Sunday, December 28, 2008
The very act of crying out infuses every life and may well be endemic to the human condition - men, women, young people, even children. Not every cry is ridden by anguish, but every life has its own cry or has heard the cry of another who is struggling with emotions or passions in need of explanation and relief. I think of the particular cries of vulnerable children in southern Africa who desperately need advocates for their survival. Every person, in the midst of life´s various seasons, raises their voice to express the pain or injustice of the present situation. However, some, for a variety of reasons, are better able to cope more readily with such pain or are better able to handle the general vicissitudes of life.
Forgotten Voices is not simply a movement to apply some healing balm to the bitter pain of an unheard cry from an African child; rather, it is a movement that seeks to face squarely the reality that all of us in our private moments deal with deep cries of anguish and need. Some of you have experienced the pain of losing a loved one. Many children and in Africa know this pain in the form of a dead parent. Some of you have felt the pain of loneliness. Many children in Africa know the loneliness of separation from friends and family due to the stigma attached to the AIDS virus. Some of you have known what it is like to trust in God for the provision of your physical needs. Many children in Africa depend daily on God to sustain their lives. We all have a lot more in common than we think.
It is for this reason that I need your help to share in the cry of an African child. These deep, unheard cries of loneliness, fatigue, loss, and anguish are the same in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania as they are in Harare, Zimbabwe. Remember that you are not alone. Likewise, there is a child in southern Africa that needs to know that they too are not alone in their cries for help.
In my personal life, I am making this new year the ¨Year of Remembrance¨. I want to remember the cries of these children each day. Please join me in becoming an advocate for their lives in 2009.
In remembrance and with blessings,
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.How absolutely backwards that the King of Glory would choose to live among you and me. How wonderful that he would immerse himself in the messiness and ugliness of humankind especially since He was without blemish. Jesus chose to spend His time not with the elite and beautiful of our society, but with the forgotten and the suffering. Jesus wanted those whom we had worked hard to exclude. Remarkably, it was His presence among the likes of these which caused His glory to shine like the noonday sun. The glory of Jesus was made evident to us because of where He chose to be and with whom He chose to associate. This has compelled me to pose yet another question: is it no less different for us?
Doing ministry with Forgotten Voices International here in Zambia has given me confidence that the Church still carries the LIGHT OF HOPE to a poverty ravaged and HIV/AIDS exasperated continent of Africa. FVI, through its demonstration of the love of Jesus Christ to fellow man is giving hope to orphaned children and widows in Zimbabwe and Zambia; The Bible says, “The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow…” (Psalm 146: 9). I see the Lord, indeed, watching over these orphans and widows through the ministries of Forgotten Voices as its focus is on strengthening the church’s capacity to reach out to those that are, otherwise, slowly being forgotten because of their poverty and HIV/AIDS situation. The Church represents the life of Jesus Christ here on earth. We are the Church; we are the light of hope for the vulnerable!
I know America and the world over, economies are not doing fine. Here in Zambia, the mining industry has had a fair share of good times the last couple of months when copper was fetching more than $8000 a tone on the International Market. The government had barely finalized negotiating for a better deal in royalties when things started nose diving due to the global recession. The current copper price is no more than $3000 a tone on the London Metal Exchange. This has virtually rendered mining the copper quite unprofitable.
Some mines have started closing and laying off their employees. It is for this reason why poverty is not far from the homes of over 300 workers who suddenly lost their jobs last week at Bwana Mkubwa Copper mines in Ndola and the further 1,500 who lost theirs this week at Luanshya Copper mines (ZNBC News). This situation will definitely affect other industries related to mining in this part of Zambia.
Exacerbating the situation is the increase in the price of maize meal used to prepare our staple food, nshima (a thick porridge), from $8 to over $14 a 25kg bag and the situation shows that the price is still likely to go up. Most families can no longer manage to have three meals a day. Those that are lucky can manage to have two at most; otherwise one meal a day is what most of these families are now surviving on. And the trend is having that meal in the afternoons and hoping to stay strong till the following day. Our partners have introduced feeding programs for children in their churches. Ryan, Fibion and I hope to visit one of these feeding programs in January.
Through the ministry of Forgotten Voices, pastors have brought hope to the vulnerable members of their communities. Orphans, whose hopes of continuing with their education had been lost, are being revived. I have personally seen faces brighten up just by talking about what we do in this ministry. There is no better way to serve God than this very way that is making people’s future hopes be ignited again. Please! Please! Please! Do not grow weary in doing right. Continue the good works. Many lives are being changed by your help through the ministries of FVI here in Africa. The love being demonstrated by the church through your help is doing wonders words can never express. Even though you may not be here in person, but am assuring you that your love is being felt among many.
