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."

Saturday, February 28, 2009

2/29: From the mountains - part 1

I recorded a video in Zimbabwe, on my last day there. Reflecting on the trip. When I sat down to write, I thought of this video. I thought it would be best to share snippets of this video over the next few days.

If you enjoy, please pass them along to your friends.

Thanks for investing in Forgotten Voices.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

2/26: A new kind of love

I'm around and so are you. Your gifts are helping change lives on the other side of the world. Love stories that will trump many of the ones you remember from childhood days. This week, especially today, I've been overwhelmed by the need to pause and share what is happening, by God's grace, to equip our friends in Africa.

The thing that always gets me -- and you all see the evidence of it -- is that in my desire to get going and start new things to help new kids and new churches, I forget to tell you all what's going on. I'm VERY much trying to get better at that.

This weekend - I hope to set aside some time to post a video with pictures and reflections on a couple of exciting new initiatives.

I'll just stir your appetite a bit...

Yesterday - in partnership with local leaders in a community, we started a new project that will send 129 kids to school next week in Zimbabwe. In addition, we started a project that will help train women in this same community to make school uniforms for the 750 kids that go to school in the rural community.

This week and next, we'll also launch projects in Zambia that will send more kids to school in March. And a farming project in Zimbabwe will train more leaders in farming, so they can yield better crops in the next planting season.

All this week.

Yah - so I know I need to do a better job of helping you all see what's happening. As I stumble along, keep praying! the road is bumpy and uncertain in places that we are working.

Wait until Saturday. I hope you'll be inspired like I am -- EVERY DAY!

-Ryan

Monday, February 23, 2009

2/23: Fun

Friday, February 13, 2009

Giving Thanks

On Sunday the 8th of February, I was privileged to preach the Word of God from 1Chronicles 16: 4-36; the thanks giving psalm of King David. David and the Israelites had reason to thank God for all that he had done. Only this time their thanks giving felt more real because the Ark of the covenant, representing the very presence of God, was now in the city of Jerusalem. God was dwelling among his people. There was a sense of security in the Israelite community. As a church, we often reflect on/and thank God for all that he allowed us to achieve and experience in the past year. Sometimes it is humanly difficult to thank God for the deaths of church members we loved. But Paul encourages us to give “...thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5: 20).

Today I want us to thank God for Zimbabwe. The rainbow over the Victoria Falls was very clear on Wednesday and it brought hope in the nation that has seen misery for a long time. The 11th of February 2009, will forever be remembered by millions of Zimbabweans who on this day breathed a sigh of relief. It has been a long, tedious and protracted political impasse that has caused a lot of deaths and misery for the majority. However, everyone's question is; how can this 'marriage of convenience' work? I would not hold my breath for long if the 'HOW' is not well outlined from the very beginning! The two parties seem to have divergent ideals, but there is need to have peace in the country. I urge all Christians around the world to pray for this step of reconciliation. It is only God who works in the hearts of men; to transform them and give them a heart of love. There is reason to thank him even for this act of 'power sharing' or 'unity government' whatever nice name we give it.

With Zimbabwe in mind, I keep thanking God for the travels I had with Ryan and Fibion this January. We first visited church run projects in Zambia and later traveled to Zimbabwe. It was my second trip to Bulawayo, but by far the most enriching. I learnt a lot about the country's dire situation and the compassionate ministry of the church. I truly thank God for what the church is doing under these difficulty conditions. It was humbling to experience the ministry of the churches in these two countries even when in some instances you could literally smell the overwhelming poverty around. For Zimbabwe, the talk of blocked sewer pipes, worthless zim currency and empty shelves in stores I had heard of, now I saw for myself.

It is for this reason I thank God for the ministry of Forgotten Voices in this part of Africa. The ministry is touching many lives, and is a blessing to every orphan, widow and pastor that daily live with hunger and death staring in their faces. Hope has been rekindled not only by their financial help, but also by their unique way of relating to the needy. Forgotten Voices, as it demonstrates the love of Jesus Christ in meeting the vulnerable children's needs through churches in Africa, is one among the few organizations that uniquely make real friendships with those people they partner with. Visiting each and every partner right to their door step; eating and playing with the people that receive their help is indeed unique. This makes the beneficiaries appreciate the reality of true friendship and love. It is just as Jesus would do. He did his ministry by going out and experiencing what those he ministered to experienced. He empathized with those who were suffering.

Finally, Let the rainbow remind us of how great God's grace toward man is; let us thank him for the salvation we have received through his son Jesus Christ; let us thank him for having been justified and made right even when we did not deserve it; let us thank him for the gift of faith that makes us worship him; let us thank him for loving us as his children even with our weaknesses; and let us thank him for giving us life and strength to do what we are able to do..

