Forgotten Voices' Mission:

"Demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ by equipping local churches in southern Africa to meet the physical & spiritual needs of children orphaned by AIDS in their communities."

Monday, December 31, 2007

Dreaming of 2008 for Forgotten Voices

What an amazing year 2007 has been for me personally and for the ministry of Forgotten Voices. As I look to 2008, there are so many unknowns and possibilities. During this time of year, I always try to take a few days and just reflect on lessons learned and what I hope for in the year to come.

This year, I have about 20 minutes. A bit shorter. :) I'm sitting in an office in upstate New York and the internet keeps going in and out. So - i'll reflect and dream quickly.

For me personally - In 2007, I married the amazingly beautiful Katie Laine. She is, by far, the greatest thing about 2007 for me personally. Without getting too mushy, I really am excited to be married to her. She is such an answer to prayer. My mom likes to talk about praying for my wife since the day I was born. When I look at Katie, I know that people have been praying and there is a God. Her eyes light up a room and she is the embodiment of a servant's heart. In just over 140 days of marriage, she has taught me so much about grace, beauty and love.

In 2007,
I learned a lot of lessons that will help Forgotten Voices in the years and decades to come. They are, in no particular order:

- Local partners in Africa do know whats best
- It is possible to continue functioning in Zimbabwe, despite the challenges
- Prayer matters! I have seen God work in ways that I didn't believe before - sure, I thought I knew the power of prayer. In 2007 - I saw it! From travel adventures in Africa to miracles God provided through some of our donors at just the right hour. Lives of people, here and in Africa, have been transformed. Every day, we pray that God uses our ministry to demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ. Those prayers matter!
- People in the USA are not ALL AND ALWAYS cynical. For a bit there, I was beginning to think that almost everyone in the USA was cynical & skeptical about Aid to Africa. Let me tell you - I AM TOO! But, I'm not just that... I'm hopeful too! God introduced me to a lot of people in 2007 that join me in hopeful optimism.
- The greatest lesson I learned again in 2007 is this: Our partners in Africa have just as much to teach us as we can imagine teaching them. I have learned more about God and the matters of life & death from our friends in Africa...and I have learned a lot about laughter, too. To learn more about one of these guys - view our post on Fibion.

There are so many to list and I feel like I am belittling the year w/ a list. So - let's move on to what I've been dreaming about for 2008!

- I dream of launching new projects in Zambia! We are in the process of finalizing funding for 2 major projects in Zambia because of your support! Look for details on
that!
- I dream of partnering with over 150 churches in southern Africa in 2008 to send 5,000 kids back to school, after they had to leave when a parent died because their families couldn't afford the fees
- I dream of 1,000 people committing $10 or more/month to support Forgotten Voices
- I dream of meeting donors in the USA that see hope, where most see hopeless
- I dream of working with each of you to provide life-transforming love to partners in Africa and to allow our partners in Africa to provide life-transforming love to us
- I dream of having another leadership summit in southern Africa where leaders from Zambia and Zimbabwe share best practices from all they have learned in partnership with Forgotten Voices
- I dream of a reduction in HIV/AIDS infections in all 14 of the SADC countries in southern Africa.
- I dream of lots of rain and high crops for orphans and those that care for them.
- I dream of peace, stability, and healthy churches across the continent of Africa and North America.
- I dream of love. Christ-like love. Spreading across oceans and teaching us all what we need to learn.
- I dream of a revolution - where Christian means more about what Christ loves than just what Christ hates...here and there.
- I dream of hearts that yearn to be part of what Christ cares about - knee deep in the things God calls us to care about, even when it hurts.
- I dream of looking back on 2008 and seeing that Forgotten Voices led with integrity and fulfilled our mission w/ all of our hearts and minds.
- I dream of looking to 2009 and praising God for all the ways He has taught us in 2008.
- I dream of equipping churches, empowering orphans, and raising sustainable hope.
- I dream of working hand in hand with all of you to accomplish our mission of "demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ by equipping local churches in southern Africa to meet the physical & spiritual needs of AIDS orphans in their communities."
- I dream of social justice, love for the vulnerable, and hope in places where we only now see pain.

2008 promises to be a great year, full of new adventures and new lessons. I look forward to watching God move through our ministry, leading us daily in our work. Thanks for all the ways you help us fulfill our mission! Blessings to each of you and your families in this new year.

May you all know and experience the love of Christ and discover ways to share that love with all that you encounter in 2008.

All the best,
Happy New Year,
Ryan

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Meet Fibion, Pastor


“It remains the role of the church to preach that God loves us and to reflect His love.” - Pastor Fibion


Many people talk about the love of God. When you hear it from Pastor Fibion, you know he is speaking from a very personal and sacrificial commitment to live it out daily.

Fibion pastors an urban church in one of Zimbabwe’s largest cities. His congregation is made up of young and old, multiple cultural groups, big families, singles, grandparents, teenagers, and lots of kids! Amidst these different people, one common denominator remains - everyone is being deeply impacted by HIV/AIDS. The majority of people have lost close family members and friends and there are many who are now living with the virus.

Pastoring a church community with these kinds of challenges takes a special person. Fibion has continued to inspire us with the Godly choices and long-term commitment he has made to his people.

- He has chosen to remain with his struggling congregation in Zimbabwe, though opportunities to serve elsewhere have presented themselves.
- Living on a very limited salary, Fibion often chooses to give away the little money he has for food to pay for a community member’s transportation costs or school fees or medical expenses.
- He chose to attend the Theological College of Zimbabwe to receive the seminary training that would allow him to lead his people better. Obtaining a seminary education is no small feat in Zimbabwe, but Fibion pursued all that was necessary to make it possible.
- He recognizes the important role that must be played by the church in addressing the AIDS crisis, and also knows that many were not as fortunate as he was to obtain a seminary education. He has chosen to mentor other pastors in his city, who are facing similarly overwhelming challenges caused by HIV/AIDS and other difficulties.

These intentional choices have allowed Fibion to be a strong and effective leader in his community, and one of our longest-standing project partners.