Finally brethren, how do we show the light of hope to these 1,800 mining industry job losses that translate to over 10,800 family members being affected and left in the cold to fend for themselves? It is sad to think of what most of these parents’ children will be subjected to. I know one thing for sure; they will stop school; they will probably start selling vegetables along streets and eventually become susceptible to abuse. With the myths of HIV/AIDS being cured through sexual intercourse with young girls still rampant, I can’t imagine the horrors of abuse these young girls may have to undergo on these streets.
As we celebrate Christmas, let us remember these children; whose hopes of celebrating it the usual way have been thwarted: As is always the tradition, most of these kids were promised goodies on Christmas day. They won’t receive the promised toys; they won’t wear that new pair of shorts, or shoes or dress or even share in eating rice with chicken which they always long for during Christmas, simply because it will not be served.
We are indeed the LIGHT OF HOPE to the world’s ills even though the world sometimes does not seem to notice this. Therefore, let’s give to the ministry of Forgotten Voices International, through their works here in Africa; someone’s difficulty situation somewhere will be given a solution because of your help.
Have a blessed and very Merry Christmas!
Your fellow servant in Christ,
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
The people walking in darknesshave seen a great light;on those living in the land of the shadow ofdeath a light has dawned.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David's throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.
Monday, December 22, 2008
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
Not much has changed since that glorious baby entered the world in a cow stall outside Bethlehem. One needs only to examine the international news headlines to understand that we still live in a world replete with chaos and tumult. Consequently, there are many who still approach the manager, not because it is the obligatory culmination of random seasonal frivolity, but because they still hope against hope that Jesus will be able to provide the peace for which they desperately long. It is the hope that this child can offer something different: a peace that is able to withstand the chaos of the world in which they live. Jesus said it best Himself, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
This very minute, there are millions of vulnerable children in southern African who are wondering whether there is anyone in the world who cares if they live or die. For these children, the manger is more than a handsome Christmas decoration. Rather, it is their hope for peace. The manger is their expectation of an inner tranquility and a sense of value that the world cannot take away. We have a unique opportunity to become part of the Christmas story whenever we introduce and extend the peace of Jesus to others in our world. For this reason, it is time to bring some atypical characters into the Christmas story: you and me. Forgotten Voices does many things to help meet the needs of vulnerable children in southern Africa, but none more critical than introducing them to Jesus. Although Forgotten Voices often provides food, training, and supplies to our friends across the world, all of this is worthless unless it is accompanied with an introduction to the Messiah. He is the only one who can truly save us. His peace does not depend on circumstance. This is the way Forgotten Voices is trying to love others well.
This year, as the blessed day of Jesus’ arrival approaches, I encourage you to become part of the Christmas story in a new way. Through a gift to Forgotten Voices, take the hand of a child and together, come to the manager where peace awaits each of you.
Please click here to give.
God’s peace and blessings,
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Farming God’s Way employs technologies that conform to the way God maintains and sustains His natural order. By understanding how God interacts with His creation to promote plant growth, FGW has initiated simple farming techniques that are extremely appropriate for the 700 million poor farmers in Africa who cannot afford expensive machinery, fertilizers, and related supplies.
Specific emphasis is placed on training community leaders to effectively utilize the wonderful treasures God has provided to increase agricultural yields without expensive imported inorganic fertilizers and harmful chemical compounds.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Empowerment comes in many forms. One such form of empowerment recently championed by Forgotten Voices is providing south Africans with the opportunity to begin their own, local income generating businesses. Partnering with CURE International in Zambia, Forgotten Voices is enabling twenty women to receive training and supplies to begin their own cloth tie-dying business, a popular and profitable local trade. These woman have traveled from all over Zambia, bringing their children to receive orthopedic treatment and care at the CURE hospital. Often, the mothers will stay at the hospital for several days or weeks while their children receive expert medical attention. Recently, one of the directors at this hospital expressed a need on behalf of these patiently waiting mothers. Many of these women had communicated a desire to learn an appropriate skill or trade during their stay which they could use to generate income and provide for their families upon their return home. With God's help and the generous support of donors, Forgotten Voices has started a program to train these mothers in the business of tie-dying by providing them with the necessary funds to purchase the initial materials. As the woman's expertise and business began to generate an income beyond that which is consumed by her family, the original funds are returned to the hospital and the money is provided to yet another woman so she too can begin a similar business.
The underlying premise of this exciting initiative is that, in order to emerge from poverty and remove themselves from the oppression of usurers and exploitive middlemen, the poor in southern Africa need access to small amounts of funding, without which they cannot be expected to launch their own enterprises, however small these may be. This empowers these amazing, driven people to purchase their own tools, equipment, or other necessary means of production and embark on income-generating ventures which will allow them to escape cyclical poverty. In a real sense, this concept was conceived to meet a local need in Zambia and act as a mechanism for others to realize their God given potential for productivity and experience the divine blessing which results as a consequence of gainful, liberating labor.
