Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cold Africa

My first trip to Kenya, and I discovered that there is such a thing as cold in Africa! We were working for Into Abba's Arms (IAA), an orphanage in the Kinangop region situated at over 8,000 ft. elevation. The site sits between the Rift Valley and the Aberdare mountain range. The land is lush and green, and once again blows my perception of the dry, hot landscape that I always assume Africa should be.

Our goal with this project is to increase the site's capacity from the 40 children that currently call IAA "home", to 75. Such a realistic and tangible benchmark was only the first thing that impressed us with the organization. Throughout our week on site we took notice of the personal and intentional care of each child. Not only are the kids provided with a Christian family-like setting in childhood, but they are supported financially, spiritually, and emotionally as they go to boarding school from ages 11-17 and college after that.

IAA seems to do an awesome job of reversing the hands that these kids were dealt. As far as we could see, they really encourage and assist big dreams. One of the reasons this touched us so deeply, is that a similar philosophy has become a large part of our EMI mission. We don't want to be the ones to fully sustain the communities that we enter, but rather to encourage and assist the communities to sustain themselves. God blessed us with an awesome opportunity in Kenya to work toward this goal.

Before our arrival we asked around for any Kenyan engineers or architects that wanted to come work with us during our time on site. IAA founder Jane Gravis immediately thought of Nelson, the oldest "son" from the orphanage and a Civil Engineering student at a Kenyan university. Not only did Nelson want to join, but he wanted to bring 10 friends and a professor for a week! Although the orphanage couldn't host so many people (an example of why new buildings are needed on site!), he did bring a few of his classmates.

Our Philippino-Canadian Electrical Engineer, Coloradan Architect, and Kenyan Civil Engineering students
While site visits are always critical for project design, I think God's plan for this trip centered around discipleship and training opportunities. In many African cultures, knowledge is the only guarantee of one's livelihood. Therefore, people can tend to cling tightly to their skills and expertise. In the same vein, our junior electrical volunteer from Vancouver said that his workplace makes it difficult to develop professionally because his superiors won't take the time to mentor him.

"Be generous: Invest in acts of charity. Charity yields high returns. Don't hoard your goods; spread them around. Be a blessing to others. This could be your last night.
Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 (The Message Translation)

In Ecclesiastes we are encouraged to be openhanded and generous. It says that wherever we are in the present is where we are to giveI think the opportunity for our team to share technical knowledge without boundaries is what made the trip most fruitful. Nelson said that he learned more during a week with us than he had in two years of engineering school. I don't know if that's true since he was already a super smart guy, but I know that he and his friends came in as sponges, and soaked up a LOT.

Nelson (left) with our project leader Brad (center) surveying the site
(photo from team photographer Jenni Keiter)
In addition to the Kenyan engineers, I loved watching our senior electrical engineer (Ruedi Tobler of Toblerone chocolate!) mentor our junior electrical, Alex. They probably finished the electrical component of our project with 3 or 4 days to spare, but Reudi never stopped teaching up until the day we left. Alex was so invested in everything Ruedi had to say, he never even noticed how we loved to watch them work!

I'll leave off with the Lion King's "Circle of Life" lyrics. While being in Kenya felt a lot like the Lion King, these lyrics felt a lot like my life. There is far too much to see, and with every trip I realize just how little I will ever come across! But at least I can fit into my own little place on the path unwinding :)

There's far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the sun rolling high
Through the sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round
It's the Circle of Life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding

1 comment:

  1. Who knew the Lion King got so deep? I feel that same way every time I travel somewhere new.