We hope you’ll choose to pray with us as we continue to support and encourage Fibion in his ministry:
1) Pray for God’s continued provision for Fibion as he continues to sacrificially serve his congregation
2) Pray that God would provide additional full-time church workers to come alongside Fibion, particularly for children’s and youth ministry
3) Pray for the young family members of a church member who has just passed away after a battle with cancer.
4) Pray for the youth that just attended the youth retreat – a very unique opportunity designed specifically to include youth who have been orphaned by AIDS and are typically unable to go on school and church field trips. The retreat theme was “God is calling you, are you listening?”

In partnership with Fibion's church, Forgotten Voices is helping send over 40 kids to school and meet other needs of those that care for them. Thanks for all you do to help equip Fibion and his church with the tools they need to empower orphans and raise hope in their community!


Photos were taken by Krista Guenin. Check out her incredible work at http://kristaphoto.blogspot.com/.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Read Magazine Article about Forgotten Voices

Friends - Forgotten Voices is featured in The Gathering, a quarterly publication that "serves individuals, families and foundations in expanding their vision and effectiveness in giving to Christian ministries." I spoke at their annual conference in September and they were gracious enough to highlight our work in their publication.

It's a well-written, 3 page article on what we are doing and why I've chosen to dedicate my life to the fulfillment of our mission: "demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ by equipping local churches in southern Africa to meet the physical and spiritual needs of AIDS orphans in their communities."

While it is odd to circulate an article that features me, I also want to share how God is using our ministry and impacting lives in Africa & the USA. I hope you find it encouraging. Thank you all for being part of our story and for sharing your heart for orphans with me over these past 3 years. Together, we are truly making a difference in the lives of vulnerable children and those that care for them. My sincere thanks!

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas,
Ryan

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ebony: Africa You Don't Know

If you get the chance, pick up the Dec 10 issue of Ebony. Michael Jackson is on the cover. I was grateful that one of you sent it along to me. Inside was a great series of articles on the economic impact Africa has on the globe and the need to view it in a more positive light. It highlighted the challenges, but also talked about so many of the things working well across the continent.

Such as, did you know that South Africa, Ghana and Zimbabwe account for 1/2 of the world's gold production? Or that zimbabwe is one of the leading producers of tobacco? The buying power is over $2 trillion and the population of africa accounts for over 14% of the world?

As I've been reflecting on here in the blog, we often see Africa through a single lense of poverty and disease. I'm more convinced that we need to get past this perception. In one of the articles, Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda, Ocean's 11) said that we "must move beyond flies in face and disease if we are to see ourselves in them and them in us."

We are all people, not merely statistics. Continue discovering the voices of southern Africa with me as we collectively listen and learn from them. Together, we can make a difference and change the world...that means us too, not just Africa. We need them, just as they need us.

Best,
Ryan

Sunday, December 16, 2007

UNICEF Report Affirms Our Involvement

http://www.unicef.org/media/media_25617.html

Friends - A 2005 Report that I've been using a lot recently is something you all should read. It discusses the issues of politics and people. With the political and economic sanctions against Zimbabwe, US and Western aid for HIV/AIDS care in Zimbabwe has decreased significantly. I'm not convinced it should increase, given the inability to deliver adequate care by the Ministry of Health. However, it doesn't mean that the people should be ignored. Take a look at these numbers from the report:
"This massive disparity in aid comes despite the fact that:

* The under-five mortality rate has risen 50% since 1990 (now 1 death for every 8 births)
* One hundred babies become HIV-positive every day in Zimbabwe
* One in five Zimbabwean children are now orphans (1 million from HIV/AIDS)
* A child dies every 15 minutes due to HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe
* 160,000 children will experience the death of a parent in 2005

In 2004-5 Zimbabwe received little or no HIV/AIDS funding support from the main donor initiatives.

In southern Africa, the area most devastated by HIV/AIDS, the average annual donor-spending-per-HIV-infected-person among these three initiatives is US $74. In Zimbabwe the figure is just $4."
At Forgotten Voices, we are working with local people, who are working hard to follow Ministry of Health regulations, but without all the hoops of the government.

This is an issue I'm thinking a lot about these days, as we try to balance politics with the calls of Christ on our lives to meet the needs of widows and orphans. It's worth a read and a conversation with your friends.

Be challenged. Be informed. We need you! Thanks for reading!

-Ryan

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Finding Hope in the Face of Hopelessness

Editor's Note: If you get the chance, pick up the Dec 10, 2007 issue of Ebony. It has a special on the Africa you don't know. In the article, they unpack so many of the economic benefits of trade with Africa and Africa's sizable impact on the global economy. Michael Jackson is on the cover to help you find it. Enjoy! -RK

Lately, I've seen a lot of stuff on the situation in Zimbabwe. Predominately, the messages that people take away is a message of hopelessness. I, for one, can validate that this isn't true. We must be careful to find hope in the midst of a challenging circumstance, especially when we talk about Africa. I believe Christ calls us to see hope in the midst of what the world calls hopeless.

I'm concerned that the continent of Africa is increasingly becoming the victim of completely negative portrayals - an indictment against the continent that isn't fair. When I talk to people in the USA about Africa, most automatically associate the continent with starving people, kids that aren't going to school, diseases killing the innocent, and inept governments.

While there is obvious truth in these assumptions, they don't adequately portray the Africa I know. There are a great number of things going well within Africa, particularly in southern Africa. There is reason to hope. From HIV/AIDS numbers coming DOWN in Uganda to booming minerals throughout the southern part of the continent, to progress in economic development in Ghana... a great number of arguments can be made that the continent has a lot going for it!

Did you know that between 80% and 90% of Zimbabweans can read and write in English, a common Western literacy benchmark? Did you know that 50% of the people are considered HIGHLY skilled in farming or 86% of orphans in Zimbabwe live with grandparents? Or that the African Christian church is exploding in size and depth of care for their communities in a way that I'm insanely jealous of for our country in the USA and hopeful we'll be able to glean lessons from them.

When we look for pain, we'll see pain. Our job is not just to tell the bad things, but tell the stories of good people, doing remarkable things in the face of the bad things...and invite people like you to be part of it. Then, we wait and pray and pray some more that hearts will be opened here and there ...and orphans will be empowered with the gift of hope.