I am extremely proud of the way God's people have responded in this Advent season by giving to the work of Forgotten Voices. I find it truly amazing that we can so significantly empower one another when we share our resources. For the many who have already given, I thank you. Together, God is magnifying the impact of your gift - no matter how small. Please consider empowering a Zambian mother this Christmas with a gift to Forgotten Voices. This will truly be a gift that continues to give all year long.
Please click here to give.
Good work and blessings,
Friday, December 19, 2008
This may seem obvious, but today I ask you to remember that these children are real. They have real lives and real histories. They have stories to tell. They are deeply in need of love and have much love to give. Please consider sharing your resources this Christmas with a child in southern Africa. Let's meet together at the manger in the wonderful expectation of our Savior. The nativity reminds me that we are all in this together!
In unity and with blessings,
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I was recently introduced to a book entitled Anointed for Business in which author Ed Silvoso contends that we underestimate the importance of Jesus’ primary trade and earthly profession. Silvoso explains that Jesus would have been educated in carpentry during his early teenage years, so by the time of his baptism he would have been working at this profession for some time. “He was not a mere apprentice, but a well-established artisan,” Silvoso writes. He continues by saying, “I suspect that many of his neighbors ate at tables made by Jesus and secured their home with doors built in his shop. Their houses could have had beams cut and fit by the Savior. Even some of their oxen may have worn Jesus-made yokes.”
Jesus likely would have run his carpentry business at a profit in order to ensure its survival and help provide for his family. Silvoso comments, “His daily business routine likely included the calculation of the cost of goods and labor, the interplay between supply and demand, the establishment of competitive pricing, the measurement of potential return on his investment, the estimation of maintenance costs and the replacement of equipment. Even though it may be unusual, even uncomfortable, for us to picture Jesus working to make a living, this is precisely what he did for most of his adult life.”
Jesus, the very Son of God, was a hard-working business owner. As such, I believe that he uniquely understands the plight of the poor in southern
Please consider what you may do during this Advent time to honor Jesus' beginnings as humble carpenter. Many in Zimbabwe and Zambia are being given the chance to escape poverty due to the generous contributions of those in the West. Click here to join us in this noble pursuit.
Wishing you good work and blessings,
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
This leads me to believe that it might be time for us all to think of Christmas a little differently. Perhaps a little more radically. Please take a moment to watch the video posted below. I am certainly not advocating that every person fully subscribe to the ideas presented in this clip. However, I do humbly request that you examine your heart this Christmas and decide how you can best honor the radical gift of Jesus.
Please let me be forthright in declaring that Forgotten Voices is not simply an organization. Nor is it a sedate philanthropic institution. It's not even a movement. Forgotten Voices is response to an emergency taking place in southern Africa. Our partners show love in radical ways. When our friends and family find themselves in an emergency situation, we respond - and we respond in radical ways if necessary. As our brothers and sisters, many of them children, suffer in Zimbabwe and Zambia we continue to ask how we can respond in radical ways. Please consider giving a gift this Christmas to help Forgotten Voices bring hope to children in southern Africa. There is a good chance that your co-workers, friends, or family may not understand why you would choose to use your money in this way. That's alright. It's radical, I know. But I think that's the best part.
From the bottom of my heart, thanks to all who have been radical during this Advent season by giving a gift to one of the many children we serve. We love you all deeply.
To those who are radical I send blessings,
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
For this reason, the West has gone to great lengths to ensure representation of the voice: in our homes, in our workplaces, in our churches, and in our government. But we often fail to consider those outside our general sphere of existence who have no such voice or advocate. What of the starving Zimbabwean children pictured to the right who are picking up single corn kernels spilled on the roadside by trucks transporting maize from South Africa? Who will stand up on their behalf and cry aloud: "This is not right! Something must be done!"
With your help, Forgotten Voices will.
And who will speak on behalf of a child whose voice has been quieted or stilled by the horrible AIDS virus?
With your help, Forgotten Voices will.
And who will empower these vulnerable children by giving them education so that their own voices will rise strong and articulate?
With your help, Forgotten Voices will.
We all long for a voice. The voice is our foundational source of representation, validation, and self-identity in the world. Yet there are so many in southern Africa who are trapped in a tomb of silence, buried by the din of a busy, preoccupied world. I cannot help but dwell on the singular fact that God chose to send His voice to us through the month of a small, helpless child. In this Advent season, please give serious consideration to using your voice on behalf of a child in Zambia or Zimbabwe. Who will speak for these children?
With your help, Forgotten Voices will. Please click here to speak for them right now.
With one (loud) voice and blessings,
Sunday, December 14, 2008
These are five of the best reasons I can think of to give towards the work Forgotten Voices is doing in southern Africa to bring hope into the lives of many children. You can radically alter the life of a child right now. Click here to find out how.
