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One of the definitions of injustice is inequity – the unjust or unfair action or treatment of others. What has been happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo over the last 15 years is not only unjust, it is horrific. The war and poverty experienced in this country is devastating and E4 Project has been trying to help where we can at the Nebobongo Hospital near the town of Isiro. While they are not currently in harm’s way due to the war, the poverty in the region is one of the highest in the world. The hospital serves a large area consisting of over 250,000 people and is the only trusted hospital in over a hundred miles. The hospital does not have electricity or running water, and children in the pediatric ward are often 3-4 to a bed during times of disease outbreaks. The surrounding communities and schools do not have access to safe water or any knowledge of sanitation practices. Children die from diseases caused by just the lack of clean water.
The tragedy in DR Congo is overwhelming. Yet God continues to allow us to step into His larger story and help the people that He loves – and He loves them as much as anyone else in the world. He sees their heartbreak, struggles and faith. It must break His heart when we turn a blind eye to the suffering in the world around us.
We have been helping in different ways with Nebobongo Hospital and we are so excited to share that we are now moving forward to serve with Lifewater International in bringing clean water and sanitation programs to this region. We have a long way to go to see this happen, and we are still in the beginning stage. However, Lifewater and E4 Project worked together to send a Lifewater advisor from Ethiopia to meet with the leaders of Nebobongo hospital and the church system that oversees the hospital. Lifewater concluded that the Nebobongo area was definitely a place that they could help, and they have been researching and working towards the goal of introducing their WASH program into 4-5 schools within the surrounding community. The WASH program includes sanitation, hygiene training and access to clean water.
The current goals of Lifewater are to work on curriculum over the next few months and then send a team over in September, at the beginning of the school year, to teach teachers and staff about the WASH program. This team will include leadership from Lifewater and E4 Project. While this program will be led and managed by Lifewater, E4 will help in whatever capacity we can. After the initial training, another team from Lifewater will head over in January or February of 2015 (during the dry season) to build the rain tanks and latrines and incorporate further training.
We are so thankful that God has connected us with Lifewater and cannot wait to continue to update you on progress and plans as things move forward. We will be fundraising aggressively for this campaign and would ask that you all pray about how you could support this awesome project. Please check out the amazing work that Lifewater does around the world here.
For those of you who are not familiar with the Democratic Republic of Congo, here are some statistics that will help you understand the dire need that is there – from http://www.globalissues.org/article/87/the-democratic-republic-of-congo:
“Since the outbreak of fighting in August 1998,
- Some 5.4 million people have died
- It has been the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II
- The vast majority have actually died from non-violent causes such as malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition—all typically preventable in normal circumstances, but have come about because of the conflict
- Although 19% of the population, children account for 47% of the deaths
- Although many have returned home as violence has slightly decreased, there are still some 1.5 million internally displaced or refugees
- Some 45,000 continue to die each month”
As we share another story of our church partners serving alongside our ministry to widows and marginalized women at Bon Samaritan Ministry, I sometimes feel that we are sharing the same stories from previous teams with similar photos. Sometimes I know we want things to move faster – I want Bon Samaritan to have kiosks all over Gabon to sell the products that the women make. I want training to continue weekly in various skills. I want their building to be finished at the PK27 campus – and I want these things to happen now. We get so used to the pace that we live at here in the States and we want things to happen our way. However, God has reminded me that none of this is about me and what I want – that there is so much more to what we are doing and what our team members are doing as they commit to serve year after year in Gabon. We continue to rely on God’s timing and the pace of the Gabonese people as we trust them to lead. This includes embracing our Gabonese partners and slowing down enough to just pray together and strengthen relationships. Whether it is another seminar to continue to grow the skills of the widows, playing with the orphans and abandoned children, or a prayer walk at the future social and medical outreach campus – we follow God’s lead and our Gabonese partners as they determine what is needed for each team. God is moving in Gabon and growing our partners as incredible leaders and I am amazed at what is accomplished through every team that we send.
These photos are from this past week with our team from Faith Alliance Church in Ohio. If you read our previous blog post, you were given a glimpse into the vision that God gave Vicki to bring many sewing machines and train the other women on her team to sew so that their team could have a great impact with our training for widows. The team has spent a couple days training widows and marginalized women in sewing. We have done similar trainings in the past and will continue to train in this area as we continue to serve.
