Category Archives: Construction

Amazima Design Trip – Recap

It was a whirlwind week, but an incredible one nonetheless!  At the beginning of February our team of volunteers began to descend upon Uganda to be a part of designing a secondary school for Amazima Ministries.  You can read more about Amazima and how our work fits into their ministry in my previous blog post.


We had an outstanding team – our group, which fluctuated up to 14 people, hailed from 7 different countries.  This was cause for quite a stir when the Ugandan pastor of the church we attended noted that a group of “Americans” were visiting (blasphemy says the Australian!) but also set us up for lots of entertainment – we had fun one night belting out our national anthems and I knew the team was past introductions when they began to debate whose accent was the strangest. <grin>  The volunteers carried a great range of experience in EMI projects (including 3 former interns and 3 volunteers with 18 combined trips between them!) and work back home which allowed us to accomplish a tremendous amount of work.


Our trip began with a site visit to the land where we met Amazima founder Katie Davis and their operations manager Brad Lang. Katie shared the history of Amazima and her own journey and how it grew from her moving to Uganda at age 19 to the program which now sponsors approximately 800 children in the Jinja areas.  Helping with school fees and basic needs with personalized attention allows the children to grow and develop while remaining in their homes and in the care of their families. Now as they struggle with the discrepancy that there isn’t a solid secondary school in their area, they are forced to send their older children away to boarding schools in Kampala and Jinja.  Thus the need for a quality secondary school close to the children’s homes.


As we talked about the 40 acre piece of land that will be the future site of the school, we were all struck by the beauty of the place.  Katie said she had a hard time even picturing buildings there that wouldn’t detract from the land’s natural beauty (key design parameter for us).  The key words, which became the theme for the week was peace and bounty (or plenty).  We want to create a school that is a place of peace and which emphasizes the abundance of God’s provision and care.


One of the unique features of the trip was setting up a special brainstorming session with Amazima’s mentors.  The mentors are Ugandan staff who oversee the child sponsorship program – working with the sponsored children and their families to provide personal contact, mentoring, and accountability – some truly remarkable people.  Early in the design process, we invited the mentors to join us so that we could better understand the students’ preferences and framework for life and education so that the design would be relevant and appropriate.  A long roll of trace paper wound back and forth as the architects began doodling with the mentors and it was amazing to witness the transformation as the early sheets were all written from one side (the architects) while increasingly the mentors became engaged in the process so that this became their school.


Our team went extremely hard during the week. The site/civil team dug holes in the ground on the site to determine the ground suitability for supporting buildings and for disposing of wastewater.  They also investigated water supply and electrical options so that we knew how to properly design those systems.  The architects took the initial survey and laid out zoning for the site, got buildings sized and located on the site and cranked out a bunch of floor plans.  With the size of our team, we were able to design something like 9-10 buildings, put together in a solid Master Plan and create 3d renderings of most of these buildings to show how they will look and how the pieces will fit together.


Towards the end of the week, we took a break to join a group of Amazima’s secondary students for one of their times of worship and bible study. As one of the mentors spoke from Romans, it was so encouraging to hear the Word of God being taught by a Ugandan, to Ugandans in a way that was culturally relevant and theologically solid (unfortunately not that common). That the Amazima kids get this week after week was a good affirmation of the ministry.  Although we all felt under the gun, it was special to have faces to put with the school we’ve been working on.


After 6 long days in Jinja, our team presented our work to the Amazima team for their comments and approval.  It was a special night – the team presented well and everyone at Amazima was really happy with the design.  Praise God for this approval that allows our team to move forward in confidence! Here are some pictures to give you a sense:





After the presentation, our team took advantage of the fact that we were at the source of the Nile river and stayed at a nearby retreat center for relaxation, reflection, and to spend some good team time together before we dispersed.  As part of that time, we spent some extended time sharing about the things that God had put on their heart that week and ways that He was challenging them as they return back to their homes.  Indeed, this was much more than a design trip – it was and was meant to be an opportunity to encounter God in a special way by being a part of His work here in our neck of the woods.  It was beautiful to see God working in so many lives.  Would you praise the Lord with us?


