Living on Support // The Elephant

Featured

I don’t talk much about living on support. Occasionally, I send out indirect requests as support gets low, but I rarely have intentional conversations to invite people to support us. If someone asks about it, I discuss it. But, some times I act almost as if I am ashamed that it is a part of the work I do. By avoiding the elephant in the room, I’m hoping that it just takes care of itself. My avoidance is usually an issue of my perspective of raising support, which I confess is not always in the right place.

When Sarah and I made the decision to join staff with EMI, the thing that haunted me the most was the prospect of raising support. Some people are natural fundraisers and salesmen, but that is not me. I am an engineer. I like numbers and I like making things work. I absolutely hated the idea of “asking people for money” (and that was my mindset when I began raising support). Quite honestly, I have moments where I still feel that way after living on support for 3 years now.

The first several months of “support raising” for me was spent delaying the inevitable. I knew that God had made it clear that we should join EMI, but I didn’t want to do the work that was required. I kept thinking that God would provide in some miraculous way, simply because I was willing to do what He called me to do. Maybe I could go fishing and find a wad of cash in the fishes mouth! That was my idea of biblical support raising. Then a good friend spoke some truth into my life. He quoted Matthew 6:26 and said that God cares for me more than the birds of the air, but how many birds do you see sitting in their nest waiting on God’s provision to fall from the sky. The obvious answer being, none. They go out and get what He has already provided all around them. This is true for those called to work for a paycheck as well as those who are called to work on support. I also had someone tell me that raising support (or developing ministry partnerships) is not about “asking people for money” because we are not running a campaign. Further, raising support isn’t about me, it isn’t about the giver, and it isn’t even about the particular organization or cause.

Raising support is about the work God is doing to restore people and creation back to Himself.

That is the narrative of scripture. All of human history is a story of the Creator pursuing restoration with His creation. His ultimate plan for doing this was made clear through Christ, and guess what… IT INVOLVES ALL OF HIS PEOPLE.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  -Matthew 28:18-20

Sarah and I raise support and people support us simply because we have collectively dedicated ourselves to being a part of God’s restoration work with our time talents and treasures. Neither the supporter or the supported are greater than the other, but they are codependent in participating in this work. Partners in ministry.

There is a long list of biblical ministry partnership examples where people have funded other people in the participation of God’s restorative work. This is how God instructed His people to operate and it is a beautiful picture of how the Kingdom of God is revealed to us. Paul is a great example in the first century church, but even Jesus wasn’t completely self-funded in His ministry! Imagine being one of the women that funded the ministry of Jesus (Luke 8:3). Talk about making the maximum impact with every dollar! But, yet their money wasn’t what made Jesus’ ministry effective and it would have been funded some other way if they had not given. Instead, these women were blessed by being able to participate with Jesus in that work.

That is the perspective of raising support that motivates me to invite people to partner in this work (and one that the enemy tries to make me forget). The reality of what it means to raise support doesn’t change and the flesh in me still doesn’t enjoy the process. But, through it I get to be a part of something much bigger than my own selfish desires and I get to see God work in incredible ways (both in and around me).

Our initial commitment to EMI was for 3 years, however Sarah and I still believe God is continuing to lead us to be a part of the work He is doing here in our community and at EMI. This means that we will continue to live on support for this to be possible. It also means that we need to stop viewing it as a temporary assignment. That doesn’t necessarily mean He has called us here for the rest of our lives.  It simply means that for the foreseeable future it is where He has placed us. That could all change tomorrow, but we have no indication from Him yet that it will. It also means that our support needs to be at a healthy level so that we can provide for our family and operate effectively in our given roles.

Since joining EMI, we have received approximately 2/3 of our financial support from recurring/monthly donors.  The other 1/3 has come from less predictable sources such as one time or end of year giving. While we appreciate all giving, it is those recurring donations that give us security in our budget. Right now we find ourselves with a deficit in our support account, anticipating that end of year giving will bring us back up above negative. God has always provided (even when things have looked bleak) and we have no reason to believe He will not do so again since He has called us to this work. At the same time, we recognize that if we want more security in our finances, it is as simple as being faithful to get out of the nest and invite more people to join us in this ministry opportunity. In fact, it is my laziness and selfishness that not only prevents us from being fully funded through recurring donations, but also has kept others from being blessed by being a part of this ministry. I’m certainly not Jesus or Paul, but I believe we are participants in some amazing restoration work that God is doing.

