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, November 30, 2009

Celebrating an opportunity to "step into Africa"

Friends,

Ellen Shaffer here - honored to be sharing about the amazing work God is doing among His Church to benefit children orphanned or made vulnerable by AIDS. This November, Forgotten Voices had the opportunity to partner with local churches and organizations to bring the World Vision Experience: AIDS to Central Pennsylvania. This free, 8-day exhibit invited participants to "Step Into Africa" and experience the lives of four children deeply impacted by the AIDS pandemic in various African nations.

Forgotten Voices was blessed to assist with the planning and execution of this event. We also had staff present throughout the week to share opportunities for taking action against AIDS through the ministry of Forgotten Voices. Since most of the exhibit visitors were from the same area as our home offices, it was a fantastic way to connect with churches and individuals in this region who desire to get more involved with our ministry.
In the end, approximately 4090 people walked through the exhibit and 305+ children were sponsored through World Vision! Hundreds more visitors connected with Forgotten Voices and other quality organizations, made one-time donations, or simply walked away with a greater understanding of the AIDS pandemic and how we can and must respond. We celebrate all these levels of impact!
We know of at least 12 local churches who sent groups or individuals to visit the exhibit, including Carlisle Evangelical Free, Christian Life Assembly, Cumberland Valley BIC, Dillsburg Hope Grace Brethren, Five Forks BIC, Harrisburg BIC, Lebanon Evangelical Free, Middlecreek Community Fellowship, Silver Spring Presbyterian, Daybreak, St. Stephen's Episcopal and West Shore Evangelical Free (host site for the exhibit).

We hope to see this exhibit serve as a catalyst for greater awareness and action throughout Central PA on behalf of children impacted by AIDS. Rather than being a one-time event, we desire to see ongoing commitment and change as a result of this experience. For those who attended AND those who were unable to make it, here are just a few of the ways to take the next step towards making an impact - regardless of where you live:
1) Pray for children, families, churches and communities impacted by HIV/AIDS through Africa and the rest of our world.
2) Visit www.ForgottenVoices.org in the days ahead to see our newly updated website and learn how our ministry is having an impact throughout Zimbabwe and Zambia - two nations DEEPLY affected by AIDS.
3) Become a monthly or one-time donor to Forgotten Voices, helping us provide crucial financial resources to churches caring for children orphaned or vulnerable due to AIDS. We need your financial support to continue assisting our project partners. Consider a creative fundraiser or making a donation in someone's honor as a Christmas gift!
4) If you haven't already, sign up for our periodic eVoice to receive updates on our ministry and our project partners in Africa.
5) Volunteer your gifts and talents to Forgotten Voices. Email info@ForgottenVoices.org if you are interested.
6) Visit these websites to learn about other organizations also working in various ways to provide assistance to children affected by AIDS - www.worldvision.org and www.helpchildrenwithaids.org

7) Visit www.worldvisionexperience.org to see when the exhibit may be coming to your area - then sign up to volunteer or walk through as a participant! You won't want to miss it!
As we approach World AIDS Day on December 1st, I invite you to find a way to "step into Africa" and put yourself in the shoes of a child impacted by AIDS. Through one or more of the action steps above, allow yourself to gain a new perspective on the world and consider how this better understanding of the realities of our world may compel you to respond.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Life Changing Sound -- OUR BABY IS COMING

Friends - Katie and I are delighted to announce that we are having a baby in June! This will be our first child. After another great checkup and a healthy heart beat -- a sound that has changed my life -- we are so excited to share our news with you.

I graduate from the Harvard Kennedy School in May, with the baby expected a week later if all is on schedule --- which it won't be and that's part of the fun -- just waiting on the Lord. :)

What a fantastic Thanksgiving we had with family, sharing the news with our extended relatives after telling our immediate family members a few weeks ago, and now celebrating by telling all of you! For those supporting Katie's race, check out her blog here.

You may have noticed the larger than normal lags in the blogging from me in the past two weeks. :) Now, for those of you that have gone through this incredible process, you know why. :) What a joy it is to watch life growing. Praise God for this miraculous gift.

As a soon to be father, my commitment to the Forgotten Voices' mission has never been stronger. My love for the kids we serve -- kids who have lost 1 or both parents -- continues to grow. While my first thought while listening to our baby's heartbeat was just sheer wonder & awe at the power of God, my thoughts did go to the thousands of kids our partners work with in Africa. Katie and I can't stop thinking about them, as we also rejoice at this gift God has given us.

