Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Just met 12 people from Greensboro, North Carolina, returning from a missions trip where they were working with an organization called Hands of Hope in Harare, Zimbabwe. They were working in homes created by churches, run by women, to help care for orphans. They then worked in a hospital for a few days. For most of them, it was their first time. I asked them what they thought of Zimbabwe. Candy, one of the trip leaders, said: "contrast."
It is not the 1st time I've heard the region described that way and likely not the last. "Contrast."
What an incredible word to describe what the local church is trying to do: bring light into darkness, hope where there is hopelessness, and change where there is status quo.
Or is it? I think we romanticize the work of churches in places different than the USA. Instead of engaging like them, we choose instead to wish our churches were like those in southern Africa or Latin America or the oppressed church in China.
People are people, no matter where you go. But here's the thing I've learned that DOES separate the church in the USA from the church in places like Zambia and Zimbabwe.
They WANT change, even if they can't always bring it...and they are willing to work for it. Those things I described below are within reach and what they need to care for widows and orphans...what they need to bridge the divide between dark and light...or hope and despair...is SOOOOOO SMALL!
GIGANTIC for them, small for us. The large part of it has already been done...and continues. The willingness to extend an open door to ANOTHER neighborhood kid into their home, trusting that God will provide. The patience of sitting for days, months, and sometimes years, changing the bedsheets of a neighbor of a mother, or a daughter who is dying of AIDS and can't even muster the strength to use the homesteads outdoor toilet. So, cleaning, washing, sitting, and loving continues while they wait & love their family member, neighbor, or stranger that their church ministers to close by.
THAT is the GIGANTIC part for us...the willingness to love another person...with hospitality, grace, and dignity.
What they need from us is a small gesture of faith in their efforts. How much? I was sitting 2 days ago with a mother who needed $40 from her church to feed 9 kids for the month. Darren, Steve, and I sat with twins who needed about $2.50 to pay for a school book that was lost...the absence of that is preventing them from getting their exam results and graduating on to the highest level of secondary school before they go off to college. Or a child that needs someone to talk with after losing not one, but both parents, to AIDS related illnesses.
Have no fear, Forgotten Voices is making investments in all three situations to alleviate those fears ...hope thoss worries go away, as the local church does the hard part in extending hands of love to vulnerable kids in need within their communities.
I don't have the answers to all of Zimbabwe & Zambia's contrasting dilemmas. But I do see the local church extending a hand in love, but needing some small bits of help to realize the calling that God has made of all of us: to look out for widows and orphans in their distress... (James 1:27)
As I go back to the USA, I can't help but think about the statistics that face the reception to the stories I need to tell about this trip...and our ministry. I'll need your help.
Less than .1% of Americans have HIV/AIDS. Most adults in the USA actually consider Africa a country, not a continent. AIDS is killing 500 people a day in Zimbabwe and just slightly less in Zambia, leaving nearly 1400 new children orphaned EVERY SINGLE DAY.
It is a COMMAND from God to love these kids and look out for those that care for them. We have the wealth, the means, the ability to help RESCUE the hopes and dreams of kids and those that care for them.
What we often lack is the willingness to say yes. Many of you reading this are saying yes and I'm forever thankful. But many of your friends are not. I and the kids I have met NEED you to help tell their stories!
Live in a world of contrasts with me: be a beacon of hope, in a country (USA) that is consumed by despair surrounding the epidemic and sees no viable way to help make things better. Tell the stories you've read on this trip and share the hope that comes in supporting the work of local churches in southern Africa...perhaps even through the ministry of Forgotten Voices.
I'm getting on a plane in about 2 hrs. 18 hrs later, I'll land again in a country I LOVE because it provides me with soooo many hopes, dreams, and possibilities to be all that God calls me to be. But I am leaving a land of hope that clings to the belief that God sees their need...and they are crying out with their voices, yearning for God through His church to hear the pleas of the orphans.
I hope and pray that God uses the time between this trip and the next one to create new ambassadors of HOPE to answer these potentially forgotten voices of southern Africa through the ministry I am grateful to lead.
By God's grace and with joy & thankgiving, I serve with you in this effort.
Off to grab a bite to eat and then board a plane to return home to Katie and what I hope becomes more of a world of equal contrasts.
Make today count,
Monday, June 29, 2009
This will be sadly fast. Great time in Lusaka seeing the work of the Beit CURE Hospital there, where we have a partnership with the hospital's spiritual ministry department feeding vulnerable kids and teaching their mothers some income generating skills. Fantastic work! A graduate of TCZ in Zimbabwe and his wife lead the project. Will have to write more later.
Wanted to pass along pictures from ZImbabwe that my friend Darren LeBlanc posted. Darren was with me for the Zim leg, before I continued on to Zambia and he went home.
As is his usual standard, they are incredible! Check them out here on his blog.
Will try to write more tonight. Leaving tomorrow for Joburg, then on to JFK, then to Boston. A lot of travel. Just drove 4.5 hrs with a rusty stick shift, in an almost 20 yr old car. :) So I have to prioritize and go play with kids for a bit.
Peace to you,
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Early tomorrow morning, Remmy & I are off to Lusaka, Zambia's capital, until Monday afternoon. We will be visiting CURE International's Zambia hospital, where we have a partnership helping feed children with AIDS and care for mothers of these children with an income generating project.
I'll have to write about this later in the week though. Tonight's post belongs to Genney, the journalist.
Meet Genney, age 14. Genney is in the upper left, with her thumb up (pic from Jan 2009). She is an aspiring journalist. She is the niece to Remmy (our Program Director here in Zambia) and Irene, Remmy's wife. She is a bundle of quiet joy, always taking notes in her head. You see it when you glance at her. She is going to be a writer. I just know it. :)
Earlier this week, I asked if she would write a story about life in Zambia for you all to read. Tonight, just before bed, she gave me the following and said, "It's done."
I hope you enjoy Genney's look into Life in Zambia.
Click on the picture to see it in larger form.
For you and me, it is our great privilege to see what many in the developed world have not seen... a wide reaching body of people, struggling to survive, but moving forward in the best manner possible -- working hard every day to use all their available resources to minister to even more vulnerable people than themselves.
What a privilege indeed. I only wish I could transport you here to be with me in those moments when I am overwhelmed by how fortunate you and I are to respond in love to these cries for help. Moments like sitting with a dying woman, who helps look after 9 children and the church is ready to do what it can, yet praying for assistance to respond to this immeasurable grief & need. Or moments like watching a church collect used sewing machines, creating a great plan for how they will extend love to widows that need to find a way to create income, yet praying that God will provide a little money to help them repair these machines and make a way forward that will realize their hopes for these vulnerable women.