In humble service and with blessings,
Photography by Krista Guenin
Friday, December 12, 2008
One of Fibion's most defining and inspirational characteristics is his loyalty. He has chosen to remain in the service of his struggling congregation in Bulawayo even though other, more lucrative opportunities have presented themselves. For him, the road is decidedly straight and narrow. He loves the people in his church and is deeply committed to meeting their needs. In fact, even though Fibion lives on a very limited salary, he often chooses to give away the little money he has to pay for a community member's transportation costs, an orphan's school fees, or an elderly parishioner's medical expenses. This, in turn, has caused even the poorest in his church to do the same by the testimony of his example. In Fibion's church love is on the move. It is a love that has flowed from God through the gift of Jesus to Fibion and from Fibion through his generosity to his incredible congregation.
It is difficult for me to think of the mission of Forgotten Voices (demonstrating the love of Jesus by equipping local churches in southern Africa to meet the physical and spiritual needs of AIDS orphans in their communities) without thinking of Fibion. He embodies the mission of the organization in the flesh. He gives me a reason to give. When I think of Fibion, I desperately want to support the endless and exhausting work he is doing. I want him to know that his daily efforts are not forgotten. Together, we can ensure that Fibion is empowered to reach out in love to those in his community who are heavy on his heart. In partnership with Fibion's church, Forgotten Voices is helping send over 40 children to school and meet other needs of those who care for them.
As the glorious day of Jesus' arrival draws ever near, please consider giving to the work Fibion is doing with a gift to Forgotten Voices. Place your hand in the hand of a vulnerable child from Bulawayo or a single mother dying from AIDS who are both looking forward, with great anticipation, to the Savior's return.
Please join Fibion. Only together can we make a difference. Please click here to give.
With sincere gratitude and blessing,
If you have frequented the pages of this blog during the month of December, you are no stranger to the fact that I have asked you to consider giving to the work of Forgotten Voices. Sometimes it's helpful to define something by what it's not. Therefore, I want to take a moment and express what I am not asking you to do.
I am not asking you to give to Forgotten Voices out of guilt or compulsion.
I am not asking you to give to Forgotten Voices because Africa is a dark content devoid of hope.
I am not asking you to support Forgotten Voices with resources that you do not have (either money or time).
I am not asking you to make Forgotten Voices your Christmas charity simply because you need someplace to give.
I am not asking you to give to Forgotten Voices because of a tax deduction.
Encouraging someone to give for any of the previous reasons cheapens what this movement is really all about. Forgotten Voices is demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ by equipping local churches in Southern Africa to meet the physical and spiritual needs of AIDS orphans in their communities. If you have ever felt the love of God in your life, then you have the greatest reason to give! Moreover, I can easily provide you with at least 10,000 other good reasons to give each with hopeful, bright eyes and smiles to match. I am coming to understand the Advent season as a call to give. To give of yourself first to God and then to give of God's resources, which he has entrusted in our care, to others. If at any point during this Advent season, or in those past, you have been overwhelmed - even for a moment - with a special sense of love and compassion , then I whole-heartedly encourage you to share that love through a financial gift to Forgotten Voices. We even have a special way that you can give and receive a certificate to honor someone special in your life this Christmas.
Tomorrow I look forward to sharing with you a couple of people who inspire me to give. Let this Christmas season be a time in which your love abounds for family, friends, and vulnerable children who desperately need your voice.
Love and blessings,
Thursday, December 11, 2008
But is it possible, indeed probable, that the word "hope" also describes Africa? Today, I submit to you that Southern Africa is a place of hope and promise even in the midst of such unimaginable suffering. C.S. Lewis was found of saying, "Nothing almost sees miracles but misery." Miracles and suffering seem to bunch about the same areas of history. Perhaps this is because it is precisely in tough places and in difficult times that we see the reality of God's provision because we are forced to rely solely on Him. Or perhaps it is because God works in the hearts of His children who are living in relative prosperity to reach up and out to their brothers and sisters who are struggling. Whatever the reason, I feel Lewis' claim resonate deep within me when I considered the messy and miraculous nature of Southern Africa. The church in Zambia and Zimbabwe is strong and active living within the words of Psalm 46 and understanding their meaning with profound clarity: "The nations rage. The kingdoms totter. He utters His voice, the earth melts. The Lord of Hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our fortress."
I want you to stop reading this blog - at least for today. Instead, take a moment and pray for three children who I introduced last week: Magret, Concilia, and Sheldon. Pray for their safety. Pray for their good health and physical development. Pray that God would bless their studies. Pray that they would receive a strength beyond which the world can provide as they move forward in the hope of better days to come. And pray that God would use you, in some way, to show them that they may be far from our homes, but not far from our thoughts. These absolutely incredible children likely have many more struggles than any one of us will encounter in our entire lives, but the bright smiles you see on their faces clearly illustrate their courageous and contagious hope. It is a hope that you have helped bring to them with your generous gifts in the name of Jesus.
