal being the reduction of poverty and a transformation into being a knowledge-based economy.  However, while quality Christian values-based education has been accepted as a key to this transformation, lack of resources means classes are still over-crowded, many teachers lack proper and ongoing training and most receive inadequate pay.

Even in the capital, many families still live below the poverty line.
The Mission.  In 2004, Wellspring Foundation for Education began its mission of facilitating the development of schools and empowering Rwandan teachers.  To begin, Wellspring established a high-quality school, Wellspring Academy, in the capital Kigali as a model for its training.  In 2005 Wellspring began to demonstrate how this success can be brought to other schools with in-service teacher and leadership training.

Wellspring Academy
The Mission.  Today, Wellspring is partnering with 40 schools in the Gasabo District, providing teacher training, training for school administrators and leaders, and training to Parent Teacher committees to foster community involvement.  Wellspring has also been continually supporting the development of the Association of Christian Teachers, Rwanda, which is a grassroots association of more than 800 believers nationwide who want to encourage each other to be faithful to the Lord through their profession as educators.

Exploring he new Wellspring Center property
eMi Engagement.  In 2011 Wellspring contacted eMi Canada and began discussions about engaging an eMi team to design a new guesthouse and conference facility, known as the Wellspring Center, to serve as a platform to host and connect international donors and partners with the work done being done by Wellspring in Rwanda.  On a new piece of undeveloped land this guesthouse and conference facility would be phase one in what would be a multi-phased development that would later include Wellspring’s administration offices and apartments for long-term volunteers and trainers.

Dave (CE) investigating construction materials and methods
The Work Begins.  On June 1st, 2012 a team of 7 volunteers, 2 interns, one eMi East Africa Long Term Volunteer and I arrived in the capital Kigali to begin designing Phase One.  The team stayed on the Wellspring Academy School campus that shares its land with Christian Life Assembly Church.  At the Wellspring Academy campus the team set up its work base and then ventured out to investigate common Rwandan construction practices, visited local buildings under construction and perused with building supply markets to see common materials and their prices.
As Emma (Intern) surveys, she attracts a young audience
The Property.  About 25 minutes away from the Wellspring Academy campus, on the edge of Kigali, the team visited the new Wellspring Center property.  There the team found a 4.5 acre hillside site that showed obvious signs of previous terraced agriculture.  The views from the site were beautiful and so the setting is ideal for a guesthouse and conference facility.

Site investigation by Emma (Intern), Dave (CE) and Bill (EE)
Site Investigation.  The civil engineers and techs on the team surveyed the property, dug and tested percolation pits and examined the soil for its bearing capacity in supporting the new structure.  Once the parameters of the site were established they were translated by computer to produce a property plan showing boundaries and topographic grading.

The eMi team working in a spare Wellspring Academy classroom
Designing the Facilities and Infrastructure.  Once the building needs were established with lengthy discussions with Jeff Komant, Wellspring Country Director, the architects used the property plan to begin laying out the Wellspring Center by understanding its potential size, establishing site-lines to desirable views, choosing appropriate local building materials for its structure and exterior finish and locating roads, paths and service buildings that will support the main function of the Center.

Wellspring Center (foreground) and Conference Facility (background)
3D Imagery.  To help with the visualization of the proposed project the architects on our team created a digital 3D model of the proposed main building.  Once their fieldwork was complete the civil engineers and electrical engineers began their  calculations for fresh water supply and storage needs and the handling of sanitary waste and surface water drainage which can be significant because of heavy seasonal rains.

Me drawing "old school"!
Final Presentation.  During the week Jeff ensured we had a good work environment with power, internet, great meals and delicious African tea (similar to chai tea).  He had many excellent planning and design discussions with our team so that, as is our goal on all projects, what was shown during our Final Presentation was the culmination of a week of dialog and was never a surprise.  I was even able to put my “old school” skills to use by drawing a Site Master Plan by hand.

Completed Site Master Plan
Project Photos.  A new set of annotated photos has been placed in my Photo Gallery with various options to view it.  If you want to browse the set, click here.  If you wish to see a slideshow of the photos, click here. If you want to see the titles and read the captions of each photos, click here.

SketchUp Model of the Wellspring Center
Thank you to all who have contributed to this work through your financial support, encouragement and prayer; you have been a part of making this project, and the resulting touched lives, a reality.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Furthering Education in Rwanda

Students at Nyakabanda School

Following a spring filled with mission conferences, an office move to larger premises and project development/approvals for the rest of the year and into the future, I am ready to strike out with a team overseas once again.

And so on May 31st I will lead a brand new project team to Rwanda to serve The Wellspring Foundation for Education as they seek design assistance for a new administration, teaching and guesthouse facility to complement their existing Wellspring Academy school.

Teachers working together
This will be my third trip into Rwanda and it’s wonderful to go to this beautiful country where I now have friends and where I know amazing ministry is taking place.

The groups eMi has partnered with in Rwanda seek to be locally sustainable by building capacity within the local people to own the work (i.e. the trained become trainers), create value (i.e. fostering employable skills) and be locally integrated (i.e. plugged into the local business, government or education system).  The Wellspring Foundation for Education is not only about educating children, they are providing training for teachers throughout the Rwandan education system.

The Wellspring Academy
Wellspring Academy in Kigali, Rwanda
Our team will include five volunteers from Canada; two civil engineers and a structural engineer from Calgary, an eMi Canada civil engineer intern (UBC Okanagan) and a Nigerian architect who now lives in Calgary.

It will also include five volunteers from the US; a civil engineer/master planner from New York, an electrical engineer from Seattle, a graduate architecture student (Virginia Tech), an eMi Canada architectural intern (Texas A&M) and a construction manager who is currently an eMi Long Term Volunteer in our eMi East Africa office in Uganda.

Quite a diverse group!  I’m really forward to experiencing how the Lord will knit this group of strangers into a unified team.

Wellspring Program Team
Teachers trained at the Wellspring Academy

Want to learn a little more about what we will be doing?  A write-up for the project is on our website here: Project 10031.

Here is a link to the ministry's website: The Wellspring Foundation for Education.

At the end of the project I will travel with a part of the team overland to Kampala, Uganda to visit and deliver survey equipment to the eMi East Africa office.  The donated survey gear will aid in the survey practicum (eMi Canada Project 10030) to be run in July by Patrick Cochrane, a member of the eMi Canada Board of Trustees.

Please keep us in prayer as we travel in the air and on the ground and also remember my family and the families of each of our group of eleven as we are away for this project.