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."

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

--
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.

--
==================================================================
This mobile text message is brought to you by AT&T

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.

--
==================================================================
This mobile text message is brought to you by AT&T

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!

--
==================================================================
This mobile text message is brought to you by AT&T

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.

--
==================================================================
This mobile text message is brought to you by AT&T

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