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EMI UK at 15

Remembering where we’ve been, looking ahead to where we’re going

Bringing EMI to the UK - Mike Woods

Mike Woods sketch

EMI UK began out of God’s call to Mike and Mariette Woods into mission with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF).

Their initial posting with MAF in 2000 was to Tanzania, where Mike was a pilot and Country Director. After a move to Uganda, Mike encountered EMI. They were working on ideas for upgrading the MAF base at Kajjansi Airfield.

Construction of the MAF base at Kajjansi
Above: Mike Woods helped set in motion the joint EMI & MAF office at the Kaijansi airfield. (Construction photo, 2015)

After leaving MAF in 2005, the Woods returned home to the UK where he picked up his original profession of Architecture. Mike remembers,

“I left Uganda with memories of the EMI team I had met. I was impressed how building design professionals could also serve in mission and wondered whether God wanted us to serve him in that way. We decided to explore and ‘push the door’ to see if it would open.”

After a series of confirmations, interviews, and a period working with EMI in Colorado Springs, the Woods joined EMI. In 2008, they registered a new UK charity affiliated to EMI, and got started in a small office in Colchester Baptist Church.

EMI UK's first office space
Above: EMI UK’s first office at Colchester Baptist Church.

Mike and a small team worked to launch all of EMI—internships, project trips, design support—to the UK. Between 2008 and 2016, EMI UK was involved with over 20 design projects for schools, hospitals, and ministry centres in Africa, India, and Asia.

But alongside growth and intense activity, change was in the wind.

UK volunteers and staff members felt increasingly called to work with and mentor local design professionals. EMI UK had more staff serving EMI overseas than at home in the UK.

Shifting EMI UK’s focus - Dave Lambert

Dave Lambert sketch

With UK staff moving overseas, the projects office was not sustainable. Retired architect Dave Lambert stepped in as EMI UK Director when Mike Woods retired in 2016.

Dave and Jaz Lambert had been EMI volunteers, joining multiple project trips over the years. They now saw their primary calling in supporting the long-term UK staff overseas, as well as short-term volunteers.

Dave & Jaz Lambert
Above: Dave and Jaz Lambert representing EMI UK at a missions event.

Stepping away from the projects office model, EMI UK decided to focus entirely on the sending and support of people from the UK to the greater EMI overseas. EMI UK became a virtual office of dispersed volunteers and part-time staff.

Serving EMI abroad brings its own challenges and rewards.

The care and support by UK-based staff is vital in helping overseas staff thrive and sometimes simply survive. The Lamberts became well known throughout the EMI worldwide family for their staff care and field visits.

The global pandemic curtailed this work of sending and support, and a number of UK field staff returned home. In 2021, Dave stood down as EMI UK Director, and his duties were split between several UK Board members.

EMI UK Board members
Above: EMI UK’s Board worked hard to share Director duties in a gap year.

This ‘hands-on’ management by Board member volunteers helped keep the organisation active during and following pandemic lockdown.

Though they went above and beyond in a difficult situation, all across 2022 it was clear a full-time Director was needed to bring EMI UK back into full activity.

Growing new UK connections - Stephen Douglas

Stephen Douglas sketch

In early 2023, the UK Board appointed Stephen Douglas as full-time Director. Stephen is a newly retired architect with 35 years of experience in private practice.

Just at a time when he was looking for a new challenge, the door to serve at EMI opened. Stephen says,

“As a Christian architect, I had no knowledge of EMI for most of my career. I want to make the EMI connection with UK design professionals at all stages of their careers.”

At an EMI UK event
Above: An EMI UK regional event in Belfast in 2023.

The vision is to expand the reach of EMI UK in the design professions, amongst students and throughout the wider church. The opportunities to serve in EMI’s unique worldwide ministry need to become more widely known in the UK.

Growing new UK connections will open EMI’s doors to more people, as well as strengthen support for the 10 UK full- and part-time personnel who already serve at EMI.

Beyond building awareness, EMI UK has a role to play in developing Creation Care as a cornerstone of EMI design philosophy.

EMI has unique reach and diverse skillsets in directing good design toward the triple bottom line of environmental, social, and economic sustainability. This is happening through UK staff engagement in a sustainable design forum, and projects like a Sustainable Design Guide for the Global South.

Framework graphic
Above: A uniform framework for assessing project sustainability across five indices - design considerations, infrastructure, site and environment, building materials & techniques, and administration.

After 15 years in the missionary support financial model, the EMI UK vision is to see many more professionals mobilized to serve in the Global South.

For that to happen, the wider church has to catch this vision and invest in it. Partnership in the gospel means your financial giving and your sustained prayer to see this ministry in the UK grow. Stephen says,

“I believe we have a generation of young Christian designers ready and willing to see how God can work through their chosen professions to see real impact for His Kingdom and change for this planet.

“We just want to welcome them to EMI.”

Rob Quail in Nicaragua
  • Above: Rob Quail (left) is an EMI UK-mobilised project manager who has been serving with his family at EMI Nicaragua since 2021. And former intern Catherine Bookham (at laptop) recently returned to EMI as an Development Outreach Worker in the UK. Photo by MJC.
  • Banner: Adam Gordon (left) is an EMI UK-mobilised structural engineer who has been serving with his family at EMI Uganda since 2018. Photo by Nobert Ahumuza.

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