Next time you hear something bad about Africa, remind people of the work our local African partners are doing everyday in the face of these great challenges...now that is something to be hopeful about!

Best,
Ryan

PS All the photos listed here were taken by the Mtshabezi AIDS Project, one of Forgotten Voices partners that are reaching over 1,700 with school fees through funds that you help provide. While there is much to be done, that staff of 7 people should be VERY proud and hopeful in a new generation of Zimbabwean leaders! THANKS, MTSHABEZI MISSION!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Meet Hope

In some ways, Hope* (see note at bottom) is a lot like any other 12 year old girl. She likes going to school, where Mathematics is her favorite subject. Her favorite pastime is playing with her two kittens. When she grows up she wants to be an accountant and eventually a nurse. She is well-spoken, polite and seems quite mature for her age.

But beyond this familiar childhood picture is a heart-breaking reality. Hope is one of over a million orphaned and vulnerable children living in Zimbabwe.

Hope lives with her mother, two siblings and her grandparents. Her father passed away in mid-2006. She says the thing she misses most is playing with him before school and going to church together. His death meant not only the loss of a father and husband, but the loss of their financial provider. Hope’s family is now unable to pay for her school fees, and if it weren’t for the support of a local Community AIDS Project, she wouldn’t be in school at all. Her math homework is done by candlelight on a tiny, cluttered desk in a one-room mud brick hut where she, her mother and her siblings sleep. Her desire to be an accountant and a nurse is fueled, in part, by the hope that these careers will allow her to earn enough money to support her family. When asked why she wants to be a nurse, she answers, “so I can earn money to send to my mother to buy food and to buy anything else she needs.”

A visit to Hope’s home highlights the thin line she walks between a hopeful or a devastating future. Her grandmother says that children who don’t go to school lived wayward lives, and fears that could happen to Hope if she wasn’t able to continue her education. The family has a fairly large plot of land with large fields, two small granaries and farm equipment. But with no rain and no money to buy seed, they are still unable to provide for themselves. Hope’s family struggles to obtain the school uniforms and school supplies she needs to be well-equipped to learn. And though she has several adult relatives who love and care for her, her mother is unwell and her grandparents are aging.

Through the partnerships between Forgotten Voices and her community, Hope is pressing forward toward a hopeful future. She recently took her grade 7 exams, which will determine whether she can start high school next year at the local boarding school. She’s nervously awaiting her exam results, but is optimistic that she did well.

When asked what she would say to the local AIDS Project staff, she smiles and says, “Thank you and bless you for helping my mother out of a big problem!”

Your gift makes Hope's story possible. To give a gift in support of projects like the one that is helping hope, visit us online today. Share Hope with children like Hope.


*Given the rising challenges in Zimbabwe, we have chosen to change the name of this child from her give name to protect her and her family. Currently, all orphans are considered vulnerable children. Whenever necessary, we choose to use different names. Those that care for them are made aware of this and have consented to this change.

Check out the incredible Krista Guenin at http://kristaphoto.blogspot.com/.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Meet Pierre

Pierre and his wife took a leap of faith when they moved from South Africa to Zimbabwe in 2005. Despite having no secure income, no permanent housing, and no assurance of daily provisions, they followed the calling they felt to serve the people of Zimbabwe during this time of crisis. God knew the plans He had for them in Zimbabwe, but they did not.

Pierre has embraced one of his passions – farming – in a new ministry. For a country facing food shortages, drought and hyper-inflation, this has come to be a life saving ministry both physically and spiritually. Pierre teaches a farming technique called Farming God’s Way to communities and families across Zimbabwe. This relatively new technique for rural farmers was developed by a Christian farmer in Zimbabwe 28 years ago, and produces 300% yield over traditional farming methods. Farming God’s Way is a no-tillage, mulch-based, well-managed approach to farming which also focuses on Biblical principles like good stewardship, holding high standards to God’s glory, reducing waste and valuing people as God does.

When done right, the first year’s harvest produces enough food to feed the entire family/village for which the crop was planted. In the second year, there is enough food that some can be sold to buy their own seed for the next growing season. On the third year, the crops supply enough for food, seed and making a profit.

A brief visit with this couple reveals that they are FULL of stories recalling God’s provisions over the past two years.

Farming Supply Miracles
- At a time when there was no fertilizer to be found in Zimbabwe, God provided an opportunity to forge positive connections with the Government Grain Board of Zimbabwe, giving him consistent access to fertilizer for the future as well as an additional two bags of fertilizer for each family he had helped up until that point.

Housing Miracles - After 9 months with no permanent home in Zimbabwe, God blessed Pierre and his wife with a fully furnished home in one of the largest cities. Their home was fully paid for by a gracious donor. They also have the use of a farm in the rural areas, allowing them to spend significant amounts of time in the urban and rural areas where they work.

Outcome Miracles – Early on, Pierre dreamed of teaching this new technique to a hundred families each year, but had very little support to do so. After partnering with Forgotten Voices and other local ministries, he will have worked with 700 families by the end of 2007.

Through a gift of $3,000 in 2007 from Forgotten Voices,
these 700 farms are estimated to feed 7,000 people throughout 2008. We thank you for being part of Pierre’s story.

Pierre’s work is helping to further God’s kingdom by providing valuable food to orphans, sustainable agriculture to their communities and Biblical values applied to everyday life.

Check out the incredible Krista Guenin at http://kristaphoto.blogspot.com/.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

World AIDS Day Thoughts


Tomorrow, December 1, is World AIDS Day.

This weekend - learn something new about HIV/AIDS, read the latest numbers, or find out more about World AIDS Day in general.

Some general reflections on the day. First off, I'm grateful that the world community has set aside a day to consider the challenge before us as people. Globally, there are over 33 million infected with HIV, 15 million AIDS orphans (children who have lost 1 or 2 parents as a result of AIDS related illnesses) and 6,000 new AIDS orphans EVERY DAY! In Zimbabwe alone, where Forgotten Voices is doing most of its work, 500 people die daily because of this vicious disease and about 1,000 children become orphaned because of it.