Please enable Forgotten Voices to continue in our mission to bring this hope to many more vulnerable children. We cannot do it without you.
In prayer and blessing,
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I absolutely love to receive emails from our partners on the front lines in Africa. Their words seem to drip with palpable expectancy and trust in God. They are a people who give their first and greatest efforts to loving God with every ounce of their being and to loving vulnerable children as if they were their own sons and daughters. I want to share an email I recently received from Pierre and his wife Rentia, who provide agricultural training, food, and love to many orphans in rural Zimbabwe. I have chosen to include a portion of Pierre's update regarding his work in its original form:
"With the ministry everything is well and God is blessing me and Rentia. I'm sure the prayer backing we got is contributing a lot. So, thank you for yours and others that is praying for us. With the Zimbabwean people things are really tuff and very difficult. The economic situation and shortage of food, more specific maize meal, is causing many deaths and unknown hunger amongst the people. We realize that it is for this specific time that God send us here, as we provide food, clothes and help to people and children that would have nothing if God had not provide for them through us. Complete strangers connect with us and provide what is needed to us to help the people with. We feeding 350 orphans, three times a week now. I've just complete the handing out of seed and fertilizer today to 90 families. This year 50 families will plant a quarter of a hectare, that will give them one and a half to two tons of maize. This while there is no seed and fertilizer available in the country, or just to expensive to buy. The Lord have blessed me through Forgotten Voices last year with enough money, so I've bought enough fertilizer for last year and this year. A stranger from South Africa heard about us through a new friend we met last year only, connect with us and gave us money to buy seed for this year. It was even a bigger miracle getting it into the country as it is not allowed at this stage. God is just amazing!!"When I read a letter like this from one of partners, I cannot help but thank God for their amazing work. Moreover, I am overcome with a desire to help support their efforts to be God's hands and feet in a place that is desperate for the love of a Savior. One picture accompanying this post is of Rentia, Pierre's wife, providing an young orphaned girl with a pair of glorious pink sandals. Never have pink sandals so clearly demonstrated the amazing love of God! I encourage you today to take a moment and support the work Forgotten Voices is doing through local projects administered by local people. The work of our partners is literally turning the world upside down. Please consider becoming a partner this Advent season by sharing your resources with a child who needs your voice. I am ever thankful for those supporters of Forgotten Voices who have done their part to enable the work of our partners. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
With awe and blessings,
P.S. Please consider leaving a comment on the blog about something you have done to support the work of Forgotten Voices. We love to hear your voice!
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
We actually think about choirs a lot at Forgotten Voices. The choir is, perhaps, the best comparison for our call to action this Advent season as we collectively raise our voices to express our solidarity and support for vulnerable children in Southern Africa. I am so incredibly blessed to be a part of this beautiful choir that God is bringing together. Parents, children, college students, professionals, retirees, and everyone in between are all uniting in a single voice to announce with great resolution and purpose that these children will not be forgotten. Their lives are important and we will make their stories our own. They are certainly not forgotten by God and therefore we also refuse to forget them.
I want to try something different today. Admittedly, this is a bit of an experiment. I want to celebrate all of the amazing things that supporters of all ages, backgrounds, and geographic locations are doing as part of the Forgotten Voices choir. If you have ever done something on behalf of Forgotten Voices and the children we serve, I ask you to take a moment and leave a comment on this blog post. There is no special login or registration required to leave a note. Simply click on the "Comments" link below and share your voice with everyone.
All too often we are not aware of the many wonderful things people from all over the globe are doing to support the work of Forgotten Voices. So this is a special time and place where we can come together and celebrate our collective campaign of love and empowerment for vulnerable children in Africa. Perhaps you have helped with an event for Forgotten Voices or maybe you have mentioned Forgotten Voices in a simple conversation with a friend. Whatever the case, no matter how big or small you believe the action to be, I encourage you to share it with the rest of us. After all, as Mother Theresa was found of saying, "We can do no great things, only small things with great love." Let's celebrate these little acts of love. This post is all about providing a place for us all to listen. We want to hear your voice.
Today, please take a moment to leave a comment and share your voice. Share the small acts of love you are doing on behalf of these incredible children in Southern Africa. By the way, there is always plenty of room for more in the choir. Won't you consider joining?
I send you blessings as a member of the choir,
Monday, December 8, 2008
When I listen to Fibion talk about what he is doing to help vulnerable kids and what drives him to do it, I cannot help but believe that you and I are so deeply fortunate to be in communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.
This past Friday, I attended an InterVarsity advent event at Harvard. It was held at the Phillip Brooks house, named after an Episcopalian priest and professor at Harvard, who authored the lyrics to Oh Little Town of Bethlehem in 1867 after visiting Bethlehem 2 years prior. As I sat with my classmates and other Christians around the world, it was a magical evening. People shared about this Christmas and what they were excited about. For some, it was their first as a new Christian. For another, it was the first Christmas that they'll be able to celebrate openly after facing oppression in their home country. For still others, it will be a time of celebrating a life-long relationship with Jesus Christ.