Your fellow servant in Christ,

Remmy Hamapande.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

2/7: Church is for the broken - in and out

"Worship at its best is a social experience where people of all levels of life come together and communicate with a common father. Here the employer and the employee, the rich and the poor, the white collar worker and the common laborer all come together in a vast unity. Here we come to see that although we have different callings in life we are all the children of a common father, who is the father of both the rich and the poor."
-- Martin Luther King, Jr. "Worship", Sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, 7 Aug 1955


I'm taking a course this semester at Harvard on the ethical and religious thoughts of Martin Luther King, Jr. For the course, I'm beginning reading for a major research paper that explores parallels between the social gospel movement in the southern USA & the social gospel movement in southern Zimbabwe.

One of the more incredible facets of King's life is the consistent calling on people to keep going in learning to love & serve God - to press on - believing that Church (big C) is a place for sinners to gather, from all walks of life, to worship God.

On this latest trip, I saw that everywhere in Zambia & Zimbabwe. Too often, we paint the picture that the church in Africa is somehow saint like and can do no wrong. I was struck by this falsehood daily, as I encountered sin (along with sainthood) in the local church. You see, people everywhere need to come into relationship with Jesus -- join in a common worship experience, while recognizing that we are all fallen people that are given the gift of redemption...but we are all sinners.

One of the related themes that struck me this trip was this: "We MUST be about the things that God loves, not simply about the things that God hates." Too often, we have been (sometimes fairly) criticized by people (in Africa and the USA) as being a Church that loves to hate.

In Africa, like in the USA, I saw the worst of this comment, as well as the best.

This is why it was affirmed to me that the model God has given Forgotten Voices is a good one: using the power of the local church to create spiritual development and life transformation in the communities they serve, meeting the physical & spiritual needs of AIDS orphans in their communities -- when they are most vulnerable. Their caretakers or parents, no matter how they came to the steps of the church, that they receive the tending loving care that God calls us to provide.

I hope to continue unpacking these ideas in the days ahead, as I continue reflecting on what I learned from my trip and what it may have for you and me here in the states, as we learn with our brothers & sisters in Zimbabwe & Zambia.
-----------------
Meet Francois. He is the father of this precious little girl that I introduced to you here (video).



Francois' story is the embodiment of everything I love about what you and I get to do everyday.

Francois was living in Rwanda. When genocide broke out and the village where he was living was attacked, Francois and his girlfriend at the time had to flee in different directions -- unsure if they would meet again. How people come to the point of killing in the name of eradicating a tribe of people is for another day!!

Well, by God's grace, Francois and his girlfriend met again at a refuge camp in the Congo, became engaged, and were married soon after.

Due to travel restrictions and residency issues connected to being a refugee, Francois was unable to go to the seminary he had planned on, so that he could receive training to become a pastor.

Someone he knew told him about TCCA, the Theological College of Central Africa in Ndola, Zambia, which is a partner of Forgotten Voices. He and his wife prayed about it and decided to enroll. Now, a graduate of TCCA, Francois serves as the pastor of the Free Methodist Church in Ndola, which is running all kinds of social programs that Forgotten Voices hopes to advance, in partnership with this growing church. We are beginning steps as a result of this trip to help advance these ministries in the Ndola area, with Francois' church leading the way.


1) a women's empowerment program that teaches women skills like soap making, crocheting, sewing, etc and teaches them how to run businesses.
2) a farming program that helps needy families in the church & community with additional land to work, as well as seed & fertilizer.
3) sending orphans & vulnerable children soon to be orphaned back to school by helping pay school requirements, like exam fees, clothing, etc.

Join me in celebrating how God is using pastors like Francois -- who, from a tragedy like the Rwandan genocide, is ministering to people in need and helping those in his congregation learn & grow in loving their neighbors.

I'm so thankful for the opportunity you and I have to advance the hopes & dreams of pastors like Francois, who is choosing to say yes when no would be far more convenient. Francois is helping all of us remember what it means to love the broken, inside & outside the church, and reminding us that our God is a God worthy of our communal worship, regardless of which side of the ocean we worship.

To give to Forgotten Voices & help advance our mission, visit us online & gift a gift today.

With all my love to God and affection for you,
Ryan

Friday, February 6, 2009

2/6: News & Schedule for blogging

Friends - My SINCERE apologies for dropping off the face of the earth for 7 days. 3 days after returning from my 3 week trip, I resumed classes.