Or watching a child play without any knowledge that he has just lost his mom and dad to AIDS and may live on the fringe of death, without intervention from his local church -- who has time and energy to help, but lacks basic resources to provide for this child. Or watching an 82 year old man shout commands/chores from his bedroom at his 11 grandchildren... while KNOWING that his wife is sick, his last living daughter is dying in the final stages of AIDS and his last son rests on a mat, clinging to life, yet too weak to do anything but cry and wait to die from TB after AIDS has killed his immune system almost completely.
This family's local church sees the same in several neighboring homesteads. It has mobilized healthy men and women to come and pray with these families. They desire to do more... they desire to promise the child his basic needs will be met. They desire to tell the 82 year old man that God has answered his prayers and the needs of his 11 children are taken care of by the church.
The abilities and love of the local churches to respond are there. I've seen them on this trip and others. My role with all of this is to find trustworthy, Godly men and women who I believe are capable of making sure your dollars go far and meet the greatest needs faced by vulnerable kids and those that care for them.
This is our continued pledge to you... to seek wisdom from God, to continue seeing these needs and listening to the cries, separate the ones we think will benefit from your hard-earned money, and then work hand in hand with the local church to meet these local, dynamically changing physical & spiritual needs of AIDS orphans.
I wish you could see what I've seen. I wish you could have sat with me this week and last, as I cried out to God seeking peace for my troubled heart as I witness the worst of life, while clinging to the hope that others serving here have in our God.
I wish for you to join me in responding to these voices of people, crying out to God to provide for their needs, lest they slip away into mere statistics that we are all beginning to become immune to in our busy lives.
The opportunity you and I have to protect the tomorrows of these precious children and those that care for them is an opportunity we cannot pass up.
Thanks for choosing to follow me this trip. As I conclude in just 4 days and return home, I call on you to give as you are able.
Gifts can be sent to Forgotten Voices; PO Box 1368; Mechanicsburg, PA 17055-1368 USA. They can also be made online at www.ForgottenVoices.org.
It is with sincere thanks that I walk by faith in this journey with you, sending money to those in need as soon as we receive it. Thanks in advance for the way you will respond to these potentially forgotten voices, with voices too weak to break through our busy and preoccupied world. Thanks for being a voice for these stories.
Because if we are honest, these are stories we can't forget.
Peace to you,
Make today count,
Friday, June 26, 2009
I'm shooting a lot of pictures in Raw format, unable to be edited here w/o software. So I apologize for the sparse pictures that I look forward to sharing with you when I get back.
The morning started with lots of running around, preparing for a big BBQ (called a brie here) bash Remmy & I are having tomorrow (Saturday) with all the project leaders and Board members from Zambia. It promises to be a good time. It was hilarious planning the party, though, as Remmy and I are both not typically involved in these things...with good reason. We both were missing our wives. "Oh shoot, we need cups for tea!" "Oh, we should probably get napkins." "We almost forgot plates." :) It was funny. Thinking through all the wonderful logistics work that our wives do when we "host" people. It made us both appreciate our wives even more for the little things that we often take for granted. We love you, Irene (Remmy's wife) & Katie (mine)!
Pray we get a brie stand or we won't be brieing after all. The stand we hoped to get fell through.
This afternoon, I met with Loubuto Church of Christ.
What a beautiful church. Simple, community minded. William, the old caretaker, gave me a tour of the grounds. It was my 2nd time there, with the first time being in January of this year. The church is constructing a hammermill shelter. They'll place a hammermill inside the shelter. The hammermill, which will be one of the few in the community, will help local people grind maize (corn) that they bring in from the fields. The church will charge nominal fees for the service, providing a service to the community and funds to help send kids to school beginning this coming school year. Pray for water to return to the community. It has been off for 2 days, slowing construction.
We had a special time of prayer before we departed for a meeting with Henry, a Lecturer at TCCA, who lives nearby.
Henry is a Lecturer helping lead a church meeting in his backyard and doing income generating projects, including chicken raising and gardening, with neighbors.
His vehicle, which is currently down because of poor suspension, serves as a local ambulance, hearse, and family van.
While we don't support the work of staff members of TCCA, just its graduates, it was a special time of seeing how God is using others in Ndola to meet the needs of widows and vulnerable kids. I had a good discussion with Henry about why we are unable to support TCCA staff, despite the good work he is doing. In exchange, while samll, I told him I'd give him a shout out in the blog, with some pictures so you all could see him & just some of the work he's doing with his land and van. Please pray that God leads others to support Henry's ministry to his community.
On our drive home, I was commenting to Remmy that a friend of mine, Carol Theis, was asking about ways to connect special needs ministries but I have not observed many in Zambia. He said they really aren't here in large numbers, but the needs are HUGE!
He told me about Cathy and Fred Phiri, who are the founders of a ministry called Life on Wheels. They are both from Zambia. What special, special people. After Fred was in a serious car accident, he was diagnosed as being quadriplegic. On April 9th, 2006, (their) lives changed dramaticlly. Traveling back to their home in Ndola, after attending the funeral of Cathy's mother, they were involved in a terrible accident. Seven of the ten relatives in the vehicle were injured. The severity of Fred's injury was only discovered later.
From their brochure: "Disability in Zambia is sometimes considered to be a curse. It is not uncommon to find that the disabled are ignored and even kept away from public view, because some families feel ashamed to be identifed with a disabled member."
God has placed a calling on their lives and they are striving to fulfill this calling through Life on Wheels, supplying wheel chairs (in few supply here), financial support to families that lose their income to major injury, and providing resources, such as educational curriculum materials or Bibles, to equip the physically and mentally challenged.
I wept for joy several times praying for each person we met. It is so incredible how people are moving to respond.
While I LOVE playing with kids and laughing a lot with people, choosing joy in the midst of suffering, my time with these special people today was inspiring. I saw few kids today, but God helped me experience real joy in the midst of so much trial.
God is moving and we are so fortunate to be connected to a world of brothers and sisters in Christ who are choosing to answer the commands of God, when ignoring the challenges before them would be far easier... how often do we say yes in our world?
Had an interesting conversation today. The conclusion that was drawn is that wealth and complexity of life in the developed world creates a fantasy world and denies us the opportunity to reflect and act on what matters -- what defines humanity. It was interesting to just listen and think about how complicated I make life, yet how simple the things that matter really are -- how many excuses I make in the midst of trials I come across in my "fantasy life."
The night ended with an evening at a local restaurant called Michaelangelo's. I took the Hamapande family out to thank them for letting me roam their house for a week. There were 6 of us, including me. So fun! Then we played UNO. Ginney won the 1st hand and Hope the 2nd and final hand of the night. They have gone to bed and now the others are watching a Nigerian movie that I don't understand, despite it being in English. :)
Now, I'm off to bed. Celebrating the calling God has given me and humbled by the confidence you all have placed in Forgotten Voices. It is such an honor to walk this road with you. Please pray that folks reading this and others are stirred to answer the calls God is placing on their hearts -- the commands to look out for those vulnerable in the world and in their own backyards.
