Summer 2016     
Into Deeper Waters

Senior EMI overseas staff share their stories in 2016

Into Deeper Waters

by John Sauder, EMI Uganda Office Director

Plying the warm waters of the Indian Ocean with snorkel & mask has become a favorite family activity. The reefs along the African coast are color and motion on display, intricately woven and purposeful. But this exploration began in the bathtub. It was there that our boys learned the mechanics of the equipment – the basic tools to open another world. Diving competitions in a nearby pool honed technique and cultivated an urge for discovery. And then the ocean! Slowly at first, wading out from the beach. Each experience built confidence and the insatiable desire for more. We had to go farther out. We had to go deeper...

A local dhow fisherman in the waters off the East African coast.

In a similar way, Paula and I like to say that we have eased, rather than plunged into the work of EMI over the past fifteen years. It began with the intern program in 2000. I served with EMI in North India and was reintroduced to genuine Christian community and role models. This awakened a desire in me to know and experience God through my vocation and every other aspect of life.

John hard at work during his first project trip as an intern in India.

I traveled again as a young architecture graduate to India’s central plains to support a remote construction project. It was there that I first explored the challenges of implementing EMI’s designs. Realizing how much I had yet to learn (remember the basic tools), I returned to the design and construction industry. But I was no longer the same.

A few years later and recently married, Paula and I joined the Uganda start-up team for one year. Rather than wading into EMI, this call to East Africa was so unexpected and obvious, it was like God had tossed us off the boat! But it was there that we first saw the opportunities to go deeper with EMI’s African partners. After another season of preparation and the birth of our first son, Zane, we returned to Uganda once again in 2007.

“Paula & I no longer say we are committed to stay... Instead we have simply said, ‘we are here.’”

Gone was the familiar comfort of the firm sand underneath. We kicked our feet and swam as a young foreign family embedded with a local ministry for a three-year field assignment. Though we were only two hours away from the office, in many ways we were operating on the fringe of EMI. It was all new. Rather than a confident search under the surface for God’s handiwork, many times we were just trying to keep our heads above the water. We experienced the deaths of close African colleagues, numerous setbacks, and the pain of disappointment. In time we have seen this more clearly: God was forging beauty from hardship.

In 2010 my family returned to the capital, Kampala, and to the office community. Together as a staff team, we began to explore what it means for EMI to become more established in a place. We formed new partnerships, initiated new programs, and expanded into a larger, more diverse team. Leaving our enclave in the city, we built new offices and workshop facilities for EMI at Kajjansi Airfield. Through the increasing diversity of our team and the neighborhoods we now live in, we are going farther and deeper to join God in His broader work in this region. It has been humbling to witness all that God accomplished to better establish EMI in Uganda. In the process, God brought about the same outcome in my family as well.

Left: Explaining construction progress to visiting EMI staff in 2009.
Right: The Sauder boys with surveying students from last year's Survey Practicum in Uganda.

How to describe this? After ten years in Africa, it means Paula & I no longer say we are committed to stay for a specific timeframe. Instead we have simply said, ‘we are here.’ It will not likely be the end of the journey, but we have discovered a fascinating reef at EMI in Uganda. A reef where the wonders of God working in a place over a longer period of time are being revealed: My supportive family has found its home, and on-going friendships have sustained us. Inspirational ministry partners (and the people they serve) benefit from EMI’s work all around us. And there are stories of others – both here and abroad – whose lives have changed through their interaction with EMI in this part of the world. Here too, God’s creative color and motion are on display, intricately woven and purposeful!

This is perhaps a summary of God’s calling: To discover and illuminate a small reef somewhere in the vast ocean of His workmanship. Encouraged by Paul’s claim in Ephesians that you and I are part of it, ‘created in Christ Jesus for good works’, we follow the current He draws us into. And we lean upon the life-preserver of His grace when we don’t measure up to all that He has called us to do and to be. But the more we see of God, the more we realize how much we have yet to see and experience. He leads us then, into deeper waters.

Jay Whisnand
Leading a chapel service during the EMI Uganda office construction with EMI Foreman Richard Tatyabala.

John Sauder
EMI Uganda Office Director

Trained as an architect, John Sauder has served with EMI in various locations and capacities around the world for over a decade. His primary focus has been in East Africa, where he currently leads the EMI Uganda team. John lives with his family outside the capital city of Kampala, near the EMI office in Kajjansi.
The Sauder family at Kajjansi Airfield: John & Paula, Zane, & Zac.


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