Across 42 projects in 28 countries and two decades, Canadian Architect Steve Ulrich has used his skills on mission with EMI.
Steve’s vision, initiative, and leadership brought EMI Canada into existence in 2002, where he led the team for eight years. He reflects on the journey:
“In January of 1996, my wife Barb and I and our two sons were in the Philippines with YWAM. For several weeks I led our team of seven adults and five kids as we helped an in-country missionary with his “street ministry for bar girls”. This was not exactly my thing, but as an architect, on several occasions I saw design needs that I might have improved on.
Back in Manila, as I gave a summary of our team’s experience in Olongapo, my heart was racing and emotion took over. I was unable to share—God had used the experience in such a deep way. I truly felt He was “calling” me.
From that time, my mind was focused on how to enter a missionary role as an architect. The underlying urge was to discover how I could serve those who needed a designer’s help.
I first found an avenue with YWAM Mission Builders International. I sold my practice and our family moved from Kelowna, British Colombia, to Colorado Springs in ’98 to join MBI. When MBI moved its office after two years, however, we stayed back.
While in Colorado Springs, I had met EMI staff and learned about the ministry. So in September of 2000, I joined the old EMI office in downtown Colorado Springs.
The multi-disciplinary approach of EMI was exactly what I was longing to do. My previous private practice in Canada had been heavily involved with smaller clients. Across nearly 15 years, my architectural practice had helped clients usually unable to afford big fees, but needing professional design to get a practical, affordable project outcome.
So I felt that EMI was a perfect fit to serve as an architect in the developing world. Raising financial support can be daunting but God has been faithful in providing our support through faithful donors who have invested in us and in the work of EMI.
The growth of EMI over the last 20 years has been very encouraging. I think I was the 9th EMI staff member when I started. Back then, it was mainly EMI Colorado as EMI India was pretty new. Becoming the pioneer for the 4th EMI location in autumn 2002 had many challenges as God helped me and eventually partnering staff become a registered not-for-profit charitable organization in Canada.
Though difficult at times, it was also a very fulfilling privilege. That EMI Canada is also approaching 20 years old here in Calgary simply amazes me. I’m especially thankful for Greg Young, our second Executive Director, who stepped into the leadership role in my place in 2010. As part of the team since then, I’ve continued to participate in a major way, contributing to the effective growth of EMI Canada.
EMI has allowed me to see and experience the world of the less fortunate. Beyond that, I’ve been able to help by providing expertise and encouragement to developing world ministries. This has been and continues to be the most rewarding experience of my life.
As I approach age 70 this May, I feel I still have a role to play with EMI in their worldwide mandate. My heart has been captured forever by the sense of accomplishment that we have done something to help in His Kingdom.”