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."

Monday, August 31, 2009

Reflections on 5 years later

5 years ago, 12 people from West Shore Evangelical Free Church in Mechanicsburg, PA went to Zimbabwe to see how our church could get involved in the AIDS crises. Each night, around a camp fire under the big African sky, we reflected on the dozen local approaches we saw. From that initial trip of learning and listening, the beginning dreams of what would become FOrgotten Voices emerged.

When asked for volunteers to share some brief reflections about that first trip, now 5 years later, several graciously agreed to offer their thoughts with us.

Here's the first from Linn, who was featured in our first website banner picture about Getting Involved. Enjoy! -Ryan (Note: image doesn't lead to link now)

"Sometimes the night was beautiful
Sometimes the sky was so far away
Sometimes it seemed to stoop so close
You could touch it but your heart would break..."

Reflecting on my time in Africa always brings to mind sitting on the rocks at Shumba Shaba looking at the amazing night sky "so close you could touch it". This memory brings to my mind the lyrics of a song by the late Rich Mullins, 'Sometimes by Step'. As I considered the lyrics, I realized they express my thoughts on Africa and Forgotten Voices. Zimbabawe is an amazing place where God has done much in the hearts of many and yet "there IS so much left to do". There is great pain and suffering that at times seems too steep. Yet, what was just as clear to me was that they have hope of not being beyond God's reach.

God is their God and they praise him admist the circumstances of life, "the darkness of the night", they journey on each day, each step. As I look at that sky, I am reminded that one of those stars represents me and each of us as descendents of Abraham, loved by God.

As in the song, I have images and memories of the struggle and suffering but the greater sense and picture I have is of the journey that "step by step" shows that the focus is not on what still needs to be done, but on the joy in following him and recognizing how "much he has already done."

~~Linn Marie Murray
Look for more reflections from other members in the weeks ahead, as we celebrate 5 years.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

They're building a preschool & helping blossom hope

SUMMARY: Over the past 8 years, a church in Zimbabwe has wanted to build a preschool to provide care for young children so family members could go off to work AND to come up with a way to provide revenue toward the church's orphan care ministry. By faith, the church leaders raised money to draft plans for a preschool. Then, over the past 5 years, they've worked hard to set aside funds where they can, despite the worst financial crises in southern African history. Today, digging and building a slab foundation for the school is underway and hope is blossoming in a hopeless situation.

Once built, the funds raised from the preschool will help the church begin to care for over 100 orphans (school fees, food, counseling) without the continued assistance of Forgotten Voices. While the road to construction will be staggered, as the church raises funds to builds some and Forgotten Voices helps provide more material for them to build on top of their efforts, the preschool will get built, by God's grace!

To give to this Local Orphan Care Plan and others like it, visit us online and make a donation today. At Forgotten Voices, our mission is 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 are investing in the hopes & dreams these churches have for the kids in their communities...and we are investing in those that are willing to do the hard part. It is our joy to partner with these folks as they live out God's commands to love orphans, widows, and people in distress. Thanks for investing in these hopes with us.

All the best,

Over the past 5 years, you've heard us talk about many people, but few more than Fibion. He pastors a church in Zimbabwe that is now helping minister to over 100 orphans because of AIDS. When Forgotten Voices first started working with the church, they were effectively ministering to about a dozen, but had the hope & desire to help more.

During those initial meetings, Forgotten Voices began listening to their dreams about how they were going to help pay for the orphan care ministry Forgotten Voices was willing to support initially, with the plan for the church would be able to absorb the costs within the body of the church. The idea was to build a pre-school.

About 3 years prior to us meeting Fibion, the church had already come up with a "dream" scenario. There were lots of young vulnerable kids in the area that needed a place to learn and receive care, so their caretakers could go off to work, while feeling confident of their children's safety. Identifying 40-50 kids whose parents or caretakers would need the service and would be able to pay a small fee each month for it, they raised money to have plans drawn up. By faith, they prayed over those plans for years and years -- all before they had met Forgotten Voices. A preschool building to meet Ministry of Education building codes was way beyond what their church could afford, but they saw it as a way to raise money for their growing orphan care support, while also helping their community with a preschool.

