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, October 22, 2008

10/23: Injustices eh? -- So?

One of my childhood heroes Martin Luther King, Jr. once penned: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere". It became a staple part of his speeches and the embodiment of his life's legacy, some historians say.

Today, as I listened to Al Gore talk about Climate Change, Global Warming, etc at Harvard University's Sustainability Project launch, I was impressed at how VP Gore used MLK's message of injustice to call people to action.

This idea of injustice anywhere being a threat to justice everywhere is SOOOOO true. It is a motto worth living around. Over and over, Christ calls us to task for NOT looking out for widows and orphans and the Bible tells us that we risk not fulfilling "true religion" in James 1. Or when Jesus shows us how to stand up for prostitutes when the world is ready to stone them in John 8. And on and on. There are so many.

It got me thinking. Why is it that we hear things in our world that are so outrageously unjust that we somehow come to the conclusion we can just go about our day as if nothing is happening? How do we arrive at such conclusions? On what grounds do we press on with our lives, ignoring the great injustices in our world? Or perhaps worse still, draw other people to the injustice with calls to action, but then take no action ourselves?

When I see a homeless man cursed out by a passerby, or a woman get shoved out of the way by a drunk man on a bus, or a fellow student gossiped about by another student with malice ringing from their mouth... I'm sad. When I see a child dying from starvation in Zimbabwe or talk to a leader in Zambia and hear them say that a woman is being forced to have sex against her will to fulfill some backwards tribal custom endorsed by no other leader in the community...but no one will stand up and be a champion for the woman....Or an "orphan" belittled by her peers because AIDS took the lives of her parents... Or a businessman in the USA scoffing at the idea that it is a great honor to give money away to help those in need... I fear we are forgetting what life is about...and remembering too much what life is NOT about.

Just this month, I saw a report about a person that was randomly beaten severely by a stranger on a subway train in Philadelphia, then dragged out on to the platform and beaten some more. No one did anything on the train or on the platform. They just got out of the way. No one did a thing.

I'm hearing lots of stories like that lately... in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and in the USA. What's up with that?

Recently, I had the good fortune of talking with some college students. While I LOVE the passion students have for pointing out all the things "you adults" are doing to "screw up our world for us to clean up later", we are ALL to blame (including me - one of those adults - and even you students and kiddos out there). We are all capable to make things right in our own small way.

But I cannot help thinking that we still are WAY too complacent. Tomorrow, I will make a call to Zimbabwe to talk with a pastor to talk through a decision I hate having to make...who should go without food this month because there isn't enough money to feed all the people caring for orphans in one particular community?

As a leader of a non-profit, I fail everyday to remember that my life doesn't belong to me, but our God. My life, my beliefs, my passions, my desires, my time, my money, all of it... it all belongs to God. Not for my desires, but for His. Not for my wishes, but for His. Not for my glory, but for His.

As I think about the legacy of my childhood hero, MLK Jr., and his call for us all to look out for the injustices anywhere and to take ACTION... I think of Jesus and I think of us. How did He respond to the injustices around His world? How are we doing? How can we get better?

Tough questions. But no one promised us easy... But I am tired of complacency and letting ourselves off the hook. You?

I see heroes in some of you. But many of us are quietly sitting on the sidelines and letting injustice happen in Zimbabwe, Zambia, our work places, churches, communities, families, etc. And I'm wondering why.

Big questions that require big answers. Ready to start trying? I am. Join me. In?

Monday, October 20, 2008

10/21: Deep and Wide - Rivers Flow

This weekend, I managed to return to Central Pennsylvania for a visit, when I was down for Messiah College's Homecoming festivities. The college graciously awarded me the Young Alumni Achievement Award for 2008. It was truly an honor to share the stage with Leroy '55 & Eunice '58 Steinbrecher and Chris Book '78, each incredible servants that embody the Messiah College mission. They were recognized for their tremendous lifetime achievements.

The award recognized Forgotten Voices for its service to local churches caring for orphans in southern Africa. So, because of your support, this award is for you. Thank you all for helping us look out for the hopes, dreams, and futures of future leaders in Zimbabwe & Zambia.

