Following God’s calling – even if it means a change of direction

When Show Mercy International started in Uganda back in 2004, their core mission was to help the orphaned and abandoned children problem in Uganda (a problem experienced by nearly all of the AIDS ravaged countries of Sub-Saharan Africa). On a trip to Uganda, meeting so many children without a mum or dad or home tugged at their hearts to the point of compelling them to act.

Show Mercy’s village outreach program – a weekly event for the nearby village children to come for singing, a bible message, activities and then capped off with a feast!

Show Mercy’s village outreach program – a weekly event for the nearby village children to come for singing, a bible message, activities and then capped off with a feast!

As their vision took full shape in partnership with a local children’s home ministry, they finally constructed a site of their own in 2011 based on the EMIUK master plan (this was EMIUK’s first project!). Their vision was a 3-pronged ministry approach to operate children’s homes, mission guesthouses for short-term mission teams, and a medical clinic. Phase 1 of the construction was the mission and long-term guesthouses, and the medical clinic.

The EMIUK team helping with the art activity

The EMIUK team helping with the art activity

Since being on the ground for the past few years, Show Mercy has had a chance to engage more in the children’s lives and understand more about their needs. What they’ve discovered is that they feel the primary influence on the children’s lives occurs at school. Since Ugandan children leave for school early in the morning and don’t return until the early evening, the educators are actually engaging the children more than their caretakers at the home.

The singing and message time – around 40-50 kids turn up at each of two village sites every Saturday

The singing and message time – around 40-50 kids turn up at each of two village sites every Saturday

Of course this might be said even in Western cultures, but the longer school days combined with the more communal living style of the homes makes the situation here even more weighted towards the schools. Thus, Show Mercy made the strategic decision to change their focus away from building children’s homes on their site to providing a school where they can help shape the hearts and minds of the children, and ‘fill them with the truth of who they are in Christ’ (according to Mike Salley, the ministry director).

The kitchen, where food for about 60 people (kids and adult helpers) is prepared by the local church workers. Show Mercy funds the event, but they think it’s important for the local church leaders to run things

The kitchen, where food for about 60 people (kids and adult helpers) is prepared by the local church workers. Show Mercy funds the event, but they think it’s important for the local church leaders to run things

At present, Show Mercy is supporting about 100 children through their partnership with the same local children’s home. It’s hoped that some of these kids will attend and possibly even live at the school eventually, since the new school will have boarding for 200 of the 300 planned students. Either way, there are a number of nearby kids in the community who will attend the school as well, along with a portion of students who will pay to attend (thereby subsidising the orphaned and community children who couldn’t possibly afford to pay to attend the school).

EMIUK staff member Brad Crawford (author) with Ronald, one of the local children sponsored by Show Mercy

EMIUK staff member Brad Crawford (author) with Ronald, one of the local children sponsored by Show Mercy

It is both motivating and encouraging to be working with a ministry who has been so successful. But perhaps more impressively, they’ve not been afraid to course-correct along the way in order to best carry out what they feel God called them to do. Their rationale in moving away from a full-time orphanage to the school model is sound, and seeing the impact they’re already having on the nearby villagers as well as their own local staff makes it even more exciting to think about the lives that will be impacted by the school in the years to come.

~ Brad Crawford, EMI Staff

Taking EMI UK Home – Term 1 Internship Reflections

In January 2014 I joined a group of twenty other interns and long-term volunteers with Engineering Ministries International at a one-week orientation in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Not one of us could imagine what God had in store for our time here. From there we moved all over the world: to Colorado, India, Uganda, the Middle East, Canada, and last but not least, the United Kingdom.

Intern Orientation, January 2014, Colorado Springs, CO, USA

Intern Orientation, January 2014, Colorado Springs, CO, USA

After arriving in the UK, I soon faced adjustments in culture I did not anticipate, the uncomfortable feeling of being far from home, and the knowledge that should I survive and make it back home, I would not be the same person returning. Now at the end of the term, in an attempt to summarize my experience (impossible), I turn and think again of the vision of EMI:

“Designing a world of hope for the physically and spiritually poor”

Onsite Presentation to Show Mercy International

Onsite Presentation to Show Mercy International

This vision is something I will carry into my future. I love design! God made everyone with special talents; some with talents for architecture, engineering, teaching, music, writing, and so on. What a world it would be if we all lived out our strengths and the gifts that God gave us! For me, it is my delight to serve God in electrical engineering. As I go back to the US and return to working for a private company, I hope to keep this joy in my work and work as unto the Lord. Every person can delight in using their gifts to serve God, whatever their strengths may be!

