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."

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

Thursday, October 18, 2007

From Dulles Airport in DC

It is amazing how quickly our worlds can change. I'm sitting by my gate, shooting off last minute emails, eating chocolate covered pretzels and surfing the web to get a pregame read on my beloved Red Sox. I'm sorry that I'll miss their triumphant recovery and eventual victory in the World Series. Africa is calling my name.

To go from this to the developing world is becoming an easier transition. I'm sitting here trying to figure out whether that is good or bad. I just saw my favorite flight attendant outside a coffee shop in the airport. Is it good to have a favorite and to run into them when the last time you saw them was in Johannesburg, South Africa?  She didn't recognize me, of course. But it was comforting. She is VERY good at her job.

In 24 hrs, I will be sleeping on the other side of the world, in a city I've never been to before. It should be a good time. :)

Trevor & I make our way to Ndola, Zambia after a couple days in Lusaka, Zambia's capital. We then will proceed back through Lusaka on our way to Choma and then on to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Over 800 miles in a week along rather bumpy "paved" roads. We are anxious to begin what has been in the works for months. For now, though, we are just waiting for the journey to begin.

I am sad to leave the states and my new wife of 68 days. But as I have been reflecting today, I feel like this is the clearest my purpose has been compared to the 7 previous trips I've made to Africa in the past 3 years. What an amazing privilege it is to go and see these places and share with you what I believe can be done in partnership with local church leaders.

Pray on! The journey from DC to Johannesburg begins in less than 2 hours. For now, I gotta make a couple more calls and get the game time temp for the game. And get a sandwich. AH! I love the USA! See you in Africa!

-Ryan

PS Quick thing... My favorite thing when I come back is getting 2 dunkin donuts (glazed and boston cream) and picking up a nice, cold Dr. Pepper. Just so you know what I'm going to miss the most (besides Katie). :) Oh. And running water is nice, too! I'll enjoy that, as well.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A voice from Africa

Yesterday I had a humbling experience. Amidst all the things that I needed to do to prepare for my trip (leaving tomorrow), I decided to call a good friend of mine in Zimbabwe so we could just chat. His voice was calming and peaceful. He is a pastor with a gift of encouragement.

As I shared my anxieties with him, he listened attentively (I could tell). He was soaking up what I was sharing and trying to get to the heart of the matter among my ramblings. You, my friends, know my ramblings all too well.

In the end, his message was clear. Our God will provide. Stop worrying. Come to Africa.

Here is a man that is counseling people daily in the middle of the world's worst economic crises. His country is falling apart and he is standing firm. A rock in the middle of waves of destruction.

It is an honor to be friends with a man like him. This story is common in Zimbabwe. I'm not sure where these folks get this courage. Where we panic at the smallest setback or having to bring a different pair of sandals than we want (that's me yesterday)... it was a good reminder to let go and let God! or whatever the saying is...you get the point.

I'm honored to be going for you all...going to collect the voices of Zambia & Zimbabwe and sharing them with you. This trip will be a trip of stories; stories we all need to hear. I hope that God uses our team to do that...these are stories that need to be told!

Pray on, friends! I'm spending the afternoon packing and writing. I pray that your days are filled with moments of letting go and letting God.

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

When you go...what can I do?


I regularly get asked, "what can I do to help you when you are gone?" Well, my answer has grown since the last time I went to Africa. Typically, I simply ask for prayer. This is still the case. Prayer covers me when I'm there. As I see what I see and as I go where I need to go. Pain and challenges are EVERYWHERE. Divine intervention is a staple activity of my days. From just the right conversation or connection to just the right canceled appointment, prayer provides answers or silence at just the right moment. So, please pray!

Also - PLEASE GIVE! You can look at our financials and every time I go to Africa, giving goes way down. That's in large part due to our small size as an organization. If I'm not out there raising money, it often doesn't happen. And that is the change that I'd like to see this time compared to past trips. In my mind, giving should increase while I'm away as people hear what is happening. This time, I'm going to try even harder to bring you the stories of why we do what we do through local church leaders in southern Africa. I'll try to bring you specific stories that you can share with those you meet each day.