This young woman was one of the 1st kids I met in Zimbabwe. After being born with HIV, she lived for 17 years before passing away just a few month ago...one of the saddest days in my life. Not only was she among the longest living children born with HIV that the local clinic had ever met, more importantly she was a woman with courage, who knew how to love and laugh. She filled a room and her village with a smile that left no doubt that her survival was directly tied to her passion for life. People are dying because of this vicious, unforgiving disease. But, people are living. We need to figure out how and what we can do to stop it from killing more people.

Some worthy organizations, such as World Vision, have made significant strides to raise awareness in America, with incredible achievements on the grounds of colleges across the country. Through awareness campaigns, fundraisers, political lobbying, etc people who would not typically respond to the challenge are doing just that!

Here's another point that I HOPE we all remember this year on World AIDS Day. Let us remember that AIDS and Africa are NOT the same thing. While Africa is known in this country for the AIDS crises and seemingly endless black holes of disease, this is NOT the full picture. AIDS does not and should not define Africa...nor the other way around.

Forgotten Voices is discovering African leaders with vision, hope, love, intelligence, and drive. They are MUCH more than the perception we have of them as victims of AIDS. AIDS is definitely impacting them in a real and profound way, but it doesn't define them. And it shouldn't.

There are so many things RIGHT about Africa. Things I hope and long for in my home country, the USA. Perhaps those of us in the international development field need to do a better job of talking about what's working, instead of just sharing what's not.

At Forgotten Voices, we pride ourselves on partnership with local leaders in Africa. I best describe what we do when I say that we are equipping them with the resources they need to meet MORE of the physical & spiritual needs of AIDS orphans in their communities. Local projects, run by local people to empower AIDS orphans...all of whom have names.

Africa is about the people, who have a faith deeper than I have ever seen anywhere else on earth. Africa is about the promise and hope that tomorrow will be better than today. That last part is something I used to read about in American History books. I don't often hear that optimism as much as I used to. Perhaps we need to learn more from our African friends.

Finally - I think it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway...cause that's how the phrase goes... AIDS is rapidly rising in several areas around the globe. Some stats show it growing most rapidly in southeast Asia, while others put it in eastern Europe. The point is that AIDS is a global crises...a WORLD crises...impacting all of us...whether we are infected or effected.

Forgotten Voices has a calling to work with local church leaders in Africa to meet the physical and spiritual needs of AIDS orphans in their communities. Get in the game. Join us or some other place working in another part of the world. We need you. We need me. We need everyone.

I welcome your comments. These are tricky matters, full of explosive potential or division. I choose hope and cooperation. Have a little faith. My friends in Africa taught me that.

-Ryan

--
Note from Ryan Keith, Forgotten Voices
717.506.0633 | RKeith@ForgottenVoices.org
Empowering Orphans: Local People, Local Projects.
Find out how you can use your voice at www.ForgottenVoices.org

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Meet Concilia, Magret & Shelton


Meet Concilia - a 13-year-old girl raising her remaining family members on her own. After the death of her mother and her aunt, Concilia found herself responsible for not only her own care, but also that of her two cousins, Magret (10) and Shelton (8). Like so many in Zimbabwe, these three orphaned children have become a child-headed household, fending for themselves and doing their best to care for each other.

Concilia is a cousin to Magret and Shelton. Her favorite animal is a rabbit. She wants to be a teacher when she grows up. Her favorite color is green.



Meet Magret, 10 years old. She is the sister to Shelton and cousin to Concilia. Her favorite animal is the cow. When she grows up, she wants to be a nurse. Her favorite color is red.








Meet Shelton, 8 years old. He is the brother to Magret and cousin to Concilia. His favorite animal is a buck. He wants to be a teacher and his favorite color is green. As the only boy in the family, he is considered head of the household.



Concilia, Magret and Shelton live on a small homestead, with one small hut for cooking, and another for sleeping. They used to share this home with their mothers, who are now buried side-by-side on the edge of their land. There is no toilet, no electricity, no running water. The closest water source is a well half a kilometer away. Food is scarce, as they have no source of income and no seeds to plant a garden this year. During the week, they receive one meal a day at school. On the weekends, they typically eat a leafy weed that grows near their home, and that's all.


Living daily with challenges no child should have to face, Concilia, Magret and Shelton are showing tremendous resiliency. All three are still in school. Their school fees are paid for by a partnership between Forgotten Voices and their local community. But they get themselves up, dressed and off to school each morning. They also possess surprising ingenuity. Without electricity or even money to buy candles, they've discovered that a certain tree produces a seed pod which acts like a slow-burning candle when lit. This is how they light their home at night to do homework! The local AIDS Project staff who work with Concilia, Magret and Shelton cite this "homemade" candle as an example of the way they've become inventive, instead of defeated, in the face of desperation.

Please pray for these three brave children as they continue living on their own. Pray that they will grow to know and experience their heavenly father's provision and love for them each day.




Photography by Krista Guenin http://kristaphoto.blogspot.com

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

My Thanksgiving List

I'm thankful for a lot of things this Thanksgiving and not all of them have to do with Africa, but many of them do. This year, I've learned a lot about God, His Church, and those the Church cares about and does not.

I'm thankful for the fact that the Red Sox won a World Series while I was in Africa (as if they needed me around). I'm thankful that it rained in Zimbabwe this week. I'm thankful it rained in Zambia.

I'm thankful for a man named Gordin that is leading the Mtshabezi AIDS Project that cares for over 1,700 orphans in partnership with Forgotten Voices. I'm thankful for James and the 23 orphans his church looks out for at The Rock Church. I'm thankful for Fibion and the 43 kids there. I'm thankful for Pierre and his 700 farms, as well as all the miracles that occurred this year to make that possible. I'm thankful for Hazel and the Christian Leadership Resource Centre. I'm thankful for TCZ, Victor Nakah, and all those students that are being groomed to lead the African church forward.

videoI'm thankful for my good friend named Peterson, age 10, who is moving to be with his grandparents in January after a long time living by himself. I'm thankful he has been living with his sister for a few months and his main job has been being a kid. I'm thankful that he got to play the keyboard and show me his natural talent. I'm thankful he is doing well in school and I'm thankful he can run VERY fast.