Now as our team is all spread out back to their homes, our Uganda side team (consisting of myself, another staff, and two interns) are responsible for taking the concepts developed during the week and compiling them into a publishable form.  We will rely on our volunteers to support and guide us in our work, but the bulk of the task is ours as the volunteers return back to their various careers.  Our goal is to have the Master Plan and all of the conceptual building designs completed by May.  Would you pray with us that the Lord would empower our work in the next several months?




Amazima Ministries Design Trip

As I write this update, 8 volunteers are in transit to Uganda from all over the world where we will meet tomorrow morning (with 5 longer termers from Uganda) to bring together our full team of 13 to design a secondary school for Amazima Ministries in Jinja, Uganda.  Amazima is a newer ministry, but has grown dramatically in its 5 year history.  Founded by Katie Davis, a woman in her mid-20’s who moved to Uganda 5 years ago to follow the Lord’s calling on her life, Amazima sponsors over 600 children in the Jinja area assisting with school fees, meals, and living costs to impoverished families, and providing training and empowerment for their families as they remain within their homes.  Katie’s blog has become a viral sensation and she wrote a book which has touched countless lives called Kisses from Katie.

Kisses from Katie

Amazima’s home base is in Jinja, Uganda at the source of the Nile River as it empties from Lake Victoria. Jinja has some good quality primary schools, but Amazima has not found satisfactory options for secondary education for their sponsored children.  Amazima has purchased a 40 acre plot of land that they want to develop into a complete secondary school campus with full boarding for the children. Check out the site that we’re working with…


Unlike many ministries that we work with Amazima has full funds already acquired for the construction of the school.  So our work is not to produce conceptual concepts, but to fully create construction documents for this project that will Lord willing begin construction in the fall of 2014.  We have a LOT to do!  You can read more about the detail of the project on EMI’s recruiting link here.  Fortunately we have a really strong team – our team of 13 comes from 7 different countries, we have 3 former interns returning and some wonderful technical talent all around.  It is truly a privilege to lead this team!


We would appreciate your prayer for our team as we labor from February 1-10 to help Amazima see their ministry and outreach to the Jinja community grow.

Cherish Uganda!

In September of 2012, I (Jeff) was given 3 different projects that I would be managing at EMI – one of which was a medical clinic about an hour away in Entebbe, Uganda.  Little did I know at that time how much this “little” project would truly capture our family’s hearts and minds.  This is the land at my first visit… ???????????????????????????????

Cherish Uganda is a Christian ministry that focuses on children with HIV/AIDS.  Cherish began when a lady on a short term mission saw a dying child with AIDS in a hospital.  The hospital told her that they had medicine, but that they couldn’t administer it to the child without someone to care for her long term (because the meds are extremely time sensitive).  As she prayed, the Lord told her, “you can help this child if you want to”.  Thus began Cherish.  Now about 7 years old, they currently care for ~45 children (several shown below) in home-style facilities and have a school for 170 children all of whom have or are affected by HIV/AIDS. P1030652

As Cherish sought out advice from their neighbors, they realized that a medical clinic that could reach out to the community was one of the greatest needs in the area. While the rate of HIV/AIDS across Uganda is something on the order of 7-8% (very high compared to the US!), in the fishing community around Cherish, the infection rates are on the order of 23%!  They need specialized care and they need education and training that will enable them to live healthy and empowered lives.  Most of all, they need to know a God who cherishes them and offers peace and restoration. Learn more about the details of the hospital here.

EMI’s office put together an in-house team consisting of Jeff as the project leader and 2 interns – an architect named Ellen and an engineer named David (shown below).  Our goal was to develop a master plan of 3 phases (I – outpatient clinic and training center, II – extra services like X-Ray and physical therapy, III – inpatient ward) with full detailed design on the first phase.  By the end of the project, multiple hands played their various parts including other staff, visiting electrical engineer and landscape architect, and another intern named Belinda.  Beginning work in early September, the project carried through until April, when we were able to send off our full published set of drawings to print and present them to Cherish.