For the greatest legacy we can leave future generations is to do all we can to love as Christ loved us.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
If you're thinking of reading the book, thing about the following:
- It should be read by people in the USA to understand HIV/AIDS
- It should be read by the American church leadership
- It should be read by all people that call themselves Christians
- It should be read by those that want to try and understand the emotional, physical, and spiritual toll AIDS is taking on people infected and affected by AIDS
- If should be read by anyone that is giving or thinking about giving to AIDS related organizations or ministries
And it's FREE for download or you can read it online.
I've been reading a print version, which can also be ordered from SIM in North Carolina.
To read AIDS is Real and It's in Our Church, visit here.
This feeling typically comes a couple times when I travel for more than a couple weeks in Africa. I'm surprised it took this long.
All that I'm seeing adds up. I'm totally trusting God to deliver and meet the needs that I believe God is calling us to pursue. I'm praying, resting, reading scripture, all of those things, including just delighting in the presence of God.
I'm just tired. It's sooooo emotionally draining to come here. If I'm very honest, it typically happens when I think about all the people I'll tell these stories to when I get back, how many "wows, that sounds like an amazing trip" responses I'll get, and feeling inadequate about asking people for money to help all that I believe God has called us to do.
I get to the point here, where I'm at now, KNOWING that we are so deep into our ministry that God is the only one that can provide. Looking back, even as I write this blog, I am remembering how many times God has provided for us when the need seemed impossible to reach...and how each period for Forgotten Voices has involved a plateau, then another level, then another.... it's that journey that is so humbling, as I again see what I've told you all so many times.
I am Ryan and God is God. We are not the same.
As I was reading Job 1-3 this morning, I found myself laughing at how MUCH God loves us and how quickly I forget how God has provided, the promises He has made to us as people, and the joy we should experience KNOWING that God is God and we are us.
So, as you go about your day, I ask you to pray for refreshment for me, that I continue to trust in God, and choose joy.
I've been traveling now for 16 days, but have been to sooo many places and sat with so many dying people...and those choosing joy in the midst of suffering.
I only don't say the following lightly, but the more I come here the more I believe in spiritual battling. Some reading this, especially those that aren't Christians, will call me crazy. That's fine. I would not expect you to believe. As a virtually life-long Christian & Pastor's kid my whole life, even I have doubted this.
I think just when I get to the point where I'm completely walking by faith, trusting in God, delighting in His presence, and celebrating the good work He is doing through Forgotten Voices, I come under attack. Yesterday, I was refreshed and today I'm burnt out.
So, pray on as I walk on. Tonight, I'm having dinner with 2 folks that know a thing or two about trusting in God... Rich & Kathy Stuebing have been missionaries to Zambia for about 40 yrs of their lives. Incredible! Two other friends who were my Sunday School teachers when I was at Messiah College, Amy & John Yeatts, are visiting and they'll be at dinner, too. :) God's timing is perfect, as I dine with people who have lived far longer and have walked lives of faith for longer than I've been alive.
I walk on, KNOWING that God is bigger than the troubles of the 3 abandoned children I met just a couple hours ago, BIGGER than the burden on a 70 yr old grandmother caring for 7 children by herself that I met a couple hours ago, and bigger MUCH Bigger than the amount of money I believe we need to raise to help the churches I believe God has called us to assist here in Ndola, Zambia.
Thanks for praying and believing in Forgotten Voices' ministry. I'm soooo deeply, deeply thankful to God and to you.
I have the greatest job on earth. Lots of love,
PS All my experienced readers, you'll be pleased (and maybe surprised) to know that I'm 100% healthy! :) Praising God for that!
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
My dad, Denis, is my living hero and my best friend (apart from katie).
This is a picture with my dad and I on the Zambezi River, between Zambia & Zimbabwe. (Sorry for the bad picture dad, but it's the best I could get from Africa). :)
I've learned sooooo much from him!
Over my life with him, I've watched in amazement how he's lived out the following that I hope to continue learning from him:
- how to love women & men
- how to love kids and help them learn to love God & life
- how to serve others
- how to love a wife
- how to take chances
- how to discern in the midst of chaos
- how to love God first
- how to dream big dreams
- how to love people, even when they hurt him
- how to lead a family
- how to laugh at yourself
- how to listen, love, and learn from friends & strangers
- how to trust in God, when it makes "sense" not to
- how to shoot a running dip shot in basketball & a pump fake that Scott Hruzd still hates to this day
- and how to soar on my own, while KNOWING that I have a dad that loves me and will always be right behind.
and sooooooo many more lessons I'm still learning.
Over the time that I've been here, I've met about a dozen kids that have lost their fathers and I've seen hundreds.
I'm so thankful for you, dad. SOO thankful. For the way you love me as your son and love me like your friend. Thanks for mentoring me, guiding me, and serving with me as we learn together how to love God, our families, and our world. You are and will be my hero.
Thanks for encouraging me to pursue the vision God placed on my heart to start Forgotten Voices and for traveling with me to Africa twice to see for yourself, calming mom's deep fears about the unknown of "Africa". :) I LOVE YOU FOR THAT!
While I'm a bit delayed (sorry dad), HAPPY FATHERS DAY TO YOU, THE BEST DAD ON EARTH!
PS Dad - EVERYONE is anxious for your return to Africa! :-) Get that project done! :-)
PPS Don't forget to pick me up on July 1st at the airport. :) Katie has my flight details. I love you even if you forget, but I'll love you EVEN MORE if you remember. :)
Remmy is doing a fantastic job carrying out our mission 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."
When we were in Zimbabwe, without Remmy, we met 2 twin girls that Remmy had met briefly in January. Without me knowing, He had asked them when their birthday was. When I arrived this trip in June, I was surprised to see the girls proudly displaying a card from Remmy. This may seem small to you, but we had met hundreds of kids on that trip and to get a card in the mail is incredibly rare here.
Every day, I am meeting and interacting with pastors and children in Zambia that have been touched by this servant leader and my friend. The man communicates love, passion, and vision with his smile and daily demeanor.
Remmy's discernment and joy are helping us expand, by helping us connect with local churches here in Zambia that are initiatives of integrity and good will.
As you read this today, please thank God for connecting our ministry to Remmy. Please pray for him, his wife Irene, and 3 others that live with them (Irene's sister, Ruth, Ruth's daughter Hope, and Ginney, a niece to Irene & Remmy).