As a family we also want to be able to save and give more, and that shouldn’t be limited by the fact that we live on support.  On the contrary, it should show that we are stewarding our support well. Our supporters have been good stewards, and they should expect that from us.  Thankfully (and much to the credit of our amazing parents), we are blessed to not have any debt (other than to our support account as previously mentioned). But, being out of debt is only the beginning to financial freedom. We shouldn’t be foolish about the future and we should put ourselves in a financial position to give generously when we have the opportunity. We are not there yet, but we do have the motivation to be there. We don’t anticipate having a six  figure income or living extravagantly, but we do want to be faithful stewards of the opportunities and the finances God provides.

So, I am asking for your support. Whether that is $25, $100, $200 or more per month… I leave that to you to decide what God has enabled you to give. I will continue to share about the incredible restoration work God is doing through EMI. I will continue to pray that people will see these posts, actually read them, pray about how they can participate and that God would motivate them to partner with us. In addition to that, I will also be praying for specific people I can talk to directly about partnering with us.  That may make some people uncomfortable….don’t worry, it makes me uncomfortable too. If you have read this far and are worried about being made uncomfortable then here is the link to join our support team now. (Select the STAFF donation category, and then CHANDLER-2126).

Please also know that I will not ask you to donate to anything that I have not also given my personal time and finances towards. I believe in the Kingdom restoration work that God is doing through EMI.

 

Advertisements

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.

image

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

image

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)

though the earth give way // Haiti

Although it has been over 4 years since the earthquakes that ravaged Haiti, there is still visible evidence of destruction that lingers.  While some have been able to pick up the rubble of their lives and move forward, others have found themselves entrenched in the trauma.  But, for all, it has left an indelible mark on their lives.

In June, I had the privilege to lead an eMi team to Haiti to help Grace International design a master plan for a 16 acre property they acquired outside of Carrefour that they were calling Heritage Village.  Grace International has been working in Haiti for over 40 years with a focus on holistic community development.  With this new property, Grace not only plans to develop more basic permanent shelters for the lowest income community members (as they have been doing for the past 4 years), but they also want to see the people in the community improve their lives through social, spiritual, and economic development.  As such, this master plan would include space for more homes, but allow for two additional improved floor plans for community members who were ready (and could afford) to step up into more developed accommodations.  The property would also include a new boy’s orphanage (to accommodate the overflowing boy’s orphanage Grace has been operating), a school (to provide primary, secondary and trade school training to the community), and a church.

Sanan has been living in a tent since the earthquake in 2010. She hopes to be able to move into a permanent home soon.

Sanan has been living in a tent since the earthquake in 2010. She hopes to be able to move into a permanent home soon.

The team I had the honor to work with on this project was all around incredible!  One of our two talented architects was also on the trip where I was first introduced to eMi in 2010 for the Samfya Bible School master plan in Zambia (see previous post here and his master plan drawing for the Haiti project below).

Heritage Village Master Plan

Heritage Village Master Plan

We also had a Canadian surveyor who had spent several years working in Haiti and who was actually in Haiti when the earthquakes occurred.  His stories of the the relief effort during and after this event left an impact on all of our team.  In addition to that, he was one of the fastest surveyors I have ever worked with.  He recruited some local help and in a day and a half he had the entire 16 acres surveyed!  A portion of that time also included negotiating a couple of the property line locations with the owner’s representative who was carving out this piece of land to sell to Grace.  He had discovered that the property was initially smaller than the 16 acres Grace had purchased, so he got them to fix it! He also had a unique way to verify elevations that you can see below (pictured is one of his local survey assistants).

Verifying survey elevations by referencing sea level

Verifying survey elevations by referencing sea level

In addition to our 7 team members from North America, we also had 11 local design professionals join us throughout the week to help us learn local design practices in Haiti as well as for them to have a chance to learn from our team.  This was a really cool opportunity for us and I am grateful that Grace was able to encourage these design professionals to come help us.  One of eMi’s goals is to disciple the next generation of design professionals.  This includes those westerners volunteering on trips, but also includes the locals in the communities we are serving.  The design profession can be one of the most corrupt anywhere you go in the world, but is also one of the most respected.  Our project trips afford us a tremendous opportunity to speak into the lives of developing world design professionals to bring integrity and excellence back into our profession.  We also have opportunities to bring them in as potential long term partners with the ministries we are serving.  One example is Jude (see picture below: back row, third from right, green shirt) who had expressed interest in helping Grace with construction management of this development we were designing.  Also, a master plan like we were providing in Haiti is not intended to be a full set of construction drawings.  Grace would use this set of plans to help them fund raise, and then we encourage them to hire local design professionals to provide more detailed designs and/or complete full construction documents.

