Out of the Ashes // Kenya


When the fire started in the canteen on February 9th at Tenwek Hospital in Bomet, Kenya there was little they could do to stop it from engulfing the entire upper floor and roof of the building. This building also contained the hospital kitchen, statistics offices, laundry, sterilization and (of most concern) a small portion of the orthopedic ward. Staff rushed to evacuate patients from the building only to discover they had not been waiting around to be rescued. Patients with limited mobility managed to get out and get moving. Hospital beds and wheel chairs were later located far away from the hospital.


Praise God that no one was injured or killed by this fire.  Fearing that it would spread from one building to another in the congested campus, they began to dismantle the timber roof of the nearest building and made desperate efforts to beat back the flames with small water hoses and any fire extinguishers they could get their hands on. As disastrous as it was for this building to be destroyed, the results could have been much more traumatic if other adjacent clinical patient buildings had been affected. The results were about as good as they could have been for an event like this and it was clear that God’s hand of protection was present.

The fire left everyone at Tenwek Hospital well aware of how much worse this could have been and thanking God for sparing so many lives. The question that came to everyone’s mind is how they could prevent such a disaster from ever happening again. The potential for over reaction could be great, but in everyone’s mind, something must be done.


EMI has been a long time partner with Tenwek Hospital, helping them design several buildings and master plan the hospital campus. Shortly after the fire, Tenwek asked EMI to come help them plan for rehabilitation, consider impacts to the campus master plan and evaluate fire resiliency and preparedness. With plans already in place to come to Tenwek in the next few months to begin preparations for their new cardiothoracic center and water/wastewater system rehabilitation, we decided to move up our trip and help them make lemonade out of these lemons. So, myself and another EMI staff member left a few days later to assist them in whatever way possible.

Recovery from something like this is not fast, but the good news is that Tenwek hospital will recover and will be better off in the future. During our visit to Tenwek, we noticed that a couple simple construction techniques, like firewalls and replacing combustible materials, could be retrofitted into existing buildings to prevent fires from spreading and causing such a tremendous impact. They could also provide protection in high fire risk areas, such as kitchens that would stop fires from getting out of control.


In developing world design, many times it is hard to find a balance between what is necessary and what is ideal. In the US, we design to codes that help make buildings safe and functional. To expect this level of design and construction in most developing world contexts is not practical and often too costly. Instead, we normally have to make compromises in design standards that we would consider to be ideal in order to be appropriate for the context. At EMI, we explain this in terms of a development ladder. Our goal is not to take them from step 2 to step 10, but to incrementally increase safety and functionality in our designs. Step 3, step 4…etc. We look to find the practical things that they can do to improve using local labor, materials, and equipment and without dramatic increases in cost. This is engineering at its core. It is challenging, it is outside the normal confines, and it can also be very frustrating.

As we evaluated fire resiliency and preparedness at Tenwek Hospital, it became clear that we (EMI) have not always done a great job prioritizing and stressing the potential hazards of fires in our designs. Fire hazards at facilities like hospitals are especially high considering the concentration of people, many with restricted mobility. This was a wake up call for Tenwek, but it was also a wake up call for EMI. The building that burned at Tenwek Hospital was not an EMI designed building, but in all our years working at Tenwek and other mission hospitals, we have not often recommended major changes to existing structures just for fire resiliency. Granted, prioritization for such things would likely not be very high where budgets are tight, but we shouldn’t let that stop us from making such recommendations.


Now that news of this disaster at Tenwek Hospital has spread throughout mission hospitals in Kenya and sub Saharan Africa, awareness of fire hazards is likely increasing. EMI also recognizes this as an opportunity to share information with our many hospital clients so that they can be better prepared and more resilient for a similar disaster.


Gaining Ground // Dominican Republic


A beautiful thing is happening in Guayabal, and water flowing is just the beginning! When EMI initially visited this community in February 2016, meaningful agriculture production for the farmers who live here had been a thing of the distant past. As detailed in my previous post last year, the community irrigation system had been in disrepair for many years despite repeated promises from the government to get it fixed. World Vision had begun a partnership with the community, and the repair of the irrigation system was one of the primary needs that was identified.

Following our assessment in 2016, World Vision decided to proceed with helping the community rehabilitate the irrigation system and asked for EMI’s help to accomplish the task. We spent several months working on the design, coordinating with the ministry, local contractors, and the community. In May 2017, EMI sent a team to work alongside the contractors to inspect the installation of the primary electrical service and pumping system. The team also spent much of their time investing in the local farmers with system operation and agricultural training. In September 2017, EMI returned to do an operation assessment and continue the training that was started earlier that year.


