Forgotten Voices' Mission:

"Demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ by equipping local churches in southern Africa to meet the physical & spiritual needs of children orphaned by AIDS in their communities."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

6/10: Off to southern Africa right now & I never remember...

As you read this, I'm beginning the long road/flight/journey back to Africa. It's always an adventure, each trip with its own unique stories of love, laughter, tears, pain, agony, and devotion that runs so deep it would make even the sternest man cry.

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

Throughout the trip, join us for the adventure at 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,

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