I'm staying with Remmy and his family here in Ndola. Dinner time! Gotta go! :)
PS Tomorrow I'll post the happenings from today, a busy day that took us ALL over Ndola and in the rural areas in almost every direction. Good times, as we continue to witness how God is using you to equip the local churches in southern Africa. Praise be to God!
Make today count!
A Real Adventure: Kids, Alligator, and an engine without oil under my seat.
After 9 hours of sleep (I've been soooo exhausted here - far hotter here & out in sun much more), I woke up to some great devotional time with Joshua (chapters 1-5), where God leads Joshua and the Isrealites to the base of the wall of Jericho, which falls in Chapter 6. Wanting more of the story, I had to stop at the end of chapter 5 for 2 reasons (1) that's what the reading plan I'm doing said, but more importantly (2) I was late. Who out there is shocked?
Anyway - after leaving Joshua just before his crew took down Jericho, we were greeted by Harry, who drove his church van to Remmy's house to collect us. The plan was to spend 4ish hours with Harry, viewing some projects he was connected with as a pastor and graduate of TCCA, a seminary Forgotten Voices partners with here in Ndola.
Meet Harry: 35 yrs old, Pastor, husband, and father of 3 boys (5, 3, and 6 months old).
We haven't helped Pastor Harry's ministry yet, but Remmy is exploring how we can best fit in or if we should at all. I love having eyes and ears on the ground like Remmy's. What a great guy! Pray for him and his wife, Irene, as they serve with us.
Harry, Remmy, and I first went and visited one of Harry's church's newest projects: a seedling farm. The Lubuto Baptist Church recently bought some land from the City Councilor after the city opened up some land for development, just near the border of a community called Mushili. On this land, they are growing plants beyond the seed phase to the seedling phase: big enough to grow, but still in the early stages of growth. This initial stage of seed to seedling is highly risky for local farmers. Given a person's often limited land space, they need all the seeds to grow to a reasonable level. When they don't grow properly, they often don't have enough food to eat themselves, let alone sell. The church came up with an idea to help reduce the risk to the community farmers.
Farmers, for just above a seed price, can buy a more mature seedling from the church, then take it home for planting in their home garden. This way, the farmer has a higher chance that the crop will grow properly, the church has helped the community, and the funds raised help take care of the land...which happens to be big enough for the church to have a higher error rate and watch some of the seeds fail to grow.
Genius. :) I love how the church, regardless of where it is in the world, is always trying to figure out how to help their community. While certainly there are some churches that aren't doing so, there are always people in those churches that are. This fact always amazes me and humbles me -- our God is soooo cool!
Anyway - just as we were leaving, I saw my first transaction between Harry and a local boy (pictured above), buying some items for his dad's home farm. It was a warm feeling.
After the farm, we went and visited a building the church recently bought from a 7th Day Adventist Church, then Harry's church turned the building into a community school, as kids in the area were walking far too long for small kids. It looked like a desserted area that hadn't received much/any attention from the government in quite some time.
The wife of the teacher from the school gave us some cabbage and greenpeppers from her garden. YUMMY!
Then, we played with some kids at a nearby tailoring training center, similar to the one Christian's church is just beginning. Instead of 3 days a week, the one connected to Harry only meets on Tuesday afternoons and sometimes Fridays. While all that was interesting, our time with Harry wrapped up with me getting to do what I LOVE to do above most other things: Play with kids!
While Harry went off to buy charcoal from a local farmer, I started a rousing game of catch the flying ball, where I toss the ball as high as I can and then give points to the kid(s) that catch it each time. It goes on and on until I need to stop out of exhaustion. Well, the charcoal negotiations took a long-time so I got to start a game similar to duck-duck-goose. I happily gunned down from across the circle the small boy who dared to pick on me, thinking I was too old to win the game. :) For about 20 min, as the game continued, each kid came and took a turn of about 1 min each sitting next to me, touching my white hand, then going back to their seat in the circle. This is a usual occurence. :) Not a lot of white folks like me sitting around their game circles in their "neighborhood" out in the rural areas.
As we drove off with 4 bags of charcoal, I tossed the ball high into the air, sending about 25 kids screaming for joy. What fun you can have with a small blue ball made up of plastic bags we Americans would toss away after a visit to CVS.
Here's the long road we took to get to the kids.
Well - I won't bore you with too many other details. But 2 more quick moments are noteworthy:
1) about 16 kilometers away from Remmy's house, we ran out of oil for the car, whose engine was immediately below my rear-end. It's one of those flat front vans, with an engine you sit on. Anyway - after several mobile phone calls, arranging with a guy on a motorbike to come get us, then having that guy not come (due to finding a dying alligator in the yard), and several other friends of Harry's passing us by, but not helping us because the motor bike guy was coming (or so we thought), Harry finally jumped into a car with a friend and came back about 2 hrs later (lines at the oil shop and vans/bus service out to where we were at was erratic). I took a nice nap during the delay, so it wasn't too bad.
While we were waiting for the motor bike guy to come, I taught Remmy & Harry about the Alphabet game, where you say something like, "I'm going on a camping trip, and I'll bring Appricots, Bread, and so on, with each person in the circle adding another item to the list, continuing on in the alphabet. The trick is you have to start each turn from the beginning with A and you continue through to Z. At the end, everyone has to say the full list in order to go on the camping trip. :) As English isn't either of their native tongues, they added some Bemba and Tonga words to our camping list, but we had a lot of fun waiting together.
2) So you can't just say something like "a guy found an alligator and decided not to go help his stranded friends" then move on. I don't know all the details of how it happened, but Harry ran into the guy that was on the motor bike when harry finally left for town after we had waited about an hour for the guy to bring us oil. When Harry ran into him, the guy said he had come across an alligator. Harry, being a well-connected and caring pastor, had met a Chinese man just a few days earlier that had been asking him about where he could find an alligator for eating. So, Harry asked the motor bike guy if he could have the alligator. The man agreed, as it looked like the alligator was dying anyway.
By the time we put oil in the car and drove back to retrieve the alligator, it had died. It was crazy to have 4 bags of charcoal, a 4 ft alligator/giant lizard as they also called it, and reciting components for a fantastic camping trip all in one day -- not to mention seeing some incredible ministries led by Harry's church and other ministries in the region.
All in a typical day of adventure here in Africa...all before 2pm.
The evening wrapped up with more UNO (i'm winning!!), a game of rounders (similar to kickball), and some great pasta & meatballs.
To give to Forgotten Voices, so we can help more local churches like Harry's help AIDS oprhans and those that care for them, you can give online at www.ForgottenVoices.org or send a check to Forgotten Voices; PO Box 1368; Mechanicsburg, PA 17055-1368 USA.
