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, July 30, 2008

7/30: Our Hands Are Not Tied

As a preface to my comments this week on what can be done to help Forgotten Voices - check out this cool video (below) that I was just sent.

Forgotten Voices was recently featured in a project by students at Cabrini College, outside Philadelphia. They were highlighting what people in the United States can do to make a difference in the HIV/AIDS crises, as well as help define the realities of the crises.

It is an incredible project by some passionate students! They plan to share this information with legislators, classmates, colleges around their area, and just see what happens as it circulates the web.

Join me in thanking the students (Megan Pellegrino, Kara Schneider, and Jillian Smith) for using their voices to help orphans in southern Africa.



Produced, written, and edited by Megan Pellegrino, Kara Schneider, and Jillian Smith.

2008 Cabrini College 89.1 WYBF-FM Radnor, Pa. 19087.

Many organizations, large and small, are attempting to control and prevent the spread of AIDS. These organizations reach out to individuals in the United States and elsewhere to assist.

Global organizations hold promise to bring worldwide attention to this devastating disease. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has affected over 60 million people in the world; 20 million people died of AIDS overall and in Africa it is the No. 1 cause of death.

Catholic Relief Services, with its headquarters in Baltimore, Md., is an international organization that works with partners in 100 countries throughout the world and strives to create an impact worldwide that will bring about new hope in the battles of hunger, war and disease along with other global struggles.

President Bush has developed an emergency plan for AIDS relief known as PEPFAR, President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief, which is the biggest initiative by any one country dedicated to HIV/AIDS.

Another major organization, The Global Fund, has committed itself to coordinating and providing 1.8 million people with antiretroviral treatment.. The Global Fund has distributed over $10.1 billion to over 136 countries in the world. This unique program will reach 62 million people in hopes that they will receive voluntary counseling and testing services for HIV prevention.

Every individual can make a difference. A local example of a single person finding a way to make change is Ryan Keith of Mechanicsburg, Pa., the founder and president of Forgotten Voices International. This organization relieves and assists the HIV/AIDS pandemic by funding local churches and community programs to help better serve nations in need.

-Kara Schneider

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

7/29: "I have a dream - new dreams for you and me"

Without question, one of the biggest influences on my life has been Martin Luther King, Jr. I had an incredible 2nd grade teacher named Ms. Peaco that introduced me to this incredible orator that gave his life to a dream that at the time seemed impossible. Ms. Peaco and I are pictured right, at her retirement party to celebrate 40+ years of teaching - I was fortunate to be the student speaker to help celebrate her life.

My parents like to say that my love for people started when Ms. Peaco gave me a biography of MLK, Jr. They say I poured over it and talked about it for years, memorizing the speech and sharing it with everyone that would listen (and most likely, people who were just kind to listen to my squeaky & persistent voice). I confess I only know a few lines now.

When I get distracted and confused about the purpose of my mission and the leadership I believe God has called me to in this moment...leading Forgotten Voices...I often return to the dreams of Martin Luther King, Jr and his dreams that seemed daring, impossible, yet hopeful.

So - I've been "away" for a couple weeks dreaming with our friends in Africa. After an incredible season of learning from our partnerships, I'm back to dreaming about what's next. Dreams I have for you and me. Dreams for Forgotten Voices and for our partnerships in Africa, as well as how you can join us.

I haven't stopped dreaming all week, especially today...dreaming about how we can help our brothers and sisters in Africa better accomplish what they want to do.

So - some updates for you all since I last wrote a couple weeks ago:
1) Forgotten Voices has now hired 3 people in Africa to help achieve our objectives of funding locally developed, local church run orphan care plans.
Our model will develop like this:

In Ndola, Zambia: Remmy Hamapande (who recently blogged on this page) is right now focusing on finding and helping develop church run orphan care projects around the Ndola area. We have a goal of identifying 25 projects by Fall 2008 that we will fund (Lord willing) over the next year, as pastors are able to do the necessary steps to put leaders in position to implement their locally designed plans. Begin praying about giving to support Remmy's salary and/or our new projects in Zambia.