Seeing drawings may or may not get you excited but for those interested, here are some sample sheets:

Architectural Floor Plan

Architectural Floor Plan

Architectural Elevations

Architectural Elevations

Architectural Master Plan

Architectural Master Plan

Structural Framing Plan

Structural Framing Plan

Landscape Master Plan

Landscape Master Plan

Much to our joy, Cherish was able to raise the full funds for phase I by April and so we were able to immediate turn the drawings into the municipality for permit.  That review process is currently happening at the time of this writing and so your prayers are appreciated!

EMI has been asked to oversee the construction management as well.  It is wonderful to be able to continue our relationship with Cherish to bring this project all the way form start to finish!  This past Sunday, Cherish hosted a ground breaking ceremony which was a special time for our whole family and many others.  As the project manager, I was honored and humbled to be a part of celebrating the beginning of construction and to dedicate the land and the project to the greater glory of God.


One cannot step foot on their campus without seeing that God is clearly working mightily through the ministry of Cherish.  The privilege of using what God has given me to be a part of something so powerful is a joy beyond words.  This is why came to Uganda.  We give thanks to all of our partners who are holding us up in prayer and giving generously so that we can be here.  We give thanks to God for giving each of us an opportunity to play a part in seeing His Kingdom go forward.

Prayer Request for Upcoming Travel

On Tuesday, Jeff will travel to Western Uganda for 3 days with a surveyor and civil engineer to provide an assessment of a ministry there called Bless the Children (BTCM).  BTCM has an existing orphanage in operation and about 20 acres of land.  They need help, but doesn’t fully know how.

Part of the reason for EMI to have an office in Uganda (as opposed to doing all of our work from the US) is so that we can be a part of work like this which is critical to ensuring that our efforts are put into helping ministries in the way that they need most.  This could lead to a full blown team trip down the line or possibly a smaller scale amount of work that is handled in-house like many of our other East Africa projects.

Would you pray for Jeff as he inspects their existing construction and reviews their master plan to see how EMI can best assist BTCM.  Pray also for Jen and the kiddos as they manage the homefront without him.

Soon after he returns, 3 people will be arriving from North America to be a part of a construction management exploratory trip.  This is not unlike the trip Jeff led in July, but with Jeff’s schedule, he will only be participating in pieces of it.
This group of volunteers will be here from 23rd Feb. – 5th March.  Jeff has continued to dialogue with many and we are trusting that the Lord would raise up staff and long term volunteers out of this group and others.  Would you join us in praying this way?

Construction Management Trip – Recap

It’s been has been catch-up time after a fast paced tour of Uganda and construction sites with our volunteers.  As I shared in my last post, we had 3 volunteers from the US who came to East Africa between July 14-25 to explore moving to here as part of our construction management (CM) program.  You can see our team here overlooking the Nile:

Rather than recap all that we saw, here are some highlights:

Many of you are familiar with the African Children’s Choir.  Located in Entebbe (near the main airport), this is a ministry that takes vulnerable children from destitute situations and gives them a solid Christian education with boarding, free of charge.  They are supported by the choir which sends kids out for 1 year to the US, UK, Europe, Australia, etc. to perform.  This was eMi East Africa’s first construction project – built based on our plans by an eMi staff member.  These pictures show the girls dorm and the classrooms:

To show a contrast, that same day, we visited an orphanage which has asked eMi for help.  They were building a new dining facility and when the contractor kept asking for more money, the US financial supporters became worried.  When we got to the site to look at it, what we saw at the construction was frightening – walls could be shaken with our bare hands and steel reinforcing could be exposed by picking off the concrete with our fingers.   When corruption takes root (and don’t think it doesn’t happen in a Christian organization), the vulnerable (in this case orphans) become victimized (here – their lives are placed at risk).  As we are building into the workers, we are also making sure that this doesn’t happen…so that the family back in Missouri that gives $50 of their hard earned money to “help the poor starving kids in Africa” will actually have their money bear fruit.  Seeing this site made me angry (I had only heard about it before), but it also shows why we’re trying to do what we’re doing.