Tonight, we ask that you give thanks for the gift of life. We ask for your prayers for our child, growing strong each day (now about 3 inches tall and an ounce big:)). We also ask that you pray for the thousands of kids we know in Zimbabwe & Zambia, as they go to our church partners -- crying out to God for someone to remember them this holiday season. Through Forgotten Voices, you, Katie and I have this opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ. Thank you for your prayers.

We are so thankful for you all and look forward to you meeting our child in June.

Happy Thanksgiving! Indeed, we have MUCH to be thankful for.

-Ryan & Katie Keith (and our new baby)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Rest Stop: Thanksgiving

On this holiday, I'm soooooooo thankful for you and the way you are investing in our 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."

Today, as I go through the joys and all the food of the holiday, know that I'll be thinking about you all and the way you are allowing the dreams of parents to be remembered, even though they have passed away. You have allowed children to stay engaged in developing, as their parents hoped they would.

Thank you, friends, for Being a Voice for this potentially forgotten voices in southern Africa: the kids, their parents, and the churches that bravely champion their cause. We'll forever be thankful for your gifts, prayers, and love.

With love and thanksgiving,
Ryan

PS Over the holiday --- it's a great time to gather around and meet Neatness, age 14, or show people in your life who have not seen it. For your convenience, here's the video again:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Stop 12 of 25: Half way home -- Choma

We are now half way through our Journey Across Africa, which is looking at 20 projects we fund and 5 we would like to if funds became available by you. Half way is a perfect time to talk about Choma.

There are days when I wonder if we are making progress. When I want to throw my hands in the air and say, "I'm done." I don't really mean it in my heart, but that's how my mind and body feel. But time after time, the same thing happens.

I remember the children I've met along the way, the times I've sat around camp fires with pastors from Africa listening to the deepest corners of their souls -- longing for God to hear their cries and equip them with what they need to forever change the direction of a child's life. I remember moments where 5 year olds in the USA interrupt me when talking to their Sunday School classes or schools so they can tell me they are praying for our young friends in Africa. Or when a 3 year old pulled on my pant leg to give me her $0.50 to give to the children I was telling her church about. Or the painter, who runs his own company here in the USA, who faithfully gives a share of his earnings to help Forgotten Voices do its work.

Or I remember the old woman in Zimbabwe now caring for her 24 grandchildren because her 6 kids have since passed away from AIDS related illnesses. With no where else to go and with no other options, she cries out to God and keeps going.

Or I remember my "half way" when I go to Africa -- Choma, Zambia. video
I call it "half way" because it's become a special place to me -- marking the half way point usually between my time in Ndola, Zambia with Remmy (our Program Director for Zambia) and my time in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe with Fibion (our Program Director in Zimbabwe). Choma is also the place where I was first exposed to Zambia and the pastors working there. It was among the first places that helped us clarify our vision of working thorugh local churches. It was a place where I saw the church engaging in community development, driven by the church -- not non-profits or the government. It was the place where I saw God at work and sacrifices all around, in the name of Christ.

I keep going when I realize that God has called me to this and He has now called many of you. We must keep going because ultimately it is God that keeps score not us. Even when we think we are losing, we MUST keep going because God has called us to do this work --- and doing so is the most liberating decision we can make.

Forgotten Voices is proud to partner with the BICC Compassionate Ministries - Zambia, Stop 12 on our Journey Across Africa. This ministry is a regional ministry within Zambia that helps equip churches within the Brethren in Christ denomination to identify and respond to the unique needs the churches face. Reaching over 56 churches across the region, as of the last time I was there, the Compassionate Ministries programme is modeling partnership, innovation, and effectiveness in a way that teaches churches, non-profits, and communities.

WHAT ARE WE DOING WITH THE CHURCH: School fees, uniforms, and supplies for 100 kids to primary school, 25 kids to high school (all HIV/AIDS orphans or about to be orphans); Monthly food supplements for babies and families of 4 pregnant women with HIV to avoid mother to child HIV transfer; 10% administration cost to distribute resources to schools and families
# Impact: 100 children, 25 high school students, 4 pregnant women & families
Partners: Mennonite Central Committee, TEAR FUND UK, BIC World Missions

PRAY: The program's reach is wide and they are constantly stretched. Pray for wisdom and peace for them as they pursue what God has called them to do, while still dreaming about new places to go, as God provides. Pray for rain. The ministry's water programs and food security programs face critical days waiting for more rain and the success of the ministry is often tied to this period of rainfall.

