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, May 29, 2008

Xosa, Brick Breaker and the Brady Bunch

Jet lag is always difficult for me to get over for about 2 days, then I'm good. Katie went out to a women's bible study with a friend of ours here in South Africa, leaving me to entertain myself and try to stay awake.

The only news was in Xosa, a language spoken here. I tried to follow, but kept drifting away.

I then moved to break breaker, a simple game on my BlackBerry. That typically keeps me enthralled as I try to beat Katie's high score.... for the record, she just passed me after I held the record(s) for 2 straight months.

The kids that live in the house I'm staying at asked to watch Brady Bunch. It was the episode where the Brady kids and Mrs. Brady help save a local park from being ruined by a city building, being designed by Mr. Brady. It was a fascinating lesson in civil disobedience and social action! A great lesson for me to remember as I go to Zambia in the morning and then return to South Africa, where riots and social disagreements abound these days near Johannesburg.

For now - it is time to sleep. 10pm local time is a good time to crash. We leave at 7am local time for the airport to catch our 9:30am flight to Ndola.

It may be a day or 2 before I am able to write again. Thanking God for safety. Pray specifically that we are able to change 1 leg of our flight - could be a breeze or a major headache. We'll know tomorrow, but you may not know until Saturday. Pray on!

THANKS! much love,

Safe arrival - trash everywhere

We have safely arrived in South Africa after a short 14 hr, 40 min flight with no issues....other than a very minor lighting problem that didn't allow the lights to go out in our section. Eventually, after quite a few flickers, the lights went out and the cabin fell asleep.

Tonight, we'll spend time with Steve and Michelle Lockwood, missionaries with SIM and friends of ours. They'll take us back to the airport early in the morning on Friday, so I can hopefully make a couple changes to our flight schedule. Please be praying for that conversation with the airline.

The note about trash... apparently, the municipal workers went on strike, so trash is littered everywhere. The workers went through the communities and knocked over trash cans. The irony is, of course, that they'll have to eventually go back through the streets and pick up the trash...although at a higher rate and perhaps even overtime.

The gap between the rich and the poor is strikingly more real here in South Africa. I've noticed that in all my previous trips. When poverty is seen in Zimbabwe, somehow it is able to masked by the understanding that nearly everyone is in the same boat. Here, malls border tin homes, which border homeless communities.

A lot to learn, for sure. Will try to write briefly before bed. Dinner time is here (5:32pm local time). Bye for now,


Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Katie and I are now seated, row 54, Seats H & K. Its a good row for conversations with strangers. I've sat in this same seat and request this area if an exit row isn't possible. 5 rows in front of the bathroom and near a stretch area.

I love having Katie along. Its been awesome already! Soooo much better than tearful goodbyes.

2 downsides: less conversations with complete strangers and seats are a little bit worse. SAA is always willing to move me because I fly so much, but I don't carry enough weight or influence (or charisma) to move her too.

So the plus sides: I get to sit next to my best friend for 15+ hrs AND I can pass out not worrying about leaning on a hunter named Calvin from South Africa.

All good things. :) this will be fun.

Hope to check in when we land at about 3:05pm local time...9am tomorrow for those in EST.

Thanks for praying... The journey can now begin. The guy behind me is a hoot! I will share what promises to be a pleathera of stories during our flight.


waiting begins

We are at the airport in DC waiting to board. Lunch at fuddruckers - I got "the works" and katie got a cheeseburger. We are now waiting...

Everytime I go to africa I learn new lessons on waiting. While we waited for our burgers to be customized, a woman and her son stood bye. I could tell she was a new traveler, yet her son was experienced. As they stood, the mother's patience began wearing thin when the 3-5 min wait approached 3. She proclaimed to all willing to hear her plea that she was famished. Not true, of course... But language we have allowed to become commonplace.

I have quite a lot to do yet on the flight over. Working with some projects on restructuring some things to deal with the rising challenges in Zim, even though we aren't going there. The needs, as they should, will follow me as I go.

