When looking for a major eMi design project team to join this summer, I was considering a couple of projects in Central Africa, a Christian university master plan in Gabon and a school/ orphanage project just north of Kampala. The Gabon project desperately needed an architect and ended up not having one, but the project here in Uganda offered a rare opportunity for Heather & Caleb to join the team as well. I ended up leading the site master planning effort, while Heather led the architectural building design effort.
Aside from Heather, Caleb & I, the team was recruited from Canada and the States. This was an incredibly humble servant-minded and willing team. We all worked really well together, as if we were being led by the Spirit. Several on the team were experiencing their first eMi trip, while others were seasoned eMi veterans. The team bonded very well, enjoyed one another’s fellowship and enjoyed Bible studies together. Pictured from L-R, Corwin Neufeld, structural Engineer from Calgary, Alberta; woman serving with Agape; three crazy mzungus living in Kampala, Uganda; Daniel Wang, architect from Oakland, CA; Dorcas, serving with Agape; Steven, contractor who grew up through Agape ministry; Eddie, driver serving with Agape; Kevin Winner, architectural engineer from Redwood City, CA; Darren Eklund, surveyor from Calgary, Alberta; Kristen Sharer, eMi intern/civil engineering student from USC, Los Angeles, CA; woman serving with Agape; Andy Engebretson, electrical engineer/eMi Project Leader; Agnes Kabatesi, Agape Ministry Leader; Dave Yackuboskey, eMi intern/landscape architect from Penn State University; Chris Ford, civil engineer from Raleigh, NC.
The site became increasingly more difficult as we progressed into the design. Despite a seemingly ample 60 acres, the buildable land continued to shrink due to high water tables, government restricted wetlands and septic limitations. Approximately 40 acres of the site is a seasonal wetland marsh. Related high water tables consumed another 5 acres, leaving only 15 acres of buildable land. To add to the site difficulties, this area had a steep cross slope of about 16%. If that wasn’t enough, it also had poor soil conditions that were not conducive to septic soak pits predominantly used here. On a few occasions, I said that this site was cursed.
Agnes, our ministry contact, has a God-sized vision for this site. Having worked with Watoto Children’s Homes for several years, she has developed a big heart for the orphans of Uganda. Her life is an amazing testimony to God’s continued calling and patience. Despite a successful secular career, several supporters continued to encourage her to develop a ministry and pursue a divinity degree in the UK. After brushing them off several times, she finally relented and began to feel God leading her.
Currently working with about 100 orphans, Agnes feels called to develop Agape Education Centre, a boarding school for almost 900 primary students and about 800 secondary students, housing 75% of those on site. In addition, the centre would provide teacher housing, administration offices, dining/multipurpose buildings, a vocational school, kitchens, canteens, toilets, etc. Agnes also has a huge heart for a Bible training centre which would provide discipleship for local pastors and church leaders, with housing and meeting spaces for 50 students. In addition to all of this, the vision for the site included a retreat conference centre for 300 guests, with sleeping accommodations, meeting spaces, restaurant, pool, exercise spaces, etc.
As we began laying out all of those program requirements on the 15 acres, we realized that, despite trying two-story buildings, proposing shared dining spaces and other ideas, the great vision would almost completely saturate the site, leaving very little open space between buildings. A final blow came when our civil engineers discovered that the soil strata in the buildable land of the site would not percolate and allow the typical septic soak pits. Their solution was to propose horizontal percolation fields with imported sand, similar to leach fields often used in rural areas of the West. With buffers and the extensive size of these percolation fields, the project became impossible. Discovering this dilemma the night before our presentation to the ministry, we were faced with the need to contact Agnes and inform her of the problem.
As Andy was preparing to call Agnes, she called him to inform the team that she and Dorcas, one of the women working with the Agape ministry, had decided to remove the secondary school from the program of the buildable 15 acres, moving it to a potential adjacent property acquisition in the future. The “Dorcas Miracle” thus allowed the project to become feasible. On many eMi project trips, I have witnessed the fulfillment of prayer, angelic protection and work efficiency that could only be explained as Divine Provision. Experiencing the Dorcas Miracle impacted our whole team as we all felt God working in an amazing way to provide for the expansion of His Kingdom.
Despite a rough construction cost estimate of about $9 million USD to develop the entire vision given to Agnes, she feels confident God will provide, knowing His heart for orphans.
He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES.” – Matt. 13 31-32