To give, visit ForgottenVoices.org OR you can mail a check to Forgotten Voices; PO Box 1368; Mechanicsburg, PA 17055-1368.

NEXT STOP: We take a rest stop for THANKSGIVING! Join us to read about what I'm thankful for and for you to share what you are thankful for.

Lots of love,
Ryan

PS HAVE YOU SEEN THE NEW FORGOTTEN VOICES MOVIE??

Apologies -- Keep Praying

Friends - Sorry that I've dropped off for a couple days in our journey together. It's been a crazy busy time with so much happening with our projects in Africa and in life. Tomorrow, we'll resume the journey, then break for Thanksgiving.

Thanks for dreaming with us and reading along.

Until then,
Peace,
Ryan

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Stop 11 of 25: Meet Remmy & BICC Copperbelt

You've all met Remmy (click to see a video of my reflection on him) in previous posts, but I thought you should also know that we are hoping to partner with his denomination to help four churches meet the physical & spiritual needs of children orphaned by AIDS in the Copperbelt Region of Zambia.

The Copperbelt is RIGHT in the middle of Zambia, where -- you guessed it --- copper is plentiful. It marks the divide between the east and west. The region sits just 3-4 hrs north of Lusaka, the nation's capital.



Forgotten Voices is hoping to partner with the Brethren in Christ Copperbelt to assist 4 churches in their efforts to care for over 100 children orphaned by AIDS. Forgotten Voices already assists the Brethren in Christ's Compassionate Ministries Programme in Zambia, but this project's reach from Choma, Zambia doesn't quite get up to the Copperbelt.

IMPACT: 100 orphans, 10 home based care patients, 60 widows and the vulnerable will attend skills training, 60 widows will receive income generating project support.

NEED: To do this, we need funds by mid-December, as Neatness' video shared with you. If you feel led to give, please do so by visiting us online OR by sending a check to Forgotten Voices; PO Box 1368; Mechanicsburg, PA 17055-1368.

PRAY: Pray for the BICC, as they have 10 churches in the region, but we are only starting with 4, as we don't even have funds to help the 4 yet. Pray that God will raise up supporters locally and around the world to help these churches. Pray for the pastors and volunteers, who are literally rescuing children and assisting families that are bringing children to them -- with no one to turn to after a neighbor has passed away, leaving the kids behind. Pray for wisdom and peace.

NEXT STOP: We will turn to the BICC Compassionate Ministries - Zambia project, mentioned above, which we are proud to support.

Thanks for reading!!

-Ryan

Friday, November 20, 2009

Wow - Have you seen the seen the video?

Friends - Already, we've raised over $6,000 since the video was posted 2 days ago. What a great start! Thanks for your gifts and for spreading the video around. Keep it going!!!

Here's how you can help:
1) Show it to friends: Youth Group, Sunday School Class, Church, coworkers, classmates, daycare group, MOPS club, Rotary, etc.
2) Post it online: post it on your blogger, wordpress blog, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Digg, etc.
3) Email the link on to others: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsIV7DqP4wM

UPDATE SO FAR: We've raised about $6,000 online from gifts of all sizes! We still have about $42,000 to go between now and December 15! So help spread the word so we can help keep our young friends in school.

It's easy to give. You can give online OR mail a check to Forgotten Voices; PO Box 1368; Mechanicsburg, PA 17055-1368.

If you haven't seen the video, check it out here --- you'll love it!



Come back tomorrow for the next stop in our Journey. Thanks for helping us spread the word and for using your voice!!!! Keep it up!

-Ryan

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stop 10 of 25: Meet Neatness & Watch Her Story


Meet Neatness, age 14. Hear her story of courage, hope, and love. Neatness' last words to us before we left her were these: "I hope my story helps thousands of kids, just like me, all around me."

We do too. Help make Neatness' wish come true. Watch her story, share it with friends, then Be a Voice at http://www.ForgottenVoices.org so we can help send thousands of kids back to school.