I remember when we first came to Africa. I waited patiently for Delta to fix a mistake in the computer that had me flying back from Bulawayo, but no record of me getting there. Now as I sit in DC, I am humbled to realize that the work we are grateful to be part of in Zim continues every day... Not waiting for me. Its awesome!

Right now, as I sit here, I know of several people actively working to help our cause. Our small family has grown a bit to a comitted team of volunteer leaders. They will not wait, but advance Forgotten Voices while I travel. Sooooo proud of them and thankful for all the ways they help our little engine churn.

So - still waiting. I wish I had more exciting news. I did just have a Dr. Pepper. For those that know me well, you know that brings me great joy.

Anyway - I need to go do 1 or 2 things as my friends in Zim like to say. Katie is reading what looks like an interesting book about eating disorders. She is definitely the smart one in our team and an amazing travel companion. And beautiful. I hope she reads this later. :)

Look for lots of stories of how we entertained ourselves waiting along this journey. Waiting, love, promise, peril, and refreshing encounters all come to mind when I think of Africa.

Bye for now,
May jot a note before takeoff if I have something better to say,

A Praying elephant will find his way - the journey begins today

The ndebele call me mkuelko ndlovu, which means praying elephant. They gave me that name after the 3rd time I came to Zimbabwe. They finally saw me as a partner, someone that doesn't just pray, but also comes back.

I was at Hwange National Park in 2006, a Zimbabwean park with the highest concentrations of elephants in the world. There, a guide and I were discussing the low water levels and how the elephants would survive. He told me that some elephants remember the exact locations of water for over 30 years after they've been there. Their memories of water, finding what they need, are strong - no matter what experiences they have in between.

As I type early in the morning on the day I plan to return to Africa for my latest trip, I kinda feel like an elephant that is seeking what I need - water - even though I'll be unable to return to Zimbabwe, the land that helped change my life. It's too dangerous now and too many people would be put at risk (I tend to stick out). But I remember exactly where it is and long to get back as soon as I am able.

This week, people have been asking me why I'm going back to Africa if I can't make it to Zimbabwe. I have been telling them that Zimbabwe helped me understand my life purpose: help local churches meet the needs of AIDS orphans in their communities, as they see the need and the response.

So - my wife and I are going to Africa. We'll be in Zambia for a week, meeting with the Theological College of Central Africa. God is opening some incredible doors to allow this incredible school to accomplish a long-standing goal of starting an HIV/AIDS Orphan Care Institute Initiative that will help train TCCA graduates and students in orphan care models, as well as community development through the church... in partnership with funding from you and Forgotten Voices. The project will survey pastors throughout the country and bring them together to share best practices. This will, over time, lead to new opportunities for us to help fund locally developed orphan care that the local church is driving in urban and rural areas around Zambia. If I had not come to Zimbabwe, I would not have found this new water source in Zambia.

We'll then travel to South Africa - a land bustling with opportunity, yet leaving so many others behind. The middle class now accounts for over 40% of the population. Job growth is skyrocketing and incomes are soaring, on average. But the nation's AIDS crises and the plight of the poorest of the poor continue to be forgotten by many. Katie and I will travel to visit those that are working to remember the stories of these vulnerable people and see how Forgotten Voices can both learn from them and help them in their work.

Over this South Africa leg of the trip, Katie and I also plan to just experience Africa for a few days - no agendas, no meetings, just experiencing the people and the land. We hope to see the Indian Ocean off the coast of Durban and hike a mountain near Lesotho. Who knows how many new water sources of opportunity, refreshment and direction we'll find???

I was told by a good friend of mine this Sunday that the Chinese have 2 symbols for Crises: Danger & Opportunity. The crises in Zimbabwe has forced us to explore new lands in Zambia and South Africa... not in search of conquests or in attempt to "save people", but partnerships with local people who are working hard every day.

