Saturday, November 22

Digging Straight Through

Let me start by saying: going on a mission trip as an adult completely wins over going on mission trips as a teen. Yes, at the time they were exciting learning experiences and the youth pastors planned so very well. But now, I have specialized skills to offer, I'm enjoy talking with people I don't know very well, and the "teen angst/insecurity/crush on one of the boys on the trip" quotient is gone. In other words, I greatly enjoyed getting to know my team and the ministry we worked with, and helping them to improve their facilities (and thus their work in God's Kingdom!)

So after about 30 hours of travel we arrived at the LDi camp. Because I'm going to reveal some specifics of our work, I'm still not going to name the country we were in. However, Ben has mentioned it in previous blog entries so you faithful readers are probably already aware of it. We spent nine days working with a break on Sunday, then two days sight-seeing in the large city nearby.

The campus we stayed at and worked on was a camp/conference center with high and low ropes courses. These are fairly rare in that country, but apparently the people naturally relate to symbolic meanings so the discussions involved in the course are meaningful and can lead to new spiritual understandings for them. The camp director used to lead ropes courses in Sweden and with his family is learning to relate to a new culture. This camp was only begun about three years ago. At present, the high ropes course is a garden, much more cultivated than the American-woods versions I've seen. However, the only functioning building on campus has some problems, as does the new building being constructed.

What did we do? The three civil engineers and graphic designer spent most of the time surveying the three complicated sites ("legal boundaries" were more or less defined by fruit trees and the site was on a huge slope) and testing local water supplies. I worked with one of the planners at first to map out the ropes course. Meanwhile, the structural engineer and electrical engineer were evaluating everything. A camp director from Washington, his father, and a man who is probably the superstar of Christian camp-planning in America were all there for part of the trip, mostly spending time with the camp director refining his vision and asking him a long list of questions. The electrical engineer's daughter photo-documented the site. During the second half of our time, the team leader (an architect) and I worked on a proposal for an ideal new lodge. On the last day I worked on the report, designed a storage shed and figured out how to improve the existing bathrooms.

Result? We'll give the ministry a report which evaluates their current conditions and our suggestions for both immediate improvements and long term development. Up to now they've been guessing on a lot of things. Now, they have an accurate map and a lot to think about :)

The camp planning did run into some difficulties. The property owner is not a part of LDi, and was not present for most of our trip, so some of the decisions to be made had to be postponed. The source of funds for future development is also in question. To top it off the government is aware of this camp, as small as it is, due to their evangelism in the local village. During out time there, the camp director was considering approaching the government to discuss LDi's work (in a Daniel 1 format: aka we want to eat veggies - let us give it a try and see if we're more healthy!)

At the end, our time in the large city nearby was a superb tourist experience and gave us a chance to hang out and debrief. Actually, the entire trip was a great chance to observe a different culture. I had difficulties with the language, but the camp facilitators all spoke English and by the end of the trip I had managed to master four phrases with a convincing accent :) Still, white people were somewhat a novelty and sometimes the locals wanted to take pictures with me.

The Christians we met were encouragingly bold, especially one woman who tried to witness to us in her native tongue. The staff at the camp had all made sacrifices to be there, and the director truly had a passion for spreading the gospel which I can only believe comes straight from God.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was when our team (from all over the US and even Canada) shared the "short versions" of our testimonies. Somehow I had begun to think that God had no big exciting plans to use me in the world, that this move to Colorado would separate me from the way I had been serving God - in the friendships, family, and high school group of my church. There were no prospects for anything new. But as I heard about the journeys which my team members were on I was reminded that our lives are a continuous story of God's faithfulness. Whatever their age or background, God was revealed himself and kingdom to the folks I worked with more and more. Wonderfully, a couple of the middle-aged men were on their first mission trip; another man had been on ten trips with EMI. Through the rest of the trip as I read the Bible, God reminded me "I make all things new!" and that he had "works prepared in advance for (me) to do."

Now, to respond to the prayer requests from my first letter:

  • Being the lead architect was not overwhelming, since this trip was "architecture-lite"

  • Having CAD on my laptop was very important! Again, praise God for providence of the software!

  • The design for the new building was only at the "design development" stage, a point at which I was competent to handle the drawings with input from the structural engineer and team leader

  • For the most part, Ben was content with his time home alone and even enjoyed the relaxation for awhile. We were able to keep in touch over email - that made a big difference!

  • LDi didn't have a very specific vision for the camp, but now they should at least know where to start.

  • There were almost no problems with our travel arrangements and health!

  • The backgrounds and skills of our team adequately covered the needs of this project. Praise God!

I'm glad God provided the circumstances for me to go on this trip. Our goal is to finish our report and sketches by mid-December.

My pictures can be found on Facebook: (You shouldn't need an account to view them.)
album 1, album 2, and album 3.



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