Some of the women that come to training are there for the first time. Others have come before and can receive more training when they attend more sessions. While it may seem like a small step in our eyes, we believe that God continues to smile down on this ministry. God sees His loved ones, who are often left on the margins of society after losing their husbands, being served and shown how much God loves them. We not only serve through training, we develop relationships as we serve. This is as important as the micro-enterprise businesses that we try and support with our training and funding. The skills that these women receive will allow them to earn income and sell products that they make through the Bon Samaritan Ministry. They will be able to put food on the table for their children. They can earn income to pay for their kids to go to school. Their lives will change and they will be empowered by their ability to provide and serve with their ministry. The relationships that they make provides friendship and encouragement in knowing that others love and support them.
We are so thankful for those who serve with us and who are creating a better life for the poor and needy through their service. Many friendships are formed and skills learned and smiles exchanged – all for the glory of God.
We have had a busy week along with our partner church, Faith Alliance Church in New Bremen, Ohio. Our co-founder, Eric Schmidt traveled with Yoann Makita (Pastor Jean Marc and Mama Jeannine’s son who is currently living with us) to meet up with Pastor Jacob Mouele at Faith Alliance for the weekend. The church had their missions week this past week, and E4 Project and Faith Alliance Church flew Pastor Jacob to the States for this time. Sarah Lewan from our Project Sunset Program traveled to be there as also, as well as several others from her church, Bridge Community Church. All were able to share their vision and how God has worked with E4 and our partner ministries and churches. Today, Jacob leads a team from the church to Gabon to serve with our ministry partners. We ask that you join us in prayer for this team and for our ministry partners as they serve the people of Gabon together.
One of the main areas of service for the women will be training the widows and marginalized women from Bon Samaritan Ministry in sewing – a skill that they can use to earn money to take care of their families and support the ministry as well. The team is taking 13 sewing machines to leave with the ministry, which will be an amazing addition to the micro-enterprise training that we have set up in the past.
The following attachment is a testimony shared by Vicki Quellhorst, who leaves with the team today. Because it is written as her story, it is longer than most of our blog posts, so we attached it as a PDF. We encourage you to read her story of how God has prepared her for this trip to Gabon. She is a seamstress and has collected donations for 13 sewing machines in 21 days for our partner ministry, Bon Samaritan. She has also trained all the women from the team so that they can all teach the widows and marginalized women in the ministry how to sew. God has shown Himself to Vicki in amazing ways prior to the departure for this team. In her story, she goes through the details of how God met her every step of the way with his provision. All that was required of her was to trust in God’s plan and follow His leading. You will see that she was busy purchasing sewing machines and taking donations, but God brought everything to her that she needed for this training of her team and our partner ministry.
I love this quote below that she shares in her story:
This is so true for all of our partners – some of you travel to Gabon, some of you pray, many of you donate financially and have never been to Gabon. So many of you help provide for our indigenous led ministries in so many other ways (some very creative ways as well) and we are so thankful for each and every one of you. We could never serve the way we do without the community that God has surrounded us with. We are thankful to be serving together. We look forward to sharing more with you about the time of service in Gabon this month.
This post is a little different than others that we usually write here at E4. We usually tell stories and share updates about the work that is happening. We share about what we are doing and how God is using E4 and all of our partner ministries to accomplish His Kingdom work. We are about community transformation and helping in ways that bring long-term solutions and sustainability. We are really not a relief-focused organization. However, there are times where relief is just necessary and the only real way that we can help is by providing funds to serve those in immediate need. In this situation, the long-term work in DR Congo cannot continue without immediate assistance. The following update from our friend, Dr. Jean Claude Bataneni, explains why we believe that money is what is most needed right now for the hospital where he serves in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Many of you gave money about a year ago to assist the hospital with an Ebola outbreak and salmonella/malaria outbreak among the children. Your contributions had a significant impact on the hospital’s ability to save lives during the terrible outbreaks. We were able to send more than $15,000 last year for this specific purpose that provided sanitation and supplies immediately to assist with epidemics, and especially care for the many sick children. We are planning on sending funds now for their current situation. I spoke with Jean Claude yesterday and we received an update via email that explained the following situation about the hospital and community. The following is written from his perspective, with a few minor edits to help the English make the most sense to you all:
“A couple months after the Ebola outbreak that affected us, we experienced an epidemic among the pigs and goats. It was so serious that is killed about 99% of the livestock. Pigs and goats are the first means of income for our population. For a short explanation of how the hospital often operates is that we treat patients in an emergency, and then hand the bill to the family members. In normal situations, the family would go back to their village and get a pig or goat. They would sell the animal(s) and pay the hospital bill. For the past 8 months, everyone is cut off from this source of income. This is making things very, very hard for us to run the hospital. We cannot afford to purchase more medicine and pay staff, as well as maintain the hospital. We had a meeting yesterday and discussed that we are only at 47% of where we need to be to pay our staff for August.