To my friends in Zimbabwe reading this now - please know that my travels have taken me away from you this trip. But as you know, I won't forget the original water source that changed my life forever. Someday soon, I'll make it back to Zim. I definitely know the way, even if it seems like forever since I've been with you.

Leaving in about 9 hours for the airport - gotta sleep for a few before we go.

Bye for now.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Morgan Returns for Runoff (BBC)

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai meets injured supporters after arriving in Harare
Hospitals are said to be struggling to cope with the injured

Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has returned to Harare to begin his presidential election run-off campaign, after spending weeks abroad.

The Movement for Democratic Change leader's first engagement was to visit supporters hurt in political violence.

Mr Tsvangirai said they had vowed to "finish off" President Robert Mugabe in the 27 June second round vote.

Mr Tsvangirai's return was delayed amid an alleged army plan to kill him, which the ruling party said was "fantasy".

Mr Tsvangirai said the South African Development Community (Sadc) would meet on Tuesday to discuss the possible deployment of peacekeepers and election monitors, amid fears that election violence is making a fair second round impossible.

He said they would be of little use if not in place by 1 June.

He said he had been impressed by the supporters he met in hospital, and that he would win the run-off election.

"I saw people with scars and bruises. They said 'president, we will finish him off on June 27'."

Police assault

Opposition and human rights groups have said hundreds of opposition supporters have been beaten up and at least 40 killed since the first round on 29 March.

29 March: Elections mean Zanu-PF party loses majority for the first time since independence in 1980
19 April: Election officials begin recounting votes cast in the disputed polls
3 May: Official results of presidential election show Morgan Tsvangirai won but fell short of the 50% needed to win completely.
17 May: MDC alleges military plot to assassinate Morgan Tsvangirai
24 May: Morgan Tsvangirai returns to Zimbabwe
27 June: Scheduled presidential election run-off

Hospitals have been struggling to cope with admissions, the BBC's Peter Biles in Johannesburg says, as a result of what is widely perceived to be a government campaign of intimidation against MDC supporters.

President Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party denies supporting violence and says the West is trying to demonise Zimbabwe.

Last year, Mr Tsvangirai was treated in hospital after being assaulted by police. He has also been arrested several times and accused of treason.

Mr Mugabe has accused the MDC of fomenting violence since the disputed first round election.

Mr Tsvangirai has spent nearly two months outside Zimbabwe, mainly in South Africa, since the first round trying to drum up international support.

According to official results, the MDC leader won the presidential poll, but not by enough to avoid a run-off with President Mugabe.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said Mr Tsvangirai won 47.9% of the vote, with Mr Mugabe taking 43.2%.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Brief Update

Friends - we need to be fervent in our prayers for Zimbabwe, me included. Things are beyond hectic there now. Please be praying. Sorry I dropped off the map for a week. Thanks for writing and checking in. A lot going on in my world, as I prepare to go back to Africa...praying about Zim leg. More this weekend.

Pray with me for wisdom, safety, and peace.


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Mass challenge over Zimbabwe poll (BBC)

Post election trauma continues in Zimbabwe. Please pray with me for our friends there and our projects. Political chaos is never good, especially in fragile developing countries like Zimbabwe. Pray also for wisdom for me as I weigh returning at the end of this month to help grow some projects, as well as assess the likelihood of starting some new ones in the country. The orphan crises is growing amidst the troublesome political state in the country. By the end of 2009, it is estimated that 20% of the total population will be orphans because of AIDS.

When I hear those numbers and see the political chaos, frustration isn't the word. I haven't quite found the right one yet.

Praying with you.

A Zimbabwean reads the Herald newspaper with a headline: "No winner"
There is still no date for a presidential run-off

Half of the results from Zimbabwe's parliamentary polls in March have been challenged in court, state media says.

Lawyers say the 105 petitions should not disrupt the work of parliament, but could in the end overturn the opposition's historic majority.

The announcement came as southern African mediators arrived for talks over the presidential run-off impasse.