I find it ironic that God has so clearly asked me to return to Africa when our budget needs are the greatest this quarter. As we look to expand into Zambia to provide more funding & resources to our new friends there, there is a scary feeling when I travel that no one is reading what I'm writing and these promises I'm making in Africa are going to be left unfulfilled when I get back. This hasn't proven to the case yet. When I am in the USA, you all continue to respond and share and give. I pray that this continues, even while I'm away.

I'll never forget the time I led a commitment meeting in Zimbabwe, where we promised a group of pastors that we would join them in their work. That overwhelming burden that was on my back. That feeling wasn't about Ryan Keith delivering the goods and being the hero. It was about Ryan Keith feeling the weight of widows and orphans that I now knew, who were looking to me to make sure they ate & had an education. These stats I read about had faces and stories...and names.

I realize now that those feelings were wrong...misguided for sure. God knew their names & their need before I did. Well before. Since then, God hasn't just provided for these people in Africa that I love...He has provided for me and for Forgotten Voices. He's used each of you. It's not just me anymore ranting on and on about Africa. :) It's a legion of voices that grows by the day. I pray that continues while I'm away and these voices continue responding in new ways as they hear of God's work in Africa.

Just now, as I was preparing to pour into the next 10 hrs of preparation for our trip (a LOT of paperwork & emailing that needs to be completed) I came across a quote from someone writing about their reflections in Zimbabwe. When asked what others can do to help their efforts with another organization, she wrote, "Live more simply so that others may simply live."

As you go about this next month until I return on Nov 8, I challenge you to look for ways to live more simply and then set aside those funds for Forgotten Voices. It is rare for me to ask for such a direct action. But I know 2 things: 1) I am about to see more pain that I ever thought imaginable in my 7 previous trips to Africa, as the situation has led people to begin eating pets and other horrible actions that come from desperate people; and 2) I am totally committed to making sure that your gift ...every penny... is used to the best of my abilities to empower the lives of orphans & widows in southern Africa.

I thank each of you for reading this blog and sharing it w/ your friends! This is by far the most personal posting I've had thus far, as I share my heart with you. This is life together, friends. And I'm thankful that God is allowing me to go and see so that we may respond in love.

Today, I ask you to join me in thanking God for his provision that I can go to Africa! It is not just me that should give thanks. It's all of us! God has given all of us this opportunity to see Africa and respond in love. Again, I look to His command to Gideon: "Go with the faith you have and the knowledge I am the one that sent you!"

Travel with me, friends! 2 days to go! Are you excited???? I AM!

Monday, October 15, 2007

The final push...

My friend and I leave in 4 days for Africa. There is a lot to work out, with Zimbabwe and Zambia plans changing every day! This is Africa, so things are VERY flexible. Coordinating between 3 different schedules from our end and multiple partners on their end... it is getting tricky!

Today, pray for clarity of thought for me and for our partners in Africa as we nail down dates/times/logistics/fuel, etc to make this 19 day journey as productive as possible for all involved.

With 500 people dying every day in Zimbabwe, the challenges facing local leadership are great! My coming is both a benefit and burden to all involved. But necessary. Lots to work out, but the benefits will be great if this trip goes well.

Thank you! More later today or tomorrow.

-Ryan

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Conversations w/ God's amazing gifts.


Sometimes, especially in the days leading up to my trips to Africa, I easily lose sight over God's provision. While in Africa, I see it all around me because I must. How will we make it from point A to point B on so little fuel? Where are we? What will these people eat today? God continues to provide for our needs! But in the states, there is just something about our ability to choose and take care of ourselves that hides how God provides for us!

These past 2 days have been INCREDIBLE! I've seen God working all around me. Folks, I can't underestimate the power of God and you shouldn't either! On Friday, I met the woman that started the AIDS clinic that grabbed my heart for Africa some 3 years ago. What an amazing honor! She and her husband are returning to Zim later this year. That time w/ them was perhaps one of the greatest pleasures of my life!