Also, for us to keep the prices low and help our patients, we operate on solar power from our solar panels and batteries. Lightning destroyed our system and it is hard to keep operating without this cheap and renewable energy source. We have had to run the generator most nights, and even days while performing emergency surgeries. This is significantly raising the cost of operating the hospital, at the same time that patients are not able to pay. Normally, the surgeries we perform are our main source of income. But this week I did many surgeries and we only received about 15% of what we charged. Also, children return to school in a week and the parents have to pay school fees. This includes our staff who need to receive their pay so that they can take care of their children. We are praying that God opens doors for us to have outside help.”
Nebobongo Christian Hospital is the only hospital for miles and miles around. It serves an area of over 250,000 people without running water or electricity – other than the generator which can only be used some of time. Many people travel for a day or two just to get to the hospital. Dr. Jean Claude Bataneni is the first surgeon that the hospital has ever had. His wife, Christine, is also a doctor. Their family has devoted their lives to serving Christ by returning to their home village after all medical schools and training, to serve some of the poorest and neediest people in the world. The Democratic Republic of Congo has been devastated by years of horrible civil war, major breakdowns of all infrastructure and extreme poverty. This hospital is a light to so many, and their only hope for medical care.
Please consider making a donation here and 100% of funds given will be delivered to Nebobongo Hospital next week through the church system that oversees the hospital. Please put “Nebobongo” in the notes field. We also ask that you pray with us for the trials that Nebobongo faces on a daily basis.
One piece of good news about our serving with Nebobongo hospital is that things are moving forward with a large faith-based water NGO that we are working with. While this will take some time, the site visit went very well and they want to work with us and Nebobongo to bring community development through clean water and sanitation. This will potentially improve the lives of up to 250,000 people in this marginalized region. It will be a slow process as this region is so difficult to travel to and work in, but we continue to move forward and pray that God will pave the way for this monumental program.
* Photos are courtesy of Jean Claude Bataneni and Andrew Randolph
We live in a culture that is extremely “me” focused and allows for many of us to create our own little world surrounding our lives. When we focus only on ourselves, our families, our life problems and experiences; we miss all that God has intended for us in our relationship with Him. We miss true joy. God expects much more from us than just going to church on Sunday. He expects our whole lives – and He gives us more than we could ever imagine in return. When we choose to live each day asking God how he wants us to live and love others, our lives are turned upside down. There is no greater joy than meeting God right where He wants us – in absolute submission and service to Him. This is how we live a radically different life than those around us.
Our ministry partners in Gabon exemplify this choice to follow God completely and enter into a hurting world. They do it every day as they share the gospel while helping the poor and needy with the basic necessities of life. When individuals, churches and organizations partner with us to serve our ministry partners in Gabon and DR Congo in their service, their actions show that they are working towards this life as well. God calls us to love others as much as we love ourselves (Matt 22:36-40). He calls us to give up everything to follow Him (Luke 9:23). We are seeing this right now as our team from Bridge Community Church is serving alongside our indigenous led ministry partners in Gabon. We see what happens when people say “yes” to God.