About half way through the event, a friend of mine stood up to share. She gave us all a window into a Catholic Church in Baghdad that she has been getting to know. She showed us pictures that looked similar to ours: kids with huge smiles, singing Christmas songs (albeit in a different language), and faces of anticipation and joy regardless of age. The big differences were the 7 armed guards that watch over the church at all times, as it has been raided and the people attending there harassed, and the wire fencing. In fact, last year it was so bad that they had to meet at the City Hall because the church was too unsafe with military action all around. The leader of the church, who I won't name for safety reasons, wrote us a letter after hearing that people would be gathering in Boston to pray for Christians in Iraq. In it, he wrote, (to paraphrase)...there won't be tables abundant with food this year or shiny new toys. But our hearts will be abundant with the love of Jesus Christ.
As I sat there listening to his words of reflection during this advent season, I could not help crying. My eyes welled with great joy. The King of Kings...the Lord of Lords...Jesus... is coming!
We reflected on what it must've been like to be there that day on the hills around the stable in Bethlehem. The angels of heaven, crying out and praising the Messiah...announcing His arrival to the world. WOW!
As I sat in the house in Boston, with believers from around the world, and listened to stories from Baghdad and Bethlehem, my mind drifted to a conversation I had earlier that day with my friend from Bulawayo, Fibion, pictured above in the video. We talked of many things, but we, of course, talked about Christmas. Fibion regularly likes to remind me that, while we are praying for them amidst their suffering, we should not forget to remember that they are rejoicing with us this Christmas. Jesus is coming!
Amidst the busy nature of our world...amidst the chaos of shopping and fighting for a parking space at the grocery store...amidst the snow flakes bringing glee to kids around the USA, hoping school may be delayed giving them time to play... I encourage you to think of the great joy we have today and in the coming days.
Jesus is coming!
Tonight, as I think of that special night in Bethlehem, my heart drifts to Baghdad and Bulawayo, thinking of our dear brothers and sisters in Christ, who are joining us in joyful anticipation. While I am celebrating this Christmas in Boston, know that I'll be thinking of you a lot this month, as well. I am thinking of you and praying that the Lord makes His face known to you and gives you peace.
May you know that the Lord loves you so much that He sent His son to earth, to die on a cross, and redeem the world, including you and me.
I am SOOOO excited for Christmas!
Sunday, December 7, 2008
This Advent season, I am reminded that a single voice is a powerful force. Much like the classic yuletide carol above, we have seen the impact a single voice can make when a story is passed along from one person to another. Sharing the stories of these vulnerable children with our friends, families, coworkers, roommates, and neighbors is absolutely critical to the mission and purpose of Forgotten Voices. So many lives have already been changed because someone has been willing to speak on behalf of these children providing them with a voice in a busy world that has drowned out their cry for help.
Please consider sharing the work of Forgotten Voices with your friends and loved ones this Advent season. I have included a short list below of some things you may consider doing to use your voice on behalf of a Child in Africa.
1. Place a nativity in a prominent location of your home where you are able to look upon it often. Consider that God's voice came to us in the form of a helpless, vulnerable child.
2. Include a small note with your baked Christmas cookies which provides the webiste and blog for Forgotten Voices.
3. Make an announcement in your Sunday School class regarding the work of Forgotten Voices.
4. Pray for the many orphaned children in Southern Africa who are daily wondering whether anyone in the world cares if they live or die.
5. Since it is generally more acceptable this time of year, send an email to your coworkers suggesting that they make tax-deductable end of year gifts to Forgotten Voices.
6. Tell the story of a child in Africa to one person, every day.
7. Collect loose change from your friends, family, neighbors, or Sunday School class and give it to children in Africa. We once had a college student collect over $250 in loose change from her fellow dormitory residents to help pay for school fees in Zimbabwe. Every penny goes a long way.
8. Place a stack of Forgotten Voices brochures next to the napkins on the buffet table at your family holiday gathering. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a printable copy of our materials.
9. Use the search engine GoodSearch, which enables you to give to Forgotten Voices simply by searching the internet. You can enter Forgotten Voices in the field "Who do you GoodSearch for?" and every search you perform gives Forgotten Voices a penny - you can even see how much money has been raised so far. At the writing of this post, we had raise over $330 this year just from people searching the internet!
9. This Christmas, give an education, a farm, or a home care kit to a child or family who desperately needs it.
Sharing the story of a child costs us so little. Please consider passing along a story to someone you know - you can even use the story I posted yesterday. During this Advent season, listen for the voices of these children and empower them by using your voice to tell their story.