Thanks for investing in us, supporting me, and praying for our work & my travels.
Lots of love,
Off to begin a new day,
PS Still not sure how an alligator ended up in some guy's yard...oh well... a mystery that will remain.
Year of Harvest: Luke 10:1-2
Before getting to Tuesday’s adventure with Harry, I wanted to follow up about people that I spent significant time with on Monday… the people at New Life Christian Center/Church.
This is the 2009 theme for this church I visited on Monday afternoon with Remmy, after departing Pastor Peter & Sarah, as well as Doris...all folks I wrote about yesterday. When you are able, check out Luke 10:1-2. Think about all the progress the Lord is helping this church in over the past year as they minister to those in need within their community.
Christian is the pastor, married with 2 children. Katie and I wrote about our time with him last June. The New Life Christian Center is running 2 programs, in partnership with Forgotten Voices.
The first program is sending 20 children to school that are orphaned because of AIDS, like this young boy with a name I can't pronounce, though I tried hard. :) I believe he settled on Peter. What a joy it was to meet some of these kids and hear how their school is going, which just resumed yesterday (Monday) because the teachers had been on strike, along with the nurses. Katie and I met a bunch of the kids last June before Forgotten Voices started assisting New Life Christian Center/Church. They were not going to school, so it was good to see them again, but this time in classes, meeting new friends, etc.
The second program is a bit more unique: a tailoring class for widows and older orphans that are child head of household, meaning that they care for brothers and sisters and lead the household. 15 women are in the program to begin, which started on Tuesday of last week, just 1 day after we began our funding to the church. They move fast!
You may remember Katie & I writing about broken sewing machines they wanted to fix. Well, someone from town heard about their program and fixed them for a VERY fair rate, thereby allowing more of the Forgotten Voices funds to go to the school.
You should’ve been there to meet these women! Wow! What stories! 9 children, 7 children, 8 children, 2 babies, etc. All widows. Some had just lost their husbands, others lost them 13+ years ago. Either way, you could hear the pain still in their voices, as they told me how they were struggling. I got to talk to every one of the women and 2 voluntary professional coordinators/facilitators that are teaching the school that also attend the church.
The church charges the women 20,000 Kwacha (about $4) per month to attend the class, which is far less expensive than the courses in town. Each woman receives a training book, some material and access to the machines. They come on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9am-12pm. They eat breakfast together, and then have mealie meal (corn mixture/porridge) for lunch. Every class starts with a brief worship service at 9am.
The hope for the 6 month program is that each woman receives a used sewing machine and some capital ($75/person) when they finish the course and receive their certificate. The plan is for each woman to pay a small amount back each month over the first 6 months out to cover the machine cost, thereby allowing the church to buy used machines for the next round of classes, which will begin in January and are already predicted to be full.
For just about $8,000 USD, we are equipping Pastor Christian and New Life Christian Center/Church to send 20 vulnerable kids to school and equip 15 widows (caring for over 50 kids in total) with a new career that will reasonably cover their day to day expenses. And this program plans to run itself in 3 yrs if all goes well and they are continually able to access affordable used machines (seems likely after I asked around).
I cannot WAIT for you to hear each woman give a brief summary of her life, how many kids she has, and what she does in her spare time. The audio recording I made came out beautifully, but the internet and software are not cooperating. I’ll post it when I get back home.
But I’m pumped! In Zambia, we can work to help make these kinds of programs work with the local church in a way that doesn’t work with hyper inflation, erratic economic pricing in Zimbabwe. But we are learning a lot and watching the churches lead the way.
Without your gifts, none of this would be possible. On behalf of the continued hopes and dreams of the 20 kids now returning to school and the 15 widows that I was privileged to meet on Monday, THANK YOU!
To give, visit www.ForgottenVoices.org. Any gift, regardless of the amount, will go a long, long way to helping us equip local churches to care for AIDS orphans and those that care for them.
Make today count,
All the best,
Monday, June 22, 2009
I want to share 2 stories with you before I head to bed. The first is about a woman named Doris and the 2nd is about a Pastor named Christian. I'll write this 2nd story after having dinner. They are merely a glimpse of the good work you are doing here, by God's grace. Thanks for allowing me to witness on your behalf. Today was a good day.
First off before I begin, we need money. It struck me today that I really haven't asked for money since coming here and we need it. No way around it. We need lots of it, but we are spending it VERY wisely and I'm working hard with our team to make your dollars go a VERY LONG way. To give, visit ForgottenVoices.org.
Mother of 4 children (Patrick, Jr., 19; Modesta, Cynthia, and Matthew).
Doris and her 4 children live with 2 other families in this small house in Mushili, just east of Ndola. Combined, the 3 families have 13 children and 3 adults. Doris and her 4 children live in 1 room, where she asked me to take her picture. All the families share just 1 toilet and take turns weekly paying different bills and cleaning the house.
There is no running water in their house. They pay about $0.50/month to a neighbor for access to the communal water source, carrying them in the buckets pictured here. That's what Doris was doing when we arrived and she had to hurry back for more as we were leaving.
While that $0.50/month may seem small to you, Doris is not making enough to live & meet her family's expenses. She earns just $40/month working as a maid. After failing out of grade 7, then losing her beloved husband Patrick in 2005 to AIDS, she is doing what she can to keep hope alive for her children.
Patrick was a mechanic with a good source of income. He loved music and that connected he and Doris. They enjoyed dancing together and laughing. After one of the kids broke the family radio, Doris told me that she misses music being in the house...helping her remember the fond memories with her husband.
One of the needs that was evident to her Pastor Peter and her denomination's orphan care coordinator, Sarah Fundulu, was the need for Doris' children to go to school. Modesta, Cynthia, and Matthew are school aged, but couldn't manage the levies and fees required of all Zambian children to attend "public" schools.
In partnership with Forgotten Voices, just last week, her 3 school aged kids were able to return to school. I'm not living in a dream land. I know that school fees alone won't meet all of this woman's needs. But the local church is coming alongside her and doing what it can to provide counseling, helping hands, and support to Doris and her children. Her Pastor Peter and Sarah know Doris very well and felt school fees were most needed to keep Doris' spirits up and the hopes of her children alive.
That's what Forgotten Voices is trying to do. We are not transforming communities with massive relief coming in from trucks with Forgotten Voices logo stamped on them. Instead, we are trying to subtly come alongside pastors and churches working to rescue children vulnerable to the AIDS epidemic and those that care for them.
I NEED you to know that the gap between what they need for hope to live on and the possibilities for Doris' kids to slip away as forgotten voices is small. VERY SMALL. A few bucks a week for you and me. A cup of coffee here and there.
