Out of the Ashes // Kenya

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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A Well Watered Garden // Dominican Republic

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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.

His Grace is Sufficient // Nepal Reflections

DSC_9250The people of Nepal have been gripped with fear as the aftershocks of a massive 7.8 earthquake have continued to shake the ground beneath them.  Rumors swarm as to when the next “BIG ONE” will hit while each ensuing tremor serves as a constant reminder of the buildings they saw crumble to the ground, injuring and killing thousands of their neighbors, friends and loved ones.   Not trusting the structure over their heads, families relocated to tents in clear spaces that would give some assurance of safety and rest for another day.

Just as some had begun to put their fears behind them, another large earthquake (7.3) shook those feelings right back to the surface.  I had arrived in Nepal with EMI’s first Disaster Response (DR) team a few days before this earthquake and I can honestly say that the shaking was unlike anything I had ever experienced.  After it was over, I went outside to assess the situation around me.  Birds were circling overhead and a cloud of dust hung in the air almost symbolic of the spirit of fear hovering over the people.  By the time I reached the streets, they were flooded with people.  Many were crying in disbelief that it was happening all over again as they held tightly to loved ones or frantically searched for evidence that their friends and family were safe.

The moment was surreal, but helped me empathize with the experience of the people I had come to serve.

Our EMI team had come to connect with partner ministries to provide technical assistance primarily through structural assessments of damaged buildings.  The evaluations gave many the assurance needed to move on, some to return to their homes and others, plans for rebuilding.

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Earthquakes of this magnitude typically leave questions as to why some buildings are completely destroyed while similar structures seemed to be left undamaged.  Some of this can be explained by physical characteristics of the structures that are easy to identify by a trained eye, such as: simple structural techniques, the age of the structure, or slight differences in materials and/or workmanship.  There are also significant geological reasons why some areas have more intense shaking than others, which can be much harder to identify precisely without significant shake monitoring and geological studies.  Still there can even be anomalies outside of those causes that are even more difficult to explain.

Our team visited areas near the epicenters of the initial 7.8 magnitude earthquake and the 7.3 magnitude earthquake as well as many areas around Kathmandu valley and saw numerous things that were hard to explain.  For example, in Kathmandu, we anticipated that damages would be much greater than they were in many areas.  That is not to say there wasn’t considerable damage in some areas, but it wasn’t as widespread as we expected.  Kathmandu valley is a former lake bed, meaning the soils are expected to not be resistant to shaking.  However, not far from some of the historic sites of Kathmandu which received heavy damage and extensive media coverage were similar old multiple story buildings with large ground floor openings (soft stories with few rigid support walls) that were not built to any sort of earthquake resistant code but were still relatively undamaged.

My team was on the third story of an older building in this alley when the 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit

My team was on the third story of an older building in this alley when the 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit

Perhaps even more surprising was what we saw in Ghorka, only 12 miles from the epicenter of the initial earthquake.  The damage in this area was relatively insignificant compared to buildings that were of similar construction hundreds of miles away! Again, that is not to say there was no damage in this area, because there certainly was, but it was much less than other areas.

What made this difficult for our team was repeatedly getting the question, “Is this structure safe?” An honest answer to most was a resounding, “NO!” Most of them were not safe structures to be located in an earthquake prone area to begin with, but somehow they survived unscathed.  We could tell them that there was no immediate danger of it falling, but given another earthquake with greater shaking, it could easily fall just like those we had seen in other areas.  We could give some recommendations for strengthening the structure against future earthquakes, which could give them some level of peace but wouldn’t guarantee that it would survive another shake due to the many other structural weaknesses.  At the same time, we couldn’t recommend that they do massive upgrades or rebuilds because honestly there is not enough money available through the relief efforts or otherwise for them to replace every non-earthquake resistant structure.

Rock and mud mortar building in Ghorka with relatively no damage

Rock and mud mortar building in Ghorka with relatively no damage

Reconciling the collision of God’s sovereignty and grace can often be difficult for the limited capacity of our understanding.  It can be exceptionally challenging in the context of natural disasters which are largely indiscriminate in who they affect.