The opposition might boycott a run-off, saying candidate Morgan Tsvangirai was the rightful winner in the first round.

Results published by Zimbabwe's electoral commission last week gave Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Mr Tsvangirai more votes than President Robert Mugabe, but not the 50% needed to avoid a run-off.

We think the actual death toll is even higher because there are some farming areas that have been cordoned off by militias and vigilante groups
MDC's Nelson Chamisa

The MDC says he won at least 50.3%.

Mr Mugabe has said he will stand in a run-off, but a date for the second round of voting has yet to be set.

The MDC says the official death toll of their supporters killed in post-election violence has risen to 25, but the party fears the figure could be higher.

The Southern African Development Community (Sadc) has been at the centre of efforts to resolve the deadlock in Zimbabwe following elections in March.

On Tuesday, African Union foreign ministers discussed the crisis in Zimbabwe.

AFP news agency reports that the body called for "a free, transparent, tolerant, and non-violent" run-off.


The ruling Zanu-PF party has filed petitions challenging the results in 53 constituencies and the MDC has challenged 52, Zimbabwe's Herald newspaper reports.

election results

That is exactly half of Zimbabwe's 210 parliamentary seats.

The petitions were filed by losing candidates for alleged electoral malpractice like vote-buying, intimidation and corruption.

To cope with the extra legal work, the chief justice has appointed 17 more judges to hear the cases in the electoral court.

Under the law, the court has six months to deal with the cases, with another six months allowed for appeals.

But constitutional lawyers say the cases should not disrupt the work of the government and parliamentarians can still be sworn in.

There will be by-elections only if the electoral court declares the seats vacant.

Normally, the newly elected MPs would be sworn in within a week of the election, but because of the ongoing impasse over the presidential poll, there is still no indication of when that might be.

Meanwhile, the MDC says that five more of its supporters were beaten to death on Monday night by Zanu-PF supporters, bringing the number of MDC members killed in post-election violence to 25.

"We think the actual death toll is even higher because there are some farming areas that have been cordoned off by militias and vigilante groups," MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told AFP.

The BBC's Orla Guerin, reporting undercover in Zimbabwe, says there is a systematic attempt under way to change the political landscape.

She says the aim is electoral cleansing - to drive opposition supporters from their voting areas, or make them too afraid to vote for the MDC again.

Monday, May 5, 2008

MDC on Runoff Plans

Here is an interview that appeared on Studio Seven, a radio program that covers Zimbabwe. Many local people throughout the country use it as an outside source if they have radios. Their coverage is typically fair, but is sometimes biased against the government...just as an FYI. I have appeared on the program previously, discussing Forgotten Voices and the state of the AIDS crises.

More to come Tuesday, hopefully we will have more news.


Zimbabwe Opposition Hangs Fire On Participation In Presidential Runoff

05 May 2008

Interview With Tendai Biti - Download (MP3) audio clip
Interview With Tendai Biti - Listen (MP3) audio clip
Interview With Rejoice Ngwenya - Download (MP3) audio clip
Interview With Rejoice Ngwenya - Listen (MP3) audio clip
Interview With Noel Kututwa - Download (MP3) audio clip
Interview With Noel Kututwa - Listen (MP3) audio clip

Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change is playing its cards close to its vest as to whether Tsvangirai will contest the presidential runoff election the MDC says there should be no need to hold, while trying to secure commitments from the African Union and United Nations for election monitoring.

The Associated Press quoted Tsvangirai spokesman George Sibotshiwe on Monday as saying that Tsvangirai had made up his mind on the question but would not make his decision public until the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which said Friday that a runoff would have to be held, has set a date for the controversial second round.

Meanwhile, Secretary General Tendai Biti of Tsvangirai's MDC formation insisted in an interview with reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Tsvangirai won the March 29 election outright, so there is no need to hold a runoff.

Tsvangirai and the MDC are under heavy pressure to take part in the runoff despite mounting violence against opposition supporters, especially in rural areas, and much controversy over how the electoral commission handled the presidential count.

