designing a world of hope.

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Downtown Kampala

A random picture for a random post

I know, its been over a month since I’ve posted last… sorry, I just haven’t had much to say, I’ve been surprisingly busy, and I just really didn’t feel like writing anything.

I’ve had a few ideas about what I would like to talk about, but even as I write I’m not sure where this is going, so I’ll just start by giving a few updates and see where it ends up:

The “guard ministry” (read; Bible study) has gone well.  We have gone through Galatians and will get through half of Ephesians by the end of our time here.  I’m am really hoping and praying that one or all of the men will have a desire to continue it and step up to lead it once we leave.  I have faith that they will, and Phil said he is going to add it to the list of ministries for the future interns to get involved with.

As our time here is wrapping up, things have continued to get progressively busier.  The Eagles Wings project finished up two weeks ago, Sister Connection has been printing all this week, and Watoto is wrapping up the final corrections to hopefully begin printing early next week.  The office has been a whirlwind of activity, and I’ve valued my earphones more than ever to mute the distractions and help me focus in on what needs to get done on my end, though earphones don’t help against distractions on ebay.

The thought of leaving is definitely bitter-sweet.  On one hand I’m anxious to get home to normal smells and sounds, roads without sewage running across them to step over, not having to always look both ways on a one-way street, sprawling out on carpet and sitting in comfy furniture, and of course seeing my family and friends.  Yet on the other hand it might be a bit tough saying goodbye to the staff and locals that I’ve gotten to know.  Also I am pretty sure based on my experience coming back from Honduras, that adjusting back into stateside culture is going to be tough.  I’m not looking forward to that reverse-culture shock and in many ways wish that I could bring back much of the culture here (and food) with me.  I know that through this experience I have grown tremendously in my relationship with God and just as I said in my very first post, I hope my growth has been evident through the progression of this blog.  Also, through your support you have helped change the lives of countless individuals, and as I reflect back on my time here I believe there is tremendous truth in that statement.

I wish I would have kept an extensive prayer log while I was here.  I was reading through my moleskin notebook the other day, which has something written in it just about every two-three weeks or so.  It, in a sense it is a notebook of my most coveted prayers.  I don’t know why I was surprised, but each an every “prayer” or struggle that I had written down has been answered in some way while I’ve been here.  In my opinion if you want to grow your prayer life, keep a notebook of prayers and read through it after a time to see how God has answered them.  I have never felt more at peace or had more faith in God to provide with current struggles I am facing than when I read through past struggles and how God listened.  As a side note, I can’t take credit for that idea, I got it from Charles Stanley a little over a year ago.  But man!  If only I would have kept a list of morning prayer request throughout this semester!  It would have been typed pages and pages worth of requests, answers, and praises!!  Phil, John, Brittney, any of you staff eMi’ers that might be reading this, take note.

Well, enough ramblings for now.  I’ll say this is part 1 of “ramblings” though I’m not going to go as far and promise a part 2.

I’ve heard that summer arrived in the States, enjoy!

God Bless,

ts

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Sipi Falls (new photos)

A few weeks ago, we were able to take a day off and go on a short vacation over the weekend.  We traveled 5.5hr by an extremely compact matatu ride to Sipi Falls for some much needed R&R.  Hannah describes the ride quite well on her blog…ugandawhere.   All that said it was worth the uncomfortable ride because I think Sipi Falls may just be the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen (keep in mind, I haven’t done much traveling outside of major cities, but still… pretty bold statement I know).  We got there in time for a late lunch and short afternoon hike to the bottom of the middle falls, and swinging on some HUGE vines.  The next day we hiked to the base of the lower falls and explored a cave in the morning, and hiked to the base of the upper falls in the afternoon.  There, K2 and I jumped into a pool where the local kids were swimming, and lots more children rushed over to watch the Muzungu’s swimming in their pool, it was a blast.  We finished up the day with my favorite part, catching the sunset on top of this ridge overlooking…..well everything.  We could see all three falls, and miles and miles in each direction.  It was amazing!

It was so nice to get away from the noise, smells, business, work, etc. of Kampala, and sleep in really cool (as in cold, like bundle up with blankets cold) huts, right next to the river.  At the Sipi River Lodge we also enjoyed awesome breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals made for us each day, and amazing hot, high pressure, showers which I didn’t realize how much I missed.  I think we were able to really appreciate the whole experience more after living in Kampala.

