Thank You! (Read This First)

Upon my return from Africa and following several phone conversations with close friends inquiring about my experience, it became apparent to me I would be unable to do the trip any sort of justice through a single conversation, or update letter. In an effort to more completely convey my thoughts and impressions I’ve decided to transcribe journal entries from the trip as well as other thoughts throughout the summer to this blog. (I've dated them accordingly in the titles, so disregard their posted date. You may want to read from the bottom up to get the story chronologically.)

For those who are supporting me in all my endeavors this summer, first of all ‘Thank You, I wouldn’t be here without your generosity!’ This blog is largely for you. In lieu of a very lengthy support update, I decided rather to give those of you who would like to know more, an opportunity to learn about my experiences throughout the summer as you feel inclined to check up on me. I hope it will offer you some encouragement about how God is moving in both my life and the lives of so many others I’ve been able to interact with over the course of this summer. This blog will attempt to recount some of my experiences and tell you a little about my heart. It is by no means exhaustive, nor is it very eloquently written, but for those of you who would like to know, here it is:

Some Reflections

____________(Our Team with the community leaders from Jalle)

My time spent in Southern Sudan was amazing, and it was a privilege to be a part of this team. I enjoyed getting to know each and every one of our team members and learned so much just in conversation with them. I was able to ask lots of questions and document most of what I learned. In light of the practical civil engineering knowledge I gained during the trip, I’m contemplating a change in major concentration to Water Resources. (This trip has helped me realize even more, that water is what I am truly passionate about.)

It was also amazing to see the work that God is doing to rebuild Southern Sudan. It was an encouragement to see the hope that is returning to the people and the growth that has occurred over the past few years. Even seeing the great support and the accommodations that were made for us during this trip were an incredible blessing. Although there continues to be some unrest and uncertainty in the future, God is moving and the people are hopeful.

This trip was also a confirmation that I would like to continue to be involved in engineering missions, as least in some capacity; whether that be on a volunteer basis or maybe spending a more significant amount of time in a developing country doing civil engineering work. I’ve discovered that I have more of an attraction to long term involvement in one place. I would really love to live somewhere for a more extended period of time to get to know people and the culture more, but I’m content to start out with more short term stuff and see where that leads. At this point, I do not have any particular place in mind. I would love to return to Southern Sudan to see how the ministry is doing, or observe the construction of the school and women’s center we designed, but I'm not making any particular plans at this point .

Engineering missions, now more than ever, excites me. I see how I can be passionate and involved with that sort of ministry, and I pray that God will be clear in his direction of my path beyond this point. Thank you again to all of you who made this summer possible!

The Fruits of Our Labor (5-30-09)

__________(The Civil Engineers discussing our Wastewater design)

I already explained a bit of my responsibilities as a civil engineering intern – that research continued throughout the week. After our return from Jalle, the architects began their design, and worked really hard throughout the week to put Michael’s vision to paper. We met with him almost every night to show him our progress and make sure we were being faithful to what he wanted for the school and women’s center.

___(One of our architects, Sarah, presenting some design ideas to Michael)

After the design was pretty much finalized, I also got the chance to help out the structural engineer, checking calcs and putting some designs into AutoCAD, before our final presentation.

_________(The design presentation with the community members)

On our last night- we put together a slide show and presented our final design to Michael and the community leaders- It turned our really well, and they loved it! It was really cool to be able to present all of our work to them and see their response. We do have some more work to do back in the states to compile everything into AutoCAD drawings, and produce construction documents and reports that can be used as fundraising material. I will work on that with my fellow intern, Phil upon our return to the States in the Colorado Office.

(A snapshot of the school's design that we presented to the community members)

Our departure the next day was of course bittersweet: I was excited to not be sweating every second of the day (did I mention it was like 90+ degrees and 100% humidity?), but I wished I could spend more time getting to know the people and the culture there. Alas, Sunday morning we were sent off by a large group of community members, and began our trip back on that 12 seater plane back to Juba.

Kawaja! Kawaja! (5-29-09)

As I said, we were pretty busy during the week, trying to get everything done in the limited amount of time we had in country, but fortunately we had the chance to hang out with some kids, and got to know Michael and some other people we met in Bor. We met one man in particular, Abraham, who was also a “Lost Boy” and had built a school an a village close by. That was a great opportunity to talk to him about his design and learn some stuff about a project similar to what we were doing!

