Pauri Wilderness Retreat & Community Center
eMi Project 8247 | May 15-27, 2015 Many were the reasons why this trip wouldn’t materialized and many were the obstacles along the way. But against all odds, I was able to take the time off, raised all the funds needed, and got my visa in time for the trip. I’m so thankful to seeing God’s hand in all of this. On Friday, May 15, I embarked on the journey to serve with eMi in designing a retreat and community center in Pauri, a town in Pauri Garhwal district in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. There are ten of us on the team. Our trip leader (Ryan, who has spent onethird of his life in India), four architects (Gerhard, Tunisha, Christian, and me), two surveyors (Nate and Bethany), two civil engineers (Adil and Tyler), and a volunteer (Trudi). After arriving in Delhi on Saturday evening, I met the whole team for the first time on Sunday morning at breakfast before attending Sunday service at a local Church, Fusion. The sermon was on Nehemiah and his request to King of Persia, King Artaxerxes, to return and to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. “And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” (Nehemiah 2:2-3 ESV) Listening to the sermon and later reflecting upon it, I believe it speaks to all of us on this trip that God has burdened our hearts with the infliction of others and He disturbs our “normal” life for the service of others and Him. This helped to set the tone of my week and my heart in the right place. Monday was a long travel day. We rose early in the morning to take the train, Garwhal Express, from the Old Delhi Railway Station. Train travel is very affordable and to us, unbelievably cheap. Our journey from Delhi to Kotdwara, a 7-hour ride that covers 284 km, costs 100 Rupees for normal class and 370 for air-conditioned class. That’s $1.6 and $5.80 respectively. Travelling in a/c is considered luxury, evident by the fact that there is only one air-conditioned car out of the whole train. We arrived early, towing our luggage and weaving through the crowds to get to our train. Vendors lined up in the center of the platform and people were everywhere: sitting, standing, lying on ground, and running around. After we had settled, we stepped off the train to get chai. That wasn’t our only chance, though. Chai
Team heading into Old Delhi Railway Station.
and food vendors would come through the car on longer stops and we had plenty of opportunities to get our chai fix. After all, having only one tiny cup was not enough for my grande coffee addiction. We met our host, Stephen, as soon as we stepped off the train in Kotdwara. And just as quickly, we were piled in two vans for another 4-hour ride to reach the town of Pauri. Mountain breeze was very welcomed; so was the views of pine tree forest and mountain range. Unfortunately, we were robbed of seeing the snowcapped Himalayas due to haze generated by forest fires. India in May is hot and dry; but all that will change in a month when monsoon comes. Stephen and Divya inherited this 100-acre site from Divya’s family. Her father passed away unexpectedly last December but they wanted to carry out the vision he had for the site. Centuries ago, the British cultivated this mountainous site to grow tea. As a result, part of the site is terraced with ancient stone walls still intact while other parts are dense forests. Their vision is to create a wilderness retreat and campground that will benefit the villagers nearby, school/church groups, as well as Indian Christians who need a place to rest. Another big piece of their work is a community center that will be used for workshops and gatherings, plus a separate facility to process agricultural products produced on site. Given the size of the scope, our main focus is to create a master plan that incorporates all the components and to provide a preliminary design of