Some of our eMi design team with local Haitian design professionals

Some of our eMi design team with local Haitian design professionals

As a testament to the incredible things that God is doing in Haiti, I want to leave you with the story of a young man I had the privilege to meet on my trip named Jenel.  Jenel grew up in the Grace International boy’s orphanage.  On the day of the earthquake, he was supposed to be in school, but had stayed at the boy’s home because he wasn’t feeling well.  After the quakes he learned that his school had been completely destroyed and most of his classmates and teachers had died or been seriously injured.  He believed that God spared his life for a purpose, but at first wasn’t sure what that was.  Now that his school was destroyed, he couldn’t complete his education and he didn’t know what was next for him.  After seeing the surge of orphans that were left in the wake of the destruction, he began to realize that God had prepared him through the tragedies of his own life to minister to others.  He began using his time that he would normally be spending in school to write down the truths that God was now revealing to him.  He not only wanted to minister to the orphans beside him, but also to those that he didn’t know.  Below is a picture of him with his newly published book for the Christian Service Brigade to encourage young men to persevere through trial with the help of Christ.

Jenel Moise

Jenel Moise

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. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Psalm 46

The Nitty Gritty // Ecuador Pt. 3

DISCLAIMER: Since I want all my readers to glean some level of enjoyment from my blog, the following post is primarily dedicated to the engineer types out there who would read my blog if it included more of the nitty gritty design detail and less personal story. This isn’t to say that the rest of humanity will not enjoy this post, but it is to forewarn you of the intent of this post.  As such, I will give you some of the pretty picture stuff first (from the architects of course) and will have other pertinent pictures (with captions) spaced periodically throughout so that you can skim through to get the idea of what I am discussing.  You have my permission to check out whenever you reach your maximum capacity for consuming detail.  If there are any hyper-engineer types out there, I also want you to be aware that the level of detail that you may be anticipating after a disclaimer like this will likely exceed my capacity to write, so I welcome any follow-up questions that you have and can likely get you a spreadsheet or two to help quench the desire for additional data.  The final design should be complete in December and I can let you take a look at that as well.
THAT BEING SAID…

Below is a picture of the master plan that was drafted by our architect intern (Jihea Kim) while we were in Ecuador and also a picture of the master plan model that we built as a surprise for the ministry at the end of our trip.  The architects in our group were very gracious to let a civil engineer touch the model, so I was able to get my hands stuck together with super glue making some of the buildings you see there.  The architects eventually took over and made it look good though!

Master Plan Sketch

Master Plan Sketch

Master Plan Model

Master Plan Model

Our time with the ministry brought up questions that they were not anticipating and therefore could not answer immediately.  We also repeatedly requested to get written copies of any applicable building regulations (especially regarding the medical clinic), which we were unable to obtain while in-country.  Developing countries are notorious for not providing written regulations, either because they just don’t have any enforcement of standards OR EVEN WORSE because they want to be able to arbitrarily enforce standards as they see fit in order to exercise control.  Unfortunately, I am afraid the latter is the case in Ecuador as the government appears to be moving more and more towards a dictatorship.

For example, due to increasing regulations on medical clinics (again which we could not get in writing), Dr. Ayo has been forced to stop providing surgical procedures in his clinic. They now require him to have multiple doctors on staff and prohibit the collaboration between public and private medical professionals.  These regulations have rendered the poor of Quininde helpless if they need surgical service.  In fact, even the government run hospital in Quininde is not currently providing surgical procedures either (though they do plan to offer that service in the future).  For a person in Quininde to have a necessary surgical procedure performed at this point in time they are forced to travel 4 hours to Quito (that alone is too expensive for most people in Quininde, not to mention the cost of the procedure).  On top of that, you can only be treated at the government run hospitals if you have insurance (even in Quito).  Insurance is actually a misnomer because the government runs that as well and they decide what care you can receive.  But, in order to even have insurance you have to have a full-time job.  Employers are required to pay for government insurance for all full-time employees.  This makes hiring full-time employees too expensive for most employers, so they typically only hire part-time.  This disincentive to hire leads to less sustaining jobs for the people to acquire and less people with access to healthcare.  According to information provided by the local hospital, they are only able to treat approximately 10-20% of the people in and around Quininde.  This makes me thankful for ministries like CMSL that are actively making an effort to help these people, but at the same time it also concerns me for the future well being of the people in Ecuador and the parallel path our own country seems to be taking in some respects with the new healthcare laws and increasing regulation in general.