I walked away inspired by Doris' HOPE to carry on, her thanksgiving to God for providing her good health (she is negative, as best she knows), and for meeting her needs, as they arise, by the grace of God and the gifts from her local church.
But I also walked away inspiried by Pastor Peter and Sarah, as well as our Program Director, Remmy. All were so gracious and loving toward Doris. Such compassion and love. One of the beautiful things about Forgotten Voices is that nearly all of the people that receive love injections from us have no idea it came from you or me. Instead, they give all the glory, honor and praise to God...and thanks to their local church for seeing and responding to their needs.
It was a great joy to sit with Doris and share time hearing her tell happy memories of life with her late husband, Patrick...as well as listen to her rave about her children: "I have no favorites", she said, despite my jokingly pressuring her to pick one.
Doris is a woman with a simple dream for her kids: that they have a better life than she has now. And we have a simple mission: "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."
Don't get lost in excuses or the busyness of life. PLEASE and thanks. If we are honest, we can't walk away & forget women like Doris when it is within our capacity to do something. We really can't.
Join us and help people like Pastor Peter and Sarah care for women like Doris, who are dreaming big dreams for their kids, but need a little help to get there.
To give, visit us online or send checks written to Forgotten Voices; PO Box 1368; Mechanicsburg, PA 17055-1368 USA. All gifts are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.
Thanks for reading, dreaming, and helping us equip these champions for vulnerable kids.
Lots of love,
PS More later -- on the life of Beatrice and Christian --- two incredible and compassionate people that you'll want to meet as they minister to widows and orphans in their community. Title: "A Year of Harvest Indeed"
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Give it a read and learn how Giving to Charity continues in the US, despite the challenges we are facing. Forgotten Voices is mentioned.
We remain deeply thankful for the ways you all continue to invest in the hopes & dreams of local pastors & community leaders that are caring for vulnerable children, who have been orphaned by AIDS. Keeping their hopes & dreams alive is a great joy for our entire volunteer team in the USA and partners in Africa.
THANK YOU! Without your gifts, our work would not be possible.
By God's grace alone, we press on.
Make today count,
Steve & Darren are home safe now with family & friends, who are surely pestering my dear friends with inquisitive questions about what happened and what they learned. I hope my jetlagged friends drink lots of water and are able to sleep regularly, without too much trouble. Matt will be home tomorrow. PRaying the same for him.
I'm now safely in Ndola, Zambia, watching the Brazilians destroy the Italians in the Federation Cup in soccer. It's good to be back. So after that crazy adventure over the past 24 hrs, you can see how I think Vic Falls was ages ago.
When Steve & I were at the Falls, he made a profound oberservation that I haven't been able to shake. He said, "Ryan, the crazy thing about the falls is that it demonstrates the power of rivers in general that may not spill over rock in the same way as they do here. They are stronger than we realize...just as strong as what we are seeing now."
He's right. It got me thinking about how one little trickle of information or a contact or a single donation of $1 or a precious conversation with a child at a church in the states has launched Forgotten Voices forward... driving us onward toward fulfilling our mission.
Then, I started thinking about all the ways God has provided for us... and how we sometimes take how God is moving through us and among us for granted... just ignoring the strength of all that He is doing and how we can miss out on seeing the obvious power of God if we aren't looking.
Yesterday afternoon was a GREAT example. Matt & I had an INCREDIBLE 4+ hrs with 4 Zimbabwean pastors who had made the long trip to spend time with us in SA. To listen to them speak was inspiring... humbling... troubling... awesome! It was one of the best days I've ever had since coming to Africa for the first time in 2004.
Why? Well...God is funny. I was thinking of blowing off the meeting. I knew almost nothing about it, was completely exhausted after 10 days of travel, and definitely needing to recharge before beginning a 2nd 10 day trip to Zambia the following day (today). But I figured I would just sit in the hotel room and watch TV about the riots in Iran or end up watching a soccer rerun, which play constantly in a World Cup crazed South Africa.
I went and I'm glad I did. Each of the 4 guys had an incredible story about their own ministries in Zimbabwe and how a conference they went to has enhanced their ministry. They had come to report back to Matt & I, as we know the donors in the states that helped them get to the conference. They came to Joburg to show gratitude and share how God is moving among their ministries, in the face of severe trial.
One is a youth pastor in a rural area way outside Bulawayo. He's praying and working to remove partiality among people in his home area (name not mentioned because he's working in violent/persecuted areas watched closely by the govt). By partiality, I mean that people reject you if you are ndebele and they are Shona, or you voted for this guy or another guy, or you speak one language instead of another. Hearts in his area are bitter and partial against fellow human beings. He is penetrating some of the harsh hearts and gaining ground in peace & understanding...one person at a time.
Another is a pastor struggling with faith in the Church. He's dedicated his life to helping the church understand reconcilitiation issues, but now he's tired...exchausted by excuses...and angry that people keep coming to his church on Sundays, but failing to LIVE for Christ at all during the week. Cheap Church. You could hear the pain and hope in this pastor's voice, as he yearns for a better way of ministry, but also clinging to God for wisdom for how he should lead those under his care. All the wake of just learning that 2 of his siblings, 16 & 12, were born HIV+. Their parents had died years ago and this pastor was now the care giver for his siblings. Pray that he continues to cling to God.
Another is a children's pastor, helping train hundreds of volunteers and reaching thousands of kids with the gospel...and prompting them to consider life changes. Spiritual formation for kids and grief counseling for children are two HUGE gaps in the life of the Zimbabwean church. This pastor is filling the gap and trying to plug children looking for direction into a caring local church. Pray for the hearts and minds of children that meet this pastor. Who knows the strength of this movement already, as it builds and mounts into future societal transformation for Zimbabwe.
Then a pastor who has dedicated nearly 3 decades of work to help bring peaceful reconciliation between the Shona and ndebele after the government committed mass killings of ndebele in the early 1980s. Listening to the pain and hope gives me confidence that a river of truth and peace is mounting among a hurting people in Zimbabwe. Pray for the hearts of hardened people, who have anger toward tribes that are not their own.
Coming alongside pastors like this and praying for them, as well as discovering ways to inject small gifts of love into their work is much like the power of the Zambezi River, before it reaches the falls. Along the way, small streams gather and the small rain drops come over certain chunks of time in the year... over and over, these small components gather and create a wave of power that is SOOOO strong it creates the largest (widthxheight) waterfall in the world.
But even if we don't see a huge mist emerge that overwhelms our sight and puts us in awe, we can be assured that the movement is still strong. Every little bit helps.
Listening to those pastors made me think of Steve's comments. Reflecting on the privelege you and I have to invest in the work of champions like these guys and others caring for vulnerable kids... WOW! Small injections to big dreams create waves of love that will know no bounds.
