Friday, March 18, 2011

Great & Unsearchable Things

This afternoon, I was walking home from work when I overheard a group of three Yale undergraduates ruminating over the design of the Sterling Memorial Library.

"But is it a church that's supposed to be a library, or a library that's supposed to be a church," said one student to the others.

My walk followed them for about a block and I tried to listen in. By the way they were talking, I assumed they were not architecture students, so I was interested in what non-architects were saying about the neo-gothic edifice. I almost inserted myself in their conversation at one point, but was too timid to do so.

What was going through my mind was this . . .

If I had to pick from your two options, I would say the latter: it is a library that is supposed to be a church. That is to say, in a post-Christian society and secular university setting, it is a replacement for the church as a house of worship. As such, it is, in both style and veneration, a cathedral to knowledge--a secular humanist's temple to reason and knowledge. (Compare this also to Yale's mammoth neo-gothic Payne Whitney Gymnasium as a cathedral where the human body is worshiped.)

But, I wanted to add, as a Christian, I was reminded of a passage from the Bible:
Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:


Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:22-28, NKJV)
I imagine that the portal of the Sterling Memorial Library could have the same inscription Paul found in Athens, and that I could say the same thing to many students. Yale is, after all, an environment that breeds and encourages the religious pursuit of knowledge, reason, and objective reality. But "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God . . . his understanding no one can fathom." (Isaiah 40:28, NIV)

God, therefore, is the source of all knowledge, and he urges people to call on him for true understanding. "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." (Jeremiah 33:3, NIV)

Book learning is just book learning, and Sterling would be an empty shell if it were not for God, "for the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding." (Proverbs 2:6, NIV)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Different Type of Mission

It has been a week since I left Peru, and I have been working on a letter to send to many of the people who have prayed for me or supported me financially on this journey. Below is a copy of that letter.

“Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)

I returned last week from the mission trip to Peru with Engineering Ministries International (EMI) that I wrote to you about in January, and so I wanted to follow-up to thank you for your prayers of support for the mission and to tell you about my experience serving the Lord in South America.

Our EMI team consisted of eighteen members from the United States, Canada, and Costa Rica. All together, we were two EMI leaders and their spouses (plus one cutie-pie of a six-month-old), two architects, a master planner, two structural engineers, two civil engineers (plus one spouse), one electrical engineer, one surveyor, two EMI interns, and one drafter. Our team had been gathered by EMI’s Latin America office to work with a Seminary in Urubamba, Peru, on the master plan design of a new campus on land they own a few blocks from their current facility, the design of a dormitory for the new campus, and the design of a church on one corner of the property. My main task for the week was the architectural design of the dormitory.

Though I am confident that many on the team would vouch for the emotional and spiritual “high” that we all experienced working together for the Lord in Peru, I would go even further and say that the week for me was life-changing. So often I have thought of “missions” as standing on the corner with a Bible (and that’s a pretty scary thought for me even now!), but my recent trip to Peru opened my eyes to a different type of mission work. In our case, our team was supporting a Seminary ministry that seeks to equip Peruvian nationals and Quechua natives to be leaders in their local churches. During the week, our team delighted in the thought that, although we were not ourselves equipped or able to teach all of these people in the long-term, we were working together to design facilities that would serve the Seminary for years to come as they reached hundreds of students, and by extension, thousands of Peruvians with the power of the Gospel.

In one of our sporadic conversations while I was away, I was explaining some of these things to Kim, and she said to me, “Do you remember when I first said the word ‘missionary’ to you, and you looked at me like I was from outer space?” I said, “Yeah, but I didn’t know a missionary could be an architect!” But the truth is they can, and they are, working every day with organizations such as EMI. I think God showed me a lot during the week, one of the primary things being that I have something to offer in a mission setting such as this. During one of our team’s morning devotionals, we discussed the body of Christ as being like our own body, made up of diverse and separately-gifted members that must work together to accomplish anything. I may have been an eye during week, but I needed help from others to hear. But I was an eye for the week. And along with a team of ears, and hands, and feet, we worked together to serve the Lord. “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts from one body, so it is with Christ. . . . Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:12, 27)

Although before my trip, I had often felt that God had gifted me with both passion and skill in architectural design, I also often wondered how God desired me use these gifts. Amidst a hectic week where there was the same amount, if not more, work than in my professional life, I found a peace and renewed passion in my love for architecture by serving the Lord.

Some might say that I went to Peru to do something “good” for others, or to “help” someone else. But as is often the case when we are in a position to be a blessing to others, we are in turn blessed even more in return. I was amazed and encouraged, therefore, at the spirit of service-in-love that was demonstrated to us by our hosts at the Seminary in Urubamba. Just when we might have been tempted into feeling good about ourselves in what we were doing, we were humbled by others seeking to serve us with selfless hearts.

Although each member of the team has now returned home from Peru, there is still much work to be done. Over the next few months, we will be working together and coordinating in the midst of our day-to-day professional lives to complete the master plan document and the construction documents for the dorm which are the deliverables offered in this case by EMI to the Seminary. I would appreciate your continued prayer support for my work moving forward, the work of the other volunteers, and especially the work that the Seminario Evangélico Bautista Independiente del Cusco (SEBIC) is doing in the lives of Peruvians in the region of Cuzco.

If you would like to read more stories or see more photos from the trip, visit my blog “Through the Oculus” at To find out more about EMI, visit their website at If you are specifically interested in learning about EMI’s work in Latin America, their website is

Yours in Christ,