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."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

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.

-Ryan

2 comments:

Steve Pilgrim said...

Lauren and I will be praying for you both and for Zimbabwe. Have a great and productive trip!

Heather said...

Nicholas loves elephants.... that must be why he loves his uncle so much! praying for you both!