In addition to attending the Messiah College Homecoming activities, Katie and I managed to get to West Shore Evangelical Free Church in Mechanicsburg, PA. WSEFC is the church that launched Forgotten Voices with me and a team of others. Pastor Phil Thorne preached on blessings and how they should flow out like rivers. The church likes to sing the nursery song: "Deep and Wide" as their motto.

Deep and wide, deep and wide
There's a fountain flowing, deep and wide
Deep and wide, deep and wide
There's a fountain flowing, deep and wide

The point of the sermon was that the blessings of God should pour out through us and into the lives of others....our neighbors, coworkers, kids, strangers, etc.

After the service concluded, someone in the church came up to one of our main volunteers and said, "Forgotten Voices is like a flowing river... deep and wide... flowing into the lives of other people and sharing the blessings of God by connecting American churches and Zimbabawean/Zambian churches in doing God's work of orphan care."

I couldn't agree more. All that I have and all that I hope to have belongs to God. All of it. My money, my time, my energy, my talents, etc. So does yours, even if you don't feel like sharing. Over and over, we are encouraged to remember that we are merely ambassadors of God's love to others.

When I was growing up, my father used to close all the services he led as a Pastor with this: "May all that see you, see Him. Go in peace."

Today, as you go about your day, I encourage you to look for a way to make yourself a river that flows into others with God's love so that all those that see you, see Him.

Go in peace.

-Ryan

Friday, October 10, 2008

10/10: Words of Thanks - WOW

This morning, I received a word of thanks from one of our donors and a friend that I met several years ago at a Pennsylvania college, where I was speaking at a conference on social entrepreneurship. In his letter, he thanked me for "how you glow with the love of Christ."

I cannot think of a better compliment and I'm deeply touched. It was the kind of letter I needed today, as this week I've been lost in the seas of doubt - lots of things NOT working in Zimbabwe and the seas continue to rise, it seems.

There are no words that I can say to adequately communicate the humility I feel today after reading this letter. I'm deeply thankful for the encouragement and am touched by his clear love for what we are doing, as the love I have for the kids in Zimbabwe and Zambia comes from the way Christ has loved me.

Have you ever taken on a challenge that you felt inadequate for? You feel completely unequipped? The longer I am involved with Forgotten Voices, the more I see that I have the kind of job that God always puts me into the deepest end, with raging seas (Zim's economy, HIV/AIDS, poverty, no rains for farms, assault on kids, broken hearts here looking for meaning, etc) all around.

These last 4 years, but especially these past 2 months, have really shown me this: OUR GOD IS AN AWESOME GOD and I cling to Him more than ever. Anything that goes well for Forgotten Voices is a testament to the glory and awesome power of our God and the grace He has by allowing us to be part of all of this.

In the raging seas of life, no matter where you are, I pray that you seek God's peace, direction, and joy. When I die, I pray that I've lived a life that makes God giggle and say, "well done, good and faithful servant." Those kind of lives involve sweat, tears, and hard work...but above all, joy and love for the life we've been given.

Today - this letter has made my day. I'm excited to begin my day and help make someone else's day. I encourage you to look for ways that "glow with the love of Christ."

May God's peace, joy, and love be with you today,
Ryan
Philippians 4:6

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

10/8: "Voices from Zambia"

VOICES FROM THE GROUND”

The world is currently going through a rough patch in its economic history. It would be na├»ve to ignore the fact that the past few months and weeks have been very difficult for the world’s economy and ultimately for those who support the ministry of Forgotten Voices International. We are on our knees as Christians in this part of Africa, knowing that when the situation is bad in the western world, it becomes worse in the already needy third world countries. Our hope of economic survival depends on the continued stability of the economy of the western world. For example, in my country, the tourism industry has been enjoying a steady growth in the past five years because of foreign tourists coming to visit the “Mighty Victoria Falls” and other tourist attractions that the country has to offer. We have had a significant rise in tourists coming to visit our nation in the last few years. This may not continue if the economies of the wealthy nations are not performing well. Our positive progress so far will begin to stall.