Forgotten Voices is a 501(c)(3), non-profit organization. All contributions are tax-deductible, as allowed by law. For more information on Forgotten Voices, visit http://www.ForgottenVoices.org. You can make a one-time or monthly gift at ForgottenVoices.org.

Neatness holds a sign up to thank her church for a program at school.
The beautiful homestead of the Nyoni Family, where Neatness lives with 17 people.
Obert, the homebased care counselor and Orphan Support Officer, who introduced us to Neatness and helps lead a team of volunteers that check up on her and over 2,000 kids around the country.
Neatness loves her grandmother, who you will also see in the film.

Neatness is one of the many children assisted by the Mtshabezi Mission National AIDS Programme, part of the Brethren in Christ Church - Zimbabwe.

In partnership with the BICC Zimbabwe church and MCC, we are helping this National AIDS Programme make the following impact:

For what: School fees for 1,742 primary students and about 650 secondary students; Voluntary Counseling & Testing programme (VCT); Peer Education Programme to start AIDS Action Clubs; Homebased Care programme training and distribution of Home Based Care kits; Staff & office expenses for AIDS programme
# Impact: 2,400 school fees, 400 Voluntary Counseling & Testing clients; 125 schools for Peer Education Programme; and 800 homebased care workers trained & 500 Homebased Care kits distributed; 150+ receive ARVs through the clinic, with support from MCC & Forgotten Voices, as well as a nearby hospital.
Partners: BIC World Missions and Mennonite Central Committee

PRAY: For the health workers, volunteer coordinators, and impact. Pray for Neatness, her family, and those that care for her. Pray for God to provide opportunities today for those serving on the ground to love someone in need. Pray for all the people that will see this video...that they may be moved to act on Neatness' story.

YOU: As Neatness said to us: "I hope this helps thousands of kids, just like me, all around me." We do too. Watch her story, share it with friends, and act by making a gift at ForgottenVoices.org or sending a check to Forgotten Voices, PO Box 1368; Mechanicsburg, PA 17055-1368.

NEXT STOP: Tomorrow, we'll look at more ways you and others are helping share Neatness' story, before we continue in our Journey Across Africa to meet some of the kids Neatness' hopes for...wishes for...prays for. See you then!

-Ryan

Monday, November 16, 2009

Attn: All in Central PA -- Step Into Africa!!!

Happening now in Central PA - November 15-22, 2009

The World Vision Experience: AIDS is a 3,600 square foot interactive exhibit that invites visitors to "step into Africa" by hearing, seeing and walking through an African village to personally experience the lives of children affected by AIDS. The stirring audio tour and captivating photography will transport you into the life of an African child and give you a new perspective on the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time... AIDS.

For directions to the location and for more information, visit the World Vision Experience: AIDS website.

Forgotten Voices International is proud to be a partnering organization in bringing this exhibit to the Central PA region. Don't forget to stop by our table and say hello when you go through!

Stop 9 of 25: Equipping generations of church leaders

Since the beginning, our vision was built around the Theological College of Zimbabwe. One of the pastors that led our first trip is Dale Brantner, the past president of TCZ, and now serves with a partner of ours, CURE International.
The front of TCZ, one of the best Christian seminaries in all of southern Africa

Forgotten Voices emerged from a church, West Shore EFC, that had been a supporter of Dale's when he was the President of TCZ and the church came to support TCZ, too. When Dale finished up at TCZ and returned to be the Young Adult Pastor at West Shore EFC, the church continued its support of TCZ. Several years later after Dale had joined the staff, Pastor Phil, the Senior Pastor at West Shore EFC, felt called by God that the church should become involved in responding to the AIDS crises in Africa. Phil and Dale believed that West Shore should look to TCZ as a starting place.

In 2004 Dale and Phil invited 10 other people, including me, to join them on a 14 day vision trip to dream about West Shore's involvement. There, our group of 12 met pastor after pastor that had 2 things in common: 1) they were graduates of TCZ or had attended training from TCZ and 2) they were helping lead small ministries in thier churches to respond to the AIDS crises in their communities, but all of them needed help.

As we prayed and considered West Shore's involvement, the vision for what would become Forgotten Voices was birthed. We should do everything we can to help these local churches realize the visions God has given them to meet the physical & spiritual needs of children orphaned by AIDS in their communities. But how?

