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, June 17, 2008

6/17: Wildlife, Life, and Death

Friends - Greetings again from Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Tonight, Katie and I are leaving this beautiful place and taking a short flight from Durban to Johannesburg. We found an incredible deal to fly rather than drive (again) across South Africa. Plus, I've driven about 1,200 k already in the past 5 days - some of which has been rough terrain.

Katie and I returned last night from an incredible 2 days at the national game park. We saw lots of animals, including a billion birds of all shapes & colors, 8 elephant, 7 rhinos, a hyena, lots of impala, wilderbeast, tons of zebra, 10 or so giraffe (one that let us watch him 10 yards away for about 20 min), buffalo galore, nyalas, baboons, and monkeys. Katie will surely add to this list and share some of our adventure (and pictures) in a later post. But in short, Katie got to see her 1st elephant in the wild and I couldn't be happier about that!

I also wanted to quickly write and thank you for praying. I left on our little "holiday" feeling quite ill, but have returned MUCH better, despite my lack of sleep because of early morning game drives - hoping to catch animals before they go into hiding for the day. Thanks for all of you that were praying for my recovery. THANK YOU!

In other sadder news.... it is very different driving on these roads here. People stand on the side of the road often, trying to enthusiastically wave down rides. The scariest part is when we see kids playing on the side of their interstate highways hoping for a ride (picture children playing on I-95). South Africa is now considered the most dangerous place to drive in the world, when looking at fatalities and chances of being in a fatal accident. On our drive up the N2, we passed one of these scenes, with the child just having passed away after being struck by a vehicle. We saw the immediately after.

While we don't know this child, or their family, or the driver - it was traumatic. Katie and I discussed at length whether to share this news. In the end, we decided that we committed to blogging about our trip and it has certainly changed the tone of our travels these past few days, as Katie and I both have wrestled with how things like that can happen in our world.

Death is such a big part of life here. Tragically so. While death is always difficult, regardless of where you are in the world, it engulfs southern Africa. Tents fill the landscape everywhere you look here. They go up Thursday for a Saturday or Sunday funeral, then move on to the next house in the town in preparation for the next service. On our drive from the game park, we passed a VERY tiny town and saw 8 tents for funerals. Life is different here because death is a big part of life.

For example, we were out visiting a traditional Zulu community in a rural part of Port Shepstone last week with a pastor and his wife. A few of the leaders of the orphan care project were trying to plan an event to raise AIDS awareness in the community. As they tried to find a date, they were struggling about which day of the week to hold the event; during the week, those that work & have influence on their families couldn't be there because they'd have to miss work (and their income for the day) to come. Cannot do Saturdays or Sundays because the funerals are then.

I've heard this dilemma on all my trips to this part of the world. I distinctly remember talking to one woman in Zim that said, "On Saturdays & Sundays, that's when all the funerals are, so people can't come to events; not because they don't want to, but it's life...we must go to these funerals."

The conversation in that Zulu community we visited last week ended with a decision to think about it. I'm still thinking about what's best and have reached no conclusions. I imagine the leaders are the same.

Our thoughts linger to Zimbabwe, as well, as our time here wraps up. Death is now very much part of life. In 1990, the life expectancy in Zimbabwe was 61 years old. It is now, just 18 years later, only 34 - the lowest in the world. I am only 5.5 years away from meeting the life expectancy age if I lived in Zimbabwe. Over 90% of the people are literate and they are known all over Africa as having one of the best education systems in the world. How can this be true and the following be true: 500 people will die TODAY in Zim because of AIDS related illnesses. The HIV infection rate among pregnant women now stands at just under 35%.

Why am I rambling on about this? Because it consumes life here and I cannot adequately share the way that changes your experience. I cannot possibly communicate the life engulfing way that death hangs over everything, nor can I explain the way that the local people's hope triumphs over every aspect of life here because of this faith they have that tomorrow will be better than today - even when the odds & data say the complete opposite.

Right before I left, I was blessed by a conversation I had with a friend of mine. He was just so encouraging to me at a time of great stress. When I asked him, "why me?", he responded, "You've been praying for an encouragement - someone to come alongside you and help give truth to the faith that you have in God & others, so I want to be part of that for you."

When I think of our friends here, these local leaders trying to empower AIDS orphans in their communities, I cannot help but feel like my friend. Why can't we be the ones that breath hope and truth into their faith? Our friends here are crying out to God and praying that He will see their pain. That God will see the impact death is having on their community. That God will breath hope and life into the darkness, making tomorrow better than today.

I invite you to be part of this hope giving experience through Forgotten Voices. Our whole mission is centered around demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ by equipping LOCAL churches to meet the physical & spiritual needs of AIDS orphans in their communities. They are praying for miracles, for people & God to see their suffering. They have faith that miracles will come. You can be that miracle, as God has richly blessed you & me.

To give, visit

I'm so thankful for each of you and for your continued prayers as we travel. Thanks for believing in me and in Forgotten Voices. We are learning a lot and look forward to sharing these lessons with you in the days ahead, as we learn and serve together.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We've been so grateful to read your thoughts and experiences here over the past weeks. We prayed for you at small group last night and will continue as you wrap up your time and return to us here in PA.
- N&E