The Project and People of Guayabal


I had an epiphany in college: It isn’t the amazing things I did that brought meaning to my life as much as the amazing people I did them with.

I take that simple but important lesson with me into my work with EMI.  I keep reminding myself that it isn’t the amazing projects that we accomplish that matter, but the people that we can impact along the way.  Let me tell you about this amazing project EMI is doing, but more importantly let me tell you about the people that are impacted along the way.  The support and prayers that you provide for our work at EMI has impact not just on the designs we do, but more significantly the lives we touch.

The Amazing Project

The irrigation system in the village of Guayabal, Dominican Republic has been inoperative for 14 years causing over 400 acres of village farmland to be lying fallow.  This has caused tremendous hardship on the lifeblood of these villagers and their families.  Over the last few years, EMI’s partnership with World Vision and this farming community has restored water, fruit, and life.

Since irrigation water was restored in late 2017, more than half of this area is now green with cultivation and fruit.  The farming lands are once again green and fruitful, the pump equipment has been installed, the pipeline has been repaired, and farmers are learning more about how to plan and maintain drip-irrigation systems. The day the financial donors of the project visited, they were presented with a table full of fruit that the restored land had produced.

The Amazing People

Professional Discipleship

“Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you’ve fed him for a lifetime.”

This steel tube is the lifeline for every green field in this village.  It was built in the mid-70s but with no one in the community with the knowledge of how to maintain it, the pipeline fell into disrepair.  EMI knew this could happen again unless those in the village could be trained how to maintain it.  So EMI went beyond design and created training programs that empowered the farmers to steward this system.  For example, an EMI volunteer helped a group of Guayabal’s farmers better understand the drip irrigation systems they are eager to employ – now that they have water again. Several men were trained in how to operate and safeguard the pumping equipment, while others were competently taught in welding to repair leaks in the steel pipeline.

Brothers and EMI volunteers Wil and Marv Kirchner developed the welding skills of six trainees from the community during a week of training.

Spiritual Discipleship

The EMI team was also looking for spiritual fruit, planting seeds throughout the week as God gave opportunity. The people there had little idea of who Jesus is. They are lost in a culture of machismo and sexual promiscuity. One said that following God meant following the Ten Commandments, but he knew very well that he couldn’t keep them, neither did he know anyone who could.

It was surprising how open and receptive these men were to hearing something new, or being challenged to think differently about following Jesus. Each morning during the training program the team went deeper into Jesus’ parable of the sower from Matthew 13. The men from Guayabal said they didn’t know how to pray, so they were led into it. They said they didn’t have a Bible, so the EMI Team showed them how to get one on their phones. The opportunities to ask questions, to share Jesus’ stories, and to pray with people were exciting. We saw how God could bring life and fruit in them just as He has brought life and fruit in their fields.

Guayabal farmer Felix Medina shows us a beautiful, green sweet pepper in a field intercropped with plantains. Asking God for fruit of a different kind in Guayabal, the EMI team shared Jesus’ Parable of the Sower each day with the community trainees.

Visible Fruit

This project shows how EMI’s Core Values of Design, Diversity, and Discipleship are brought together to change the lives of people around the world.  Even though there is so much difficulty and hardship all around us, it is encouraging to know that we can still make a positive impact in the world.  Together you and I are making a difference.  Thank You!

“I welded 18 years ago but had no clue about electrode selection or what amperage to use. Now I understand how to correct and make adjustments if my welding is poor… I want you to know that I understood the story you told us this week about the seed and the soil. I am good soil and the seed will bear fruit – up to 90 times. I will share what I have learned in welding, and the word of God will give fruit in my life.

Returning from Europe and Children’s Home Video

Leadership Conference in Europe

My trip to the United Kingdom was filled with long days of strategy and building bridges as we strived to bring unity among the many offices around the world separated by time zones, cultures, and different approaches.  Some office directors felt like they were running out of gas as they carried the heavy burden of orchestrating a fruitful office in the difficult context of living overseas.  It was a wonderful time of encouragement and support for one another.