In Zimbabwe: Fibion (last name intentionally left out) will be working in Zimbabwe to help pastors around Bulawayo develop church run orphan care projects. He'll specifically identify 12-25 local orphan care projects led by graduates of the Theological College of Zimbabwe (TCZ), a seminary we are partnering with to help them develop a Orphan Care & HIV/AIDS Leadership Institute. Begin praying about giving to support Fibion and/or our new projects in Zimbabwe.

Another guy named Horace is helping us work with 5 churches in southcentral Zimbabwe to provide orphan care at the local level. Horace is one of hundreds of volunteers that have served over the past 3 years with churches that Forgotten Voices has partnered with. Since April 2008, Horace has been working part-time with Forgotten Voices to insure proper care and programming that impacts about 450 kids. Begin praying about giving to support Horace and/or our new projects in Bulawayo.

2) New Investments:
All of these projects are NEW and will require NEW investments into our work. We are proud to be not only talking about using local people to partner with, but truly fulfilling our mission, even in our adminstrative structure.

By hiring local church leaders in Africa to work with Forgotten Voices, we will be able to provide added accountability that will allow us to grow, access to what is happening on the ground daily (so we can share more stories with you), and have better adaptability to meet the sometimes hourly or weekly adjustments our church partners face.

Over this next week and month, you'll hear more specifics from me on each of these new steps AND very important ways you can get involved.

So - dream with me about what's next and dream with me about how you can help make the dreams of pastors & local church leaders come true.
Hebrews 13:3 says: "Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering."
Our friends are suffering as they simply fulfill the call that God has placed on all of look after widows and orphans.

James 1:27: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

Let's DREAM about what's next and pray about what we can do to help out. More from me tomorrow.


Friday, July 25, 2008

"Echoes from Zambia"

Hi, my name is Remmy Hamapande, a new member of the Forgotten Voices International Family here in Zambia. This is Irene, my wife and Genney our lovely niece. Its good to be part of the family with a passion in orphan care because thats where my heart of ministry is too. I hope to learn more and offer my time and service to God's ministry through FVI.

My family and I are currently staying at The Theological College of Central Africa (TCCA), as my wife is in her final year of study. She is currently doing her internship at a government school here in Ndola and Genney is doing her grade seven at a basic school near home. As you can see two members of my family are quite busy with school and I fill the gap of cooking; making sure that when they come home they find food is ready.

We go to Chifubu Brethren in Christ church, just about five minutes drive from home. The church has about thirty commited members. It is quite a small church that was opened as a product of Kwacha Brethren in Christ Church in 2006 by our cell group when I was still in college.

Please do pray for us as a family as we seek God's face in this new family of ours. Pray for Irene as she nears her internship. Also pray for Genney as she writes her mid year grade seven exams. Finally pray for our small church as we look for a church plot to build our own church building. God bless you!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

7/9: Conviction, Opportunity and Death

I, like you, can get sucked into the drama of politics and forget to focus on what God has called us to do. Love people, even when it hurts. Through that, we learn what it means to live, love and experience God's grace intimately. We gain everything.

This week, in my quiet time and in my conversations with our friends in Africa, I was convicted by the realization that many of us involved in Forgotten Voices have drifted our thoughts away from the core of what should drive us: "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."

Amidst all the chaos that has been the Zimbabwe election for President, I (and so many I've talked with) have become consumed by this tragedy that has unfolded before our eyes. We've been consumed by the drama and the disbelief that this could happen.

In my conversations with our local leaders on the ground and partners that work in Zimbabwe and Zambia, I've been personally convicted that we need to surely factor in how these elections impact (or don't impact) our operations. We need to surely approach our projects and activities with open eyes, but we also need to not become obsessed by the things we are unable to do and miss the opportunities that are before us.

Specifically, we have an incredible opportunity to support the work of the Church in southern Africa and its desire to empower orphans. Regardless of who is elected in whatever country we operate in, our primary goal must be to complete our mission.

Sure. You all know this and I know it too, but isn't it easy to get swept away in the politics and the drama? Am I alone? I don't think I am, as I've taken hundreds of phone calls and emails from some of you over these past 2 months, including while I was in Africa.