I, of one, am anxious to start trying to put small drops into the river, hoping that God will use it for His glory, honor, and praise.
Today, my friends, I'm choosing joy and praying that you all find ways to add your drop to mounting rivers of God's work around the world.
To give to Forgotten Voices, visit www.ForgottenVoices.org and then click Donate.
WOW this is long. I'll write FAR more often, but far more succinct (Maybe) in the week ahead. Have internet here, so look out. :) I have some specific stories from our time in Zim that I'm anxious to share. But it's now time for bed. VERY VERY tired.
As an FYI. I'm surprisingly healthy after 12 days of travel. I'm missing my wife, Katie...and my dad/family. Happy Fathers Day to my dad and father in law. Lots of love to the dads out there,
Thanks for loving your kids. Our team just met a lot of kids that don't have a dad, but we are thankful they have a local church that is caring for them, loving them, and championing on their hopes & dreams...just like my dad has done for me at every step of life. Love you, dad. You are my hero.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Check out what Elizabeth is doing now by visiting her blog here: http://www.ebenezerzimbabwe.blogspot.com/
Off to Hwange National Park now, then Vic Falls.
Beginning Sunday, I'll have broadband internet at the place i'm staying throughout the rest of my trip until june 30.
that will be nice for you and for me...so many incredible stories i'll have to share with you.
IMPORTANT: We will be off the grid for a couple days again. Sorry about that. But we'll be safe. I MAY have phone connection for Twitter. You can view this on the right hand side of the blog.
We are leaving for Hwange National Park Today in 20 min and then Vic Falls on Friday night. We'll be visiting with a guy named Godfrey on Friday from 12-2pm. We fly out of Zimbabwe on Saturday at noon local (6am EST). Darren and Steve continue on to the States. Matt & I stay the night in Joburg, SOuth Africa. Matt then continues on to the states Sunday night and I leave for Ndola Sunday morning.
Pray for safe travels, refreshment, and joy. It's been a VERY tiring trip for me and the guys. We have been staying up late and waking early. VERY early. a 4am rise, a couple of pre 6am for us and we'll have another 5am tomorrow. lots and lots of driving today and tomorrow.
Lots of love. will try to write on sunday. again, follow http://www.twitter.com/forgottenvoices
-Ryan and guys
Note from Ryan Keith, Forgotten Voices
"Empowering Orphans with Local Churches in Africa"
Skype: BulawayoBandit | Twitter: @forgottenvoices
Read Ryan's Blog here: http://www.travelwithfvi.blogspot.com/
Visit us online at www.ForgottenVoices.org
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
They are back in the Bulawayo area for tonight, and are off to see all kinds of wild animals at Hwange tomorrow. When I was there in 2006, we saw rhinos, giraffe, zebra, hippos, warthog and many others. The only animal that was somehow in hiding while I was there were the elephants! I hope that Darren, Matt, and Steve have more luck, as elephants are just incredible creatures to see in the wild! Ryan said that he will likely be able to blog much more often in Zambia, as the internet is more reliable.
Thank you for praying for Forgotten Voices, for the churches that are serving day in and day out in Zimbabwe and Zambia, for the churches in the U.S. that are sharing the story and supporting the African church, and for Ryan, Darren, Matt and Steve as they travel and serve God through this trip.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Now, we are off to the leadership center that we sponsor, then off to the Free Methodist Church to meet with 2 adorable, 16 year old twin girls that just finished exams. We'll be talking with them about what school has meant for them over the past 3 years... after they almost had to quit school. The FMC helped them out and now their lives are going in a different direction. Anxious to spend some more time with them.
BIG NOTE: Follow us now on www.twitter.com/forgottenvoices
Bye for now.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
1) steve dropped his boarding pass walking to our gate. thankfully we found it without issue
2) darren found out how to use SMS technology instead of internet. whatever that means, but he was pumped, so we are pumped
3) steve bought a hat, as he didn't own one. it is subtle and looks sharp. all that know him apparently will enjoy that he has a hat now. :) so i'm adding a picture here.
thankfully, he's not a big yankees fan. being in ny, i've been hearing it for my sox hat all morning. after last night's 7-0 sox's win over the yankees... all is good.
ok now that those important notes have been made, we are NOW putting away our tech toys to focus on surviving 15.5 hrs together. i'm sitting one row behind them so i can watch them -- make sure the behave and not disturb other passengers. darren should be a handful. :)
She has been giving Darren & Steve advice on what to do in Zimbabwe, like "don't date our women, but sample anything else." and "don't wear pants like that, Darren. those holes will make people think you are poor and throw you in jail." all joking, of course. :)
She has been a good resource and introduction to life in Zimbabwe.
Ok. we are getting ready to board soon, so I gotta jet. but pray on, good people... pray on.
also - if you follow twitter, follow @darrenleblanc. he thinks he's rigged up a way to tweet from zimbabwe. :) we'll see. if he has, he's my new technology hero and i'll learn from him.
probably until zimbabwe,
Ryan & Crew
Will write from JFK. For those of you on twitter, you can follow me today at @forgottenvoices before I take off late morning.
Off to meet my boys in NY. Doors closing for departure. Peace.
Ps real quick. Hilarious exchange between a little boy and his mom getting ready to go to disney world at the next gate over before I got on the plan. Boy was telling mom how he bravely "convinced" dad to let him get a chocolate, chocolate icing doughnut. :) dad looks amused, as son says "I wanna sit next to you, mom." Mom groans with a smile as boy jumps up and down for joy at all the sugar. Dad watches slightly, smiling while trying to look preoccupied. :) families are great.
I wanna go to africa to help more churches make sure those that have lost their parents have someone in their lives crazy about them - sugar and all.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
But no matter how often I go, I never remember the pre-trip ordeals until I'm in them like right now.
It's funny that no matter what I do to prepare, get ahead, etc before an Africa trip, I am always humbled by some piece of technology that apparently makes our lives easier, but ALWAYS causes me trouble.
Despite packing 5 days ago and doing the lion's share of last minute phone calls a couple days ago, I decided it would be nice if I would could share with you by video some of my final reflections.
Over 3 hrs today, I wrestled with my small Canon digital elph... a camera I've used hundreds of times to do the thing I wanted to do, but with no margin time to do it in. THis is after spending nearly 3 hrs 2 days ago trying to use my video camera to do the same, without success, despite having done the same dozens of times. It was as if I was being told to go, trust that people know and move forward. Then, in one last battle of wills, I thought I beat the camera by recording a short video, only to discover that my raw, tear filled, honest video reflection before departing would not play. If I get it working after I return, I'll post it. It was and is the desire of my heart.
So this blog will have to do. These little reminders of life in the developing world, where things should work, but don't, is good preparation.