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EMI’s Leadership Team from 11 different offices around the world

In addition to our Director’s Conference, we went through Leadership Training classes.  One of the interesting discussions surrounded the topic of leaders being vulnerable with those in their organization.  Studies have found that a lack of vulnerability not only leads to distrust by the employees but also hardens the heart of the leader.  So how do we embrace vulnerability while still being tactful?  While there is no easy answers, I found this quote by Henri Nouwen to be inspiring:

Somehow we have come to believe that good leadership requires a safe distance from those we are called to lead… But how can we lay down our life for those with whom we are not even allowed to enter into a deep personal relationship?  Laying down your life means making your own faith and doubt, hope and despair, joy and sadness, courage and fear available to others as ways of getting in touch with the Lord of life.” 

Learning to lead like Christ led is a lifelong process.

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Picture of me presenting at the Director’s Conference

Video of Children’s Home in India

One of my many trips to India with EMI was to Shanti Niketan Children’s Home where we prepared an architectural master plan of their property and a building design for their boys’ dormitory.  Most of the boys lived in structures that were built around the year 1916 when the land was used by the Lepers Colony Mission and it was very much time for new building construction.

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I stopped surveying for a group photo during my previous trip to Shanti Niketan Children’s Home

While there I was struck by the joy and happiness of the children.  It would be easy to pity children in their situation.  And it’s true, these children don’t have the opportunity to be raised by their biological parents, but they have friends, love from the ministry leaders, mentors in the older children, and finally hope for the future.  They are receiving intentional spiritual training, quality schooling, and specific training to get a job after they graduate.

It’s not always easy for me to actually articulate my experience without bringing you with me, so I wanted to show you this beautiful video that the ministry created so that you can be transported to India and to the Children’s Home.

If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing I would recommend watching the beginning as it introduces the situation in India and then jump to the 7 minute mark (ending around the 9 minute mark), so you can hear a story about their newest and smallest arrival to Shanti Niketan. 

Video: Watch the Shanti Niketan Children’s Home video by Clicking Here

Traveling to Europe and Hospital Projects

Is this just a busy time of year for everyone or is it just me?  It feels like I can’t keep up with all the wonderful activity happening in our family life and at EMI. Another round of projects are heading out the door to Malawi, Nigeria, Cambodia, and other locations.

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This Fall EMI is serving CURE International Hospital which treats the orthopedic needs of both children and adults in one of the least developed countries in Africa.

I (Jason) too will be traveling to Europe where I will meet up with other leaders to chart the course for the future of EMI.  One of the many challenges facing us is the integration of Business As Missions (BAM) into the EMI culture.

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Pictures from Cambodia where earlier this year I visited and assisted the office’s start up which is using a Business As Missions approach

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As the world of missions continues to get more complex we are needing to adapt our standard approach to still provide culturally-appropriate facilities that are affordable and transformational.  Business As Missions approach allows us the flexibility to have an office in countries where we couldn’t in our standard ministry approach.

Mentoring Interns to Kenya

After successfully using our home for ministry this Spring with housing EMI Interns we are doing it again this Fall.  Already Drew, Blake, and Cole are enjoying the extra company and are showing the two guy interns excessive love by hugging their legs so they can’t go to their rooms.  I also have the privilege of mentoring one of these interns- Paul.  Paul just left for his project trip to Kenya to serve Tenwek Hospital.

Tenwek Hospital is one of Western Kenya’s leading provider of primary healthcare.  EMI has a long-standing partnership with Tenwek Hospital, assisting them with master planning, facility design and construction, as well as infrastructure assessments.  EMI will assist with the design of new water and wastewater treatment facilities that will meet the existing demands of the campus as well as the proposed future expansions.

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Earlier this year, a fire started at Tenwek Hospital in the building that housed the kitchen and laundry facilities, along with administrative and other support functions for the hospital. The main floor of the building was destroyed, but the flames were confined to that one structure.

“No lives were lost, and there were no serious injuries,” said Dr. Stephen L. Burgert, medical superintendent at Tenwek. “Some patients were moved as a precautionary measure while the fire was being contained.”  We are thankful that no lives were lost, but the recovery process for the hospital has been arduous.