When we look at the past two and a half years of our partner churches and organizations, as well as all the individuals that we serve with at E4 Project, we see how God is using us all to serve our brothers and sisters in Gabon. We are increasing the tools available for our partners to share the gospel and reach people for Christ. This is the ultimate goal of our partners in Gabon. They serve to meet the physical and spiritual needs of people through mobile medical clinics, eye and rehabilitation services, training and ministry to widows and marginalized women, care to abandoned and orphaned children, support and care for those with HIV and more. As a collaborative group, we have increased their ministries by providing such things as a new truck for the medical ministry, 65 acres for their future medical/social outreach campus, lab for the medical team, 550 wheelchairs, eye clinic equipment, micro-enterprise training for widows and marginalized women and so much more. The more tools that our partners have, the more credibility they are given by the government as well. More people throughout Gabon hear of the work they are doing and want them to help.
Here are a couple of additional examples from just this week with the team from Bridge:
Eye Clinic – Ophthalmologist Liliana Baron has spent the first part of this week setting up the eye equipment that she donated this past year. She donated 4 opthalmology stations from her office to our eye ministry in Gabon (RBC). Bridge Community Church worked with her to get these shipped to a crate that was going to Gabon. She was there last summer training our partner nurses, and this summer she is back to set up the new clinic and do further training. This donation and training will allow RBC to see and treat exponentially more people in need of eye care.
HIV Testing & Training – The team medical professionals trained our partner Martin Mbavu and his ministry HIV Hope in HIV testing. We worked with HIV Hope to partner with OSPAC, our medical ministry partners to then use the experienced nurses and lab materials to perform the tests and take care of lab work for those who test positive. Yesterday, 120 people came to be tested for HIV. 5 people tested positive. They had to turn many people away as the demand for this first round of testing was higher than expected. We are assisting with funding for HIV Hope so that they can test many more people and take care of those who test positive with further lab work, care and medicine.
Medical Lab – Pastor Randy Vinson has a background as a lab technician and he worked with our medical partners last year to create a lab for the ministry and train a couple of the nurses in how to use all the equipment. This week, he is improving the lab and doing more training. This will continue to increase our partners’ tools to serve their people.
Wheelchair Distribution – The team is assembling wheelchairs given to our partners through our relationship with Free Wheelchair Mission. They will distribute some at the village clinics this week, but were already able to give one to a man in great need in Libreville.
Project Sunset – founded by Sarah Lewan who is on this trip with her church (her third trip this year!) – at the first clinic this week, they already passed out over 30 nets to families in need of protection from malaria. Photos will follow in a separate social media post. Please check out the program she started with E4 on our website at Project Sunset. She will be distributing more nets at the next couple of village clinics as well.
Hope House – Some team members spent time at Hope House for abandoned and orphaned children. There were music lessons and a mini concert performed, and lots of reconnecting and love with the children there.
Mobile Medical Clinics – The team has already done a village clinic and will take part in two more clinics this week.
We have already posted about PK27 and the physical work that the team is doing there. They will have another work day there this week as well and will also spend a day focused on micro-enterprise training with Bon Samaritan, our ministry partner to widows and marginalized women.
It is so amazing what God can do when a group of people say, “yes – I will go”. The training and skills of this team are invaluable to our partners. We are so thankful for all of our partner churches who send strategic teams to serve alongside our ministry partners. This week, we thank Bridge Community Church for their long-term commitment to our Gabonese family.
This week we have another church partner team on the ground in Gabon serving with our Gabonese ministry partners. This team is a mixed group from the Bridge Community Church in Troy, Michigan. One of the projects that they are working on is establishing a perimeter around PK27 so that the land is in essence protected from squatters and people who would like to capitalize on the recently cleared jungle to plant gardens and take advantage of the property.
This project consists of a lot of physical labor to install concrete fence posts along the perimeters. This requires making wooden forms, hauling concrete and transporting water for mixing cement from a local stream to the edge of the property to make the posts. We are blessed to continue to have teams involved in every step of this massive project. At times, we can get discouraged because the completion of a project of this scale seems like it is an eternity away, but I am always reminded of an ancient Chinese quote:
Each step in this journey is important and significant. As the team was working at the property this week, there was loud drumming and chanting a little ways away that the team could all hear. Mama Antoinette (a leader of the Gabonese ministries) came up and said that the local people were practicing things against God and then said, “The people around here don’t believe in Jesus. They believe in other practices. This is something important about this land. Once PK27 is here, they will forget about their practices. Once people come here, everyone will know Jesus.” With the drumming and chanting in the background and Mama Antoinette’s slow but super intelligent way of speaking the implications of what the team was involved in deepened to spiritual levels.