The ride back was a little less cramped, but still really long and uncomfortable in a bus.  I think Hannah and I were not happy to be back.  We both seemed pretty ornery, due to the higher heat, lugging our stuff around taxi park, smell of burning trash, and pure exhaustion and hunger.  I think after being in such a beautiful place, we forgot what we were leaving and coming back to.  I’m not saying that Kampala is so horrible, I love the city really, but in contrast to Sipi Falls, yeah, coming back was hard.

So please enjoy my photos from the trip.  They are split into day 1 and the morning hike of day 2, and the afternoon and evening or day 2.

Sipi Falls Photos!

God Bless,

ts

Producing Hope; not a product (part 2)

In this second part of “Producing Hope; not a product”, which was actually first written nearly a month ago, (if you haven’t caught part 1, you can find it HERE) I want to express that your support is going towards more than just background service to other “front line” ministries such as Watoto. In addition to the missionary design service’s which is eMi’s primary (public) focus, your support of myself directly and eMi as a whole has a direct positive impact on people behind the scenes as well. Bear with me as I develop this point:

Here is an excerpt from “When Helping Hurts”, one of the many books I am reading through during my time here in Uganda (for those of you who own the book  the excerpt can be found on pg 97).

“Churches are uniquely positioned to provide the relational ministries on an individual level that people need… Such systemic change can take on the form of political advocacy, but more often it simply means changing the economic options for the materially poor so that they have an opportunity to support themselves. For example, business owners in your church could provide jobs for poor people, giving them a rare opportunity to make a fresh start. Or your church might hire poor people part-time, giving them practical experience and an opportunity to develop strong work habits that can lead to full-time employment elsewhere.

Of course, churches can also offer [something else that businesses may not]: a clear articulation of the gospel of the kingdom so that people can experience the profound and lasting change required to achieve material poverty alleviation in its fullest sense: the ability to fulfill their calling of glorifying God through their work and life.

-Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert

After reading and discussing through the above with Phil (our full-time structural engineer), I really began taking a deeper look at eMi’s operations here in Kampala.  The more I analyzed what eMi was doing and the impact they were having beyond just the project trips and design efforts, the more impressed [with eMi] I became. Here in the Kampala office, eMi employs 9 national staff directly, and a few others indirectly.  Each one of those people support their family and in many cases their extended family as well (though Ugandans seem to consider all family to be immediate). EMi’s employment of local staff (which is partly financed by your finical support of me) contributes towards financial need, training, experience, and developing proper work habits which Steve & Brian were taking about.

What about the spiritual growth of each individual?

Christ is the at the center of our office, and the gospel is articulated in some manner throughout the day each day.  For example; each day we start with devotions and a time of prayer that each one is given the opportunity to lead at least once a month, we are run as a Christian organization that acts as one ethically, and we will not hesitate to turn to prayer for any and all decisions needing direction.  I am quite sure that all of our staff are Christians, yet I think some burden/responsibility still falls on eMi to ensure Christ-like growth.  Currently eMi seems to be doing just that, both though leading by example and in personal relationships between the local staff and the missionary/full time (white folk) staff where the growth can many times work both ways.  We have just as much to learn from them as they do from us.

Wilson. One of our Guards.

The biggest area of spiritual support that seemed to be lacking was found among the guards.  These men seem to be almost forgotten at times.  They work each night, sleep during the day, most live apart from their families, and rarely are they able to attend church or get involved in any type of ministry due to their hours.  Yet, a thirst is there.  A thirst for God, to know Him better, and to lead their families as Christ-like men.  On one particular night about 2 1/2 months or so ago, Joseph (one of the guards whom I have gotten to know a bit through card games and chats before the nights would get too late), asked a few tough questions like “Why are bad men blessed?”  or as I heard it, “why do good people suffer?”  It opened up the opportunity for him and I to sit down together with our Bibles and search for the answers together.  Following our time of questions and answers he asked if I could suggest a few studies for him and his wife to go through together (the two days a week or so that he would be with her).    For at least one night each week we would sit down and go through a Bible study together that he could then go through with his wife.

