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."

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Greetings from Joburg

I'm again back in South Africa, awaiting my flight to JFK. It'll be 18 hrs. I'm tired already. :)

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 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,
With love,

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