“You see this completey vacant space filled with nothingness? We’ve got 27 days to make it into something!” This was the gist of the challenge that my dad gave me last month as we stood in a brand new, uninhabited building in Trinidad.
Trinidad isn’t just the country responsible for my birth, me eating oysters that resemble pigs eyeballs, and a woman serenading me with Beyonce’s greatest hits at 6:13am, it’s also the country where my dad decided to start a church. My dad is a pastor of a church in America and in January he started an international location in Trinidad. After a few months of holding church services in a conference center, he decided to move the services into a better commercial space that would allow for more room for growth. But this was easier said than done, since we had to mold this vacant void of nothingness into a church, and I was responsible for leading the charge.
In the beginning of April, my dad and I walked around the space and he shared his vision as we bounced ideas off each other about how to pull-off a trial run for the first service. The goal was to use temporary walls as a test before building permanent walls, while still maintaining a pleasant appearance. After 20 minutes of discussions, taking measurements and snapping pictures, I left and went directly to the airport to return to America and get to work.
I had just over three weeks to select a sound system and a dual LCD projection system, design print banners, produce marketing videos, produce radio broadcasts, order band instruments, make a plan for transporting everything into Trinidad without damaging it, and set everything up in the halls without any delays. Since I wouldn’t be able to step foot into the space for another three weeks, it was important to use Photoshop to visualize what things would look like, and tweak it accordingly before returning to Trinidad. There was a lot of pressure, but as Martin Luther King Jr says, “the pressure’s on, but guess who ain’t gonna crack?” Actually, it was Jay-Z…I always get MLK and Sean Carter confused.
I started by working on the layout of the 4,000 sqft room. We decided on a heavy, suede-like fabric to separate three areas: the lobby, the sanctuary, and the office. It was important to make the renderings as close to reality as possible so I could fix any issues before they arose. This resulted in me making many tiny tweaks to the subtle details of the room to make sure that everything worked visually and technically. Imagine spending five hours finding the perfect drop ceiling clamps that matched the color of the crossbars and could hold 35 lbs of weight without bringing down the ceiling in the process. That was my super exciting job!
I rendered each design from multiple angles to make sure that everything looked good regardless of where you stood in the room. Here are some examples of the renderings of the modifications. Use the slider to see the before/after comparisons:
After everything looked fine visually, I sent the banners to be printed and moved onto the sound system. My goal for the sound system was for it to be portable enough for traveling, yet powerful enough to be heard three countries away. The result was four powerful speakers controlled by a mixing board that was controlled by an iPad via a wifi connection, along with four wireless microphones and over 1,000 feet of cable to connect everything together.
The same amount of detail was put into setting up two LCD projectors, a drum kit, a piano, a bass guitar, and an acoustic guitar. There were a lot of moving parts to this operation and it was my job to make sure that everything went as flawlessly as possible. This was incredibly challenging to manage, but as John F. Kennedy says, “difficult takes a day…impossible takes a week!” Oh wait, no…that was Jay-Z again.
Then on Monday night I boarded a red-eye flight to Trinidad with equipment stuffed into two 90 pound suitcases and two 50 pound suitcases. Thankfully, the people at the airport didn’t assume that I was trafficking drugs or fake Gucci handbags when I stumbled around with almost 300 lbs of stuff. The next four days in Trinidad resulted in long hours of nonstop work as the space slowly evolved into a church. I led a team of amazing people as the room was cleaned, equipment was set up, fixtures were mounted, and problems were resolved— all in Trinidad’s 700 degree hot sun.
All of the efforts paid-off when most things happened without incident during the night of the service. The actual room matched the renders very closely, the sound system performed wonderfully, the LCD projectors showed clearly, and everything went well. I had no energy remaining after the service, was slightly delirious from the lack of sleep, and was accidentally almost permanently locked in a bathroom stall, but besides these things, the seemingly impossible task became possible when we pulled it off!
Five hours after the service, I checked out of the hotel and drove to the airport to return to the United States. Despite being energy deprived, I was proud to see that one of the most intense undertakings of my life was successful and the only lasting casualties were these three annoying mosquito bites on my calves.