This post is written by one of our new staff members, Paul Schultz, who is experiencing Gabon and the people we serve with for the first time. Here are his observations on some of the local leaders we serve with:
It’s kind of a truism that the right people make the difference. It would be an easy thing to be overwhelmed by the needs of the poor and the sick in Gabon. And in truth, the need does seem overwhelming at times. Also the distance between some of the dreams the church has to meet those needs and the reality of where the church is actually at can be potentially discouraging as well. But, in the midst of incredible need, God has placed some incredible people.
In just a couple of weeks I have met many incredible people. In this post, I would like to introduce you to three. These three have a few things in common…they all see a need bigger than they can possibly meet on their own, they all have a God-given dream to meet that need and they all have servant hearts.
Jacob is a small guy with an incredibly big heart and more energy than you would think possible. He is the director of the Gabonese church’s biggest dream to meet the needs of the poor and sick in Libreville, an incredible city that contains the majority of the population of Gabon and an incredible amount of need as well. The dream is called PK27. It is a 65 acre parcel of land with plans for all of the social ministries to be based there one day. Right now it is mostly untouched land, but there are some signs of home. The foundation has already been laid for a clinic that will in turn pave the way for a small hospital one day. And, in just the last two weeks, a building has been put up that will offer housing to teams as large as 16 so that the work can continue more effectively at PK27.
Jacob was a well-loved pastor (in truth he still is) before giving his attention full-time to overseeing the development of PK27 and serving with us and all partner ministries in Gabon. You can see the excitement in his eyes when he talks about how this place will be used by God to meet the needs of Libreville’s poor. Jacob doesn’t just show his passion by talking though, you can see it in the joy he has even on incredibly hot days as he shovels gravel and wheels another wheelbarrow load. Jacob is joyful even then, because he knows that wheelbarrow load brings him one step closer to pouring the floor for the clinic.
Pastor Israel is another guy with an incredibly big heart for people. Specifically, he has a heart for children. I have five kids and while I love them all, there are times when five feels like more than enough in one house. Israel’s heart is a lot larger than mine…more than ten times larger. He has a home called Hope House where he takes care of approximately 50 kids at any given time. He and his wife are the only full-time adults serving all these kids. You would think that it would be utter chaos and in truth, it probably is sometimes, but the times I have been there I have been impressed at how the older ones take care of the younger ones and how peaceful a house of 50+ people can really be. Israel and his wife love the kids and the kids love them. Currently, their living conditions while better than in the past, still aren’t all that Israel wants for his kids. The dream is one day, not just a Hope House, but a Hope Village with an adjoining school that will be built at PK27. That’s a great dream….and knowing Jesus’ love for children…I am sure it is a God-approved one.
Martin is another incredible guy who has a heart for “the least of these.” Jesus showed love especially to those many thought unlovable. Leprosy was a disease that not only affected your body, it affected your relationships with your spouse, your kids, and all your friends. Martin’s dream is to help meet the needs of today’s lepers…those with HIV/AIDS. His organization, although small, is considered by some in government to be among the top two organizations in the country reaching out to those with HIV/AIDS. You can see his passion as he talks about educating the church and mobilizing Christians to reach out and show love to those who are hurting from this disease.
In Matthew 11:5 Jesus describes his ministry this way: “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”
It is obvious to me that Jesus’ ministry continues to this day…and these three men are just a small part of what He is doing in Gabon. It is an incredible privilege to be able to be part of it.