The fees raised from the people that would send their kids to school would pay for the on-going orphan care project, currently funded Forgotten Voices, with your help.

From the beginning of their partnership with us, the church and our team wanted this income generating idea to be part of our relationship. But, facing severe economic challenges over the past 5 years has hurt the preschool plan's progress. However, all hope had continued, despite the uncertainty in Zimbabwe. Just over a year ago, with the economic situation still in ruin, we began taking action with the church to build a fence around the property. The government was threatening to take the land away, believing the church was not going to do anything with it (despite the SEVERE economic challenges that were hurting all people). The fence helped the government see that action was taking place.

Less than a month later, a large chunk of the metal fence was stolen, causing grief for many in the church and a setback to a people that were just trying to help their community. Forgotten Voices and the church leadership were inspired by the challenge, not deterred.

Over the past 6 months, a cement block fence was constructed to replace the metal one. And digging for the preschool began in June. While all understood we would have to go step by step, with slow downs in the process because money to Forgotten Voices has slowed with the downturn in the US economy, we all took steps of faith each day.

Building of the slab, or foundation in our US world, is now well underway. By far, this is the most expensive part, despite it being hidden. But, like the faith of the church leaders to the community, the foundation will provide a solid base for hope to bloom in a seemingly hopeless situation in Zimbabwe.

To give to Forgotten Voices and help this church build a preschool or to make a general gift, visit us online at

Many thanks, on behalf of Fibion's church and all that will benefit from this preschool construction -- the kiddos at the school and the orphans that will be able to continue to receive care by the funds raised.

All the best,
Ryan Keith
Chief Kid Advocate at Forgotten Voices

Friday, August 21, 2009

We can't take this stuff with us, you know...So?

Friends - Just a few moments ago, I received a note from a church Katie and I attend in Central PA. A man that Katie and I have grown to love is battling Alzheimer's, just like my sweet grandmother, Florence, and is acting out to the staff at his new care facility that is being charged to watch over him. The man's wife is a model of service and has helped mentor me, as well as sacrifice so much of herself for the betterment of others. Both have been dedicated to a lifetime of loving God and loving their neighbor, locally and abroad, with the last 10+ yrs dreaming and serving what is now known as CURE International, whose leaders helped guide me in the initial stages of Forgotten Voices and remain champions of our mission today.

Please pray for both my Grandmother and my friend's family, as they suffer and lean on God for understanding.

As I watch my grandmother battle for her life (& her mind), as well as my friend described above, I'm reminded that we can't take any of this "stuff" we accumulate with us. So why not change how we live now?

My grandmother and my friends above have taught me this lesson with their lives and it's a good one to consider.

Exactly a year ago yesterday, I posted an ode to my Grandmother MacLeod (my mom's mom), describing her resilience and faith in the midst of her pain & suffering. What's so incredible to me about Alzheimer's is that my Grandmother's multi-tasking brain since I first remember meeting her is now able to focus on one thing. She dwells on it over and over. Whether it be when people are taking her home from this hotel she is staying in or rereading over and over one passage of scripture she can't stop thinking about, NOTHING else matters to her.

While there is a lot of pain that goes along with this for her and for us, there are moments of joy. When she "discovered" that Katie & I were married recently (despite her being at the wedding personally), she joyfully proclaimed God's praises ever 15 seconds for about an hour -- "discovering" over and over that we were married. It's amazing the joy and sorrow that emerges from her focus on ONE thing at a time - over and over.

In the past 10 days, I've been to Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Nashville, and Detroit -- through airports, speaking at conferences, meeting strangers, and seeing old friends (and my dad's parents, who live on a farm outside Nashville). What struck me was how obsessed people were in their own lives and the "things" that make them up. From a guy getting thrown out of the Golden Corral because he wanted RARE meat and verbally destroyed the server for denying him essentially raw meat to a woman on a plane that needed to bring all of her worldly possessions with her, including lotions & perfume -- and didn't like it one bit that the TSA guards told her no dice.

What are we doing here? Over and over the Bible talks about that we can't take this world with us when we go. If this is true, and I believe it is, what should be focusing on?