Government Hospital in Quininde (actually an incredibly nice facility for the few that have access to it)

Government Hospital in Quininde (actually an incredibly nice facility for the few that have access to it)

These are sad truths of the current political climate of Ecuador, but knowing this helps you understand some of the challenges we now face with designing a medical clinic.

Since returning home, the ministry has had more opportunity to think about the vision for this property, come up with answers to some of the questions that initially caught them off guard and they have also located SEVERAL (somewhat conflicting) regulatory resources that were not initially known or made available to us. None of these resources are official Ecuadorian standards, but appear to be what they are currently using to pick and choose the regulations that they are enforcing.  With our design we are forced to take a very conservative approach, assuming that they are adopting the most stringent regulations from each resource.  This has led to some modifications to the overall master plan and building layouts from our first drafts as you may be able to indicate below (but that is bound to happen with almost any design regardless of these things).  Still the major elements of the master plan and the ministry program have thankfully remained consistent.

Revised Rendered Master Plan

Revised Rendered Master Plan

Walking through the master plan:

Starting at the front of the property we have a multi-purpose public access building that will include storefronts, the ministry headquarters office, the medical clinic, and some second-story apartments for ministry teams to stay in.  Ministry teams will include outside specialist doctors and medical professionals that will assist in the operation of the medical clinic as well as teams that will be working with the community children and teams that will be assisting with some of the construction efforts.  They have not fully determined the uses that will be employed in the storefront areas, but they would like to have a pharmacy in one unit and are anticipating using at least one of the units for micro-industry training purposes.  They would like the uses in the store fronts to support the ministry operations and provide Christ-centered functions that are beneficial to the community.

The public access buildings also serve to block off the remainder of the property and enable increasingly private access as you go into the site.  Immediately behind this public area is a home for the caretaker of the property who will maintain site security while also keeping up with regular maintenance of the buildings and infrastructure that are put into place.  Beyond that is a large pavilion and a series of small pavilions that will provide areas for Dr. Yeny to provide preventative care training and host teams/events/retreats.  The large pavilion has a kitchen and bathroom block attached.  Past the pavilion is another set of apartments to house more ministry teams and a large field for sports and other activities.   Moving towards the back of the property there is an area that will be sectioned off to allow for a private access area for the future addition of an abused children’s shelter and housing for a full-time missionary family.

The ministry is currently working on completing a wall around the property to secure the site, and will start on the Phase 1 buildings and infrastructure after the wall is complete.  There is a residential subdivision and an unfinished Catholic Church on the North side of the property, a main road along the West side and vacant land covered in palm trees along the other two sides.

Portion of the wall being constructed around the site and the unfinished catholic church that was built right on the property line (so much for property line setbacks)

Portion of the northern wall and the unfinished catholic church that was built right on the property line (so much for property line setbacks)

The site has relatively reliable electric service compared to most developing countries due to efforts by the government to enhance the nations power grid.  The government currently subsidizes propane for cooking, but will soon stop that in order to swap everyone to electric energy.  As a side note, the government also subsidizes gasoline for autos, so the price per gallon was incredibly low.  However, low gas prices are not much consolation for all the control the government is enacting.

Electrical safety concerns we would like to avoid

Electrical safety concerns we would like to avoid

Gas prices I would love to see again if it didn't come at a high cost of government regulation (yes, that is USD per gallon)

Gas prices I would love to see again if it didn’t come at a high cost of government regulation (yes, that is USD per gallon)

There is a public water supply on site that provides water about 6 hrs a day.  The ministry plans to supplement with a water well that they will install on site.  We tested water from a neighboring property from both the municipal supply and a hand dug well.  Both sources had pretty significant contamination.  We will be recommending disinfection for the water that the ministry will be using on site.

Bacteriological sample of a neighboring well (the spots are bad)

Bacteriological sample of a neighboring well (the spots are bad)

There are not any sewer mains near the property; however, the government does have plans to extend sewer to this property and the neighboring subdivision in the future.  We will be designing onsite wastewater disposal systems (i.e. – septic tanks and leach fields) because even when sewer is extended to the property, it will not be taking the wastewater to a treatment facility.  Wastewater from areas that currently have sewer collection is discharged directly to the river that runs through the city.  I guess as the old adage goes, the solution to pollution is dilution!  Because of this, we are recommending that the ministry be good neighbors and properly dispose of their wastewater onsite.  Speaking of being good neighbors, they currently have some residential neighbors who are allowing their sewer to run across the ground onto the ministry’s property.  We are also going to design a drain system that will protect the ministry property from future damages caused by these illicit discharges.

