4HIM His Healing  helping Hand International Ministries
On Sustainability

Is sustainability overrated ?

The short answer... No, sustainability is not overrated.

As with so many things, the word sustainability has lost its meaning because of overuse.

With our ministry, 4H.I.M., we are totally committed to sustainability, but the methods and actions we employ to overcome the challenges of sustainability do not always look like "sustainability".

Some of the challenges of developmental mission work is that we literally go to the most impoverished places in the world where the people are desperately poor, illiterate or under-educated, suffer extreme lack of resources of every kind, and lastly, the authority structures within the governments, commerce, and even the church are corrupt to the core or at least operate in a gray area of compromised integrity.

A recent Forbes Magazine article says that in the United States 8 out of 10 business start-ups fail. Starting a business in the United States is difficult, but for completely different reasons then in the developing world.

Starting a business in the developing world is counterintuitive due to the reasons I listed earlier. In the picture Included with this piece, you see our partner in Accra Ghana, Pastor Kenneth, his wife Lydia, and their daughter at their General Store. This business has provided a sustainable income for them, but they have had many challenges in making it successful along the way.

With our developmental mission work we partner with Pastors and their Communities to assist them in becoming self-sustaining. Part of the reason is so that they do not have to be beholden to western assistance and control. We have found that most of our Pastors are very successful in evangelism or establishing and running churches. They just suffer constantly from what I will sum up in one word "Scarcity".

In the developing world, simple problems become big problems because of scarcity. Scarcity of finances, food, health care, education, opportunity. When a westerner is in a developing country they observe situations where small problems goes unsolved and we do not understand why.

Let's say the front door handle and latch do not work and the door can't be secured in the room we are staying. The westerner says "well let's just fix this latch", but the local Pastor says "that will take $20 to replace the latch". Simple fix, right? To the Pastor that is probably 5-10 days salary. To the westerner, it a simple fix for an annoyance. To the Pastor, the latch is too expensive and also, the least of his problems. To create sustainability there has to be relationship and a shift in the thinking of the westerner who is there to help.

Creating sustainability first takes developing a relationship based on MUTUAL respect. With that you can enter a process that falls into three phases... Relief, Restoration, and Development. Of course, not all situations are the same, but to reach sustainability it many times starts with relief. A simple way to understand is this... Relief - Let me do it for you, Restoration - Let us do it together, Development - You do it.

When we finally reach the stage of development (which we try to do within a 12 year time frame) we are at we front edge of Sustainability.

With our model we try to start businesses that create an income stream and, if possible, provide jobs. With an income stream and the new hope of a profitable business, it has been our observation that all the other issues begin to take care of themselves. Our partners literally just need a hand up and sometimes a hand up includes a hand out, but it doesn't end with hand-outs.

Creating sustainability in the developing world is counterintuitive, confusing to the western mind, overrun with obstacles and SCARCITY, and in some peoples mind, impossible.

What we have found is that sustainability is possible because all things are possible with God.

Bottom line, NO... sustainability is not overrated, but it is a very long and hard road to actually reach true sustainability.