I do know this. The Bible is also clear that the voices of the oppressed carry on, crying out (Psalm 9:18) still to this day. And James tells us that true religion is looking out for widows and orphans, as well as keeping ourselves pure and holy from the things of this earth.

So how am I doing? How are you doing?

A woman I know in Zimbabwe is literally rescuing children from the ravages of life -- children abandoned and left on doorsteps after a parent or relative has had enough. MOst often, the children are orphaned because of AIDS and a relative doesn't know how to take care of the child, or is unable because they may be caring for a dozen or more, and brings them to my friend - abandoned. One child came to my friend severly malnurished, struggling to breath, and unable to walk. She was about 5 yrs old when I met her last year. She had been chained to the bed by her father for days and weeks at a time, as he would go off to find work after blowing through the family's money paying medical bills for his dying wife. While he would leave food for her, you can imagine the horror from a child literally CHAINED to a bed, with no access to a toilet, and the food mixed in.

This is just one of the 30 kids that my friend is working to save -- rescue glimmers of hope from a seemingly hopeless world. In partnership with a church, my friend has mobilized volunteers from the church to rescue these kids and give them a healthy place to stay, while family relatives can be contacted & counseled to see if a safe permanent home somewhere in the child's lineage can be found. If not, my friend and her friends are creating Forever Homes, where people have volunteered to watch over the kids every day and love them for the rest of their lives in a healthy, supportive environment.

How does all of this connect? Well - Forgotten Voices is trying to help my friend in Zimbabwe take care of AIDS orphans, as we are trying to do for many, many churches in southern Africa. My friend needs only $3,000/month to do this. We've committed $3,000 to help these cause and I need to send it by the end of August.

I was brought to tears when my friend in Zimbabwe sent me this email when describing her current need and our promised investment:
"The timing is awesome as we are very low on funds as it's summer holiday in the UK & US so no one thinks much about the poor when they're lying in the sun drinking cool drinks!!"

At first, I was struck by her perception, then her honesty, and then convicted by this truth for many of us. My dad is a minister. I remember as a pastor's kid when my dad couldn't cash his paycheck for a couple weeks when the church didn't have enough to give when people left for vacation during the summers. Giving always goes down for non-profits and churches when summer rolls around. But the need doesn't stop.

If you are in a position to give, or if you have a way to sell some of your stuff to free up some funds to Forgotten Voices, please consider doing so today at

Anyway - I was brought to tears when I received the email of my friend battling for his life & his mind and the lessons he and my grandmother's lives have taught me about us not being able to take any of this stuff (cool drinks and all) with us when life ends. So, what is the one thing we can focus on?

God asks us to love Him and love our neighbors, with the stuff mentioned only to tell us not to care about any of it. How are we doing?

Now that's something to ponder and act on this summer.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Gravity - Let's continue talking

This morning, I was grateful to hang out with the rad young adults at Gravity, the high school ministry at Grace Chapel in Lexington, MA.

Yo. Thanks for having me. I was grateful to spend some time with you all this morning. As you probably saw, I was off my game. God will use it. As I was going through my talk this morning, I was praying for each table and asking God to challenge you to grow closer to Him...loving God and your neighbors.

So, what does that look like? What does God have to say? Does it say anything about the oppressed? Widows? Orphans? Where in the Bible are these things? Keep reading for the challenge.

Here are 2 pictures of Prudence & Peterson, as well as one of their mom under the tree just before she passed away, as I described.

I'm praying for them. Join me. I'm also praying for you, as you experience life and try to sort how how AIDS and your life will interact. Remember to tell others what you've learned and dream with your friends how you can love your God and neighbors...BE THE CHURCH.

I promised to put up some links and a challenge:

1) I'm challenging you to find passages of scripture that speak to these things. Please comment on this Post, reply to my latest tweet about this, or hit me up on Facebook.

My contact info:

2) I mentioned several times that I'm turning 30 in September. If you love the internet, are creative, and want to help local churches in Africa care for vulnerable kids like Peterson, maybe you wanna dream with me about how to get people involved to celebrate my 30th birthday. Maybe we can come up with some crazy ideas to get people involved. Email me at if you wanna help.