Onto Jinja, a town at the headwaters of the Nile River, where eMi had been invoved in 3 different construction projects over the past few years.  One of the sites was a Pastor training center called Missionlink.  This building was under construction when Jennifer and I visited Uganda for our vision trip.  At the time our CM staff Steve was building it, but he was replaced by a Long Term Volunteer, Brice – who stepped in just as we are trusting some of these folks will do.  The project is already functioning and is now awaiting the final inspection so that they can remove the construction fencing and be on full display to the community.  Here are two photos taken from the same place in January 2011 and now:

It was a blessing to see this transformation (and the other Jinja projects as well) to see that it really does come together!

Next we went to Mbale where we visited an orphanage site designed by eMi called Hines Uganda Ministries. The founder has taken guardianship of 14 kids in her home.  In addition, there are nearly 200 children sponsored for school fees, and medical with dreams of building a medical clinic, community center, etc.

We also visited the future campus of a Christian University called LivingStone.  LivingStone International University has a huge vision and the energy to go for it – the transformation of Uganda.  They are seeking to raise up the next generation of leaders for the Nation – putting a Kindle-touch e-reader in every students’ hands and giving them the skills they need to lead in business, medicine, churches, media, etc. – including a solid foundation in the Gospel.  They have already started with a small core in their offices, but have a 50 acre campus to be developed.  The phase 1 building (which at first will host everything) will look something like this:

This project will be a massive undertaking.  Whether we manage this ourselves or act as a representative to LivingStone to make sure it is built well by others, we are trusting God for big things here.

After our eastern tour, we went out into a fairly remote part of Western Uganda called Kasese.  Here we viewed a small Bible college targeted towards training up pastors who have not finished secondary school.  Many of these have not made it past 4-5 grade in their education yet because of their heart for the Lord and God’s calling they are in need of training.  The college trains pastors in theology as well as agriculture (they will almost certainly be bi-vocational) and also have a focus on their spouses as well.  When one of their rooves began to fail this spring, eMi placed an intern there to oversee the reconstruction of the roof.  You can see it here:

The high windows are new and allow them to use classrooms much longer because the previously dark and dingy rooms are now well lit and better ventilated.

All in all, it was an incredible trip – I am so blessed to be a part of eMi and to have a part in casting vision for this incredible work.  We had a great team and I really enjoyed getting to know them.  As we’re trusting God that He would bring the right people, I also shared with them that my biggest prayer was the the Lord would give each of them a greater heart for His Kingdom and give them a picture for how they can be a part of it (be that with eMi or not).  Would you pray with me that the Lord would raise up the right people for eMi and that He would lead these volunteers where He wants them to be?

Construction Management Trip

I (Jeff) have not written much about it recently, but one of my main roles here has been to grow up our small but growing construction management (CM) program.  You can read about some of my work early on here.  After many many e-mails back and forth, and a lot of logistical preparations, I am co-leading my first CM Exploratory Trip starting TOMORROW.  They will be here July 14-25.

In the air right now are 3 interested volunteers.  While this is a smaller team than most of EMI’s design teams (which can be often be 8-12 including interns), there is also a pretty significant bar for these folks to come.  Each of these individuals is very seriously considering setting down their careers to come to East Africa for 1-2 years to get involved in EMI’s CM ministry.  The timing of the trip (the summer – which is the busiest time of the year for construction) also posed challenges, so our next will hopefully be during a colder season (at least for all you Western Hemishere people!).

I am really excited to get to know each of these individuals.  The best way that I can communicate their hearts is by sharing snippets from a couple of their support letters:

…In the past two years, I had the chance to work at construction sites and found myself having a heart for the construction workers.  Most of them were immigrants and could hardly speak English.   To show my appreciation of their hard work, I would bake them cookies and chat with them during their breaks.  Although I could not share the Gospel with them, at least they could see that someone actually cared about them.  When I saw this trip on eMi’s website back in late April, I trusted that God was opening the door for me to love and care for people in the same way, but even more so…

…Over the years, I have learned a great deal about construction and have built not only buildings but a lot of relationships as well.  Although I can appreciate the tangibles that I build, fulfillment comes more in my personal interactions with trades and clients alike.  My focus in employment or in operating my own business is to bring glory to God by using the gifts He has given me to the best of my ability and to love people.  I have recently become involved with an organization that I believe shares the same values I do when it comes to construction…