Interestingly enough, after a few weeks of our Bible studies, Daniel felt led to begin a Bible study with the Ugandan men of the office (specifically the guards).  His hope was in three main goals (in my own words):  1.  Join them together in fellowship and support with one another that would continue and grow after we leave.  2.  Establish the truth and sufficiency of the Gospel and help train them to be on guard and identify false teaching.  and 3.  Teach them how to study the word on their own without pastoral support as they often times do not have opportunities for attending church.  I don’t think Daniel was even aware that Joseph and I were doing our own Bible studies, but he brought it up to me and of course I jumped on board without hesitating.  We are now 4 Saturday Bible studies into Galatians, and will work as far through the epistles as we can before we leave.  It is our hope and prayer that the Bible study would not halt with our absence, but rather continue and grow in momentum after we return home – that they would understand that Daniel and I are just men, God is the one leading the study.

I explained to many of you that during my time here I would have the opportunity to get involved in some sort of ministry with the church, youth center, or school, and I have not been able to find anything that felt right.  I was dumbfounded why God wasn’t revealing a perfect opportunity that I could fit into.  It took a conversation with Phil before he helped me realize that loving on the guards has become my ministry here.  I had already been placed into my perfect opportunity for well over two months now without realizing it!

So thank you all for your prayers in that regards.  An opportunity had presented itself and even in my obliviousness God still placed me.

God Bless,

ts

I Thirst for You

So in the interest of Holy Week I wanted to share something, not of my own writing.  We read this inspirational letter during one of our morning devotions last week, and I thought it was very appropriate for this week, better than anything I could write.

I Thirst for You

An Inspirational Letter from Jesus, by Mother Teresa

I know you through and through – I know everything about you.  The very hairs of your head I have numbered.  Nothing in you life is unimportant to me, I have followed you through the years, and I have always loved you – even in your wanderings.

I know every one of your problems.  I know your need and your worries.  And yes, I know all your sins.  But I tell you again that I love you – not for what you have or haven’t done – I love you for you, for the beauty and dignity my Father gave you by creating you in his own image.

It is a dignity you have often forgotten, a beauty you have tarnished by sin.  But I love you as you are, and I have shed my blood to win you back.  If you only ask me with faith, my grace will touch all that needs changing in you life; and I will give you the strength to free yourself from sin and all its destructive power.

I know what is in your heart – I know your loneliness and all your hurts – the rejections, the judgments, the humiliations.  I carried it all before you.  And I carried it all for you, so you might share my strength and victory.  I know especially your need for love – how you are thirsting to be loved and cherished.  But how often have you thirsted in vain, by seeking that love selfishly, striving to fill the emptiness inside you with passing pleasures – with even greater emptiness of sin.  Do you thirst for love?  “Come to me all you who thirst” (John 7:37).  I will satisfy you and fill you. Do you thirst to be cherished?  I cherish you more than you can imagine to the point of dying on a cross for you.

I thirst for you.  Yes, that is the only way to even begin to describe my love for you: I thirst for you.  I thirst to love and to be loved by you – that is how precious you are to me.  I thirst for you.  Come to me, and fill your heart and heal your wounds

If you feel unimportant in the eyes of the world, that matters not at all.  For me, there is no one any more important in the entire world than you.  I thirst for you.  Open to me, come to me, thirst for me, give me your life – and I will prove to you how important you are to my heart.

No matter how far you may wander, no matter how often you forget me, no matter how many crosses you may bear in this life, there is one thing I want you to remember always, one thing that will never change: I thirst for you – just as you are.  You don’t need to change to believe in my love, for it will be your belief in my love that will change you.  You forget me, and yet I am seeking you every moment of the day – standing at the door of your heart, and knocking.

Do you find this hard to believe?  Then look at the cross, look at my heart that was pierced for you.  Have you not understood my cross?  Then listen again to the words I spoke there – for they tell you clearly why I endured all this for you: I thirst (John 19:28).  Yes, I thirst for you – as the rest of the Psalm verse which I was praying says of me:  “I looked for love, and I found none” (Psalm 69:20).

All your life I have been looking for your love – I have never stopped seeking to love and be loved by you.  You have tried many other things in your search for happiness; why not try opening your heart to me, right now, more than you ever have before.

Whenever you do open the door of your heart, whenever you come close enough, you will hear me say to you again and again, not in mere human words but in spirit:  “No matter what you have done, I love you for your own sake.”

Come to me with your misery and your sins, with your trouble and needs, and with all your longing to be loved.  I stand at the door of your heart and knock.  Open to me, for I thirst for you.