It is much easier to resolve such a thing in our minds when we can see God’s grace clearly surrounding only those who put their faith in Him, much like the Israelites who were passed over because they had the blood of the lamb over their doorposts.  While I am certain God’s grace is not absent in disasters, being a Christ follower doesn’t seem to delineate a clear line of safety. Further, it seems almost arrogant and insensitive to claim the grace of God for the unaffected, when others who were greatly affected are no less valuable as human beings.  Some are even committed followers of Christ.

…BUT God’s grace is certainly at work, even in a disaster or in suffering, and should be given due credit despite our understanding. After all, His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9)

As a testimony to God’s grace and sovereignty in concerted work through this disaster, the initial earthquake took place at mid-day on a Saturday.  This could not have happened at a better time in terms of preventing loss of life.  Saturday is the one day of the week in Nepal that kids do not go to school and in the middle of the day, most people are out of their homes.  I can tell you from the many schools that our team evaluated that the loss of life would have been tremendously greater if schools would have been in session when the earthquake occurred. This doesn’t lessen the value of the lives that were lost, but it should increase our faith in the all sufficient grace of God.

Praise God that these children’s lives were spared!

We know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been calledaccording to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Partially collapsed school in Ghorka

Partially collapsed school in Ghorka

Fully collapsed school in Sindhupalchok

Fully collapsed school in Sindhupalchok

Children playing on the rubble that fell into a school in Sindhupalchok. The steel structure survived, but if school had been in session then the children would have been crushed by the rock infill walls that collapsed.

Children playing on the rubble that fell into a school in Sindhupalchok. The steel structure survived, but if school had been in session then the children would have been crushed by the rock infill walls that collapsed.

My prayer for the people of Nepal is that they will come to know peace through the love and hope of Christ and that they will put their trust in the One who saves.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging…He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:1-3, 10)

 

 

A New Thing is Coming… // Gemena, DRC

Imagine a town of almost 400,000 people (think incorporated city population of New Orleans) with no paved roads, no electricity, no running water and no sanitation.  The people migrating to this town from remote areas hoped to find greater opportunities but discovered there were few jobs and less farming land to go around.  Most families earn less than a dollar each day and live in simple mud and thatch huts that are stacked tightly along the heavily rutted peri-urban streetscape.  This is the image of the almost forgotten town of Gemena in the Sud-Ubangi District of the Equateur province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  Gemena is situated in the northwest corner of the DRC, approximately 100 kilometers from the Ebola River, the origin of the first Ebola virus epidemic in 1976.

The DRC (formerly Zaire) has experienced a tumultuous history of corruption, disease, civil war as well as physical and spiritual oppression that has kept this nation under a yoke of extreme poverty. While the DRC possesses natural resource potential that exceeds the US and European GDP combined, it still remains one of the poorest countries in the world.  The current conditions in Gemena are prime evidence of this cruel reality.

People gathering water at a spring that World Vision developed near Gemena

People gathering water at a spring that World Vision developed near Gemena

Young woman collecting water at spring

Young woman collecting water at spring

Milam and sister Lubelle hauling water with a bike from the spring

Milam and sister Lubelle hauling water with a bike from the spring

World Vision has been involved with relief and development work in the DRC since1984.  They began operation in Gemena in 2012 with what they have named the Ledia program. Ledia is a word from the local language, which means “a new thing is coming to this village” and that is exactly what God is doing through World Vision in Gemena. Seeing the primary needs of clean water and infrastructure, World Vision began working immediately with undertaking several massive water projects in some of the most marginalized and vulnerable areas of the town as they also started to develop relationships in the community through local churches and leaders. These local church partnerships are crucial to the success  of the overall programming to bring about holistic community health change in water, sanitation and hygiene.  These partnerships are also the means by which long-term maintenance of the infrastructure currently being developed will be sustained.

Completing these water projects, however, has been met with great difficulty.  Access to materials, equipment and specialized services (such as well drilling) are almost non-existent in this part of the DRC.  There are no major highways connecting most parts of the DRC, so transit by road is long and difficult.  Most major resources arrive to Gemena by shipment from the capital Kinshasa up the Congo River, which can still take weeks to months. The most efficient but expensive means of transport in the DRC is by air.  The only strip of pavement in Gemena is an airport runway occupied by local military and also utilized for local aid services.  Such impeded access further increases the already high cost of material provision and specialized services in the DRC.