EMI staff, Andy Engebretson, and associate staff, Wil Kirchner, training community members in May 2017


EMI volunteer, Lee Wheeler, training Distribution Manager, Juan Bosch on flow measurement in September 2017


EMI volunteer, Jeff Mitchell, training Operation Manager, Manuel, on pump operations in September 2017

Seeing water flow in canals that had been dry for so long is an amazing thing, but the most encouraging thing is seeing the community come together and take initiative to make these improvements a reality. They are not waiting on the government or any other organization to come do it for them. They are investing their individual time, resources, and talents to bring about transformation in their community. They are gaining ground as they see parched land become fertile again and they are gaining ground as they strive to see their community flourish. For more updates on the development progress in Guayabal, check out their community Facebook page.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!

Water filling the irrigation canals


Children playing in the reactivated irrigation canals


Drip irrigation systems being installed in Guayabal

Living on Support // Pt 2. FAQ


Many people have questions about what it is like for us living on support. I wanted to answer some of the most frequently asked questions as well as some that you may be thinking but not asking. Feel free to ask any other questions that come to mind.

  • Why do you raise support? 

    For the spiritual motivation behind support raising, please check out this previous post. As for the practicalities of the matter, EMI serves the poorest of the poor around the world (mostly living on less than a dollar a day). The ministries and beneficiaries we work for do provide some financial investment into these services, but it is generally not anywhere near the market value of the services we provide. These contributions and other general donations go towards EMI’s operational expenses and future growth initiatives. Therefore, EMI does not have the financial capacity to support having 100+ design professionals on staff. In order for EMI to operate, its staff must raise support. For more details about EMI’s finances, check out EMI’s Financial Report, Charity Navigator’s Report, and ECFA’s Report.

  • Why can you not earn a salary elsewhere to do this work? 

    There is certainly biblical support for missionaries supplementing their support income with other gainful employment. Most notably was Paul who made tents for a period of time to not be a burden to one of the churches he was serving. Paul also used tent making as a means of ministry. For me, engineering is my primary “tent making” skill that I use as a full-time means of ministry. While doing that through EMI, it is not possible for me to also use that as a means to generate income. The time that would be required would be too much to do either one effectively. Sarah has had some part-time employment through our church during our time in Colorado, but her first priority is to our home and our kids and not to providing financially for our family. I have also done other things to supplement our income such as coffee roasting. You can go to chandlercoffee.com and order some if you would like. While this does bring in a little money, it mainly just pays for my side coffee roasting hobby and is not a means to support our family at this time.

  • Is it more difficult to raise support to live in the USA? 

    I’m not sure of the statistics, but it seems that people are generally more willing to give to someone who is going to live overseas in conditions they wouldn’t want to live in than they are for someone who lives in the US. Colorado is also a vacation destination for many, so I believe that makes it even harder for us.

  • Do you have any plans to live overseas? 

    We believe that God has specifically called us to our community in Colorado right now as a place we can be most effective in ministry. At some point He may call us back home to Alabama, or to Africa, or anywhere in between, but right now He has called us to be in Colorado. We do feel like God is leading us to visit one of EMI’s field offices for a few months in 2017, but not a long-term move at this point.

  • Does the financial support you receive go directly to your family? 

    Yes. Everything donated to EMI on our behalf goes directly to our support account.  EMI does not take anything off the top.

  • How does your support account, taxes, and budget work? 

    Donations made to our support account are tax deductible for the donor and are held by EMI as designated funds. Each month we receive a paycheck from these designated funds based on an amount set for our budgeted living expenses. We pay taxes on this as income just as anyone else would receiving a paycheck and the net income is what our family lives on each month. EMI does not take anything off the top, but they also do not add anything to that either. This means we also must raise any employer taxes, insurance, savings/retirement contributions, etc.

  • What happens if you do not raise the support you need?

    If we do not raise the required support, we will not be able to continue working with EMI. Currently our support account has been allowed to go negative for the first time. Being near the end of the year, we are hopeful it will be back above zero soon. However, if it does not rebound substantially by the end of the year, we will be forced to find other means to earn our required living expenses.

  • Do you ever get tired of begging for money?  

    I hope the previous post answered this question, but if it were simply begging for money I would have never started.

  • Why should we support you specifically? 

    Each person has to do what God leads them to do when it comes to giving. I personally believe the restoration work that God is doing through EMI is a tremendous Kingdom investment. I am not asking anyone to donate to anything that I have not already given my time and finances to support.

  • Can we sign up to support you for a defined period?