God Bless,

ts

New Photo Gallery (Childrens Resource Center)

Pats wife Kara, runs the childrens resource center in our neighborhood of Kansanga. The resource center is essentially where children go after school. They have games, books, education/study resources, tutors, etc. Recently they held an open house and Kara asked if I would come and take a few pictures. She is planning on hosting a photo gallery / art show as fund raising for the Resource Center while they are back on furlough in Canada. If any one would like to have a few of these pictures printed, please let me know and I will see what Kara might like to do. Thanks for looking!

Resource Center Photo Gallery……

God Bless,
ts

Producing Hope; not a product (part 1)

Phil (my mentor), and I meet once a week or so to discuss life, work, frustrations, prayer requests, God stuff, and this book “When Helping Hurts” (WHH).

During our last chat I think we were both blown away by a profound concept that WHH, through our discussion, helped us conclude.  We are not producing just a product – a design package, master plans, building concepts, etc.  But we in a drastic way are Producing HOPE.  All too often, we get so caught up in the process and the end result.  We concentrate on the solution, developing it, implementing it, and moving on to the next project – that, in essence, is what Architects and Engineers are supposed to do, right?.  I think Phil and I really had a moment to contemplate on what we were doing here in Uganda, a time-out if you will, from the business of work and “solution production” – a time to challenge the idea of what Architects and Engineers are “supposed” to do.

Before the trip up to Gulu with Watoto, we had a chance to meet with a few of the decision makers of Watoto and discuss the goals of the Koch Campus project.  Brent, from the development side of Watoto, stressed how we need to be less product driven and more people driven in our ministries.  He shared an example of what Watoto is trying to get away from:

Many times Watoto supporters will contribute towards an entire class block or orphan home, water well, etc. but will get caught up and focused on the building or well itself not the purpose of it, or the big picture.  God is the one at work in the ministry, its not the building that is changing lives.  I got the feeling that Brent would rather just do away with the option to support individual sections of their projects and have people donate towards a lump development sum.  I understand his frustration as he has such a passion for the people he is here to serve, and there is a disconnect (among the supporters) between the product and the purpose.  Yet, I think it’s not about changing the way people donate, even as the lump sum method I could see how people might still be more excited about the campus they helped create rather than the lives God will touch through its use.  It comes down to being a heart issue more than anything else.  We as humans get caught up in the tangible things in life.  It’s a physical world and more often than not that it is what we revert to when measuring the success of something – the physical product.

As I began work on the Koch Campus, I know I was not always thinking about how God would use this facility to glorify Himself.  That, many times got lost in the back of my mind during my work of “solution production”.  It wasn’t until Christine’s mini-speech at the end of the presentation that what we were doing really began to sink in.  As I mentioned in my previous post, she expressed the impact that would happen due to this development, and the ripple effect on generations to come.  She had so much energy and passion when talking about the people it would serve and how God would change lives through this facility.  She was excited about the people it would serve, not the amount of time and energy put into the design or the final product.

A few days before Phil and I talked (about 1 1/2 weeks after the trip), some of us had the opportunity to see the very last concert of the Watoto Restore Tour, Child Soldier No More, for this season.  It is commonly known around here that Watoto does not ever bring the restore tour to Uganda, or at the very least it’s extremely rare.  This particular show was due to a unique occasion as well:  Watoto has been working on establishing transparency with the Ugandan Government, and in an attempt to share more clearly what their intentions are they invited everyone who is anyone to this show – Black Tie, Guest List, Security, Hors d’œuvre’s, all that goes with an event that government officials would attend, but no, President Museveni did not come, though he was invited.  The only reason we manged to get on the guest list was because of our involvement with the Gulu project and a few good connections.  It was a very powerful and emotional show, and I would encourage anyone to try to go to one of these concerts when they are in the States.

Anyway, the restore tour only helped to further define what we were doing in Gulu.  The stories and testimonies that these children, many now young adults shared were amazing and inspiring.  They shared how nothing but Christ could enable them to move on, grow, and forgive.  I’m beginning to understand the big picture that Watoto has with Gulu, and really the Koch Campus is only a part of the whole plan.  Please join me as supporters in the excitement I have that God has chosen us to be a part of His work in Gulu.  I’m excited to see in 10 years not what the campus looks like, but the type of young leaders that Watoto is helping to create in Gulu, and the lives they are helping to restore.

It’s fitting that eMi’s logo is “building a world of hope…”.  I am just beginning to understand the depth of that phase.

to be continued….

ts

The Getaway!

It’s standard procedure that after each eMi project trip there is a closing/cool down period.  It may include time at a nice hotel on a beach, traveling to a resort island, or in our case going on safari at Murchison Falls National Park in North West Uganda.

