Friday, October 10, 2008

Engineering Project Trip Thoughts

Well, we've finished with our project trip to Come Let's Dance ministries.  I am currently sitting in our guestroom overlooking the Nile River watching hawks building a nest and cormorants catch fish, listening to the sound of the river and of bird calls.  I am starting to process, not only this last week, but the last month.

On the surface, both project trips were structured very similarly.  The short-term volunteers are picked up at the airport and we immediately head out to the ministry we are going to serve.  The first day is spent touring the site and then sitting down with the ministry leaders to learn about their vision and their needs and desires. Following this introductory session, the eMi team meets to talk about the roles that we will be filling during the coming week.  We have devotions together before going to bed.  The next morning we wake up early and start on our tasks: surveying the property, sketching site layouts, taking soil samples, testing the water, assessing possible building locations, etc..  We don't return to the guesthouse until after dark for our dinner, devotions, and bed.  We wake up and do it again the next day.  At the end of the week, we present our work to the ministry.  Following the presentation the eMi team heads off for a day of relaxation and rest.  We share a "closing time" with each other, giving our highs and lows of the week and what we appreciated about our teammates.  It's really an awesome way to finish out the project trip.  Heading back to the eMi office in Kampala, the short-term volunteers will get on a plane back home and the rest of us will begin working on the final report, which we will provide to the ministry in the next couple months.

Reflecting on the past two project trips, I am surprised by how different my experiences have been.  The make-up of the team and the mission of ministry being served resulted in two very different experiences despite the similarities in engineering work.  The first trip consisted of a very young team, the oldest being 35.  It was a very lighthearted group that had a lot of fun together.  The group chemistry on the second trip was much different.  The group was significantly older and more experienced, as a result, the trip felt much more professional.  I enjoyed both teams thoroughly, gaining lessons and valuable experience from each.

The thing that I have been wrestling with the most lately is my differing reactions to the two ministries that we worked for.  It has been a real struggle to keep from being overly judgmental of the work being done by the ministry and the motivation behind the work.  I have found that my emotions toward a mission have really impacted my enthusiasm and energy when working for them.  As an engineering organization that donates its services, eMi is very deliberate about the ministries that it chooses to work for.  But when you're working in a third world country with a variety of Christian ministries, there are going to be inevitable differences in values and visions.  Some are going to be very different from my own.  I have to keep reminding myself that it is not up to me to judge the heart of an organization or a person.  Whether I like the people involved or not, both ministries that I have worked for so far are doing good and necessary work in Uganda.

Its been a good few weeks.  I have learned a lot about engineering in the developing world.  I have become more aware of my strengths and weaknesses in working here, and I have felt incredibly blessed to be a part of the two eMi teams that I have worked on so far.

Thank you for your continued support and prayers!

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