The fire has led to a desire in providing additional water system capacity for basic fire protection services. EMI will assist with evaluating and designing the necessary water and wastewater utility upgrades within the existing campus.

Blake Turned 5 This Weekend

We love Blake so much.  He is our creative son and so much fun to have around.   Blake is wonderfully generous and so imaginative.  This week he set up the Thomas the Train tent on top of his bed and put a tunnel leading from his bedroom door into his tent.  Then decided to sleep in their for the next couple nights.  He has just started elementary school and already loves his teacher, and his classmates… of course his friends are mostly girls though!

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Blake and his teacher on his first day of school

 

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Blake is a lucky boy because his Mommy is willing to run to his school (with Cole in a jogging stroller) and then let him ride his bike home after school.

 

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Our family and some family friends went camping in Colorado this summer.  And yes that is a forest fire in the distance but we lived.

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Blake on his 5th Birthday Party!

Ministering in Our Home

What have you found to be the biggest factors in making a positive impact in other people?  Over the years it has become quite clear to Jason and me (Jalina) that ministry and spiritual discipleship in others takes time.  In our busy and independent American culture it can be difficult to get extended amounts of time with other people… even our closest friends.  So after returning from Uganda we decided to look for a house where we can house other people in our basement as a ministry outreach allowing us more time and interaction with people, specifically with EMI college-aged interns.

 

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Blake helping paint the basement rooms for the EMI Interns

After visiting 56 different houses in 2016 we finally found one that we liked, but sadly the basement was unfinished.  Jason, with significant help from our family, finished constructing the basement over the next year.  Finally, at the beginning of this year we had our first two guy interns live in our basement- Jared and Jordan.  Drew, Blake, and Cole loved having them stay with us.  Our boys would hug Jared and Jordan’s legs as soon as they walked in the door telling the interns every detail of their day.  Hopefully this was good training for Jordan and Jared for what it is like to be a dad – being attacked with love coming home from work every day and not being able to take off a coat or put bags down!

 

 

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We were blessed to be Jared’s Host Family during his internship

During our weekly dinners with Jared and Jordan we were especially able to share life with one another.  Sometimes that meant talking about one of the interns engagement plans, navigating God’s calling in their lives, processing their first overseas missions experience together, or debating how best to evangelize.

 

They just wrapped up their internship and we said goodbye as they head off to the next season of God’s calling in their life.  In their closing comments, Jordan said how he was touched by our family and especially in Cole’s tremendous excitement to see him every time he walked by- it was a picture of how God is so pleased with us and cherishes every moment we spend with Him.  Jared left in his goodbye note, “Thank you for the talks, the advice, and the fun!  God is doing special things with you and your family.”

 

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Intern Jordan teaches Drew and Blake how to play “52 Card Pick Up”.  They’ve never been more excited to play a game!

The EMI internship term is often times a very impactful experience for these next generation leaders and we were excited that we had the opportunity to be a small part of their transformational time.

“For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.” – 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20

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Drew, Blake, and Cole were honored to be given Jordan and Jared’s goldfish “Emit” (an EMI sticker with a ‘t’ added at the end was added to his tank) after their internship ended

 

Drew Turned 7 Last Week

 

Grave Sins in Cambodia

Can the Sins of a Genocidal Killer Really Be Forgiven?

During my time in Cambodia last month I (Jason) visited Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum which was a brutal top-secret center of a network of prisons and torture centers instituted by the Khmer Rouge.  Between 12,000 and 20,000 people were imprisoned here.  There are only twelve confirmed survivors.

In 1975 the Khmer Rouge came to power led by Pol Pot. They began to model their governing style after Mao’s China.  Four months after the Khmer Rouge won the Cambodian Civil War, the five buildings of the Tuol Sleng complex, formerly a high school, were converted into a prison and interrogation center.  The buildings were enclosed in electrified barbed wire, the classrooms converted into tiny prison and torture chambers, and all windows were covered with iron bars and barbed wire to prevent escapes and suicides.