This meeting was followed by impromptu time with a man who lived in Zimbabwe for over 2 decades. What a blessing to briefly meet a guy who has dedicated 2/3 of my life to joining in God's work there.

Then, a gentleman unexpectedly called to ask if I had time that day to meet with an Anglican Bishops from Uganda who was traveling the USA. He had heard of our work and wanted to meet with me. Again, how amazing to see the faithfulness of a church leader and a commitment to a lifetime of service to our Lord. This man's heart for the Lord's work was so clearly seen when I looked into his eyes.

I am a guy that LOVES people. Throughout my life, God has used people to correct, inspire, remind, and break me. They are an instrument for his instruction. The past 2 days, my heart has been amazed at how much God loves each of us! How he crafts gifts of love for us in the way that we should receive them. For me, these gifts were found through these conversations.

They showed me that God wants us to be faithful for the marathon, not just the sprint. It's amazing to me how God provides both instruction & encouragement in a way that connects with me just the way I'm listening.

I'm not sure how God is amazing you these days, but I do know this...He is trying! God is always amazing and always showing his love to us. Look around and listen. I'm sure glad I was paying attention these past 2 days. My heart is singing.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Get the eVoice? You should!

Do you get our eVoice newsletter? It will be coming out every month, unless we are in Africa...then, it will come out every 2 weeks.

It's a great way for you to stya connected to not just my thoughts but what the organization is up to and what stories we have for you to share with those you meet.

The eVoice is produced by a team of people and compiled by a super cool guy named Jack!

You can sign up by visiting www.ForgottenVoices.org.

Quick Blog from Panera

This is just a quick thank you for all that have been praying. I've really appreciated the support this week as we prepare to go back to Africa and other the other things going on in life...job, tests, doctors appointments, etc that must be done before I depart.

It means a lot to me that so many of you have read this and responded. Sincerely, thank you.

Please continue to pray for Africa, for rain and for our funding! We have a lot of work to do! Together, by God's grace, we can and we will fulfill the vision that we have been given! Thanks for believing in Forgotten Voices and in me.

-Ryan

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Looking for help...Technology from Africa

OCTOBER 10, 2007 @ 5:57PM

Friends - Do you have friends blogging or communicating with you from Africa or another developing country? I'm looking for ideas to improve our communication from Zimbabwe/Zambia to you all in the states.

From blogs to podcasts to videos to simple emails... if you have received something that you enjoyed & found helpful, let us know! We have a team of people working to improve communication so you have a better idea of what is happening w/ us.

If you have something to share or pass along, send me the example or the link. You can email me Rkeith@ForgottenVoices.org.

Thanks!

-Ryan

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Overwhelmed and Gideon

OCTOBER 9, 2007 @ 10:11AM

Friends - What an amazing experience it is to wake up every morning. After 4 days of being incredibly overwhelmed, I rose this morning with Gideon on my mind.

These past four days, I've been working with others on addressing safety concerns for Zimbabwe. Things continue to decline and safety has been called into question by the State Department. I've also been overwhelmed with the feeling of inadequacy. Waking up every day and realizing that over half the things I must do are beyond my abilities or knowledge gets draining. When we started Forgotten Voices, I had NO idea what we were getting ourselves into. From tax law to the legal implications of $15 in gifts to understanding the rules about taking donations from Toronto...not to mention the actual raising of funds and working w/ partners in Africa.

In Zimbabwe, it is now not so much about you giving us $15 and us sending a kid to school. The process now involves bartering, fuel, importing goods, getting the best exchange rate, and THEN paying $15 to send a child to school. It can be overwhelming.

I don't write this to get you to feel bad for us. Instead, I write this to give you a better idea of how you can pray. Our team of volunteers and I do get overwhelmed sometimes. Especially when we are only 10 days away from returning to Africa.

But like I said, Gideon was on my heart this morning and last night. "Go with the faith you have and with the knowledge that I am the one that sent you!" What a powerful message from God!

Today, as you feel overwhelmed by life or feel overwhelmed for us, remember God's message to Gideon. If we go with the faith we have (regardless of how adequate we feel) and the knowledge that God is the one that prepared our day for us, it'll be OK. It's something I'll be remembering this week and something I'll be praying for each of you.