Happy telling and blessings,
Saturday, December 6, 2008
By way of disclosure, the following narrative is a conclusion to my earlier post and therefore will make a greater deal of sense if you have read the first part of the story. If you have not already done so, I encourage you to read the beginning of this adventure by clicking here.
Let me tell you about Pierre. Pierre is a heroic servant of God who trains rural Zimbabwean children and families in the techniques of Farming God's Way as a part of Forgotten Voice's initiative to equip the poor of Africa to realize the God given potential of their land. Having been raised in South Africa as a white farmer, he is as passionate about the people of his homeland as he is about bringing them the tools to succeed in growing food. If you ask him what a regular day of work looks like, Pierre will quickly reply that he always has "a classroom under a tree" somewhere in the heart of rural Zimbabwe where people are eager to hear about how they can increase their crop yields and also to learn more about this mysterious person named Jesus. Clearly, Pierre is living his dream when he is able to teach others about these two things. Every time I speak with Pierre, I can tell how much he loves his job. The photograph on the left depicts him hard at work in his "classroom".
It was no surprise that Pierre was absolutely thrilled when Forgotten Voices told him that not only did we want to start 1,000 new farms for vulnerable children and their families, but also that our incredible donors had collectively provided the funds to cover all of the costs associated with this endeavor. There was one problem, however. Zimbabwe had been experiencing a season of prolonged drought which had ravished the country by destroying crops and eliminating almost all seed for planting new fields. There was literally no seed to found. It could not be purchased in the marketplaces because it did not exist and the price for corn seed on the black market was so exorbitant that Pierre could not afford to pay the inflated price. Discouraged by this seemingly insurmountable hurdle, Pierre began to pray that God would provide a solution.
In the midst of this cry for help, a good friend of Pierre's recommended that he travel to Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe, and petition of the office of Agriculture to purchase some of their corn seed. As a white farmer from South Africa, Pierre was sure that such an effort would prove futile since he was not likely to receive warm reception from government officials and was even less likely to convince them to sell some of their own seed to establish some small farms for the rural poor. However, after considerable prayer, he was sure that God wanted him to make this request. So he decided to make the full day's journey to Harare and speak with a representative in the agricultural office. Pierre knew that he only had one chance to make this request so, upon arriving in the capital, he was discouraged to learn that only one agricultural minister was in the office that day. In fact, this minister was an elderly Zimbabwean gentleman who had a reputation for being particularly difficult and cantankerous. Moreover, the official's erratic schedule meant that the only time available for Pierre to meet with him was during his lunch time. So with a great deal of nervousness and a final prayer of blessing, Pierre was ushered in before the agricultural minster who sat stoically behind his large desk eagerly devouring his lunch. Pierre sat down. The official did not look up from his food. In a moment which cannot be explained, Pierre opened his mouth and out came a long, unrehearsed plea to purchase corn seed for the benefit of his community in rural Africa. When he had finished voicing his request, the office was filled with silence.
Finally, the agricultural minister looked up. He said, "Pierre, I have been waiting to meet you for a long time now. You see, you helped some of my relatives start a farm in the country. I have you to thank for their ability to grow crops during this drought. Whatever supplies you need, I will give it to you." The agricultural official actually did better than that. With the funds that Forgotten Voices' donors had provided, the official sold Pierre not just enough seed to start 1,000 farms, but sufficient seed to begin 1,200 farms. And that is exactly what Pierre did.
This, my friends, is a full-blown miracle for whom we give all credit to God. And Pierre will be quick to tell you that it all started with some people in the United States who said they were willing to give a couple of dollars to help vulnerable children and their families start their own farms. The adage "every dollar counts" sounds cliche to our ears which have heard literally thousands of fund raising pleas and marketing schemes. But this is different. In Zimbabwe and Zambia every dollar is making an impact. Every dollar is being used as a vehicle to change lives and introduce the radically redefining love of Jesus Christ. Today, I dare you to use some of your own dollars in this way.
If only you could hear the excitement in Pierre's voice when he helps start a new farm and provides a family with the hope of a sustainable future on earth and an everlasting eternity with Jesus Christ. Looking for that perfect gift this holiday season? In Southern Africa, nothing says love like a farm. Please click here to give one to a child today.
Plentiful crops and blessings,
Friday, December 5, 2008
Yesterday I promised the story of a miracle. If you have not had the opportunity to look at my post from yesterday, the one in which I made this promise, I suggest you give it a quick read (by clicking here) before continuing.
Now on to the story.