The Southern African Development Community’s committee on politics, defense and security put out a statement Sunday urging all political parties to accept the results the electoral commission issued last week and to participate in the runoff.

But Tsvangirai's MDC formation, having asked the regional grouping to oversee a full verification of the electoral commission's results, has thrown up its hands at SADC and is asking the African Union and the United Nations to help resolve the crisis.

Chairman Jean Ping of the African Union executive was in Harare on Monday for talks with President Robert Mugabe and electoral commission officials, sources said.

Those sources said Ping and his delegation were seeking assurances that the runoff election will be free and fair, and demanding an end to the political violence.

Political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the AU efforts are commendable but he does not see Mr. Mugabe compromising and adds that the country is ill-prepared for a run-off ballot.

The independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network, meanwhile, urged authorities to respect the country's Electoral Act and hold the run-off within 21 days from the date the electoral commission announced the results of the first presidential round. That would mean holding the runoff on or about Saturday, May 24.

The monitoring group expressed concerns about the electoral commission’s process compiling the results, which showed Tsvangirai with 47.9% of votes thus 2.1 points short of an outright victory, while Mr. Mugabe took 43.2 percent.

ZESN Chairman Noel Kututwa told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he found it curious that in comparison with his group’s projections issued immediately following the election, ZEC’s count for Mr. Mugabe was at the top end of the margin of error of ZESN's projections, while Tsvangirai’s final tally was at the bottom end of the margin of error calculated by the independent group.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Ryans Update on Elections

Friends - If you haven't been tracking the election news for Zim, here's the latest:

1) Presidential Election Results were released this afternoon in Zimbabwe by ZEC. Now, candidates will review the election results and challenge numbers, as they disagree. This process could take a week or more.
2) Currently, the figures are the following: Morgan Tsvangirai 47.9% to 43.2% for Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's leader since independence in 1980. 50% was needed to avoid a runoff. MDC, Morgan's political party, states that Morgan received 50.3% based on their own reporting.
3) ZANU-PF, Mugabe's party, has said it will participate in a run-off. MDC and Morgan are meeting this weekend to decide whether to contest the results further or agree to a runoff, which would (if the constitution is followed) occur within 3 weeks.

I have posted a news story from CNN and will be posting over the weekend as news comes out.

I spent the morning and afternoon talking to folks in the various corners of the country trying to get a read on reaction, as well as current conditions in country, particularly close to our projects. The reactions were mixed. People are very aware in the rural areas throughout and the eastern cities that violence related to the election is occurring. Toward the west and Vic Falls, there is more concern for food availability than the election results. Our projects continue to be safe from violence, but vulnerable if things spread.

My wife and I are due to arrive in Zim in June for 2 weeks, after a week in Zambia in May. As of now, we still plan to go based on the recommendation of all the people I rely on in the country. It is quite safe for people with money, as well as those living in areas around Bulawayo, where the government considers unlikely to vote for Mugabe. This is where we will be. Please be praying about this upcoming trip, as well as for safety for our partners.

Overall - it is a country that remains on the brink of complete collapse, if the 162,000% inflation and empty food shelves weren't enough. This weekend will be incredibly important as the parties determine what next for Zimbabwe.

Forgotten Voices now works with 130 churches in Zimbabwe caring for about 2,400 orphans through locally run and locally developed orphan care plans across the country. Ministry is difficult, but necessary, especially in these trying times. If you haven't done so already or lately, please consider giving to Forgotten Voices so we can make sure to continue funding projects in this difficult time. You can donate online today at

Thank you all for your continued prayers, support and well wishes for our friends in Zimbabwe. Please also pray for our network there, the vulnerable kids they care for, as well as for me as I make difficult call after difficult call...trying to assess need and response appropriately and realistically. Pray also for the donors and churches here in the United States, as well as our Volunteer Leadership Team that makes Forgotten Voices run.