Well - we first started by partnering with Graduates in identifying reliable, trustworthy pastors leading projects. But, then, the longer we were in partnership with TCZ, the more we heard a broader need --- to connect graduates from years past, no spread all over the region, so they could help each other learn & grow in ministry for those effected & affected by AIDS. We LOVED the idea because we want to equip local churches! What better way than to invest in the leading seminary and training ground for churches in all of Zimbabwe!

Standing with Victor Nakah, the President of TCZ and former student of Dale's, we began dreaming dreams together. We have launched a short-term partnership to help TCZ build a graduate network, which will eventually help us invest in the development of an HIV/AIDS orphan care institute for graduates and students -- to provide training, mentoring, and spiritual formation training for pastors, their churches, and the children they serve.

It's a big vision that is just beginning to play out. But, as we look over the horizon toward the future, we are confident that God wants His Church --- His Plan A -- to thrive and stand at the forefront. As Church donors from the West, it's our joy to do all we can to equip the Church in Africa.
Ryan, Trevor (FV Board Member), and John (a VP at TCZ) look at a field, where students are beginning to plant crops to provide food for their families.

The stone marking TCZ's move into the old Hilltop Motel, a strategic location that has allowed TCZ to better serve the needs of more Christian leaders.

Forgotten Voices Project -- Impact: Fund Alumni Development position for 3 years, a staff person that will help build connections with 168 TCZ alumni to determine needs in ministry, with special emphasis on HIV/AIDS program development within the ministry in 2008 and 2009. Through this research and connections, Forgotten Voices is working to help form an HIV/AIDS Institute, with training for HIV/AIDS program development for all alumni and students.

The financial need is $5,000/year for 3 years. To make a gift to support this effort, visit us online at ForgottenVoices.org OR mail a check made out to Forgotten Voices; PO Box 1368; Mechanicsburg, PA 17055-1368.

PRAY: Please pray for the seminary, as they continue serving the Church in the midst of such economic and political strife. Pray for Victor Nakah, TCZ's President, and the entire staff and Board of Directors. Pray for their graduates and students, as well as the families of these individuals. Pray for wisdom and faithfulness for the denominations and sending churches that commit to supporting students and placing graduates.

NEXT STOP: Tomorrow, we stay in Zimbabwe to see the work that God is doing through a national church project to serve a rural village that has become a 2nd home to me. You won't want to miss it. The family even named me a member of the family. :)

Come back and join me as we continue our journey. Thanks for reading. Friends, we are rejoicing with you at the faithfulness of our God and the opportunity we have to help equip His church. Thanks for investing in our mission and sharing our story with others.

-Ryan

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Reflection - A Pause in the Journey

A pause in our journey to reflect: Brandon Heath's "Give me your eyes"

Brandon Heath - Give Me Your Eyes from Brandon Heath on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stop 8 of 25: Their cries haunt me & make me cry

Yesterday, I promised to share a personal story about some children that I think about nearly every day. On my VERY first trip to Zimbabwe, in 2004, I visited a hospital in Zimbabwe that I cannot name. It's difficult to share this story with you because just thinking about writing it brings me to tears. My eyes well up with each sentence I write, knowing I'm getting closer and closer to trying to paint a word reality of what we saw.

Imagine standing outside on the street curb, staring up at sounds of children screaming and crying from a high up window of an overrun, under-resourced hospital that is overwhelmed with medical challenges that it barely has time to think, let alone consider long-term implications of its operations (or lack of).

Imagine being with a sweet-talking guide, who manages to get you and I into the hospital, past the security and up a VERY rickety elevator that seems to be unserviced for over 30 years. By God's grace, we make it up to the high floor, where the elevator doors barely open up to a hospital floor that is dark and damp, but crowded with people with ailments of all varieties. One thing that sticks out though is the noise coming from the end of the hall --- the distinct, piercing sound of children.

We are told we cannot take pictures and we must put our cameras away. It's our first trip to Zimbabwe and we want to capture everything, but we oblige, fearful of the tone that comes with the order from the head floor nurse. We dodge through the patients, who seem to have waited hours (maybe days) to be seen, almost all of them with expressions that communicate hopelessness. You and I look at each other, knowing what we must do. We want to stop and talk to each one, but the sounds of the children crying still ring through the cement block hallway --- each cry calling out to us to simply smile at each patient, with a focus on finding the source of the tears of children.