The Gabonese are claiming this land that was once used for the occult to be used for God’s purposes. There is symbolism in placing a ‘hedge of protection’ around the property that will be used to further God’s Kingdom. Our ministry partners regularly come to the property to pray over it and the future work of reaching others for Christ that will come with the medical/social outreach campus as well. The team was able to co-labor with the Gabonese in these simple but symbolic steps. This is a long road we are on, but when I realize how significant the work is in relation to the evil that surrounds this place, I am renewed with passion to see the ministry take place.
God has gifted us all with unique talents and gifts. Marcus Bearrs is a very gifted musician and music teacher and he was able to connect relationally to the Gabonese on the trip this past March through music in such an amazing way. He could often be found playing drums with village kids, or hearing singing coming from nearby, such as the widows in the Bon Samaritan ministry, and picking up his drums to accompany their vocals. The following is a guest post from Marcus, a team member on our March medical team from Bridge Community Church.
On March 1, 2013, I left the United States, met up with 12 other individuals from various parts of the country, and headed to Gabon to help serve as part of an E4 medical mission team. This was my second time traveling to Gabon. I went last year in June 2012. Ever since my return to the states I have felt a strong desire to return to these amazing people.
This trip was very special for me. I was able to share in worshipping God in so many new and exciting ways. Our first full day there was a Sunday. We were split into 5 groups to travel to 5 different churches. I was part of a group of 3 that was assigned to go to Pastor Jacob Mouele’s home church. Pastor Jacob had asked me if I wanted to play drums with his worship band Sunday, without hesitation I said, “Of course”. I was very excited to have the opportunity to be a part of this, but also a bit nervous.
During the service the Spirit of God was definitely present. Worshipping along with the Gabonese people is such an amazing experience. Seeing the pure joy and sincerity in the Gabonese worship is one reason I felt such a strong desire to return. Everyone is singing and dancing with no inhibitions or worry of what others may think. They have a passion that many of us desire to have, but in reality most of us probably lack. I had a sense of being able to experience God in my own way and also a camaraderie with brothers and sisters from what can feel like another world, yet also seems very familiar. The presence of God in the church transcended any cultural or social differences and helped me experience how the Gabonese truly are members of our family through our same redeemer, Jesus Christ.
When it was time for me to join the worship band, I left my seat and all feelings of nervousness left me. The musicians were excellent – I felt I was locking in with them pretty tight and this allowed me to concentrate on praising our Lord though music. Even though I could not understand most of the words, it didn’t really matter. It was about everything our worship should be, giving all thanks and praise to God! To me it’s like a version of speaking and understanding tongues. The Spirit lead worship coupled with the non-verbal communication in music spoke to me in a way that hit deeper than I have experienced. There was no doubt we were in the presence of God.
This is a post from Antoinette, an engineer serving with our ministries and the development of PK27. We spoke with her on the phone over the weekend and she told us that the fact that the church owns 65 acres for development of the medical and social outreach campus is a truly a miracle. She said that no one in Gabon owns this much land and that it is only through God that this could happen. We agree completely and have seen God’s hand on this project since long before the purchase of the land. We are so thankful for what the Lord is doing through our partners in Gabon.
Antoinette Nyomba graduated from George Washington University with a B.S. and a Masters Degree in Environmental and Energy Management. She works for the Gabonese Government - National Commission Against Illegal Enrichment. She is currently a Deputy General Reporter. Anotoinette and Eric decided that she and I would be partners in the green development component of PK27 as my degree is in Environmental Planning (although it has been many years since I worked in this field). We both have the background, but are not currently working in these fields. We do plan to serve together as best we can to find sustainable building solutions and green energy opportunities for the development at PK27. She sent me an email about working together and included the following story about the initial day of land clearing, and we thought it was so good that it had to be shared…..
The day was cool, not hot at all. In fact, small drops of rain were falling over the land making the day very pleasant. As always, we started with a word of prayer. We prayed together, presented to the Lord all the aspects of the unknown and the known of the land clearing work. Former Pastor President Jean Marc Inguemba closed our words of prayer.