Taking home this vision also means never forgetting the physically and spiritually poor among us. These may be as far away as Uganda, and as close as the family in your house. It is God’s good pleasure to run to the needy and he has chosen to use us, His followers, to accomplish that purpose. EMI strives to do this through design projects, but each of us can do this as we see needs in the people around us each day.

Show Mercy's Say No to Hunger Program

Show Mercy’s Say No to Hunger Program

“All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.” Galatians 2:10 (NIVUK)

This internship may have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but working for the Lord and serving the poor must continue on! It is sad to leave the EMIUK office where serving the poor and offering hope through newly created designs is a daily work. Even so, I must accept the challenge of translating the vision of this internship into a process which I keep, even as I go. Thanking God today for this wonderful opportunity and changing me through this internship at EMIUK.

Abigail Kern, EMIUK Intern Term 1 2014, Electrical Engineer

Natalie and I visiting Scotland

Natalie and I visiting Scotland

 

How our clients use our work…

Just this week, our current client demonstrated an exciting example of how what we do here in the EMIUK office is helping our clients around the world bring their vision to life.  In January our team of 15 volunteers went to Uganda to serve Show Mercy International by designing a primary school and leadership academy for their new piece of land that they had purchased.

Earlier this week we finished our renderings showing some visuals of what the new buildings and the new site would look like (credit to our team of in-office architects, Mike Woods and Natalie Goodin who put together some of the buildings in SketchUp, and to John Pillar, who created the overall site model and produced these final renders – as well as the architectural volunteers on the trip who designed the buildings in the first place).

View 1 Render

We sent these images off to the client, and we were so encouraged to hear that they were able to use them the very next day, at their first official fundraiser for this project, in Austin, Texas.  They also shared one of the images online, on their facebook page!  Click here to see the post on their facebook page.

View 4 Render

Here in the EMIUK office it is so encouraging to see how the work we’ve done is immediately being used to raise money and, ultimately, bring the client’s vision to fruition.  And in the next couple of weeks, the report will be printed and bound and posted to the client, giving them even more resources at their disposal for fundraising – not just these images, but engineering and architectural drawings, and a detailed report describing all the design work that EMIUK and its volunteers have completed for Show Mercy International.  This report will be used now as a fundraising tool – and in the future it will be used to inform the final detailed design, and construction.

This is what EMIUK exists to do – serve our clients around the world, and in doing so, “design a world of hope”….what a blessing and a privilege that is.

The design process

At eMi, we’re proud to be engineers and architects. Just like any good design studio, we have our in-house design process. But unlike others, we’re first and foremost Christian missionaries who seek to bring hope to the spiritually and physically poor. This post will flip through a few aspects of the eMi project cycle and explore how we engage those we’ve gone out to serve.

Step one: Know your end user

Every designer knows that user behaviour is king. You may design a beautifully efficient system, but if user behaviour isn’t what you expect, then you’ve just built a white elephant. So as the first step of every design project we take part in, we visit the local ministry and their land. We need to do more than talking to the ministry leaders, because what we think we do might be quite different from what we actually do. Observing the ministry in action is the best way to figure out what engineering provision will best suit their needs.

eMi volunteer Jaz joined YWAM Jinja’s women’s group for the week

eMi volunteer Jaz joined YWAM Jinja’s women’s group for the week

Step two: Draw something and show them

Now we have an idea of what the ministry needs, we can draw up a conceptual design. And because we have 12 engineers and architects plus the local ministry’s leaders spending day and night together, we can churn out the entire schematic design in a week! At this stage, most of the design consists of stick figures and straight lines on tracing paper, but that’s enough to illustrate to the ministry leaders what we’re hoping to build for them.