I'm thankful for my new wife. Katie is the focus of my horizon. She makes the darkest days bright and gives life to the most mundane activities. She brings joy to all that know her and is the greatest gift from God that I could ever hope and wish for on earth. I am thankful that she inspires me, while also keeping me grounded.

I'm thankful for the over 300 individuals & families that have given to Forgotten Voices and I'm thankful for the 3 foundations that have also invested in our work. I'm thankful for the jobs they have and the way that their work allows them to provide for those in need on the other side of the world.

Today, I'm mostly thankful for our God, who has given us so many reasons to smile, to be thankful, and to rejoice. In Philippians 4, God tells us: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything with prayer and petition, with THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God and let the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guide your heart and mind in Christ Jesus." I am thankful for that verse, as it has sustained me through dark hours this year and has kept me calm on the raging seas.

I'm thankful that we are just beginning our journey together. I'm thankful for the patience God has with all of us on this road of life. I am SOOO excited to share this holiday with each and every one of you!

I'm thankful for the 50 volunteers that make Forgotten Voices run. They know who they are and I'm thankful for them. I'm thankful for our Board members, who keep us moving forward and inspire me every time we meet.

I'm thankful for new projects in Zambia and Zimbabwe that we know about and plan to fund in 2008. I'm thankful for the projects that we don't know about yet, but will meet in the next few months...by God's grace.

I'm thankful for ALL THE FOOD that I'm about to receive and I cooked almost NO PART OF IT! I'm thankful for my mom, my dad, my sisters, and my family...those that could come home and those that couldn't.

Finally - I'm thankful that God is a God who sees the needs of the poor and Has given you all a heart to respond to those needs. I'm thankful for each of you and I'm thankful that I have the awesome privilege of serving you and our God in this way! I am so thankful that I have the coolest job around!

With a warm spirit of THANKSGIVING,
Ryan

Albright Shout Out - More on Happiness

Students at Albright - Thanks for having me! I was thankful you let me be part of our your last day before Thanksgiving break! Thanks for your patience and genuine interest in the work of Forgotten Voices.

It is deeply encouraging to spend time with people that are interested in changing the world AND believe they can.

As a follow up to our conversation, I wanted to send along an article that a friend just passed on to me. It is directly related to our conversation about relative depravity and how we measure happiness as people.

You can check out the article by clicking here.

Thanks again and have a VERY happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Adult Development Shout Out

To my friends in Eldon's Adult Development class:

Thanks for a rousing discussion this afternoon! I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with you. Thanks for sharing with me. It was cool to hear your hearts and to discuss ways we can move forward.

As promised, here is the link to the Psychology Research page. Feel free to email your completed work to Eldon and then send a paper to me.

Thanks again for your time, your passion, and your willingness to entertain my thoughts for an hour.

Blessings to you all as you go about your work in these final days of the semester! Happy Thanksgiving!

Happiness & Money


Later today I'm guest lecturing in an Adult Development/Psychology class that just finished discussing matters of wealth & retirement. This got me thinking about the topic in terms of Africa. Over and over, I find people in Zimbabwe unable to fathom what wealth is like in the USA. That may be a good thing. Yet, many people in southern Africa are wrestling with how to help the poor in their communities, while we in the West tend to lump all Africans as poor.

So - I did a little research online on a concept called "relative deprivation principle" (a complicated way to summarize the above) and learned a lot about how our minds adjust to wealth as we grow older and its impact on our happiness.

You may find some of this interesting. Here is just one link that I found helpful! I'd welcome your emails if you have other things to share that would help me understand this challenge better.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Today's Reflection: Seminaries


I often hear about all the challenges in Africa and how nothing will work. I disagree! When I think about our future at Forgotten Voices, I first think of seminaries. African seminaries are the future of the African church. They are on the front lines of training pastors, assessing needs in the church, and responding to those needs in a Christ like manner.
e physical & spiritual needs of AIDS orphans in their communities.

At both TCZ (Zimbabwe) & TCCA (Zambia), we hope that our funding of positions to reach out to their graduates will accomplish 3 things: 1) a better understanding of the needs of graduates for the seminaries, specifically related to AIDS care; 2) better communication opportunities among the graduates themselves; and 3) a pipeline of new projects that Forgotten Voices can help resource in conjunction with the seminaries.

To fund these 2 efforts for Alumni Outreach and need identification, we anticipate needing about $15,000 for 2008. More specifics will appear as soon as we get firm cost projections.

Later this year, in my end of the year mailing, you'll hear from me on how we can better connect with seminaries. If you are interested in talking about this more before that mailing, please feel free to email me at RKeith@ForgottenVoices.org.

Thanks for investing in us! Thanks for believing in us! Together, in conjunction with the American church and African seminaries, we will help transform the lives of others.

Every prayer & every dollar mean so much to our team. Thank you!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Trip Reflections: The Rock Church

Friends, Over the past 3 weeks, I've had the good fortunate of traveling across Zambia & Zimbabwe meeting church leaders across all denominations, all doing unique work in AIDS orphan care. The trip's objectives were the following: 1) Discover potential project partners in Zambia; 2) Document the work of Forgotten Voices partners in Zimbabwe; 3) Improve communication channels between USA donors and African projects.

My reflections each day this week are related to the first 2 objectives of the trip, as I outline where we are going from here as an organization.

Today's reflection is on James, pastor of The Rock Church. Forgotten Voices partners with James' church at $1,000 right now, but we plan to increase that project to $2,000/year in 2008. Your gifts will go to this effort!

The Rock: Led by James Moyo, Age 26
With about 200 people calling the church home, this "small" rural church is having a big impact! While weekly attendance is closer to 60 people, many more consider the ministry of The Rock to have a direct impact on their lives.

The Rock is led by James, a 26 year old young man that became a Christian at the age of 18. He is a guy that wrestles all the time with what more he and his community can do to help orphans. He, too, is convicted constantly by James 1:27.

We currently work with The Rock by helping send 23 orphans to school and by helping provide funding for a house James is building by himself. The house will be used as his personal house (his first home since he was 15), a prayer place for the church, and a safe haven for orphans that are homeless. The house will have a permanent extra bedroom for kids that need a home temporarily until James can help locate a long-term option. All for less than $1,000 USD.

