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A Vision in Trust

Bringing IRIS Dakar a step closer to reality

“Normally, it starts with a vision in somebody’s head. But the difficulty is how to realise the project...” — EMI Senegal Director, David Wright

Architects and engineers never like it when the vision is too big for the property. An EMI team might tenaciously rework the site design again & again, brainstorming options together for hours. An EMI team will try everything to make it work, to avoid cutting out parts of the project or reducing it.

They never like telling a client that their vision—what God has called them to—has to be scaled-down…

City panoramic
Women sitting on a bench
Team digging
Claudio & Mirijam

Claudio and Mirjam started IRIS Dakar to serve children who were orphaned or abandoned by their families, or who live on the streets of Senegal’s capital. At Iris Harvest School of Missions in Mozambique in 2012, God gave each of them a vision at the same time:

Claudio saw how he brought food and blankets to the boys living on the streets of Dakar and then brought some of them to a safe place outside the city. Mirjam saw how Jesus handed her one baby after another and asked her to be a mother to them as they didn’t have one.

Though God gave them this vision, they realised they needed help to bring it into reality.

At a construction site

“After designing two houses ourselves and building them with the help of local masons, we wanted better quality in the design and construction process,” Claudio says.

“Then this year at the General Assembly of the evangelical brotherhood, where IRIS Dakar and EMI both were accepted as members, we got in touch with the team.”

11-year EMI staff veteran and Civil Engineer John Agee led the project team.

John Agee giving a presentation

John says, “We often work with ministry clients who have a huge vision that is limited by physical and design constraints.

“As built-environment professionals, we recognize that every development project is a great undertaking for ministries, from the purchase of land to planning & construction to the start of operations.

“After listening carefully to the vision, the design team coordinates the architectural, engineering, and construction components that are necessary to bring it to reality.”

Remote video URL

IRIS Dakar had hopes that their new roughly 1200-square-metre site could contain facilities both for children desiring to leave the streets as well as for community outreach.

The initial vision included apartments for up to four foster families, communal spaces for these families to share, a small vocational school, 6-class primary school & 3-class preschool, plus a clinic, guesthouse, and administrative offices for the organisation...

Even before the project trip began, God led IRIS to let go of the idea to build a clinic on the property. The team found that the small size of the site, coupled with it being sand for at least two meters deep, created major challenges in accommodating everything the ministry had hoped.

John and Valerie

EMI Fellow and lead Architect Valerie Rubombora remembers, “By the third day, it was clear we weren’t getting anywhere with the mammoth programme… By the fourth day, the civil engineers were raising flags about lack of space…

Slide across to view galleries

“As a team, we tried what we could to make the programme work as-is. We decided it was in the best interests of IRIS ministry and the children they care for to significantly reduce the scope.”

EMI worked with IRIS to establish priorities which led to decisions to cut out the guesthouse, then the primary school and preschool.

“It can be challenging to approach ministry leaders with news that the entire vision cannot be accommodated within site and design constraints,” John says.

“Yet this is part of the conversation in order to design functional, appropriate, sustainable facilities.

Group in prayer

“IRIS Dakar has a big vision, yet they trust that God provides and directs that vision—particularly through partnership with EMI. And their focus on God was immediately evident to us, as we saw ministry staff spontaneously break into song or prayer during our meetings together.

“So when the ‘bad’ news came, Claudio and Mirjam responded graciously, saying, ‘God is not surprised,’ trusting Him and our team's guidance.”

What about the vision God gave them?

Asked about letting go, Claudio responded, “We believe God is in control of IRIS Dakar. Whatever we do and whatever we need, we always come to the Lord in prayer. He is our Source.

“Countless times, we’ve experienced His guidance and how His ways are better than our ways. With time we learned to trust Him in the process and became more relaxed if things didn’t turn out how we thought it should.”

Claudio & Mirjam continue holding the IRIS vision—they hold it in trust.

Celebration during presentation
  • Above: About 60 people from the area who in support of or are engaged in ministry with IRIS Dakar turned out to see the design presentation and celebrate.
  • Photos & Video: Jenni Keiter, EMI Global | Avodah Images
  • Design exhibits courtesy of EMI Senegal
  • Editor: MJC
  • Published: 15-December-2021

The team in Senegal, West Africa is looking for an Architect & Project leader to join them in bringing design into reality. And, your support of the EMI Fund makes this work possible!

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