In August and September of last year (2017), I went on a project trip with EMI to Uganda to aid the design of the Gem Village. Below is a synopsis of my trip.
We got so much done while in Uganda, and we couldn’t have done it without your prayer. It was a hectic week, but I wanted to fill you in on how God moved and the fruit that will come from this trip. To start things off, I almost didn’t make it. As you know, the floods hit Houston pretty hard and closed down the airports, as well as our church and many friends homes. It was very conflicting for me to leave during the flooding, but I made a commitment to this trip, to the other volunteers, and to the Gem Foundation and EMI that I would be there. Fortunately, I was able to fly out of San Antonio a day late and get there in time for the start of the engineering design, only missing orientation. Praise God for Kelsey encouraging me to fulfill my promise, even in the midst of chaos. Praise God that our neighborhood was spared, but also pray for our church and many friends that were affected as we (still) look towards rebuilding.
I’m so glad I made it to Kampala, because I was stirred by the mission of the Gem Foundation. Josh and Emma Quissenberry started this ministry to serve the orphans that most orphanages aren’t equipped to handle and care far. They are currently packed into one house with 8 children per room, and very little space for therapy or activities for the 30+ children they care for. The Gem Foundation aims to take care of 200 children at full build out on their 88 acre campus. They just purchased an 88 acre tract of land that we were able to travel to a few times. Most of the land for sale in the areas around Kampala have been stripped of all their resources (trees and sand), but fortunately, this piece was still relatively undisturbed, which will lead to a more peaceful home for this children’s village. The soil is so fertile there that they were already growing all kinds of crops that would be able to feed and support the children. While on site we were able to do our data gathering: we tested water quality, percolation rates, and ground water levels. We were also able to get a lay of the land and get a feel for how to start land planning. The first weekend we were able to worship with local believers and see the city. We were also able to visit the orphanage and talk to the staff about what their vision is for the new site, specifically what would make it feel like home.
Over the next week, we spent long days calculating water usage, waste water discharge rates, and structural loads. My diverse engineering background enabled me to help in a lot of different ways, especially as the architectural design held up the structural engineering at times. I spent most of my time laying out utility systems and making sure the architectural design of the buildings would be structural sufficient. During the week, we also sought input on specific design ideas that might interest the Gem’s ministry. Our designs consisted of master planning the entire site as well as detailed design of the first phase of buildings. We had a great team with 4 architects and 4 engineers working together simultaneously and spurring each other on even past midnight at times. We were continually reminded that this was our worship to God: to work our hardest so that his name may be glorified through the land, facilities, and ministry of the Gem Foundation.
In the end, we were able to give a 3 hour presentation to the Gem Foundation and its board of directors about what we have planned and designed for their new land. They were amazed and grateful for the reality we brought out of their vision for this site. It was beautiful to see the joy in their faces when they could see what might become their new home. Following the presentation, EMI Uganda will follow this up with detailed reports and construction plans to facilitate their fundraising efforts, help them set goals, and guide the construction process. They hope to start construction as soon as possible, and have already finished raising funds for the first phase of buildings. The beauty of this partnership is that the work of EMI will allow them to be better equipped to serve, to refine their vision, and to focus on their ministry through this new campus development. It was my great joy to get to see how God is using EMI and the Gem Foundation, and I would encourage you to find out how you can support them as well. If you would like to get more connected please visit emiworld.org or thegemfoundation.com.