Mount Zion project: From Vision to Reality
Written by Alex Bjergbæk Klausen
In 2016 we had our initial conversations with the bishops of Sierra Leone and Guinea. Together we want to build a training and retreat centre, which can help equip the future church leaders. After identifying the perfect plot of land, we started the process of thinking through the training concept and what type of facilities we would need to achieve our goal. But there is still a very long journey from vision to reality. Fortunately we heard about EMI World, a mission which focuses on engineering and architectural consultancy. In 2018 we applied for their support, and they responded positively. They prepared a team of 11 engineers and architects, who arrived on a ten-day-mission in Sierra Leone this February to help us prepare the ground for the future Mount Zion.
We were truly amazed with the support we received from EMI World. Their team of specialists came on a very intensive journey to work hand in hand with local counterparts, coordinated by Mr. Andrew Keili from the Anglican church in Sierra Leone. He is an engineer and owner of a large company. Initially the goal was to deliver drawings for the main building at Mount Zion, but they gave us so much more. The first days were spent on presentations and visitation on the site of the future Mount Zion. They also asked a lot of detailed questions, even down to the number of expected water boilers on the ground. All of this is important to make calculations on electricity, but also similar calculations for water supply and sewerage systems. The Mount Zion will be constructed on the most beautiful plot of land in the mountains outside of Freetown. But beautiful rarely rhymes with easy. Certainly, the mountainous area causes problems, both in terms of water supply (the challenge of drilling bore holes for water pumps) and in terms of construction. The road leading there can be challenging, especially during the rainy season. Nine out of ten vehicles climb the hill successfully, - unfortunately a large truck, which was turned upside down, proved to be number ten, and blocked part of the road for us. Even during the dry season it takes a 4WD to reach the top. Road construction is certainly on our agenda and so is water and power supply. Building on a slope has a lot of benefits in terms of natural breeze and beautiful view, but it is also a bit more challenging. Initially we doubted, whether it would be possible to realize our dream on the 1,5 acres we already have at our disposal. We are in the process of acquiring additional land, but this is not immediately adjacent to the current plot, and it is not even certain that we will get the land.
On the second day of their visit the architects had already prepared an outline of the site, which proved that all the buildings would be able to fit – and even allow enough space for meditation gardens and test plots for our farming projects. Mount Zion should be able to host up to 50 residential participants for a longer duration (two-week courses) and up to 100 short term participants for weekend retreats. Furthermore, it will be a resource centre with a printing press, recording studio and wafer production. There will also be a church on site and a dining hall. It is important that the facilities are attractive and inspiring with an international standard.
On their final day the team gave a full presentation of their project proposal. The audience counted a good number of members from the Anglican Diocese of Freetown led by Bishop Wilson and team-members from Relay Trust, who listened to the presentation from four different countries through streaming. It is amazing how technology can enable us to be in the same room and listen to the same presentation despite the fact, that we are in five different countries. Now EMI will continue to work on the project until end of May. Then their commitment is over, and we will use their descriptions and make the detailed drawings in Sierra Leone.
The EMI team managed to prepare drawings for 1) main building 2) staff-residence 3) participant-residence 4) dining hall. The only building remaining is the church, which needs more consideration.
We are so grateful for this first amazing step, which is a giant leap from vision to reality. We hope to begin construction of the main building later this year (after the rainy season) and to have it completed during 2020. But of course, it is a very big project, which will take years to complete. But hey, Rome wasn’t built in one day!
The EMI World team.
Kevin (to the left), the team leader of the EMI, takes notes during the presentation delivered by Relay Trust.
Isaac and Jesse are working on electrical engineering and trying to make a detailed description of the power needed to run Mount Zion.
Kristen is giving a presentation of the architectural outline.