Today, as you are reading this, I'm bound for Zimbabwe, via NYC and Johannesburg, South Africa. I'll be traveling with 3 friends (Darren, Steve, and Matt). They'll be with me until June 20, when they head back to the States and then I head on to Zambia until I return to the US on July 1.
We have 3 primary objectives:
1) To document the work of Forgotten Voices through the eyes of children. Rather than bounce around, we'll be staying with a few kids, walking to school with them, talking to pastors, families, community members, and their friends. Spending time listening to the voices of just a few kids and trying to capture their stories to bring them home to you. Most of our time will be spent with a young woman who has been receiving care for nearly 5 years through a partnership between her church and Forgotten Voices. She and I have become pretty good friends over the years and I'm pumped to introduce my friends from the states to her. When I met her, she was just a child. Some may say she still is. But, she now moves around our world with a bit of confidence & wisdom beyond her years, after a rough few years following the death of her parents. We look forward to sharing her story with you.
2) Exploring the beginnings of new ministry components to Forgotten Voices that will ultimately, Lord willing, help rural and urban churches meet the grief counseling needs of kids. In a cultural context that does not often acknowledge the mental and emotional toll death of parents has on kids, we have been asked by local churches around Zimbabwe to dream with them about what can be done. This is the beginning of that dream. Pray with us.
3) Take a look at relatively new projects and proposed projects that we may support. Going into new villages and new communities in Zimbabwe & Zambia is always a joy, but also challenging to think that we may be the only organization that ever comes across the good work of the local church.
Please pray for the following four things:
1) Pray that we choose joy daily. This is the cry of my heart. That we would be singing the Psalm 61, crying out to God, casting our burdens at His feet, and resting on the solid rock of God -- KNOWING that He is God, and we are merely His ambassadors of love. Amidst the overwhelming conditions and desires of churches we encounter...and the agony of holding the hands of dying children...or watching them grow without their parents alive to see them flourish... we will choose joy! Pray that we seek God's pleasure and joy with every day on the journey.
2) Pray for safety as we travel to/from/around Zimbabwe, then especially for me as I travel on to Zambia for 10 days by myself. Pray for safety & health, especially for the other 3 guys, who have never been to Africa before.
3) Pray for discernment for me. As I travel around, I do realize the immense privilege you all have given me to go on your behalf. The needs are great, the resources must be stretched, and everything often seems like a top priority. It is one of the greatest burdens I've ever encountered to look into the eyes of a pastor and tell him we have to wait or we don't think the project aligns with what we are trying to do. Often, it's not malice or mismanagement, as is often perceived of Africa, but rather misalignment.
After decades of relating to white men and women from the US who come to "save" Africa, it can take months or years to gain the trust and relationships to build and equip the local church to lead the way...and see that Forgotten Voices would like nothing better than to drift to the backdrop and allow the recipients of the church's good will to know nothing of where the funds came from...instead leaving the people to give thanks, glory, and praise to God for His provision...just as you and I give thanks to God for the opportunity to give to Forgotten Voices. The task is tough, as I balance the needs of the people, the pressures on the local church, the difficult financial crises in the States, and the pressures on many of you that you have shared with me. I know none of this is my money or even our money, but God's. Pray for discernment as we go.
4) Finally, on a far more personal note, please pray for my dear wife, Katie, who I love sooooo dearly. To be away from Katie for even a day is hard, but 3 weeks? A few times a year? Going for this long stretches your investment in Forgotten Voices, limits all the emotional ramp up time that is taxing before and jetlag recovery after. But 3 weeks is a long time, often going days without being able to hear from us. Pray for safety, joy, and discernment for Katie, as well. Pray also for peace.
I'm so deeply thankful for each of you, even those of you I've never met. It is with great humility that I again depart on another adventure. Today, as I fly 15.5 hrs to South Africa, ten 2.5 hrs to Zimbabwe, I will be praying prayers of joy for you all. Praising God for the way your hands have extended mercy and love to so many people you have never met.
As always, I pledge to love and serve our friends in southern Africa to the best of my abilities and capacity. And I pray that God will continue to honor that, as well as the loving sacrifices you all continue to make to help us equip the church to care for the physical & spiritual needs of AIDS orphans in their communities.
To make a gift to support our work that you read about over the next 3 weeks, visit us online at ForgottenVoices.org.
Throughout the trip, join us for the adventure at www.ForgottenVoices.org or right here on this page. Both work the same.
My sincere thanks,
Until I try and write from JFK before departing for Joburg,
My thanks, love, and prayers for you & yours,
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
This is indeed "A blessing we will foever cherish...", one woman echoed from within the small gathering as their leader got a cheque for supporting orphans in their ministry. The ministry of Forgotten Voices is going to help support over 500 kids; Yes, over 500 children will be sent back to school and some will continue with their schooling because of brethrens like you. It is because you have decided to say “yes I will remember orphans in Africa”. Words would never express the feelings we all have right now; but we can say THANK YOU VERY MUCH!
Just yesterday, a total of six projects in our partnership with churches around Ndola area were empowered in their orphan care ministries. Some of the pastors and church leaders could not hide their happiness; “this is what we have always been praying for especially that we do witness first hand suffering of our people,” one of them said. Another pastor further said that their intentions of purchasing a hummer mill has now been fulfilled; “the help has come at the right time because people are busy harvesting their maize and the mill will not only help the church members, but also bring revenue from the surrounding community who will use it to grind their harvested maize into mealie meal at a fee,” he said. “This will sustain some of the ministries of our church,” the pastor reiterated. I was equally happy for the men of God because I know their struggles in meeting their ministry obligations under very difficult conditions has been very hard. The church in Africa is (rightly so) seen as a place of refuge for those that are in need, but its resources has always been meagre.
The ministry of Forgotten Voices, through local churches in Africa could never have come at the right time. It has brought life to not only the spiritual aspect of the church’s ministry, but also to its social ministry. To you, who are holding the hands of FVI to make this possible, I say, please don’t grow weary. We are always on our knees thanking God for what you are doing; for through this ministry, the evil one’s efforts are rendered useless even when the vices are so great to clump these kids. The ministry of the church, especially towards children is being fulfilled.
It was also gratifying to hear kids sharing their dreams for the future; “When I grow up, I want to become a teacher” one said; others hope to be doctors, mechanics, pastor…the list is endless! Well, just know that you are helping to make some of these children’s dreams come true.
I have always believed that Christians hold the key to the real hopes of mankind. One of these hopes is, the hope to love and to be loved; which according to 1Cor. 13, is the greatest gift. And you have shown your love for the pastors and their flock through your generosity even though you have even never met them.
This will indeed be "a love blessing we will forever cherish in our hearts!"
Your fellow servant in the Lord,