Colourful hand sketch of the YWAM master plan by our architect Pearly

Colourful hand sketch of the YWAM master plan by our architect Pearly

Step three: Extract opinions from the ministry leaders

This is perhaps the part of our design process which differs the most from typical design studios. Usually clients pay the consultant engineer to design buildings for them, so they will not hesitate to rip the design apart and criticise every fine detail. But we offer our design services to Christian ministries in the majority world for free. In addition, many cultures in which we work are much more reserved in terms of criticism. Therefore, we risk the danger of ministry leaders withholding from us their gut feelings about our design, just for the sake of saving our face. Aware of that, we need to “corkscrew the bottle with a screwdriver”: to criticise our own designs from many angles so the ministry leaders can disagree with our design by agreeing with our “alternative opinion”. The design iterates forward until the end of our week on site.

YWAM Jinja assembled their core staff for eMi’s final design presentation.

YWAM Jinja assembled their core staff for eMi’s final design presentation.

Step four: Polish the design in the office

At the end of the project trip, everybody goes home happy, including the interns… who go back to our office in Colchester and continue to work on the design. We turn the hand sketches and CAD fragments into appropriately formatted CAD drawings, deal with interface issues that we hadn’t got time to consider on the trip, and compile a pretty design report. The ministry can then use the design report for fundraising and construction.

#11016 YWAM Uganda - Completed Project Report

#11016 YWAM Uganda – Completed Project Report

Step five: Construction management and ongoing development

I didn’t stay in eMi for long enough to take part in this, but as the local ministry takes the project to the construction phase, eMi stays involved by providing construction managers. Sometimes after construction is complete and the site is occupied, eMi visits again to help them plan an expansion! We at eMi are proud of our work, and by staying involved in the ongoing development of the project, we can maintain our relationships with the ministries we serve and continue to bring people out of poverty into a world of hope.

Deryck Chan (autumn 2013 eMi-UK intern)

Making an impact

As the work of EMI has expanded around the world, we’ve also begun to expand our ministry’s vision for impacting people in the less developed world. One of the ways we are now making a concerted effort is in the area of involving local people in our work. Typically, this takes the form of coming alongside design professionals or students in the countries where we work.

But often, we have an opportunity to involve some of the local people we come into contact with during our project trips. One time it was a teenage girl who dreamt of being an architect spending time observing and even drawing with our architectural team. Another time it was a couple of young men with an interest in electrics shadowing our electrical engineers on a hospital assessment project.

Whatever the case, we are looking for any way to increase our interaction with the local people and where possible, give them an experience doing a task or skill that is likely something they would never otherwise have an opportunity to try.

The 11017 Show Mercy International project survey team

The 11017 Show Mercy International project survey team

On EMIUK’s recent project trip to Uganda to work with Show Mercy International, we had two young men, Tom (23) and Ronald (16), come out and join our survey team. Neither of these young boys had ever seen survey equipment like our total station, much less had a chance to use it. But on this trip, our surveyor volunteer Sean Williams, spent the better part of 5 days with Tom and Ronald teaching them all about surveying and letting them try all the different aspects of the job – from holding the rod and marking out strategic points for a topographic survey, to operating the data collector and total station.

EMIUK Volunteer Surveyor Sean Williams with his assistants Tom & Ronald

EMIUK Volunteer Surveyor Sean Williams with his assistants Tom & Ronald

We knew they were enjoying themselves when, after the first day (and each subsequent day after that), Tom & Ronald came walking up to our guesthouse to meet up with Sean before it was time to go out! We could see the interest and maybe even a little excitement (Ugandan men often don’t show very much emotion) in their eyes as they’d walk up ready to find out what the day’s task would be.

Ugandans Tom & Ronald standby as volunteer surveyor Sean Williams readies the total station

Ugandans Tom & Ronald standby as volunteer surveyor Sean Williams readies the total station

Of course, the chance that Tom or young Ronald will end up becoming surveyors is pretty remote. But nonetheless, two important lessons were learned. First, by exposing them to a skill or line of profession they’d never thought of before, we were opening their minds just a bit to what might be possible. Even a small step like that can bring a lot of hope to people who just have very few opportunities in life.