Wanted to pass along some news: Mugabe to sign unity deal bill

Also - I posted this morning on a woman I met in Zimbabwe.

Hopefully, tomorrow, I'll post a few pastors stories -- they are the best -- the meat of the trip.

Please pray for me, as I continue battling sleep issues since coming back. I've only had 1 good sleep since returning -- a carry over from my trip to Africa.

Thanks.
-Ryan

2/6: Fun

video






2/6: Deep breathing

Its the deep breathing that always gets me... always catches me off guard. To watch someone suffer, working hard to extend their life right before you, is VERY difficult. This trip I saw far less of it, as the trip was more meeting centered than people in the community. But I spent time with one woman who was literally fighting under a blanket to save her own life -- trying to force her lungs into big, deep breaths.

Mrs. Nkomo (not Dale's friend if you have read our blog before) was breathing heavy. She had been lying on the same mat for nearly 3 weeks, with family members coming in to change the sheets & blankets a few times a day -- whenever they needed changing.

The thing that ALWAYS puzzles me now, looking back on my thoughts on missions before coming to Africa the 1st time is this: why are we so quick to minimize suffering and move on? Why are we so afraid to talk about the process of death? Why are we, from the safety of our homes in the USA, afraid to think deeply about the real life human suffering going on in other parts of our world?

I think its because we are scared about the things unknown. We are scared about the things we cannot control. We are scared to get attached to the people's stories, then lose them. We are scared to care about something we believe will eventually "end badly." And I also...sometimes...think its because we actually don't really care. We know we should, but we don't. Perhaps too busy or perhaps because we are humans -- and we just don't care.

I didn't. I mean, everyone is for helping orphans, right? Everyone is for helping widows, right? But to CARE and REMEMBER, amidst all that is packed into my busy schedule? That scares me away from caring... it still does sometimes.

But back to Mrs. Nkomo. I was asked to pray for her as she fought for life. Inside her mud hut, with her non English speaking mother looking on, sitting next to me. I didn't know how to pray anything but this:

"Dear God, I do not know how to pray. I do not know how to call on your name anymore than to say YOU ARE GOD and we are not. You see the suffering of this woman. You see the pain she and her family are experiencing. You see the children of this woman and you know the beginning & the end of life. God, grant her peace, rest, and may you also grant her family strength, joy, and peace. I do not know how to pray. But we love you LORD. Thank you for loving us. We have the assurance that you are God and someday, all of this will be redeemed."


Forgotten Voices is working with a local AIDS clinic called Mtshabezi AIDS Clinic in southcentral Zimbabwe, run by the Brethren in Christ Church. We'll work with this woman's group and this local AIDS clinic to make sure her kids continue going to school, are fed, and receive counseling to help process these experiences that no kid should have to go through.

I'm not sure if that woman passed away after I left her. She looked like it would be hours, maybe days, but not weeks. I've repeated that process hundreds of times now in my 10 trips to Africa. The faces and deep, heavy breaths of the people I've met are etched in my memory -- vivid reminders that every stat we read about has a name, story, and a voice that is calling out -- sometimes through heavy breathing -- to be remembered...not forgotten.

I wish I had an intimate portrait of this woman so you could see the beauty I saw. It wasn't appropriate to have her sit up, given her failing health. I do have these 2 images above that I'll bring back for her mother the next time I go... or have Fibion pass them along sooner than that.

I'm sad I don't know how she is doing. I'm sad. But, today, I'm walking around breathing deep breaths a lot. Talking solace in the fact that our God sees her and me. Someday, all of this will be redeemed. In the meantime, I'm breathing heavy breaths of life and working with you all to see how we can help remember people like Mrs. Nkomo and her kids...how we can help her local church meet the physical & spiritual needs of her children that will be left behind after she passes away.. as a practical demonstration of the love of Jesus Christ.

I get asked a lot by you all: "Is this hard to do? Is it hard to sit with someone that is dying and feel helpless?" I will say this. It is not easy, but it is also not hard. What an awesome AWESOME joy you and I have to mobilize our friends to demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ by equipping local churches in southern Africa to meet the physical & spiritual needs of AIDS orphans in their communities."

We MUST keep going and we must remember to take deep breaths, thanking God we are alive and remember that it is our great joy and privilege to join God's church in responding to those that are breathing heavy -- calling in their own special way for help.

Thanks for joining me in responding to women like Mrs. Nkomo and thousands of people that you will help us assist this year.

Peace to you,
Drawing deep breaths of thanksgiving for you & for the mission of Forgotten Voices,
Ryan