One of my favorite experiences was hanging out with the kids- we brought soccer balls and Frisbees to play with them on our time off. (They had clearly never played with a Frisbee before and it was interesting trying to teach them how to throw.) In my experience, yes, you were a celebrity because you were white (in fact they would frequently laugh and wave shouting “Kawaja! Kawaja!” which means “White People! White People!” as we’d pass by) but most every kid I met just wanted to shake my hand or be held. They were so excited just at the opportunity to play with you! It was honestly humbling to see their attitudes and this joy that seemed crazy given their circumstances. I am not a kid person but those kids were so sweet and adorable- that playing with them was one of my favorite parts of the trip.

"You Are Free" (5-28-09)

After arriving in Sudan, we were very anxious to get started on our project. We realized however that the city where we were staying (Bor Town) was not very close to the village for which we were designing the school (Jalle Payam). It would normally be necessary that we spend a good chunk of our time in country, on site (surveying, testing the soil and water actually on site, meeting with the community, etc.) however, due to the poor condition of the roads, we were only able to travel out to Jalle for one day- and were only actually on the site for about 2 hours because of the extensive amount of travel to get there and back! So, it was Wednesday, (Day 7 into the trip) before we were able to get to our site. A lot of preliminary work was able to be done before that point, but it was essential that we see the site before we could begin the actual design.

We packed into 2 land rovers and got a chance to see what those vehicles were actually made to travel on. The road was full of muddy pot holes, we were frequently splashed with mud through the windows and actually got stuck once or twice. It took us over 3 hrs to go 30 miles!

Upon arrival in Jalle, we had lunch in the city center area then drove with several community leaders out to the “site” which was a few miles away. The scene was completely flat African savanna as far as the eye could see in every direction. There were maybe 2 huts being built about a mile a way.

____________(Might as well have been a 360 degree view of the site)

We asked about site boundaries, and they told us “You are Free. Take whatever land you need” As engineers, and architects, we were unsure how to respond, but when we asked for a rough approximation of the land we could use, they again said with arms outstretched “You are Free.”

This paired with the fact that the terrain was completely flat in every direction made surveying unnecessary- we attempted a soil test, tested the water quality at the closest well, before driving back to the city center to meet with the community.

_________________________(Testing the Water)

_________________(John and Phil performing a "perc test")

The community joyfully welcomed us and gave us brief greeting (we had only a short time before having to leave). I was really happy to meet the people we were actually serving even if it was only for a short time. I did receive one marriage proposal and, one of my fellow team members was kind enough to offer my hand for 3 cows…thanks Aryn.

___________(A Few potential husbands and I after the community meeting)

Our time on site in Jalle was successful, and we were able to return with all the information that we needed to begin our design.

Our Arrival in Bor Town (5-26-09)

For the week, we are staying at a hotel in Bor Town, the largest city in the area. The actual village that we are serving (Jalle Payam) is actually a few hours away, and we were only able to visit the site for a few hours one day. We spend a majority of our time researching local construction practices in Bor, meeting with community leaders, or designing. We, of course had an opportunity to play with some kids, but we were very busy, especially given our set backs during our travels to Southern Sudan.

As a civil engineering intern, I spent a lot of time initially investigating local septic systems and water sources. (Not always the most glamorous of jobs)

___________(Phil and I doing the dirty work - septic tank investigation)

We tested several different wells for water quality and met with some local well drillers to learn a little about how the process works here. We also researched some septic tank designs at local schools and in the hotel at which we were staying. We all had several meeting with local officials: The Minister of Physical Infrastructure and The Minister of Education, where we learned about some requirements we need to fulfill. We anticipated there would be a few "hoops" we would need to jump through for Rebuild Sudan to aquire the land from the state, or permits etc. that would be required. But when we asked the Minister or Physical Infrastructure, His Majesty (yes, that's how he was addressed) told us "Because you come with open hearts, you can just have the land." Throughout our trip, we experienced this generosity and support in gratitude for the service that Rebuild Sudan was providing the people.

___(Danna helping some Dinka women pump water at a community well)

The interaction with the locals and these observations is the biggest reason that it is necessary travel to the country which we are serving. We could just stay in the US, correspond with the ministry via email or phone to discuss their vision, and then just send them the design. However, it’s important to understand how things are done here and to get an idea of what will be culturally acceptable. And opportunity to ask lots of questions of both the ministry and local contractors is really essential. This type of research and meetings continued throughout the week.

Lesson #1 : Be Flexible (5-25-09)

Despite our best efforts to reach our site on Monday, there were a few road blocks preventing a timely arrival in Bor (the city where we were staying for the week.)