    Yes. If you are not comfortable signing up for donating for an indefinite period of time, you can choose to make recurring donations that automatically end after 12 months or another period of time of your choosing.

  • Can we give as a lump sum at the end of year, as a one time donation, or annually? 

    Yes. We accept and appreciate donations of any amount at any time. We understand that some people would prefer to give this way based on their known income. To help us plan better, we would greatly appreciate knowing if we can anticipate receiving a donation from you, but we also recognize that isn’t always possible.

  • Does it offend you when friends and family don’t support you financially?

    God must lead us all in our individual giving. If someone chooses not to support us, it is ultimately not me they are rejecting. (Well, maybe it could be me, but I try not to take it that way).

  • Do you get the majority of your support from churches, corporations, or individuals? 

    Every person living on support will likely have a different make-up of supporters. Ours is predominantly individuals supporting us between $25-$200 per month.

  • Do you ever feel bad about posting on social media about family vacations while living on support?  

    Not really. We definitely try to attribute any gifted vacations to the donor (usually our parents). But, we all need some amount of fun and rest in our lives and we do not apologize for that. While we do want to invest in fun for our kids, we are always budget conscious and are simply not able to afford extravagant vacations on our own at this time in our lives. We do the best with what we have and we do not say no to any offers if we can make it work. It does help to live in a vacation destination, but the beach is also nice if anyone wants to help us not feel so land locked.

  • Aren’t you afraid that you will lose support in uncertain ecomonic times?

    While we never want to lose supporters, we recognize that things change and sometimes supporters are not able to continue. We will also be continually inviting new supporters to partner with us. This enables a healthy support level to remain somewhat stable even in uncertain economic conditions.

  • How long do you plan to live on support?

    We have not heard clearly from God as to when/if this season will end for us. We will continue to live on support either here or wherever He calls us until He leads us in a new direction.

  • Would you rather not live on support?

    At times it is difficult and I really wish I had a paying job (quite honestly). Other times (when my perspective of support raising is in the right place) it is a tremendous blessing. Even beyond the financial support side of things, I know that my family and I are being covered in prayer by hundreds of people. That is something that is absolutely priceless that I wish every believer could experience. In addition to that, God has used this season to grow my trust in Him and to stretch me in ways that I never would have thought were possible.

  • Where do I sign up?

    I’m glad you asked!

    You can set up a donation to our support account on EMI’s website. Select the STAFF donation category, and then CHANDLER-2126.

Beer Sheba // Senegal

This past month I had the privilege to be a part of a project team serving the Beer Sheba Project to design a primary school and teacher training center in Sandiara, Senegal. The name Beer Sheba means “well of the oath” or “well of seven” and comes from the location on the southern end of Israel on the edge of the Negev desert where Abraham dug a well and had it stolen by the Philistines. To secure his ownership of the well, Abraham gave Abimelek seven lambs (hence the meaning of the name).  Beer Sheba is a barren land where water is scarce and Abraham’s well helped provide life and sustenance to the people and the land.  Similarly, Senegal is on the edge of the Saharan desert and the Beer Sheba Project began on barren land where water was scarce. The property where Eric Toumieux began the Beer Sheba Project was given to him because the locals believed this land had been cursed.  Eric will tell you that the best land a follower of Christ can find in this part of Africa is cursed land. They will literally give it to you and at the same time you possess the cure for the curse.

Eric praying with the EMI team over one of his newly acquired "cursed properties"

Eric praying with the EMI team over one of his newly acquired “cursed properties”

When Eric acquired this land (unlike when Abraham moved into the region of the Negev) he started by praying over it and building a fence around the property (to invite the presence of God and to keep any Abimelek’s from coming in and causing a dispute). The spiritual and physical barrier served as his oath to the surrounding communities that this property was now set apart for God’s purposes. After this, a miraculous thing occurred.  The land inside the fence started to produce vegetation!  Eric also had well drillers come out to the property who told him there was no use trying because they wouldn’t be able to get water in this area.  Eric told them to drill anyways and sure enough, they hit a large aquifer.

Agricultural area at Beer Sheba

Agricultural area at Beer Sheba

They began to plant trees and crops and raise livestock and they are now using this site for biblically-based agricultural training and production.  In addition to the Kingdom building work they were doing and sending from this property, they didn’t realize the impact they were having on the surrounding environment until a group of bird watchers showed up with TV cameras from Europe. They claimed that not only was this property the home of hundreds of bird species, but it had actually affected the migratory patterns of the endangered turtledove!