3) I also promised some links to organizations I care about:
-- Forgotten Voices: Get Involved - Young Adults
-- Invisible Children
-- World Vision

Press on! Remember to send me passages AND birthday ideas, if you have any. :) And hit me up with any questions or follow-up comments from our time together.

Lots of love,
Make today count,

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Unlocking Local Voices: Talk at TD Conference at Eastern Univ


Greetings, especially to all those attending this year's Transformational Development Conference, currently underway at Eastern University. During my session on Saturday, 2:30pm, McInnis Building #107, I'll be discussing some ideas regarding how to unlock the local voices in the ministries your group, church, or family are taking part in.

If you aren't there, follow me on or @forgottenvoices. You can follow the Conference at #TDConference.

Joining me in this discussion will be Ian Campbell, Pastor of Missions at West Shore Evangelical Free Church in Mechanicsburg, PA. This church helped launch the exploration that helped form Forgotten Voices. I'm excited to speak about this topic with Ian, who has over 20 years of missionary experience in the field --- and has built a reputation as a true engager of local voices.

Click here for the 1 page summary of the talk
. Keep in mind that the life of the talk with come from engaging with one another, so you won't want to miss the conversation in person.

At the talk, I will make reference to three documents we use that local churches in Africa have found helpful. They are the Tool #1: Gap Assessment, Tool #2: Project Outcomes & Community Engagement Document, and Tool #3: Partnership Questionnaire. When you are looking at the attached document here, keep in mind that this document is primarily utilized as a conversation starter for church and community leaders to explore what they do well, what the community does well, and what is left for meeting the Gaps in AIDS orphan care.

While we encourage projects to actually complete the worksheets (and you may find the same), it is the conversation that goes on over 3, 6, 9, or 12+ months within the community that takes the document come to life.

When you see it, you'll realize that what we are doing isn't necessarily earth shattering, but sadly, still fairly unique among Christian ministries. We are trying to listen and come alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ, who are doing the hard part in saying YES to AIDS orphans in their communities...choosing to love sacrificially... choosing yes, when NO would be more convenient (and sadly, too common on both sides of the ocean).

If you would like to give to Forgotten Voices, visit our website at and then click Donate.

Thanks for attending our session on unlocking local voices and enjoy the rest of the conference.

All the best,
Ryan Keith, President

A time of sweet fellowship


The day was mercilessly cold in Lusaka as we woke up early to pack our bags, food and medicines to embark on a long trip to some forgotten, remote rural Kalomo, Zambia. The mission team was comprised of Christians from different churches around Zambia and The Go Team from the USA. The journey was long, but full of fellowship and honour to God; we finally arrived at our camping site a few hours before midnight; the whole trip took approximately nine hours, three hours off the main road away from “civilization”.

It was indeed in the “middle of nowhere” as one team member said. There was no network of any kind and thus no wireless communication. We quickly pitched our tents at our base for the next five days; a newly planted Brethren in Christ Church called, Nguba. The ministry of Forgotten Voices International has not only been funding projects of partners, but also join in some of their outreach programs. Such was the case during the Beit-CURE International Hospital’s Spiritual Ministries mission outreach to Kalomo, one of the remotest part of Zambia. The mission was to evangelize and treat patients who could otherwise fail to travel long distances to the nearest health center.

Such trips are not only meant for conducting clinics, but also identifying those children that need surgical operational help which the hospital can give. It was a time of sweet fellowship as we broke into groups and crisscrossed the pathways that were leading us to the many villages we were visiting to share God’s word. The mornings were meant for these tours, the afternoons were meant for teachings, clinics and games and during the night we showed the Jesus film. Each day was fully packed with an activity.

One of our prime visions as FVI is to be agents of hope as we encourage local communities and pastors to provide an expanded vision of the possibilities for ministry.

It is in such remote places that very few consider to venture that we find it a joy to be part of ministries such as this one. We are not only about funding projects, but building relationships with local evangelical churches across denominational persuasions as we demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ. In unity, the Church will conquer poverty; it will conquer injustice and build relationships based on love for one another. Yes, Jesus said “A new command I give you: Love one another” (John 13: 34).

There is sweet fellowship in true love!