A brief description of our transit:

Thursday___(5-21)___-Flew from Denver to Boston
________________,,,,,-Met most of the team in Airport
________________,,,,,-Flew from Boston to Frankfurt

Friday_____(5-22)___-Arrived in Frankfurt for 18 hr layover
________________,,,,-Explored Frankfurt;ate sausages
________________,,,,-Flew to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

________(enjoying our 18 hr layover in Frankfurt)

___(5-23)__, -Waited several hours on a delayed flight, told
__________________, mid day our flight was cancelled and moved to
__________________, the next day. Put up in a really nice hotel,
__________________, where we explored Addis a bit and did some
__________________, official team intros.

_____________(Waiting in the airport- we got really good at that)

Sunday____,(5-24)_,_-Flew from Addis to Juba, Sudan
_________________,,-Met Michael upon arrival
_________________,,-Instead of beginning our 6 hour car ride to Bor
__________________ (the place where we would stay for the week),
__________________ we stayed the night in Juba because the roads
__________________ were "unsafe".
__________________-Met with Michael and other community leaders
__________________ and heard his story in person

Monday____(5-26)___-Took a small 12 seater plane to Bor
___________________-Settled into our hotel and explored a little

_____________________(our little charter flight to Bor)

____(Looks kinda like we're squished into a van, right? Nope, that's the plane.)

Despite all of the set backs, our team was really great throughout. We all learned to be very flexible and patient, and spent our down time getting to know each other. Honestly, hearing everyone's story was one of the highlights of my trip.

Our Team, Our Task, and Our Very Loose Itinerary (5-21-09)

Following a very brief orientation with the other interns at eMi (3 days of wonderful outdoorsy activities and an introduction to the staff and what life will be like as an intern for the summer), I am leaving for Africa! Here’s a little bit on our team, our task and our very loose itinerary:

The team consisted of 12 members – Only 3 of whom I met briefly before our departure:

eMi Staff Co-Leaders:

Henry Watts_____(Structural Engineer/Construction Management)

Danna Judish____,(Civil Engineer and Intern Program Director).

eMi Interns:

Phil Madrid______(Civil Engineering Student-University of Florida)

Me____________ (Civil Engineering Student-University of Michigan)

The remainder of the team was composed of volunteer professionals, many of them using their vacation time, paying their own way or raising support to spend almost 2 weeks in Africa. Needless to say they are interesting and amazing people whom I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know and learning a great deal from:


John Agee______,.(Civil Engineer- Golden, Colorado)

Gene Cochran____,(Structural Engineer- Eugene, Oregon)

Jill Sorenson_____,(Architect- Berkley, California)

Sarah Fucinaro___,(Architect- Berkley, California)

Blake Clark ___,__"(Designer- San Francisco, California)

Aryn Bergman___,"(Mechanical Engineer- San Francisco, California)

Kevin Knox____,__(Pastor of Mosaic Church-Berkley, California)

Dave Gerber___,__(Rep of Mosaic Church-Berkley, California)

Our team was an awesome mix of people- as you can see we have 2 guys who were representing a church in Berkley, California who is partnering with Rebuild Sudan. They were there, not as a technical part of the design team, but rather to be pursuing ministry opportunities and seeing how they can further support Michael as a church. I think it is really awesome to see this group of people committed to the long term success of Rebuild Sudan, by being invested in helping to raise funds and potentially sending volunteer groups in to see this design come to fruition.

The other 10 members of the design team are each responsible for their part of the design process, corresponding to their expertise. I, however, (lacking in the design expertise department) bring more of a willing servant’s attitude to do whatever they need me to do.

We will meet with Michael and some other community leaders when we arrive in Sudan in order to gain a more complete idea of the vision he has for Rebuild Sudan. Thereafter we will begin to design the master plan and more specifically the first phase of the project in Jalle.

Here’s the vague itinerary I received:

Thursday__(5/21) ,____Fly from Denver to Boston to Frankfurt

Friday_____(5/22)____ Fly to Addis Ababa Ethiopia

Saturday__"(5/23)____ Fly to Juba, Southern Sudan

Sunday____,(5/24) ____Drive to Bor, Southern Sudan

___________________,, Vision meeting with Michael

Monday____(5/25) ___,_Visit Site in Jalle

_______________-___,,,_Programming meeting

Through _______,_____WORK ON PROJECT

Saturday __,(5/30)__,__Final Design Presentation

Sunday___, (5/31)__,__Fly to Uganda and continue on the long

___________,,,,_______ adventure home…

Rebuild Sudan

The ministry we will be serving is called Rebuild Sudan. It is an organization started by one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan”, Michael Kuany. His story and that of the situation surrounding Southern Sudan over the past 20 or so years is truly heart breaking (I encourage you to read it on the link above). However, with the end Africa’s longest running civil war in 2005, there has been hope returning to the area. Families that were displaced as a result of the war are beginning to return home, and many of the “Lost Boys” who were able to go to the US and receive education, have begun to return to Southern Sudan with the hopes of rebuilding and bringing hope back to their home towns. Michael has that vision for his home village of Jalle Payam. We will be working closely with Michael while in Sudan to more clearly understand his vision and be able to design a primary school and a women’s center for the first phase of his overall vision for Rebuild Sudan.