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The Khmer Rouge prison and interrogation center where it was enclosed in electrified barbed wire.

Comrade Duch was the head of the government’s internal security branch and oversaw the Tuol Sleng prison camp, which was created to cleanse the population of suspected enemies of the revolution.  After prisoners were interrogated and tortured, Duch personally ordered their executions with chilling notations to his underlings.  It was heart breaking for me to personally see pictures of the prisoners, the conditions that they had to endure, and the actual tools and beds used for interrogation.  The genocide that took place in these rooms were horrific and evil- how could someone do something like this on such a massive scale!

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The high school classrooms were converted into tiny prison and torture chambers.

Duch was amongst the last Khmer Rouge cadres to flee Phnom Penh after it fell to the Vietnamese army in 1979.  He fled with his family from one city to another in an attempt to remain anonymous.  After Duch moved to Phkoam, his neighbor invited him to attend the local Christian church and he soon became a Christian.

“My sin is so deep,” Duch told his Christian friend Christopher.  Duch’s head hung down, as he recognized his responsibility for thousands of deaths and atrocities in the killing fields. As tears rolled down his cheeks, he confessed his sin, and realized that the penalty for all those sins – and the enormous burden of guilt he carried — had been transferred to Jesus on the cross. The next day Christopher baptized Duch and his life completely changed, but still his friends at church didn’t know his true identity or the extent of his war crimes.  After two weeks, Duch went back to his village and started a house church that quickly grew to 14 families.  In late 1998 Duch sent a letter to Christopher asking for prayer. He planned to publicly confess his crimes and turn himself over to government authorities. “What kind of crimes did he commit?” Christopher wondered.

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A survivor’s artistic depiction of the prison conditions

Duch admitted his crimes before the court, including his role in the deaths of some 12,000 prisoners.  He said, “I ask for your forgiveness – I know that you cannot forgive me, but I ask you to leave me the hope that you might… I would like to emphasize that I am responsible for the crimes committed at [the prison], especially the torture and execution of the people there.”

Duch also said he would accepted whatever punishment the court determined was appropriate even though he was a changed man because of Christ.  Duch received a sentence of life in prison.

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Comrade Duch oversaw the Tuol Sleng prison camp and personally ordered thousands of brutal interrogations and executions, but later became a Christian and asked for forgiveness.

While this is a very tragic story for many reasons, we can rejoice that Duch received the joy of Christ and everlasting life releasing him from eternal punishment.  Christ’s death and resurrection on the cross is more powerful than the greatest sins we could ever commit here on Earth- something for which we can all praise God!

 

Skiing on the ‘Big Hill’

What do you say we end this post on a happy note?  Jason, his parents, and I (Jalina) taught Drew and Blake how to ski this winter.  We were tremendously proud of their progress in only a few days.  At first Blake couldn’t even stand up on the skis by himself, but by the last day they were going off small jumps on some green hills and Drew was even conquering some blues.  It was fun to see them start on the Bunny Hill and then graduate to the “Big Hill” as Blake called it, although stopping… wasn’t quite yet mastered.  Apparently learning to stop is next year’s task 🙂

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Drew gets comfortable skiing on his own

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Cole can’t wait until he can start learning next year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Papa takes Blake on his first chair lift

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Skiing at Grandby Ranch Colorado

 

 

Hostage Training and Hope Academy- India

“Pop quiz, hot shot” You are halfway through your design trip in Honduras and you are coming back together for dinner as it begins to get dark when you notice your intern isn’t there.  You ask the others and they say that they spent some time exploring with him, but then he decided to go on a jog and hasn’t come back yet.  They think he left about 90 minutes ago.  “What do you do? What do you do?”

Thankfully this scenario hasn’t personally happened to me on my project trips with EMI, but working overseas can cause some stressful and potentially serious situations.