I’m not an animal person, never have been, and don’t plan on really becoming one.  However, the game drive was a lot of fun and I enjoyed getting to use my camera on some animals up close (seriously up close -less than 10ft some times).   I had a pretty sweet perch up on that tire next to Angus on top of the roof – there’s something about Uganda and riding on the roof top of cars, K2 and I do it each Wednesday night coming home from Bible study.  Anyway, it was pretty neat getting close to Elephants, Giraffes, Gazelle, Monkeys, Warthogs, etc. with nothing between them and us but open air.  By now you may have noticed the picture of the lion below….we got about 10 ft away from this giant cat and it’s mate (passed out to the right, see the safari gallery).  It was an amazing experience.  None of us expected to see a lion on the game drive.  I have been hearing the last month or so that you have to travel to Kenya for a decent chance to see a lion on safari, so finding this lion was a rare experience up at Murchison Falls.  It was largely in part to our guide who “knew some people” and was on the horn making calls as he was driving, tracking them down.

After the lions we continued to travel down towards Lake Albert.  There we found a heard of Elephants walking along the shoreline and Hippo’s scattered throughout the waters.  Curious enough there were nationals in their wooden canoes casting out fishing nets amongst the Hippo’s.  They must have not heard the warning that my dad gave me before I left, “Hippo’s are mean”.  In fact we did see some fighting, but I wasn’t quite quick enough to catch it with my camera.  We concluded the drive, heading back towards the Nile to our campsite as the sun was beginning to set.  At our camp site, Warthogs wandered around, and we heard Hippos munching on trees through out the night.  We even woke in the morning to Baboons rustling around in the adjacent trees, all of which was further confirmation that we were in fact “in the bush”.

In the morning we went on a boat cruise up towards Murchison Falls.  Unfortunately due to the water level being too low, we didn’t get all that close to the falls, but that’s what the zoom lens is for right?  It was still a nice ride as we got to see plenty more Hippo and Croc’s, even a confused Warthog trying to swim across the Nile in the infested waters.  It was then off to lunch and back home to Kampala to the comfort of my bed.

The next day, I think we’re on Thursday now, after our design presentation to the other office staff, I got to expose two of the volunteers Andrew and Chad to downtown Kampala in the afternoon.  We wandered around the nicer areas of downtown and also the areas where Muzungu’s don’t typically go, personally my favorite areas.  I even took them into Owino (one of the largest markets in Africa, you should google it, actually, here I’ll do it for you), another place where you never see other Muzungu’s.  Owino I feel, is the quintessence of Ugandan culture in Kampala, so I was glad that I got to walk them through it, and I know they were too.  Chad said he was doing everything he could not to be grinning ear to ear to further stand out.  We had some fun there with the vendors as well.  At one point a woman came up on us from behind and made a comment along the lines of “You Muzungus are too slow!”  (in a joking manner of course).  We decided to follow her and it became a little game between us and the woman trying to keep up with her navigating through the 3ft wide paths between vendors and watching our feet to not step in ????  She was saying things to other vendors as we were walking and laughter, shouting, and whistling followed us along the path all the way to her stand.  She then proceeded to introduce us to her entire family.  There must have been at least 30 or so Ugandans joining in the laughter, partly at our expense, but all in good fun.  It was an experience that I had yet to have at Owino.

Watoto West Amphitheatre (another detour out to Suubi)

The fun didn’t stop yet….Friday I took the day off and drove out with the aussies and Kirk to Suubi Village (Watoto’s childrens village west of Kampala).  We rode with some volunteers working with Watoto and manged to see much of the western part of the city by getting lost for a short while.  Watoto is a very impressive organization, and it’s clear to see how God continues to bless them as they continue to be good stewards.  I once again was feeling blessed for the opportunity to work with Watoto and the awesome things they are doing in Uganda.  The day was concluded by seeing off the aussies out of Entebbe, returning home, and going to a worship service/concert with special guest artists from around Uganda, and Texas at Makerere Full Gospel Church.  It was an amazing service and it’s always awesome to worship along side Ugandans, sharing that common unity in Christ.  Overall it was an amazing and exhausting 2 weeks.  I’m looking forward to getting back into a routine and digging into the Watoto Koch Campus.

Thank you all for your support that enables me to serve here in Uganda.

Check out the Safari and Boat Cruise Pictures….

God Bless,

ts

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