So tomorrow I will pick up these jet-lagged folks along with my co-leader and we will be taking them to 12 different project sites which are all over Uganda including Entebbe, Kajjansi, Kampala, Jinja, Mbale, Kasese and for one of them, a side trip to Athi River in Kenya (have fun on Google Earth with those!).  Some of these project sites are projects designed by EMI and built by others, some are designed and built by EMI, and others are projects that are hoping to begin soon.  Lord willing, some of these 3 might be involved in one of these latter projects – helping to make sure that it is built well, providing cost controls for the ministry so that it is built cost effectively and fighting against corruption, and most importantly, pouring into the construction workers with the Love of Christ so that they know that they are loved and valued beyond their productivity, for who they are.

In an e-mail to the team earlier this week, I gave them several prayer requests which I would like to pass along to you.  Pray that God would give them a greater picture of His Kingdom and the world that we live in.  Pray for safety for us and also for family / loved ones back home (as Jen becomes a single mom for a week).  Pray for opportunities to be a light on this trip – both to the ministries that are laboring diligently for the Glory of God, and for the relationships that we will form with people along the way.  Pray that God would open their minds and hearts to His best plans for them (whether that’s with EMI or not).

Thanks so much!

Construction Management Update

Since we have focused much of this blog on the family side of things, I thought it would be nice to provide an update on one of my (Jeff’s) work since arriving – the revamping of the Construction Management (CM) program.  As I shared with many of you prior to leaving, eMi has increasingly sought to have a role not only in the design of buildings, but in the construction of them as well.

In doing so, there have been several incredible outcomes from this: 1) We are able to provide a level of quality control to our projects (e.g. making sure the contractor doesn’t try to skimp on cement or use smaller reinforcing to save money). 2) We are able to build up and empower Ugandan men with job skills.  By helping them build better and instilling a sense of pride in their work, they become more marketable and are able to better provide for their families. 3) We are able to mentor and minister to the Ugandan men spiritually.  Think about how many ministries you’ve heard of in the developing world…how many of those are geared towards men (outside of pastoral training).  As they labor, they are loved and cared for.  They hear the Gospel and in many cases, they have responded either stepping into a relationship with Christ or deepening the one that they previously claimed.   You can see a good picture of what’s happening already here:  It is truly an amazing ministry.

Now for some of the problems.  The CM program has been handled to date primarily by one staff member – Steve, whom you will see in the video.  He has been doing some amazing things, but doing them pretty much alone.  So much of the office side of things: e.g. recruiting of volunteers, settling up agreements with the ministries that we’re working with, providing support (technically and logistically) to the CM volunteers that we have – has fallen to eMi’s director (who you can imagine has plenty on his plate already).  My role is to come in and help pick up some of these roles so that we can truly grow the program.  Several weeks ago, with great relief, our director handed me an Outlook file with about 150 e-mails from 35 different people.  These were people that he had spoken with in the last year or so who expressed interest in our CM program.  These had varying levels of dialogue, interest level, and skill level, but several were sitting and waiting to be followed up.

So part of my work, as inglorious as it is, has been to organize, sort, and follow up these people  (and several others).  It’s been amazing though – as I connect with men and women with amazing hearts for the Lord and seeing how for many, this could be a dream come true as they have an opportunity to use their God-given skills in such a powerful way!  And this is good – because we need em!  We have 3 projects going on right now (fortunately close together and being handled by one voluneer) all about to wrap up soon, but there are more projects coming soon including a couple of big projects this fall and 1 or 2 massive projects in early 2013.  There are of course more down the pipeline.  Would you pray that the Lord would raise up these people?  If you ARE a construction type person would you pray about whether He might be raising You up?

What this looks like practically right now is that this July, Steve and I will be leading a trip where we will bring potential volunteers to various construction sites around the country so that they can get a feel for eMi, for CM in East Africa, and so that we can get a feel for them and where they might plug in.  You can see more about the trip here:  As we are gathering these men and women together to seek out God’s plans together, we are trusting that those plans are perfect and that they will ultimately be to His greater glory.  That is a thrilling thought and makes me so grateful for the opportunity to be here.