As you can imagine, the excitement was growing as we all climbed onto the bulldozer. It was very dangerous, but we felt that every entity involved must be represented. We felt like God the Father himself, Jesus Christ our marvelous brother, and the Holy Spirit our strengthener were watching over us.
I was so proud to get up on the bulldozer on behalf of the engineers. As I sat down on something that I later found out was the battery container, a lot of smoke came up. I felt so bad and was saying to myself, “Will I be the only person in the group that damages the bulldozer?” While I was thinking that, Gauthier the driver said, “Do not worry, everything is fine”. He opened up the battery’s container, fixed the battery‘s elements, and told me, “Mama, you may sit down again”.
We did not know it, but the very first bush was on a hill . As Gauthier started clearing it we almost capsized. I said to the Lord, “Oh no, we just prayed”. Mama Jeanine said, “Oh no Lord, not that, my family is on that bulldozer”……
A lot of land was cleared that day. One of the next tasks is to level the land that has been cleared for the foundation of the medical building.
Oh Lord, thank you very much for that great day at PK27.
Just a quick update on the amount of work that has been done at PK27 this week. We received the following photos from our partners in Gabon. Much of the property for Phase 1 has been cleared. There are additional meetings next week with engineers regarding the next steps which will include specific land preparation for the ground where the first building will go. The first building will become the home of the medical clinic and the rehabilitation center.
Continue to pray for the work that is happening and for the funding to come in through local and international channels. The progress at the property this week provides some momentum for garnering interests from the local church as well as the entire E4 network.
The following is a post by Sarah Lewan, founder of Project Sunset and team member on the March medical trip to Gabon.
I was blessed to have the opportunity to be part of the E4 medical trip to Gabon a couple of weeks ago. Before the trip, God was teaching me time and time again that Jesus made a mark on this world by loving the person that was right in front of Him, not by worrying about the thousands more that needed His attention. He was determined to reveal His Father to others by showing them His Father’s love in simple, but real ways. I went into this trip with the focus of serving the One and it made my trip so fulfilling. Each smile, each high five, each hug coupled with a loving “Bonjour” or “Bonsoir” made its way deep into my heart and filled me up to the very top. This was my second trip to Gabon and I learned even more than the last. Our job on short term mission trips is to learn. As we learn, we will also serve our brothers and sisters in Christ, but what we have to learn is worth so much because it will change how we approach the rest of our lives back at home; our long term missions field.
A huge part of this trip for me was going and delivering the mosquito nets raised through Project Sunset. I went knowing there were 200 nets waiting for me and I hoped to distribute at least half while I was there, but God blew away all my expectations yet again. On the first day we distributed 137 mosquito nets. During my last trip in June the most we distributed in one day was 28. After our first clinic we had to go and buy more nets which was a great problem to have! Throughout the week we distributed 288 mosquito nets and left 118 to be distributed at clinics after our team left. God will ALWAYS do immeasurably more, more than we can ask or imagine.
My favorite part of Project Sunset is when I get to watch the nets get distributed and when I get to hand them out myself. The best part by far is seeing the thankful look in their eye and I treasure it. They always thank me and I thank them because I am so thankful that God has blessed me so much that I have the opportunity to make this connection with my Gabonese brothers and sisters as I serve and learn from them. The Gabonese teach me more than I could ever teach them.
On Sunday we went to church and we met a lot people, but two would stand out the next day at our first clinic; these same two people came in to the clinic looking just miserable, and they both tested positive for malaria. The day before at church both people were happy and singing and dancing, and then the very next day they were sick with malaria. This very dramatic shift made what we are fighting against very real to me because I was able to see the drastic effect that malaria can have on someone in just 24 hours. I am so thankful that OSPAC (our mobile medical ministry partner) provides great care and medicine for people like the two that we saw. As we continue to distribute mosquito nets, we believe that OSPAC will see less and less of malaria. These two individuals were back to normal activities by the end of the week, after having received great care.
“ For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” -Matthew 25:35 No matter where we are, whether in the United States, Gabon, or somewhere else, as long as all of us, the followers of Jesus, live out this verse and care for the person that is right in front of us, we are serving Jesus Himself.