Engineering Ministries International

Here’s a little about the organization that I am working for this summer. I’ve been nothing but impressed with my experience thus far, so I’d just like to give a little info on what their ministry is. Engineering Ministries International (eMi) is a non-profit group of architects and engineers (among a couple other disciplines) that provide free design work for ministries in the developing world. They partner with long term missionaries or ministries who are in-country, and design hospitals, orphanages, schools, Christian training centers, as well as the necessary water and waste water treatment systems. The entire staff raises full time support, and their work (in very simplified terms) consists of selecting projects in the developing world, and organizing teams of volunteer professionals to go on project trips and complete the needed design work. Upon their return from the 1-2 week project trip eMi staff (and interns!) put a lot of work into completing and compiling all the design information into a final design report including information to aid in fund raising and construction. The entire process can take a few months to a year to complete. eMi has completed over 800 different projects in over 80 different countries world wide. They have several offices: 3 sending offices: USA, UK, Canada; and 3 field offices: East Africa, South Asia, and Latin America.

As an intern this summer I will be going with a team on a project trip to Southern Sudan. There we will have an opportunity to do some research in country, meet with the ministry we are working for, and with the community we will be serving. We will do as much design work as possible in country, and complete the remaining work back in US. I will also likely be working on finishing up additional projects from earlier this year, and basically helping with whatever the staff needs help finishing up.

How I Got Here (5-15-09)

So here I am, embarking on what I anticipate to be the most epic summer of my life (so far, of course). I intend to closely document it, soak in every detail, and make the most of every opportunity. Honestly, I can't recall the last time I was so eagerly looking forward to something. I'm typically more inclined to say “Don’t expect too much, so you won’t be disappointed.” But that's is no way to live, is it? No...

I am convinced that God has plans for me beyond what I could ever envision for myself. And I believe if I devote myself to seeking Him and His will, He will not only direct me on that path I should take, but will give me an abundantly full life. I am being led on an adventure, full of risk and dangers, but I believe that’s just part of the call.

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” Luke 9:23-24

Here’s a cool dissection of that passage from a book I read prior to my arrival in Colorado:

“Go first to give your life to get life. Then trust God will provide the other stuff as a byproduct of following Jesus with deadly, reckless abandon. If you live to protect your life, Jesus says you lose. But if you lose your life for the sake of Jesus, you’ll find rich blessings of life. In the end, the most radical call is not a missionary call. The most radical call with the greatest blessings comes from living a life of commitment to the lordship of Christ.” (Mack and Leann’s Guide to Short Term Missions)

So that’s the plan. Live a life of deadly reckless abandon worthy of the call I have received. (Ok, don’t be alarmed, mother. That does not mean making unwise, purposely dangerous, or thrill-seeking decisions, but trusting that God may lead me to take some risks and be out of my comfort zone.) I’m attempting to position myself in a place where I can be used. Yeah, it may not through ministry in a developing country the rest of my life or even all that dangerous. But I am excited for the opportunity now, this summer to "GO". This opportunity to combine a passion for civil engineering and a curiosity about missions is such a privilege!

I am seeking God’s will for my life this summer, and He has brought me to an engineering missions organization: Engineering Ministries International (eMi) as an intern. We are traveling to Southern Sudan is less than a week to work with an organization, Rebuild Sudan, to design a school and a women’s center as well as provide clean water for the community. I honestly think God has been preparing me for work like this for a long time. There have been several influencing factors that have led me to a passion for providing clean water. My freshman year over spring break, I went to Haiti and installed rain catchment systems to provide clean water. It was there that I first understood the importance of water and began to see the connection between engineering and missions. Throughout my sophomore and junior years I have been involved with a few student organizations who are involved in providing sustainable solutions to various infrastructure needs in the developing world.

So here I am in Colorado Springs, about to embark on an adventure several years in the making. It is now, in this great opportunity that I am able to truly explore what a future in engineering missions might look like, and whether I am suited for it. I am no longer bound by the responsibilities and stresses of school. I am FREE to to listen, learn, experience and just enjoy what this summer has to offer. I cannot think of a better way to spend it.