Recently I participated in some training with EMI on how to handle a range of crises including the one above.  We also discussed what we should do if we were ever captured and held hostage.  While this sounds like a disturbing topic, I found it interesting and somewhat encouraging.  We watched a video of someone who had received training and then gone through being held hostage in real life.  He walked us through each stage of the ordeal and I was amazed at how calm he acted and how bold he was in making his needs known to his abductors.  As the hostage, he became one of their greatest assets and they would need to prove that he was alive and well taken care of.  So this hostage was able to use that to his advantage and request basic needs.  This training helped change my perspective so I wouldn’t have to live in fear if, God forbid, I was ever in this situation.  Overall it was an enlightening experience.

 

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Humorous and staged photo of the dangers of serving overseas. And yes, that is me holding the rock

 

Alright… on to more pleasant topics.

Hope Academy

EMI has partnered with another great ministry in India called Hope Academy.  They desire to bring world-class education and a transformational environment to ultra-poor children in rural India. Hope Academy is much more than a school- they work to empower boys and girls from all social castes to live lives of purpose, service, leadership and achievement.

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Perspective renderings of the design

 

I’ll let this video explain more.  If you don’t have much time then jump to the 2 minute mark on the video where you can see how EMI participated in making this a reality and a fly-through of our design. Watch the video HERE

If you want to see more of the fly-through you can watch the complete presentation HERE.

Here are the photos of the team at work:

 

Thanks for your continued prayers, support, and partnership throughout 2018.  

Myanmar Airstrip and Prayer Calendar

Feeling Isolated in Myanmar

When I think of being isolated and needing help I am reminded of the humorous time I randomly decided to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up all in one day by myself.  I was young and reckless, completely disregarding warning signs like this one:

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I was actually making good time until about half way back up when I ran out of water and both of my legs cramped up.  I was literally crawling on all fours on the trail in the dark in hopes to make it back up to meet my friends who didn’t know where I went for so long.

While my journey was humorous and self-inflicted, the people in the Chin State of Myanmar (formerly Burma) have to experience isolation and need as normal life.  Chin State and its people have been disadvantaged in terms of socioeconomic development. Mountainous terrain and poor road conditions isolate this state from the rest of the country, hindering external assistance.  There are currently no airports in the whole of Chin State but airport development in Lailenpi would enable aircraft to access the State for the first time in 70 years.

 

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Dr. SaSa (pictured) has seen many impossible dreams come true in his life, so why not an airstrip? resized1000x1000-18-Dr._SasaSaSa grew up in these mountains with an intimate knowledge of what it means to be isolated. As a young child, he remembers the day his mother’s best friend died in childbirth along with the baby, and the day he lost three of his childhood friends from diarrhea. With no clinic, hospital, roads, or even education, he believed nothing would change unless he could help his own people. He needed to become a doctor.

Through a series of improbable and miraculous circumstances that took him to India, Armenia, and England, he became that doctor, started an NGO called Health and Hope, met Prince Charles who became a patron of the organization, and began training Community Health Workers in Chin State. Over the course of six years, 834 Community Health Workers have been trained and are serving their communities across 551 villages. The work has expanded to include training Traditional Birth Attendants and supporting the education of more doctors. Truly nothing is impossible, even moving a mountain.

Moving a mountain is what is needed to provide these people with outside resources.  EMI developed a design for an airstrip literally on the top of the mountain as you can see from the design graphics below:

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The Myanmar government were so impressed with EMI’s design of the airstrip that they want to incorporate our ideas into their design and construction codes.  The government has invited EMI to advise them on another mountain runway under construction in a different location and they are discussing involving EMI and our partner ministry MAF in the development of up to 25 more runways through the country of Myanmar.

Hope is starting to spread throughout Myanmar.  Providing air service will help develop the people of Chin State’s economy, education and health.  And as EMI stays faithful and diligent with our ‘good deeds’ of design more people in Myanmar will no longer feel isolated.

“Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

Praying for EMI

Have you ever wondered how you can pray for the work and people of EMI specifically?  Here is a link of prayer points for each day of the month of January: EMI_Prayer_Calendar_January_2018

Any EMI account holder can subscribe to the prayer calendar by marking it in their preferences – start at the ‘pray for us’ icon at the bottom of emiworld.org.