It hurts to realize how much this in turn could affect the poorest of the poor in our societies. God calls us to… “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.” (Psalm 82: 3). These are indeed central to God’s heart! This is why we do not need to forget them amidst these world economic trials. It is for this reason I bring yet another story from “Voices from the Ground” just to keep ourselves in touch with those who suffer silently while the world is busy debating on the ‘macro and micro’ economic parameters.

I want you to meet Doris Chisenga and her daughter, Modesta. Doris (40) was widowed in 2006 and has four children. Modesta (8 years then), one of the girls, was taken in with her father’s people. Doris’s education is very limited as she only went up to grade seven in 1984. After failing to secure a place in secondary school, she got married to Mr. Chisenga. They were married for twenty years. Doris and her family were doing fine because Mr. Chisenga, as a mechanic, brought home enough money to even afford a private school for their oldest son, Patrick, who is eighteen years old now. However, Patrick is doing nothing now because Doris cannot afford to send him to any college.

Since the death of her husband, it has naturally been hard for Doris to pay school fees for her children. Having no trade whatsoever, she tried selling vitenge (loin clothe), buying them from Nakonde (border town with Tanzania) and reselling them in Ndola. However, the system of ‘get now and pay later’, proved to be tricky for her to collect all her monies in order to continue with the business. Ultimately the business failed. She now works as a domestic servant in order to support her family. But her less than $25 a month is not enough to meet her family needs.

It was difficult to locate her home when I went for this interview. Apparently she fails to keep to one home simply because she has difficulties paying rent due to her limited income. However, we finally located her place of work and she took us to visit her daughter, Modesta.

I want to confess that my earlier intentions were to write her daughter’s story, but when I heard hers too, I could not resist but share it too. However, here is her eleven year old daughter’s unfortunate story:

Modesta, (11) is Doris’s daughter. When her father died, she was taken in by her father’s relatives. Unfortunately, ever since she left home, she has been treated more like a ‘slave’. She was not taken back to school; instead, she became her aunt’s house servant, Washing dishes and cleaning the house while her aunt went to the market to sell vegetables. Asking her aunt why Modesta wasn’t in school, all she could say was that Modesta never told her she needed to go to school anymore. This was sad to hear. Modesta had basically become the ‘other woman’ in her aunty’s home, instead of being a school going child like other children of her age. She was out of school for over a year until her situation was brought to the attention of her church, Mushili Baptist Church, one of the churches in the Zambia Baptist Association that will hopefully benefit from the partnership with Forgotten Voices International. Thank God she has been taken back to school now, but her education depends on the support she will continue to receives from the church and its partners, like FVI.

Pray for this family as they are passing through difficult times in their lives. Doris misses her husband very much. From what she speaks of him, you could tell that he was a very responsible husband and father to his family. When she was asked what one thing she would love to do in order to bring income home, she said she would contact me later.


Your fellow servant in Christ,

Remmy Hamapande.






Thursday, October 2, 2008

10/2: Report to check out: Global Gender Gap 2007

Several of you have written to me recently asking about Gender Gaps. I've been doing a lot of thinking about this lately. Sorry to have not shared some of my findings just yet. Interesting, 97.9% of women ages 15-29 in Zimbabwe are literate in English (meaning they can read and write proficiently).  This is one of the highest literacy rates for women in the world. 

Closing the gender gap between men and women, as well as between boys and girls, is key to successful and sustainable community development.  Women are typically far more likely to spend money approriately in a family, but need crucial decision making skills acquired through basic and secondary education.  Zimbabwe statistically is a leader, but the economic crises over the past few years has led to a change in the role women are playing in schools and communities. When money dries up - girls and women are the 1st to lose out on educational opportunities.

A powerful report detailing this issue can be found here: Global Gender Report 2007

The link provides interviews with the authors, as well as spreadsheets for all you info junkies out there. 

The new 2008 report will be released in November 2008, but the 2007 report should suffice for now. :) 

Hope you are well,
Ryan