The view from the Beer Sheba Project surrounded by desert

The view from the Beer Sheba Project surrounded by desert

The population of Senegal is over 90% Muslim, but unlike some of its neighboring countries in west Africa it is very tolerant of other faiths and is a very peaceful nation.  Peace is of tremendous value to the Senegalese.  In fact, the local greetings in Wolof and Serer can last for several minutes and greatly consist of ensuring that the other person has peace.  Still there are challenges for Christian ministries in Senegal and God has protected the Beer Sheba Project from assault on several occasions.  Protection has even come from the surrounding Muslim community who recognizes the good work they are doing for the people of Senegal.  As a testimony to the good work that they and other Christians are doing in Senegal, the government openly supports and encourages the development of Christian schools around the country.  They have a very high regard for the quality of Christian education.

EMI team meeting with the Mayor of Sandiara

EMI team meeting with the Mayor of Sandiara

This is no exception in Sandiara.  The Beer Sheba Project has built a great relationship with the local government and they are providing land for Beer Sheba to build another agricultural demonstration area in the main part of town as well as a piece of land for a primary school and teacher training center (that we are currently designing).  Beer Sheba has also acquired another piece of cursed land on the main highway coming into town where Eric envisions building a restaurant sourced by the Beer Sheba Project. God is doing and has plans to do even more incredible things through Beer Sheba in Senegal!

Volunteer Landscape Architect (Hutch) working with Eric on masterplan

Volunteer Landscape Architect (Hutch) working with Eric on masterplan

Another thing that struck me about the name Beer Sheba was its significance throughout the Bible. It is not often taught about or thought of, but many revelations from God occurred in Beer Sheba and many journeys of faith began or ended at Beer Sheba.  Those included Abraham, Hagar, Isaac, Jacob, and Elijah.  For the nation of Israel it is the southern border and is mentioned many times as a boundary description or a place where the people of Israel settled after being in exile.  I began to wonder why God would choose to use such a barren place on the edge of the desert as a place of Biblical significance. What I didn’t expect was to have my own Beer Sheba moment while on this trip to the edge of the Sahara.


My participation in this design project was supplementary to my primary reason for being in Senegal. With the launch of EMI’s west Africa office in Senegal, I was interested to see how we could partner and participate in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) projects from this office.  This project provided a great opportunity for me to do this and spend some time visioning with some of the office launch team.  While I was hoping to make a few beneficial connections with ministries in Senegal and get a better understanding of what WASH would look like in Senegal, I did not have high expectations for projects or clear direction to come from this exploratory trip.  However, God had other things in mind. I left the desert with a clear picture of what God wants to do through EMI in WASH and specifically in Senegal.  I even left having identified a potential WASH project near where the office will be launched. I look forward to sharing more about this vision and future WASH projects in Senegal as things begin to take shape.  For now I know that I have heard from God and a new journey of faith is beginning.

And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. Matthew 21:22


A Well Watered Garden // Dominican Republic


Guayabal is a small town of approximately 2,000 people that is located in the southwest of the Dominican Republic near the border of Haiti. The town is situated in a valley surrounded by beautiful tree covered mountains. One would think that this would be a perfect spot for people whose livelihoods depend primarily on subsistence farming. The reality of Guayabal, however is something different. While the lush mountains around receive plenty of precipitation throughout the year, the valley is dry and sun-scorched. Even the rain that does fall in the mountains does not funnel into the valley as one might assume. Instead, it filters into groundwater aquifers and the majority of this water is not accessible until it surfaces as a spring at the low side of the town.

View of Guayabal from the adjacent mountains

View of Guayabal from the adjacent mountains

In the 1970’s, a large pump station was installed in order to bring this spring water back up to the town so they could irrigate their lands for better crop production. For many years this irrigation system helped turn this valley from brown to green. However, as a result of inconsistent power supply to the town, as well as improper protection and maintenance, the pumping station eventually fell into disrepair. After many years of this system being inoperable (with no way for the farmers to make the necessary repairs) the people of Guayabal lost their agriculture production and their hope that it could ever be restored. Many of the area farmers began trekking into the mountains in search of land that would be more productive despite being harder to farm. Others left their homes and families in Guayabal in search of greater opportunities in Santo Domingo or even migrating across the Atlantic Ocean to Spain.