Below are photos of the house, along with photos of James. Here is a photo of the tent he is occupying while his home is being built.

Now - in 2008 - we'd like to continue helping the church grow its ministry to orphans by working with them to repair a well and construct a new one at a strategic location they've identified. These 2 water sources will be piped from the central water spot down to James' house, where the water will provide for a Farming God's Way garden that provides food for orphans in the community.



We plan to support The Rock at $2,000. Look for additional information on James, including a video interview in Spring 2008. If you'd like to give to this project, we ask you to make a donation at www.ForgottenVoices.org and list The Rock within the comments section.

Thanks for your interest in James, The Rock, and the ministry of Forgotten Voices.

I dream - Emotional Reflections on Africa


I dream of living a life that makes God smile. I dream of living a life that makes life easier for others. I dream of discovering where God is working and jumping in head first to join him (and for those of you know me, know that I can't dive!... but for God - I dream of being fearless - jumping first and fearing never).

I just returned from my 8th trip to Africa in the past 3 years. Since going on the first exploration trip in July 2004, my heart has seen many horrible things. I've held the hands of women clinging to life as they watch their children watching them die. I've held dying babies. I've watched people knowingly consume water unsafe to drink because there is no other option. I've felt the hands of people ravaged by HIV and TB, pleading with me to care for their families without knowing who I am.

In the same way, my heart has experienced beautiful things. I've watched a room full of 20 pregnant women since Jesus Loves Me. I've seen a nurse save the life of a new born baby. I've watched a man sacrifice everything he has so his kids can live another day, trusting that God will intervene on their behalf as the man dies from hunger. I've enjoyed many sunrises and have seen many galaxies under the African sky.

Here's the thing. Every time I come back, I feel like I beg you all to join me in the work of Forgotten Voices. You have responded in a way that humbles me and brings me to tears... I can't thank you enough. THANK YOU!

I am so moved by your generosity. Not a day goes by in Africa when I don't stop for a second and soak up the reality that together we are equipping local leaders in Africa to do what God has called them to do ... to meet the physical & spiritual needs of AIDS orphans in their communities. You all are doing that! I'm just the fortunate one that gets to go and make sure the work is continuing and that we are doing all we can to equip these communities to do what they believe God wants them to do.

Thank you. Part of why I go is to come back and dream with you about what's next for our ministry to the churches in Africa, working hard everyday.

So - here's my dream after this most recent trip to Africa. I had this dream over and over while I was there: both as I saw what I saw while awake and as I rested on a vast assortment of beds across Zambia & Zimbabwe at night.

I dream of the church people in America responding like God calls us to respond. To answer the needs of the poor, without delay. To give out of love, not guilt. To genuinely look ourselves in the mirror and know we are doing all we can for our God. To be a church that makes God rejoice and giggle.

Sounds great, right? But how???? One of the ways we can do that is to take action and search our own hearts...and listen to what God is asking us to do for Him, our world, and our families.

One of the crazy things I kept hearing on this trip is that pastors consider themselves rich. They are asking the same questions we are asking: "Am I doing enough? Can I do more?" That blows me away! But it makes sense. Then, when I'd visit with patients the churches were caring for, the people receiving would be asking how they can help their neighbors who have less than them! Amazing!

It affirms that God's calling on our life is not just for us alone, but it is for us.

I ran into a friend of mine yesterday. She was pouring out her heart to me about a book study she is in that is exploring the idea of Jesus returning tonight. After the conversation went on and on, one of the women stopped and said, "Why don't we just act like we know he's coming tonight? Let's not just treat this like an exercise in thought, but in action. What would we do differently if God was coming tonight? How would we live differently? What would we do?"

I hope to write more Tuesday afternoon as I think about this for my life and share with you.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Home

Friends - I'm now safely back and almost recovered from jet-lag. I'll write more Monday and post some pictures! Thanks for believing in our vision as an organization. Thanks for your prayers. Join me in continuing to pray for our church partners in Zambia & Zimbabwe!

All the best,
Ryan

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Note from Ryan Keith, Forgotten Voices
717.506.0633 | RKeith@ForgottenVoices.org
Empowering Orphans: Local People, Local Projects.
Find out how you can use your voice at www.ForgottenVoices.org

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Greetings from S. Africa! Boarding the 24 hr flight to DC. I have an Emergency row seat which ROCKS! I'll write a debrief Fri.

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Hey from Zimbabwe. We are leaving within an hour to head to South Africa. After a brief stop in Ghana, we will arrive in DC.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Greetings from the Big City

Sadly for some of us, our time in Africa has come to a close. We depart for the USA on Wednesday afternoon at about 3pm. We first go to South Africa and then split up, with 3 of us going to DC and 2 going to New York.

I can't thank you all enough for praying for us while we've been here! I'm so proud of our team and the work we've done here. It has been a tremendous blessing to travel with this crew. While every team is different, I don't think I've ever felt so good about every aspect of our trip!

For me, I'm SO excited about sharing the stories with you when I get back! things haven't gone as planned regarding access to share pictures etc. But the people here are doing amazing work with the funds you all provide us. Thank you! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

While I'm sad to leave, I AM VERY happy that I"ll be with my wife again on Thursday! I've been away for 3 weeks after just under 3 months of marriage. Thank you to all that helped support her while I've been away!

Will write more tomorrow and then from South Africa before our 23 hr flight home. Blessings to you all!

-Ryan

Monday, November 5, 2007

Back in the city. we are running errands, doing some mtgs, and shopping today. A restful day sorta with PIZZA! 3 days to go!

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Sunday, November 4, 2007

We are back from the rural areas. Painful to leave. The people have no water or power. No food anywhere. Will email more Mon.

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Friday, November 2, 2007

Note from Zimbabwe - No Power/Water

First off - we are safe. Nate & Ellen arrived safely on Tuesday. It's
been great to have them back. WE've been without power since then,
thus the long delays.

Friends - I ask that you lift up our friends in Zimbabwe in prayer.
There is no water in the southern part of the country and power comes
on at random. There is a national chemistry exam for the next 2 hrs so
I am taking the chance to get online.