World Vision requested that EMI come assess the water systems they had started designing and constructing to provide recommendations for their completion.  When the EMI team arrived in February 2015, they had begun work on three well-sourced distribution systems as well as a spring-sourced distribution system from a spring they had developed on the edge of town.  These distribution systems would help minimize the walking distance required for the people to get access to a safe water source.  The first phase of water system development that World Vision has planned in Gemena is anticipated to provide water service for up to 20,000 people.

One of the two steel water tanks World Vision has constructed and solar panel structure that is currently being constructed

One of the two steel water tanks World Vision has constructed and solar panel structure that is currently being constructed

Despite the challenges with procuring materials and services, World Vision has managed to make significant progress in the development of these systems.  They have drilled two of the proposed high-yield wells and erected steel tanks that provide 100 cubic meters of water storage at both of those locations, but there is still much more work to be done in order to see water being delivered to the people.

The EMI team was able to provide several beneficial recommendations for the completion of the water systems, but the greatest impact of our services was in building the capacity of World Vision’s local design professionals to effectively evaluate and manage the project.  In March 2014, World Vision brought Franck Nungombe from Goma to manage the water projects in the Ledia program area. Franck is a recent engineering graduate who has great potential to be a very competent engineer and project manager.  Some of the engineering techniques and tools that the EMI team was able to leave with Franck included building a weir to estimate the water flow in potential new spring sources and developing a computer model simulation of the water flow in the current proposed piping system.

Franck explaining the work being done to improve the local springs

Franck explaining the work being done to improve the local springs

Volunteer David Lee instructing how to build a weir to measure spring flow

Volunteer David Lee instructing how to build a weir to measure spring flow

Measuring flow at nearby spring

Measuring flow at nearby spring

The computer model gave immediate benefit in helping Franck determine that the proposed pipe sizes were too small and there were not enough looped connections to get the desired flow at the taps. Instead of us simply providing those recommendations, however, the EMI team was able to build Franck’s capacity to more effectively evaluate the designs himself after our visit. Franck was able to be trained to use the hydraulic model by John Agee (EMI staff and team member currently studying French for the start of EMI’s West Africa Office). John has also made himself available to Franck to provide additional support and training in order to further increase his capacity for future analysis.

Franck, me, John Agee, and volunteer John Rahe hiking to an undeveloped spring in the hills outside Gemena after getting caught in a rainstorm

Franck, me, John Agee, and volunteer John Rahe hiking to an undeveloped spring in the hills outside Gemena after getting caught in a rainstorm

When EMI served World Vision Malawi in 2014, one of the issues that we noticed that had plagued the water system development in Chikwina was the lack of consistent and competent technical oversight throughout the design and construction process.  This led to tremendous effort and expense of initially installing the wrong pipe size and material for proper function of the water system.  In Gemena, however, they will not be learning by trial and error. By having Franck there to manage these water projects and equipping him with the necessary engineering tools and counsel to do his job well, they will avoid learning things the hard way. As Proverbs 15:22 says,

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

As the EMI team departed, World Vision’s Regional Program Manager, Johnson Mawaba, said, “This is just the beginning” as he referred to the work to be done in the Ledia program and EMI’s partnership with World Vision to provide clean water.

a new thing is coming to the people in Gemena.

faithful in the small things // Malawi update

Update from World Vision Malawi: Water is flowing & Tank 1 is FULL! // What a privilege for @emidesignhope to be a part of this story. All glory to God! Check out the back-story at http://bit.do/pipe_dream and http://bit.do/Isaiah58-11

Update from World Vision Malawi: Water is flowing & Tank 1 is FULL! // What a privilege for @emidesignhope to be a part of this story. All glory to God! Check out the back-story at http://bit.do/pipe_dream and http://bit.do/Isaiah58-11

Recently, I posted this update on Instagram of water pouring into a full tank in Chikwina, Malawi.  EMI sent a team to help World Vision troubleshoot this water system in March of this year and if you read my post following the trip, you will understand what a HUGE deal this is for these people!  It was incredible to see the progress that was made on the water system after our visit and to know that the people living in the shadow of this tank are now able to draw water from it for the first time since this project began almost 10 years ago!