The river running through the Quininde (the black rocks along the river banks are areas where sewer is discharging)

The river running through Quininde (the black rocks along the river bank in the center of the picture just under the railing is one of the areas where sewer is discharging directly to the river)

Structurally and architecturally we are recommending local building materials and construction practices and are designing the buildings to withstand earthquakes.  Most buildings in the city are reinforced block masonry or concrete with steel frame truss roofing systems.  We would like to see more quality control during construction (e.g. – making sure steel reinforcement is centered in the concrete and not showing through the bottom surface of the ceiling/floor).  One of the ways we are getting around this particular issue of improper steel placement is utilizing a concrete flooring system that is fairly new to Quininde which uses a corrugated steel plate on the bottom that interlocks to the concrete that is poured on top of it.  This also creates cleaner construction and final product that the ministry really liked.  We are also providing ventilated roofing designs (which have been installed in some buildings in Quininde) that will allow these building to be much cooler during the year round HOT & HUMID climate that they experience (made me think of AL summers, only without AC).  The medical clinic will however be equipped with AC units in the exam rooms.

As with all eMi designs, we are not designing to American standards.  Generally speaking, an American design would not be practical in most developing countries and could not be built.  The last thing we want to do is provide them a design that is impractical to build or maintain.  Our goal is to take what they are currently doing in terms of construction materials and methods and bring them up a notch in a developmental sense that will give them a more sustainable and safer design.

This project might be more similar to American standards than some of eMi’s projects would because it is in a slightly more developed area that has more ready access to a wider array of material resources and construction methods, but there is still a pretty wide gap in what we typically see in America and what is practical and possible in Quininde.  They also have some enforcement of building regulations (as I have mentioned), though not near in the sense that we think of in America where we have codes enforcement inspections.  Their inspections do not go near to that level of detail, and are not focused on ensuring safe or accessible construction practices.

We are currently in the process of getting the drawings together and a design report written with the hope that it will be completed and delivered to the ministry in December.  After the ministry has begun work on the first phase, we may even be asked to bring another team in to provide a more detailed design for future phases of the project.

That is all the details I can manage to put into words at this time.  Thank you to those that pressed on to the end.  And for those that skimmed to the bottom, here is another picture to make your scrolling more meaningful!

Presenting the preliminary design to the CMSL Board (what you can't see is that I was battling a migraine at the time of the presentation)

Presenting the preliminary design to the CMSL Board (what you can’t see is that I was battling a migraine at the time of the presentation)

The Next Chapter // Stepping Out In Faith

oregon_trail_people
The Chandler family has finally arrived in Colorado! It has been a long journey for our family to get to this point and God is continuing to prove His faithfulness.

For the past several months we have been waiting on our house to sell so that we could make the move to Colorado to get started with eMi. We found ourselves in a place of keeping up the status quo with life in Auburn and had effectively placed the ball in God’s court by saying, “we will move as soon as He makes it happen.” I thought that I was living by faith because I was waiting on God’s provision to sell our house so that we could be obedient to Him. Then I read the Bible and began to listen to the Holy Spirit as He explained to me how faith really works. I started to realize that what we were doing did not require any faith at all on our part. In fact, I was essentially asking God to have faith in our obedience if He would do His part to make it happen! That is obviously not the Biblical model of faith that God has given us. Faith requires activity on our part first.

God began to reveal this to me a couple months ago when I read the story of Gideon in Judges 6. If you are unfamiliar with this story, I encourage you to study it. It has become one of our family’s favorite Bible stories to read, especially after our friends (the Shropshires) gave us a copy of the Veggie Tales version of the story a couple weeks before we left for Colorado.

In quick summary, Gideon was hiding from the Midianites and an angel appeared to him and said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Thus far I could certainly relate with Gideon’s position…hiding like a coward with self-defeating thoughts while knowing the Lord was calling me out as something much greater! The part that I could not relate to is what Gideon allowed God to do through him next. God told Gideon to, “go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand.” So, after receiving some reassurance from the angel of the Lord, Gideon assembled an army…a 32,000-man army! Not bad for a quick call to arms. Then God told Gideon he had too many men because he did not want the army to think they were saved by their own strength. So, He systematically whittled Gideon’s army down to 300 men to go up against an enormous Midianite army. By all practical and worldly wisdom, this was a bad battle plan for Gideon. Without faith in the provision of an all-powerful God, it most certainly would have led to the quick demise of Gideon and his 300 closest friends. But Gideon knew that God would come through, so he went to battle and God did exactly what He said He would do.