Friday, May 2, 2008

Officials: Zimbabwe rivals face runoff (CNN)

(From CNN) -- A runoff has been declared in Zimbabwe's controversial presidential election after officials said main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai won 47.9 percent of votes, compared to 43.2 percent for President Robert Mugabe.

Morgan Tsvangirai has argued that a run-off is unnecessary and that the government would rig the outcome.

Since neither Tsvangirai nor Mugabe received 50 percent plus one vote, a runoff election is required by law. The Electoral Commission said Friday it would announce a date for the runoff election later.

But the opposition Movement for Democratic Change has disagreed with the result, The Associated Press reports, adding that MDC polling agent Chris Mbanga said: "We have been overruled. We are in dispute. It is not fair."

The opposition said a meeting is planned for this weekend to decide whether to reverse its stance on the runoff.

Results almost identical to the official ones were reported to CNN Thursday -- the commission's first day of the verification process -- by a senior official with Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party who did not want to be named.

A delay in announcing the results of the March 29 election has prompted accusations of vote-rigging and calls from around the world for Mugabe to step down after 28 years in power.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change has repeatedly said that Tsvangirai won the election but ZANU-PF alleges that the opposition has been engaged in election tampering. Read about the candidates in the presidential election. »

Tsvangirai's party says he won with 50.3 percent of the vote, enough to avoid a runoff under Zimbabwean law.

George Sibotshiwe, a spokesman for Tsvangirai, told AP that the MDC believed it would require at least another three days to examine the votes -- in part because 120,000 votes were still unaccounted for.

"We just said to the electoral commission we're not moving forward until we understand where these 120,000 votes came from," Sibotshiwe told AP before the official result release.

The MDC has also maintained that it will not participate in a runoff. If it holds to that, then it would mean Mugabe would retain the presidency, the chief of the electoral commission, George Chiweshe, said.

Reports of violence against opposition supporters have emerged from Zimbabwe amid heightened tensions since the presidential election.

Zimbabwe's religious leaders called for international help. "People are being abducted, tortured, humiliated by being asked to repeat slogans of the political party they are alleged not to support," according to a statement from a coalition of Christian churches in Zimbabwe released two weeks ago. "In some cases, people are murdered."

Government spokespeople have denied those reports or said they were exaggerated.

A U.S. State Depertment spokesman said there were "serious credibility problems" with the official results and the United States planned to consult with other countries on the situation.

"It's really impossible, as a practical matter right now, to think about how Zimbabwe could hold a runoff election in a situation when everyone admits (that) by any measure, the leading vote-getter is having his party and his supporters regularly harassed and subject to abuse by government officials," said Tom Casey.

CNN and other major news organizations are banned from reporting from Zimbabwe, where there are reports of beatings and intimidation by the government against citizens who support the opposition.

Humanitarian groups told CNN that 105,000 people have been displaced because of the violence, and there were questions about who would come out to vote in the runoff.

Mugabe, 84, is the only ruler Zimbabwe has had since British rule of the former Rhodesia came to end in 1980 and was a hero of the civil war against the white government.

He has been re-elected several times, often either running unopposed or in elections that prompted charges of fraud and state-sponsored terrorism against opponents, and has consolidated his rule over all aspects of Zimbabwean life.

Two weeks before the last presidential election in 2002, which the MDC alleges was stolen, the government charged Tsvangirai with treason. He was acquitted. The MDC accused Mugabe of trying to eliminate him as a challenger.

Zimbabwe faced international sanctions after the 2002 election, including travel restrictions on Zimbabwean officials.

Once known as the breadbasket of southern Africa, it is now difficult to get basic food supplies in Zimbabwe. Inflation has skyrocketed to more than 100,000 percent, while food production and agricultural exports have dropped drastically.

Once revered for providing some of the best education and health care in Africa, it now has one of the lowest life expectancies in the world. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Nkipele Mabuse in Johannesburg, South Africa, contributed to this report