Ronald running one of the survey rods

Ronald running one of the survey rods

And second, by interacting with them and getting to know them over those few days, Sean and I were both blessed by the amazing stories of their lives. Hearing their testimonies of God’s protection and provision was both encouraging and a little heart-breaking. But, seeing their eyes light up when we asked about working for Show Mercy was confirmation that this ministry is touching these young lives.

– Brad Crawford, Staff Engineer

National Science & Engineering Week

Did you know this week is National Science and Engineering week (NESW)?  It’s a ten-day national programme of science, technology, engineering and maths events and activities across the UK aimed at people of all ages.

Enginnering week logo 2014

Does Engineering interest you?  Do you know young people who might be interested in a career in engineering?  Why not see what NESW events are going on in your area?

Engineering is such a broad field.  But so often it’s hard to see how Engineering and Missions overlap.  EMI is uniquely positioned at the intersection of engineering and Mission, and we’d love to see more Engineers join us in “designing a world of hope”.  Will you?

Spring Trip: Reflections From Across the Drafting Table

The latest trip out of the eMi-UK office has been covered from several perspectives now, whether it be filtered through our office administrator during the trip or shared first-hand by another eMi intern. The trouble with that is, those were perspectives of engineers, and this is the perspective of an architect. The perspective of an architect is sure to take you on an exciting journey of creativity and imagination through a riveting, rip-roaring design process splashed with vibrant bouts of ingenuity and inspiration to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Ok, that may all well be rubbish.

The truth is that as much as we joke about very stereotypical differences between the groups of architects and engineers on a trip (and maybe as much as we may hate to admit it) we really need each other. Often times, in industry, architects and engineers work nearly completely separate from one another. What was incredible, from a learning standpoint, was being given the opportunity to see the expedited process of a conceptual design take hold in just a matter of days.

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Brad (Structural Engineer) and Austin (Civil Engineer) discuss the master plan with the architectural team

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Sean (Surveyor) and Tom (Show Mercy Staff) walk to the site

As an architectural intern, I had a pretty good idea of what I would be doing on the project trip, as schematic design is basically all we focus on in our architectural design studio courses. Once I met the other intern, I realized I didn’t have the faintest clue about what happens on the engineering side of things. You mean they don’t just sit around waiting for us to bestow upon them the illustriousness design that is sure to speak directly to their hearts and souls? That’s how it works, right??

Ok, ok. Even I acknowledge that isn’t quite how it goes, but I really did not know what exactly the engineers would be doing on the trip. It was really great to see so many disciplines working together in such a focused environment. While I may not have been learning any new computer programs or becoming a professional draftsmen through production of construction documents, some lessons from the twelve days on the trip are seemingly more valuable than those from twelve months in practice. Apart from becoming familiar with Ugandan building techniques and using the metric system (a completely foreign concept to Americans, mind you), I learned very quickly just how apparent it was that everyone had a role and every one of those roles was crucially dependent on the others, no matter how glamorous (or not). As a person who is going to be the low-man on the totem pole for a while yet, this was refreshing to be reminded of.

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Tim (Architect) and son Zach with village children in Kalitti

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Show Mercy International’s “Say NO to Hunger” program

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Eric (Electrical Engineer) with local village boy in Bakka

 An even more humbling lesson was a gentle reminder of the true power of love and compassion. We all came out of the same industry as design professionals, so fundamentally we all started with a very broad commonality. Relying on one another and working so closely together made us a more united group. Together, in this group, we experienced a lot together. We were able to join Show Mercy International’s team as they went out into the villages and fed local children. We played football, we sang songs, and we read books. We just gave these children attention, together. We also got to know local Ugandans who work for Show Mercy. We heard stories of abandonment, heartbreak, and injustice. We heard these stories together. We heard each other’s trials, tribulations, worries, doubts, and struggles. We heard each other’s praises, excitement, and laughter. We shared all these things together, and we grew closer together for it.