Judges-6-12-web

When I read this story in the Bible, it is not incredibly surprising to me that God comes through in a seemingly impossible situation, because the Bible is full of these type examples of His provision. The Bible also promises the same provision to all of God’s children. But yet, for some reason I hesitate to put myself in such a vulnerable state, where I am completely reliant on that provision as if I do not think it possible outside the covers of my Bible. It seems to be much easier (at times) to simply do life within the realm of of human ability, but I realized by doing so, we are missing out on some of the incredible things God has promised us. I began to wonder how many of us “followers of Christ” have come to the point where we are doing everything on our own human power and completely neglecting the supernatural provision that is available to us through Christ.

I started to think to myself, where is my 300-man army going up against completely unbeatable odds? What am I doing that requires even a portion of that kind of faith? Is there anything for which I am completely relying on God and that my only chance of survival is if He comes through? It was there that Sarah and I realized God was asking us to take the next step in faith and obedience and watch Him come through for us. After revealing this through the story of Gideon, we repeatedly heard the same message throughout scripture about what it truly looks like to have faith in God. I also came to realize that it is hard not to hear the message of faith throughout Scripture when your spirit has been tuned to hear it because it is present in almost every major story and teaching in the Bible.

The Midianites that we are facing by making the move to Colorado is most glaringly financial since we have not sold our house in Auburn. Quite simply, we cannot afford to live in both Colorado and Auburn on a missionary’s budget. On paper, the decision to move made absolutely no sense for us financially. But, we believe God can provide outside our ideas of what seems possible. We also face other tasks with this move that are not as seemingly impossible, but still require a lot of things to come together perfectly and have been of some concern; like finding a place to live from a long distance, getting Jack in a school where he can thrive both academically and socially (also dependant on where we live), getting our family and our stuff across the country, finding new community in Colorado, etc.

I can say unequivocally that God has provided in each of those areas and more since we made the decision to put our faith into action with this move. Shortly after we committed to move, we had a friend approach us about renting our house in Auburn month-to-month until it sells! We certainly want the house to sell soon, but for now we get the opportunity to help out a friend in need while not having to completely bear the cost of that home and not having to take it off the market. We were able to find a rental house in a great area of Colorado Springs that is already starting to feel like a home and the kids love! The area of the rental has made it possible for Jack to get in to the best school in the state by bumping him up over 100 places on the priority waiting list! We moved in earlier this week and we have already connected with several couples who live in close proximity to us and we have already initiated connection within a local church. We were blessed to have eMi staff and interns come and help us unload our stuff and provide meals for us. We were also tremendously blessed to have family taking care of the kids this week in Alabama (thank you GiGi and Poppa J) while we got everything moved and settled and then even transport them out to meet us in Colorado (thank you Pop). God is providing and we look forward to seeing how he continues to make the seemingly impossible things happen!

Another way God is providing for us in a significant way is through our generous ministry partners. We are incredibly grateful for each of you who are making it possible for us to be a part of this great ministry! For a current list of prayer needs and to find out how you can partner with us and the ministry of eMi please click here.

As for work with eMi, I will start later this week after the kids have had a chance to get settled and will hopefully have more updates coming soon with regard to the work I get the opportunity to be a part of. I will most likely be traveling to Ecuador in September, but should have more details on this soon as well.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV)

wait for it…

So, I was talking to one of the two people that read my blog the other day (this person will remain anonymous in this post for satirical purposes except to himself and the other person…that’s right).  He inquired when he could expect to see more unforced rhythms posted to the site.  So I have decided to answer his question about when to expect a post in this post of which he is actually expecting to be posted (The irony will make you crosseyed).

To make a long story semi-short, I have sat down to write a couple times since the last post during the two and a half spare minutes of my day and after completing my groundbreaking monologue I have realized my thoughts were partly unfounded, partly false, and mostly incoherent.  So, I have had to go back to the proverbial drawing board, each time coming up with less and less truthful inspiration.  Some call this writers block, but I am beginning to realize it is actually listener’s block.  I have to slow down and listen to what God is trying to say to me.  Right now I am only getting bits and pieces of something much bigger.  So, the answer is simple: when it is not forced. 

-jc