In order to fully appreciate the events which I am about to recount, a little context is necessary. Although the country was once considered the bread basket of Southern Africa due to its abundant natural resources and ability to produce plentiful crops, Zimbabwe has since fallen into economic and agricultural despair. There are many reasons for this degradation encompassing a complex array of political, economic, and cultural influences which are far too vast to summarize in the space of this particular post. However, the result of this decline has been the starvation of millions in Zimbabwe who are unable to grow crops because they lack the physical resources or training to do so. Not long ago, a Forgotten Voices team visited three children named Magret, Concilia, and Sheldon who live alone in a rural area because both of their parents had passed away from AIDS virus. Their major daily meal consists of boiled weeds that they collect from around the tiny hut in which they live. This is their only source of sustenance because they are unable to grow fresh food in the garden that their mothers once tended. Boiled weeds. Living in the land of stocked refrigerators and plentiful pantries, my heart breaks at the thought of dinner time for these children.
Forgotten Voices is working to change this. We are working tirelessly to empower children like Magret, Concilia, and Sheldon to provide for themselves and others by giving them the gift of farming. Forgotten Voices is accomplishing this goal in a unique partnership with an organization called Farming God's Way. Farming God's Way is involved in training and equipping the rural poor of Africa to realize the God given potential of their land. It is the goal of Forgotten Voices and Farming God's Way to bring about a great harvest in righteousness and faithful stewardship by uniting the Word of God with agricultural training for vulnerable children and their families.
What is so special about this training? I am glad you asked. Farming God's Way employs technologies that conform to the way God maintains and sustains His natural order. By understanding how God interacts with His creation to promote plant growth, Farming God's Way has initiated simple farming techniques that are extremely appropriate for the 700 million poor farmers in Africa who cannot afford expensive machinery, fertilizers, and related supplies. There is a specific emphasis placed on training community leaders and vulnerable children to effectively utilize the wonderful treasures God has provided in their own backyards to increase agricultural yields without expensive imported inorganic fertilizers and harmful chemical compounds. The results are astounding. Adult and children farmers in Zimbabwe using this method have seen their crop yields of corn, beans, and other vegetables increase by over 300 percent! One such farm is depicted above.
With God bringing about such incredible increases in crop yields through Farming God's Way, we at Forgotten Voices knew that this training was desperately needed by children like Magret, Concilia, and Sheldon. We just couldn't wait to share this news with our friends in Zimbabwe! So we endevored - with the gracious support of our donors - to provide the seeds, materials, and training to start 1,000 farms in rural Zimbabwe. I'll admit, it was an extremely ambituous goal especially since corn seeds were non-existant due to famine and the country was locked in a record drought which had shriveled the crops of even the most skilled farmers. So what happened? Was the goal of 1,000 farms acheived? Well, that's the second party of this story. And I will be glad to tell it tomorrow.
At the risk of making this post any longer, I encourage you to check in tomorrow for the conclusion of the miracle. While you wait, this is a great time for you to consider giving someone a farm for Christmas. That's right. A small donation of $30 will provide the supplies, equipment, and training for a family in Zimbabwe to learn the amazing Farming God's Way principles so that they can begin to grow their own food. Imagine giving the gift of sustainable sustanence! What an incredible opportunity God has granted us to use a small portion of our financial resources to change the lives of our brothers and sisters. If you like food, I encourage you to click here and give the gift of farming to someone who desperately needs it.
By His provision and with blessings,
Thursday, December 4, 2008
C.S. Lewis once said, "Unless you live near a railway, you will not see trains go past your windows." He used this metaphor to explain that unless one finds themselves in a position where they must put their full trust in God to provide, they are unlikely to bear witness to His miraculous provision. Or perhaps it is better said this way: God shows up on the front lines. If our own lives are far from the front lines where we must rely on God for everything, how much of God's work should we expect to see? I am not sure that I have an answer for that question, but there is one thing that I do know with the greatest certainty: our partners in Africa are experiencing miracles and being miracles everyday.
One of the many things I love about Forgotten Voices is the organization's commitment to support local pastors and church leaders who are caring for vulnerable children in their own communities. What an amazing opportunity to come along side a pastor and support his dream to lovingly shepherding his local flock! These incredible servants are literally on the front lines fighting sickness, poverty, hopelessness, and darkness all for the sake of love. And its no exaggeration that they are seeing miracles daily. Perhaps we should not be surprised that this is the case since they are truly relying on God to sustain the many young, vulnerable lives which surround them. Remy, Harold, James, Pierre, Ms. Maposa - local leaders in Zimbabwe and Zambia whom we have come to personally know and love - arise each day trusting that God will meet the daily needs of those in their communities. Is it possible for us to join them on the front lines without leaving the chair at our computer? Absolutely.
Today I ask you not to wait even a second longer. Come be a part of the miraculous work that is being done on the front lines in Southern Africa. Please take a moment to give right now. Literally every penny is the answer to a pastor's pray for provision in his community or a child's dream to grow up strong and become a doctor or an accountant. You can even give a special gift to FVI this Christmas and receive a certificate to honor a loved one who is a mircale in your own life.
As for micrales, I would like to share one with you tomorrow. Please make sure you visit again and do not forget to give. You may just be the mircale a child is waiting for.
With trust and blessings,