All the best,
Ryan

Monday, October 8, 2007

Plane tickets and prayer

OCTOBER 8, 2007 @ 10:12AM
In 11 days, I'm getting on a plane to go back to Africa. It's crazy in Zimbabwe right now. I'm both excited and sad to be going back. Just 2 months into my new marriage, I'll be leaving my wonderful wife to return to my 2nd home. It'll be rough going without her.
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As you'll note on the video though, I do know how to have fun when I'm in Africa. :) i try to keep myself cheery, despite all the pain I absorb everyday. Pray that I am able to love as Christ loves us. I am overwhelmed already and can't fathom what I'll be feeling when I see the pain that I am hearing about each day.

This week, please pray for me and our team. Some of the team members still have a lot of money to raise for their trips. It's not cheap to go to Africa, even if its for a good cause.

Also - please pray for me as I work with our partners in Africa leading up to the trip. There is much going on in Zimbabwe (water shortages, fuel is almost gone, bread unavailable, 80-85% unemployment, etc). Pray that we can stay focused and accomplish the tasks that will make our trip a lot easier.

Finally - any time I leave for Africa our fundraising goes way down. It's amazing to me. It should be the opposite. But people need to be reminded to give and if I'm not here, that typically doesn't happen. Please prayerfully consider giving to Forgotten Voices as you read the blog. We still need to raise about 45,000 before the end of the year to meet budget. Pray with me that we are able to accomplish this large task.

Join us as we find leaders in Africa working hard to empower orphans in their communities. Join us as we join them.

This will be a crazy week for me. I have a lot of personal stuff to handle between now and Thursday afternoon, in addition to getting ready to leave in 11 days.

Please join me in praying for our trip and prayer.

Thanks for believing that you can make a difference. My deepest desire for you today is that you are able to make someone's day today. Have a fantastic Monday!

-Ryan

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Building Boats in Boston


Last week, I attended an AIDS symposium in Boston exploring how to best care for kids that are left in the wake of HIV/AIDS. As over 200 individuals gathered from around the world, I listened to people talk about policies that have worked and exploring gaps in policies that haven't. The presentations were given by academics from places like Harvard and some of the best universities in Europe. Experts from UNICEF, USAID, World Bank, etc were all there to share their thoughts.

It was really informative and I definitely recommend you all checking out the initiative called the Joint Learning Initiative on Children and HIV/AIDS.

This analysis went on like this for over 4 hrs.

Then, something happened that I didn't expect. A woman from Malawi approached the podium to share and SHE SHARED AND SHARED...not like everyone else. She shared her heart, not her research. She came with slides that didn't really work because she was told she should have slides.. She said that she traveled all the way from Africa and expected some major new ideas. She talked about the long journey and her optimism about joining some of the great minds in international development. Then, she spoke of her disappointment. As she talked, a passion was growing within her. A passion to share the story of her people, the communities where she worked, and what people without an education were doing to transform their own futures with little resources...just because it is the right thing to do.

At Forgotten Voices, we deeply believe that the best policies only take you so far. We study them and learn them, like everyone else. We come prepared to help, using all our time and talent that we can muster. But we do something that this woman wanted everyone to acknowledge: we listen to the voices of local people who are doing most of the real work without much of a formal education and with very little resources.

Then she said something that I'll never forget: "We must build our boat, while we sail." She probably didn't coin the phrase, but it will stay with me. Her point was that we need to not over-plan and beat problems to death with policy analysis. We need to get out among the people and get to work... the people need us and the people know what is best. Sure, data is good and evaluation is good. But people need us NOW.

At Forgotten Voices, I'm always facing the urgency of the now with the threat of unintentional consequences. But we are working hand in hand with local leaders in Zimbabwe & Zambia to try and come up with the things we need to help make their boats sail better and better. We'll build it while we sail.

You can help! To find out what projects we are working with, visit us online and check out About Us!

I leave for Africa in 15 days. Get ready for another adventure.