Seeing this made me think back to our last day in Malawi.  In my previous post I mentioned how impressed our team was with Robert, the new National Director for World Vision Malawi. The day before we left the country, we had the opportunity to meet with him for a second time when we spent the day in their headquarters office in Lilongwe discussing our findings with the executive team. When we arrived at the office we immediately went to their morning prayer and devotion meeting that had just begun. After the prayer time, Robert stood up and addressed his employees that were present in a way that I was not expecting.

Robert addressing World Vision staff at morning devotions

Robert addressing World Vision staff at morning devotions

He started by quoting Luke 16:10-12:

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own?” 

From there he proceeded to openly address personnel issues that he was noticing within the organization. He did not call out people by name, but I am sure there were several warm seats in the audience. In fact, my seat felt a little warm as well as his words also began to challenge me. He said that on paper everyone is supposed to come into work at 7:30 am every morning, but in reality it is more like 8…8:30…9. They do this so they can knock off work early on Fridays, but in reality they still knock off earlier than they are supposed to (even when they didn’t come in on time all week). He said that he has a hard time trusting people that say they are coming, but in reality they are going, and their yes doesn’t mean yes. In addition to that, he addressed use of organizational resources by saying we should take care of others things as if they were our own, because how else can we expect to be trusted with things of our own.  If we can’t be trusted in small things like this; how can we be trusted with greater responsibility?

Now this is only a brief paraphrase of all that Robert challenged his employees (and us) with that morning, but keep in mind that Robert is a native African and he is talking to a room full of native Africans. Most African cultures do not typically put much importance on timeliness like we do in America. They are typically more event focused. They will arrive at the next event after the one they are currently in is over. It is considered rude to rush away from something because you have to be somewhere else at a certain time. Church services may say they start at 9, but in reality they start whenever most everyone shows up. With that in mind, Robert is confronting not only issues of appropriate work ethic, he is also confronting cultural norms.

He continued to say that as a Christian organization and as Christian individuals; our lives and the work we produce should all be distinguished and set apart from the rest of the world. Our behavior and attitude should be reflective of our holy God and our Savior. We should be faithful in every task that God has given us, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem and we should be faithful even down to the menial details of that task.

This got me thinking about the small things that I need to be faithful in and challenged me to be distinguished as a follower of Christ. As a Christian engineer, is my work distinguished from that of any other engineer?  After all, when I offer a cup of water in Jesus’ name shouldn’t the result of my work be fitting of bearing His name?

I think of Daniel who was so distinguished that even the pagan king was able to see that something was special about him by the way he ordered his life and how he held honor for authority. Daniel worked for some pretty rotten pagan kings during Babylonian captivity, but he was unwavering in his faith and he loved and served them like he was doing it directly for God…and people noticed. The thing that truly set Daniel apart is that he was faithful in the small things. It also got me thinking of another verse that our surveyor had brought up several times throughout the week where Zechariah was prophesying about rebuilding the temple.

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand” (Zechariah 4:10 NLT)

Our Surveyor, Nate Kohl, with community children

Our Surveyor, Nate Kohl, with community children

Of course a surveyor would get excited about plumb line references, but the beginning of this verse grabbed my attention and so I began to research the context of the passage. The NIV says, “Who dares despise the day of small things…” The small things/beginnings that Zechariah is referring to is the size of the temple that was being rebuilt. At the time of this prophesy, Zerubbabel had already laid out the foundation of the new temple. Some of the older Jews at the time who had seen the grandeur of Soloman’s temple were indignant that the temple that was being rebuilt was nothing compared to the size of the previous temple. What God is saying through Zechariah here is it is not the size of the task that matters, but that it is done well.  The Lord rejoices that Zerubbabel is holding the plumb line because He knows that it is going to be done right, with proper skill and care. The important thing is completing the task that we have been given to the absolute best of our ability, not wishing the task we had been given was greater. Being faithful in the small things.

I don’t know how many people left that particular morning devotion time at the World Vision headquarters with a sense of urgency to live a distinguished life as a follower of Christ, but I do know that Robert’s challenge had a deep impact on me that I won’t soon forget.  I also know that God has unquestionably placed the right people at World Vision Malawi to accomplish the task of getting clean water to the people of Chikwina & Mpamba.  Bringing water to the barren tank was an enormous and long-awaited success, but there is still more work to do to complete this system. It would have been easy to lose hope and give up on this project, but I believe that God is rejoicing in their continued faithfulness despite the difficulty of the task.

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24)