WE have been without water for toilets, cooking, etc for 3 days. The
people here have been without for 2 weeks now. Water comes on for an
hour every 4 days and people rush to fill their buckets with water
that must be filtered and cleaned several times before boiling.

All and all, we are safe and enjoying our time here. When we think of
these inconveniences it makes me both thankful for home and thankful
for the sacrifices of those choosing to work here. Any of our
leadership partners could be anywhere in the world. They are bright
and connected, but they choose to work among the widows and orpahns in
very challenging times.

Please continue praying for us as we work in the rural areas through
Sunday. We will then return to one of the large cities in Zimbabwe for
3 days before returning back to the USA on Thursday. We depart
Wednesday afternoon.

Please PLEASE join us in praying for rain! Also - I ask taht you pray
for the hearts of our team as they see more pain & death than they
have seen before. I took the day off to rest and refresh after 16
straight days of traveling. My heart was weary and I needed to
rest/pray and spend time with people.

My heart goes out to you all and my sincere thanks is extended to each
of you for believing in this world. I am 100% dedicated to our mission
and am so blessed to be working along side church leaders on your
behalf.

Our brothers and sisters in Christ are doing amazing things! Continue
to pray for them as they pray for us! Tomorrow, we spend time with a
child who hasn't grown in 2 years. At age 10, he is a child head of
household after losing his siblings and parents. He looks very small
for his age. He is HIV+. Pray for us as we press on!

Blessings! Until we have power again,
Ryan
--
Note from Ryan Keith, Forgotten Voices
717.506.0633 | RKeith@ForgottenVoices.org
Empowering Orphans: Local People, Local Projects.
Find out how you can use your voice at www.ForgottenVoices.org

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Some Reflections on Zambia & Zimbabwe

Ryan and I logged over 1600 kilometers (by car, I haven’t figured our air miles yet) in less than a week in Zambia and Zimbabwe.  In those travels, we saw elements of hope amidst the devastation that HIV/AIDS has brought to the two countries.

 

In Zambia, we had the opportunity to spend a day and half talking with students of the Theological College of Central Africa (TCCA).  Many of the students spoke how their home communities, current congregations and future assignments are tackling the issues related to their orphan and widow care.  It was extremely encouraging to hear them speak of a community approach, where all of the local evangelical churches (BIC, Baptist and EFZ) were pooling resources and sharing the mission.  Even though most TCCA grads are heavily involved in orphan care, it was remarkable to hear that HIV/AIDS remains a taboo subject within the church: suggesting that someone should go for testing is often equated with accusing them of promiscuous behavior.  There are several educational barriers yet to overcome – praise God for willing voices to break the silence.  We will share more about upcoming partnerships after our next board meeting.

 

In Zimbabwe, the most common response to “How are you doing?” is “We’re surviving.”  Life is hard.  Grocery stores are empty; drought has led to water shortages; Money is nearly worthless (now 850,000 ZD to 1 USD) with 7900% inflation rate (which has stabilized since there is nothing left to buy).  Electricity is dodgy at best (though blackouts are getting more predictable).  Despite all of this, the norm is patient queues and not violence, which is fairly atypical in this part of the world (an observation from a couple I met for the first time who have recently moved to Zim from Congo).  While I’m thankful the country has not been reduced to a succession of violent coups, there is still a part of my heart that cries “How much longer must they suffer.”

 

We were able to spend two days in a high density township with one of our partner churches: the time was really refreshing.  We were able to meet some of the children that Forgotten Voices is helping with school fees and uniforms (hopefully you can see the image of Adam videoing some children).  The kids are dreaming about being nurses, engineers and police. Their grandparents or surviving parent are very appreciative of the church’s work and implored us not to forget them, and to tell their story.  With the economics being what they are, the need has become even greater – within the single township there are an estimated 500 kids that currently still not attending primary school.

 

In many ways, I’m very jealous of the rest of the team: I arrived back to the US on Monday as they were headed to the Matopos for a leadership summit.  All of the leaders from our current partnerships (many I now count as friends) in Zimbabwe are meeting for the next 3 days to discuss their projects and to assist Forgotten Voices in developing a number of different strategies.  Please keep them all in your prayers as they will be in a rural area for this week, before returning to town for another week of documenting and strengthening relationships.

 

-Trevor

Monday, October 29, 2007

Greetings from Bulawayo. We've been in rural areas for 2 days w/o signal. We head out for 6 w/o cell service. Will email Wed.

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Just saw house that Forgotten V built w/ rural church. Home will be used for orphan care & pray mtgs @ 1st church FV saw in 04

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Greetings from Bulawayo. We've been in rural areas for 2 days w/o signal. We head out for 6 w/o cell service. Will email Wed.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Made to the airport in record time, despite a flat tire (6 min). Pray for rest for the team - church at the Rock & a bbq @ WK

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

I haven't had a drink of water since last night. 14 hrs. My throat aches & head hurts. These people we are with: 8 days. Pray.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Praise God for morning rains & Nescafe at the airport. Krista & Adam arrived safely with all their equipment. Now touring BYO

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

In Bulawayo, enjoying time with the Bishop's family: discussing family updates & weddings. They send their greetings.

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Our car broke down for a bit. 15 min or so half way to bulawayo. Praise God it is up and running. Hoping to be there before 7p

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Safely traveling in Zim. Made it past Vic Falls (not even a trickle of H2O) All rivers are dry past thru Hwange. Pray for rain

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Reminder as you read: when we don't have internet, I am using my cell phone. I am limited to 160 characters. Thx 4 reading!

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We are now safely in Livingstone, Zambia. The home of Victoria Falls. To our right are the falls as we cross a bridge to Zim.

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We are now leaving Choma for Zimbabwe after a great meeting with the BIC Compassionate Ministries Office. Pray for safety.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Chicken on the way to Choma


We just stopped to change some money in Lusaka after a 4 hr drive from Ndola. We are thankful for the peace that we are experiencing here in Zambia. 7 more checkpoints this morning, without challenge. We even got the chance to help with a road survey they were doing to improve conditions. :) Very different experiences with police in Zambia.

