If I had to be honest with you all, there have been times in the last five years where I questioned a lot of what we are doing through E4 Project. Where I felt unsure of the path we were taking with one of our biggest initiaties, PK27. Times when I truly felt like throwing in the towel and saying, it’s not worth it, let’s let someone else do it instead of us.

The approach we have taken with our philosophy of ministry is rooted in partnership. When I think of partnership, I think of two people paddling a canoe. If both parties are not working in unison the direction and the results of the work may not get you to where you want to be. If one is paddling harder than the other, you may end up going in circles. If one is working harder than the other, resentment may build up. It is essential to work together with the right timing of efforts to achieve the desired goal.

In recent years, the efforts of many community development organizations have shifted toward models of partnership versus the traditional method of aid, which is rooted in paternalism. A documentary called Poverty Inc. has helped remind me that we are headed in the right direction and with the right timing. This traditional model of aid and relief has missed the mark at providing long-term change. I love the following quote from Magnatte Wade, an entrepreneur featured in this film.

There is a certain paradigm in which we try to help the poor. And it comes with underlying assumptions and images about poor people. It comes from a good heart. They give us food. They bring us shoes. They dig us wells. They encourage others to give. The problem is, it does not work. Everybody knows it. Everybody talks about it. And yet, the icons of charity remain the same.
Magnatte Wade – Poverty Inc.

From our inception, we have been intentional about working in partnership with our international peers rather than viewing our work from a paternalistic perspective. Sometimes this is hard, but we must be true to our calling and principles. A few months ago Dan Lewan wrote about our journey with E4 Project in a newsletter titled “Embracing the Journey of the Sailboat”, I encourage you to read this as well.

A foundation of partnership impacts how we execute on programs and projects. Our mindset changes from “doing for” to “doing with”. One of our major projects, one that has been foundational to E4’s existence, is PK27, the social and medical outreach property for our international church partners in Gabon. For years, it seemed the project was either stalled or not going to happen, but as we remained patient the payoffs of what we call indigenous led and indigenous owned has paid off.

This year we have seen the entire ownership of this project take root within our Gabonese friends’ hearts, minds and actions. We have waited patiently for this to unfold, and we are now blessed with a true project that is based on partnership. A partnership that is driven by equal contribution. In January of this year, Pastor Jacob Mouele came to the USA from Gabon to share the vision that he and his team had developed for the property and the first building, which will eventually serve as a hospital. This vision was driven by the ownership of the church and the Gabonese participating in the project. Jacob had estimates of cost for the first building project, totaling nearly $50,000 USD. Rather than come to us and ask for this money, he proposed that we match the money given only after it was given by the Gabonese first. He proposed that we share the burden of the cost in a 50/50 split. E4 Project would raise the money here in the States up to $25,000 and send it to Gabon as they raised the money there.

In the past we’ve had too much paternalism. That model did not work. A better model would be to form partnerships with the poor and help the poor to achieve their own dreams.
George Ayittey (Economist) Poverty Inc.

Not only is the cost being shared, but also this summer we have seen our teams working side-by-side with our brothers and sisters in Gabon as construction teams have helped dig the trenches for the foundations by hand and begin pouring concrete. Our Medical team worked together with Gabonese providers to raise funds by volunteering their services in medical clinics. We had volunteers from the USA and from Gabon both giving up their free time to work alongside each other in true partnership.

I certainly cannot say that we are doing everything right, but I am now seeing the fruits of our patience pay off in dividends. The long-term success of the project is dependent on our Gabonese partners committing themselves to the long-term vision of the project. This is what we are seeing now. We have ultimately witnessed the mobilization of the church.

As I debriefed with one of our pastors who was on a trip this summer, he said to me, “There is a movement in the church in Gabon that is palpable”. I am blessed to be a part of this and pray that we continue to allow partnership to drive what we do and how we do it. We may not see results in the timing that we want, but we will see results that will benefit the people of Gabon and be used to continue to express the love of Christ to all the people of Gabon. To be a part of that is a blessing. I hope you will all continue to be a part of what God is doing through His people and their God given vision.

Having a heart for the poor isn’t hard, we all have that, but having a mind for the poor, that’s the challenge. Can we treat them as equals, as partners, as colleagues? Can we allow them to put the locust of responsibility for their own future on themselves and then be willing to be guided by their vision?
Michael Fairbanks (Development Expert) – Poverty Inc.