I am DEEPLY thankful for your prayers and I am deeply thankful for your concern. I share your love for the people of Zimbabwe and the challenges they face. But in those challenges, I see opportunities. Here's an example that may break your heart... or inspire it....
"I knelt down beside this woman and took her hand, as I've done for so many people over my time in Zimbabwe. She was dying. As I was asked to pray for her, I asked her name. It was a name I couldn't pronounce then and still can't today. But her eyes lit up my heart. She was beautiful. Even as she approached the last breaths of her life, she was alive...deeply alive.

We sat under a tree with this woman, as she was propped up by her mother and father, who graciously were allowing us to see and understand death at one of its most intimate moments...

As we surveyed the landscape of this young woman's home, we saw very little signs of life. There were small chickens that looked like they hadn't eaten in months. There was a garden that had gone untended for quite some time. There was a small pile of papers near the door of the hut that is used for the kitchen... school papers perhaps?

Inquiring about the family, I learned that this woman had 2 children.... 4 and 7. There were at school or with a friend. I didn't quite understand her mother, who was answering for her daughter.

This woman dying couldn't talk. Her bright eyes were the only source of guidance for me to understand what she was saying. She'd motion with her head, but I could see it hurt. In the final stages of AIDS, the throat often fills with a thick substance that essentially clogs ones ability to swallow/eat and eventually even takes away your ability to breath. One of the many vicious symptoms that say to those observing that death is near.

I'm still holding this woman's hand. Thinking of what I can say. What I can do. How I can I say anything or do anything that will take away this woman's fears? Her life is before her eyes and death is at the end of her nose. She can see it closely and knows it is near.

When someone asks what she is afraid about, I can't help but laugh in my head. I'm scared stupid and I am just holding this woman's hand. I laugh out of tragic desperation, more than humor, of course.

As I pray, I plead with God to intervene and thank Him for giving us this woman's life to learn from, enjoy, be challenged by and encouraged by. I thank God for the gift of life in this woman's body and in the legacy she will leave behind through her 2 children. I wrap up my prayer noting that I do not know how to pray. This is, perhaps, the most common prayer I have when I come to Africa.

After an extended goodbye, well wishes, and survey of the farm, I leave with a local pastor that ministers to this woman regularly and a friend from a local AIDS clinic that Forgotten Voices helps fund in this woman's community.

As we talk about this woman's situation, I hear what I hear so often. The biggest fear is what will happen to her kids? Who will care for them? She has no other relatives living besides her parents, who are both quite old and live far away. At 4 and 7 years old, the kids are young...too young to take the lead on building a family.

I'm reminded by the pastor that the church has committed to doing all it can to help make sure these kids have a safe home, food when they can, and a church community that will let them know they are not really alone...even though they will honestly feel that way.

In these moments, I am reminded that death is part of the life of Forgotten Voices. We exist to help these churches give life to this woman's kids and, in a way, life to this woman. I will never EVER forget the first conversation I had with a woman right before she died in Zimbabwe. When my 2 friends and I promised that we would do whatever was in our power to look out for her kids. To make sure they had a home, school, food, love, security.... I cannot express the relief I see when a parent hears that someone (anyone) will commit to caring for their kids. They can die, not in peace, but with some peace. These promises helped sew the seeds for what would become Forgotten Voices.

As I think about this woman and the hundreds of men, women and children I've interfaced with on death's door, I think of life and the life we will protect... with the local churches that care for these kids. I hope we can. We must. I'm scared though because like I always seem to pray, "God, I don't know how or when or anything, but I am willing to learn."

Stories like this one (from my 3rd trip to Zimbabwe) are what we should be thinking about in Zimbabwe...the men, women, and children working alongside their churches to find homes, security, and love for the children orphaned because of AIDS....and loving them as if they were their own.

It's why we do what we do at Forgotten Voices and why your gifts, love, prayers, and support help us help now over 3,000 kids in Zambia and Zimbabwe in situations just like the one I describe above.

I'm thankful for you and I'm thankful for our friends in Africa. Keep praying with me and join me in helping us continue telling the stories of local churches, caring for local kids that need a champion...regardless of who is serving as President.

Ryan aka mkuelko ndlovu (praying elephant as i am known in africa)