A local farmer, Einar, sitting on an irrigation pipeline that has been inactive for 15 years

A local farmer, Einar, sitting on an irrigation pipeline that has been inactive for 15 years

Several years ago, World Vision began working in Guayabal with their child sponsorship program. As they began to assess the felt needs of the community, agricultural production was one that immediately rose to the top. Together with the community and government agencies, they began to explore the possibility of rehabilitating this irrigation system and more importantly setting up appropriate systems for ongoing maintenance and sustainability. In the past, the community relied completely on the government to operate and maintain the irrigation system. They are beginning to discover that this arrangement only works as long as the current government has the political motivation and funds necessary to make it a priority and this irrigation system has not been a government priority for over 15 years! During that same time, however, the government did manage to fund the construction of a very nice baseball field with lights in the town! I’m sure there are designated funds streaming into the DR from the US MLB to build baseball fields as a means for recruiting, but it does make you wonder why the irrigation system wasn’t a greater priority.

Surveyor, Kevin, establishing a control point on the home dugout of the local ball field

Surveyor, Kevin, establishing a control point on the home dugout of the local ball field

While it would seemingly make things much simpler to completely divorce any reliance from the government, the reality in the Dominican Republic is that some level of government partnership remains a necessity and they do not need to burn those bridges. Now, as the country is nearing elections and as the community has continued to petition them to help rehabilitate this irrigation system, some politicians have made a few attempts to indicate that they are now motivated to get involved. World Vision has also stepped in to help provide some of the initial funding for the community and is doing an incredible job trying to navigate the murky waters of partnership between community, government, and NGO. In doing so, they called on the help of EMI to determine the feasibility of the current approach and to provide recommendations for rehabilitating  the system.

Volunteers, Jeff and Lee, gathering information from local farmer, Bernardo

Volunteers, Jeff and Lee, gathering information from local farmer, Bernardo

This was no small task, but we had the perfect team for the job. At EMI, we often talk about the miraculous ways that God brings together the perfect teams for specific projects. This project was no exception and definitely worth mentioning. Among the 7 team members we had a combined experience of over 175 years in 98 countries. We had 2 of our most experienced agricultural engineers, one of our most experienced civil engineers, an electrical/mechanical engineer who actually began his working career in agriculture, and a surveyor who also specializes in agriculture irrigation projects and who had spent several years working on an irrigation project just across the border in Haiti (less than 20 miles away)! I should also mention that this team came together in record time for a non-disaster mobilization.

Electrical engineer, Jeff, performing analysis of pump station

Electrical engineer, Jeff, performing analysis of pump station

Shortly after arriving in Guayabal, we began to gain an understanding of the political climate in the DR as well as the tangled history of this system. We had been on site for approximately 2 hours when we were escorted into the equivalent of a city council meeting and were asked by a regional politician to give our opinions on why his assessment for the rehabilitation of the system was the correct way to proceed. I don’t know for sure the motivation in putting us on the spot like this in a public setting (knowing full well that we had just arrived), but I can only assume that it was an effort to strong-arm some political will. Thankfully, we were able to gracefully inform him that we would be evaluating the system over the course of the next week and would present our findings at that time to the community.

Assessing the land that was once served by the irrigation pipeline

Assessing the land that was once served by the irrigation pipeline

In short, during our assessment we ended up confirming the suspicions held by World Vision and the community that a major component of the proposed solution was not only a poor design, but would be setting them up for certain failure. After all, the goal is to help establish sustainable systems that can be maintained by the community and not perpetuate their total reliance on others. As stated before, the reality is that the government must be involved in this project, but by bolstering the capacity and knowledge of the community they will be able to effectively partner with them going forward for sustainability instead of being dependent on them.

Edelmiro is a very lively 79 year old farmer in Guayabal. Lack of sufficient irrigation water has significantly reduced the crop production in his village, but he is hopeful that he will soon see crops flourishing there like this tomato farm that we visited in a nearby mountain town.

Edelmiro is a very lively 79 year old farmer in Guayabal. Lack of sufficient irrigation water has significantly reduced the crop production in his village, but he is hopeful that he will soon see crops flourishing there like this tomato farm that we visited in a nearby mountain town.

Another concern that we had with regard to sustainability beyond the hardware and design of the system was the local farmer capacity and particularly the presence of young farmers who would continue working this land into the future. Our surveyor, Kevin, had a great conversation with a couple of the younger men that were there and their story gave us hope. These young men had come back home because they heard the irrigation system was going to be rehabilitated. Kevin asked them the current value of the land they were standing on, which was not a particularly good piece of land in relation to other parts of Guayabal. The men replied with a number representative of this type of land. Kevin then asked them what the current value would be of the best lands in Guayabal and they replied with a higher number. Kevin then asked what the value would be for irrigated land in Guayabal. They laughed as they responded saying,

“No one would ever sell irrigated land in Guayabal.”

Volunteer, John Rahe, assessing one of the few irrigated properties remaining in Guayabal.

Volunteer, John Rahe, assessing one of the few irrigated properties remaining in Guayabal.