A few quick notes on the trip so far:

1) TCCA was incredible. We saw such a rich faith in each of the people we met. So often we learn about God and our world through our conversations with the people, when we arrive thinking we have something to offer them. Trevor & I continue to see how encouraging they are to us, while we came to encourage them. Psalm 133 has been on my heart this morning as we drove. Please read it, as I don't have the time or patience to write it here with a VERY sticky keyboard at a internet place. I"m in booth #8 by the way.
2) CURE Zambia staff - while we are here to continue the work of Forgotten Voices, it was an amazing experience to see the new CURE Lusaka hospital that opened in December 2006. Please remember Harold, Chaylo (phonetic) (both pictured here with Trevor), Alan, Tim, Hillary, and the rest of the team. Check out www.CUREINTERNATIONAL.org.

some people to remember: Chilobi (pictured here), a young man moving to Mufulira BIC next week now that he has completed his studies at TCCA. He is pictured here with me. Mufulira BIC, under Chilobi's leadership, is working with an inter-denominational pastors council in the town of Mufulira to help AIDS orphans and those that care for them. Working together, they are assisting 20 orphans and many other projects, all to build God's kingdom. Their funds have been all locally raised (almost $1,000 USD). We praise God for the Stuebins at TCCA, who gave him the skills he is now using to transform parts of the community. Pray for Chilobi as he and others work in the midst of difficult economic conditions, rising HIV infections, and high unemployment. Pray especially for the state of the Christian church, as spirit worship and witchcraft are often masked by claiming the cross of Jesus. Pray that truth emerges and people eat of the Bread of Life and share God's love with their neighbors in words and deed.

Pray also for the leadership of TCCA. Joe, the Principal, has a difficult task in leading staff and molding the present and future leadership of the Christian Church.

We are now off to get chicken and fuel, then continue on to Choma. We will meet with Bishop Thuma of the BIC and Yoma, the head of Compassionate Ministries (which oversees all BIC AIDS projects for Zambia). We will then continue on to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. It is an 8 hr drive.

Happy Independence Day for Zambia on Wednesday. 43 years! Celebrate with someone as you pray for us and our friends here working for the Lord.

Be blessed.
637am: On our way. 8 hrs to Choma. We will have about 12 police stops. Pray for safety & ease of travel. Hope to write online.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Pray for Joe, Grace, Eddie, Remy, Irene, Chalobi, Florence, Maureen, and Paul. Just some of our new friends & future partners.

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730 our time: met with Joe, TCCA principal (president) to discuss partnership. Wish u could see this guy's BIG heart 4 people.

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This morning we rose at 5am to the sounds of the new Zambian recruits running, singing, and cheering by our house...twice!

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

After 7 police stops, we arrived in Ndola for a day w/ TCCA. We hope to write a bit on day 1 tomorrow. Praise God for safety!

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

From cell: Today Trevor & I met with Spiritual Director @ CURE (TCZ grad). I also had a productive & info filled mtg w/ MCC.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

We are now safely in Lusaka after a long delay. Sleep is good. 34.5 straight hrs of travel since leaving my house. Sleep well.

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Greetings from South Africa


After an hour at the gate and a 15.5 hr flight, we are here! Trevor & I sat next to each other, with an aisle in between. He was on my left. I'm writing to you from the Baobab Lounge, South African Airways' frequent flyer lounge. I was PUMPED to remember that I still had almost 2 hrs of internet time left on my account here in Johannesburg.

Highlights of flight: watched 3 movies (Opal Dream about a little girl with make-believe friends - good BBC family fun, Some movie with Luke Wilson that was pretty funny, and Evan Almighty); managed to sleep for about 5 hrs, which is lower than normal but almost a full nights rest; and had a great dinner & breakfast! Best part though was it was really direct without a fuel stop, so only 15.5 instead of 18. those extra hours are killer! so i was glad to miss them this time.

Lows: my seat didn't recline; the guy in front of me put his seat back as soon as we took off... so 15.5 hrs of extra crunch on my legs.

My other neighbor was a mom from Chambersburg, PA. Her daughter works for Coca-Cola and has a work thing in Cape Town for the next week, so she invited her mom along to experience Africa for the 1st time. Her other daughter was in St. Lucia and a son studying somewhere exotic. Can't remember. But interesting conversation. I enjoyed listening to her cheer on her kids, even though they weren't around. :) It reminded me of my mom, which is always refreshing.

Trevor is off somewhere drinking coffee. I'm going to hang out here and hopefully knock out some more emails in the next hour. We take off at 6:10pm local, which is 12:10pm on the east coast.

My thoughts are racing as I get excited to return to Zambia. We begin our trip in Lusaka for 2 nights and 1 very full day. Our arrival may prove to be tricky. We have a taxi driver coming to fetch us to bring us to the CURE Hospital guesthouse. We also will be met by a driver that has our vehicle. So we'll have a bit of a caravan to someplace that we don't know how to get to...and it will be about 9 at night in a foreign city. Should be interesting. :) Lots of good stories to come, I'm sure.

In Lusaka, I'll be having breakfast with the national rep for the Mennonite Central Committee and then an afternoon meeting with a TCZ graduate working as the Spiritual Director at CURE's hospital. Trevor is meeting with CURE International's hospital administrators to talk IT. Hopefully our jet lag will not slow us down too much.

Please pray for our time in Lusaka. We then proceed to Ndola, Zambia about 4 hours north of the capital, Lusaka, to visit with folks at the Theological College of Central Africa (TCCA). We hope to begin a partnership with TCCA that would provide funding for their graduates who are running AIDS orphan care projects through their local churches. These projects differ from church to church and may include things like school fees, gardening support, income generating projects, counseling, or vitamins, etc. Things at TCCA are full of promise. I'm anxious to see our friends, the Stuebings, and meet some new ones.

Well - a lot to do and a lot to pray about. Off to email for a bit (hopefully) and read the highlights on last nights Red Sox game! GO SOX!

Pray on friends! I hope you enjoy your ride with us. It is already promising to be a fun filled, action packed adventure with lots of interesting characters along the way.

All the best from South Africa,
Ryan