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Abby (Engineering Intern), Natalie (Architectural Intern), Lisa (Primary School Teacher), and Rose (Civil Engineer)

I believe that everyone was able to grow one way or another in this experience. As a young professional, it has been incredibly encouraging to see so many people from so many different places come together to work for a cause like helping Show Mercy International. It has been a great first experience with EMI, and I look forward to the rest of the internship back in the UK office. Cheers to a great term!

Natalie (eMi – UK Spring 2014 Architectural Intern)

Spring Trip – Project Trip Reflections

My first eMi trip was a two week adventure of new experiences! This was my first time to Uganda, first time to Africa, first time meeting the 15 other team members at an airport, and first time sleeping under a mosquito net. A lot of new experiences were engineering related: doing a water test for the first time, watching a perc test and soil test for the first time, and drawing in AutoCAD for the first time. I also admit that this trip was the first time I have been asked, “Would you like tea or coffee?” every half hour.

Natalie and Abby - Spring 2014 eMi UK Interns

Natalie and Abby – Spring 2014 eMi UK Interns

Every day at Show Mercy we spent working and every night we met together as a group. Something that really summarizes the trip for me was a Bible study we shared on the body of Christ. Our roles in the body remained a topic of discussion from then on because it parallels so closely with our roles in the design team.  On the design team we have architects, engineers, surveyors, etc. As an electrical engineer, I cannot tell the architects that I don’t need them. And the surveyor cannot design the electrical system without us electrical engineers. If the whole team were engineers, it wouldn’t work! Electrical sometimes seems like a small part compared to architecture but without it, the whole project would be incomplete.

Eric (Electrical Engineer), Tim (Architect), and Brad (Team Leader) collaborating on the design for Show Mercy.

Eric (Electrical Engineer), Tim (Architect), and Brad (Team Leader) collaborating on the design for Show Mercy.

One of my electrical teammates, Graham, said that through the project he was able to see his own contribution for the first time. Sounds simple, but it is a great gift to know your role and a great honour to God to acknowledge it because He is the one who gifted you. God used this team to teach me that our gifts should be used to honour Him, and as a team, our individual contributions are vitally important to all the other members.

1 Corinthians 12:21-22, 27 “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

Tim (Architect), Graham (Electrical Engineer), and Natalie (Architect Intern) in the workroom.

Tim (Architect), Graham (Electrical Engineer), and Natalie (Architect Intern) in the workroom.

After our presentation to Show Mercy, we spent two days in Kampala together as a team. It was such a good time to unwind and enjoy each other’s company after working together the previous week and a half. Now I am back in Colchester working in the eMi UK office. Praise God for safe travelling there and back again! I pray now that the love God gave us for the people of Uganda and the purpose we feel in our work would grow as we finish the project back in the office. 

Abby (eMi – UK Spring 2014 Electrical Engineering Intern)

A goodbye thank you from Show Mercy International!

A goodbye thank you from Show Mercy International!

Spring Trip – final presentation

Two nights ago, on Wednesday, the #EMIUK11017 team made their final presentation to Show Mercy International.  It was a real blessing and honour for us at EMIUK to serve this incredible ministry for the second time.  Here are some photos of the final presentation…

EMIUK team ready to present

The EMIUK team ready to present

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Volunteers Tim & Izzy Butcher presenting the masterplan

Volunteer Dave Lambert presenting the building designs

Volunteer Dave Lambert presenting the building designs

Team co-leader Mike Woods speaking

Team co-leader Mike Woods wrapping up the presentation

Team co-leader Brad with members of the Show Mercy International team

Team co-leader Brad with members of the Show Mercy International team

Spring Trip: A few photos…

Here’s a little insight into life on the project trip – just two or three candid shots of the team as they share their mid-trip ideas with each other and with the client…

11017 Natalie Dorm

Intern Natalie talking about dormitory accommodation. Intern Abby and trip co-leader Brad listen intently.

Volunteer David shares his architectural designs of the buildings

Volunteer David shares his architectural building designs with the team

The current plan, at interim presentation - just two more days until the completed plan is unveiled at the final presentation on Wednesday!!

The current plan, at interim presentation – just two more days until the completed plan is unveiled at the final presentation on Wednesday!