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
- 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 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,

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

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,

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.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

UNICEF Report Affirms Our Involvement

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!


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 that is something to be hopeful about!


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

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