We get closer, with the cries growing louder. I'm nervous now, but try not to frighten you -- though remember at this point, I've never been here either. As we approach, we see a kid, probably about 6 or 7 yrs old, shuffle/crawl past the door. Not walk. Not run. But a shuffle/crawl. My eyes are shocked and confused, but I keep walking. We enter a GIANT blue room. 1 bathroom in the corner, a couple of sinks and 1 door. A couple windows, but all are barred up. It's high and the kids need protection, we think, with a glance at one another.

Then, I feel someone grabbing at my leg. You get the same feeling, but from a different direction. We both look down and see 15, 20, 25, maybe more kids all sitting in different corners of the room, coming toward us. All with arms extended waiting to be loved.

We are not supposed to be in this room. It's clear by the way the nurses dart out, but we stay --- compelled to stay by the depressed, emotionless glances that we see in the little faces staring up at us.

Our guide is told by a brave nurse that many of these children, ranging from days old to 8 yrs old, have never left this room since the day they were dropped off as infants. Abandoned, most of them children who have lost a parent to AIDS and families or neighbors dropped them off here at the hospital. I almost lose my balance, overhearing. You do, too. NEVER? There must be a language gap. Ask again. But slower this time.

It's confirmed. NEVER. You think I'm brave to sit down on the floor to better hug the child still grabbing my right leg. In truth, I need to sit down, unable to stand and ponder the gut wrenching fact we've been told. I'm immediately enveloped by a sea of clinging hands, crawling all over me. 3 yrs old. 4 yrs old. 7 yrs old. Maybe 2 yrs old. Many of them can't walk, when they should be able to --- how would they learn? What reason do they have to learn when they live in this one room?

We've only been in Zimbabwe for a few days at this moment, on our 1st trip together. We can't begin to imagine what's in store for us, but I feel paralyzed by the facts I've just heard. Another person with us, starts kissing the tops of the heads of each child and verbally reminds us all to "just love the children right now" and "we may not have long and these kids are starving for love."

They are right. Just moments later, a frantic nurse comes in and says we must leave. Someone in our group snapped a picture. They couldn't resist, I guess. I don't blame them. I grew up, watching stories in Romania of young children chained to the bed. Those images when I was 8 or 9 yrs old, watching 20/20 reports came racing back. I'm glad we got 1 or 2 images, but I'm crushed we have to leave.

Our pastor, though we were told to leave immediately, leans over a crib and touches the head of a child who had no way to reach us unless we went to him. That image is etched in my mind, despite the thousands and thousands of kids I've met and hundreds of people I've sat with on their death beds. I'll never forget the gently extended hand of my pastor, touching the head of a small child that may never leave this room. May very well die in this room.

I'll never, ever forget the stark contrast between the hand of compassion and the horrors of "life" wasted in that giant blue room.

That was 5.5 years ago, when we were forced to leave that room and the hospital. Forced to leave these abandoned children. Forced to say goodbye before we could say hello. Forced to accept the orders of a system we did not understand, but at the same time knew everything about --- a system that was failing to effectively serve the most vulnerable, but efficiently escorts love out the door. HATE 1, LOVE 0.

Race forward to today and you see why my hope still burns. Over the past 5 years, I've met hundreds of heroes around southern Africa. Dozens and dozens of them have become some of my closest friends.

The ministry of Forgotten Voices is finding pastors and church volunteers who are standing for the fatherless in their communities. Standing for the children that show up on their doorsteps instead of being dropped off at the giant blue room door. The church has proven itself to be a willing option --- not always an option with firm plans, but with willing hearts.

Our task and vision at Forgotten Voices is to find these honest heroes. Find them and tell their stories. Share the unfathomable bravery they exhibit and pray to God that people like you reading their stories will not simply slip back into your worlds, but choose to say YES. THESE ARE STORIES I CANNOT FORGET.

We are driven by their cries and their prayers. We are driven by their compassion. We are driven by the deeply held belief that our God is alive and well today.

3 Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless;
maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.
4 Rescue the weak and needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
Psalm 82:3-4


While this story was long, for some of these kids it has a happy ending, which finally brings us to Stop #8. Forgotten Voices is proud to support a ministry that is caring for abandoned children that start off destined for the blue room, but a network of people is intervening to give these children a chance --- a chance to reconnect to a distant relative or family friend. If not, they are placed in a forever home.

I remember visiting one of these forever homes. Its location and name I cannot reveal, for obvious reasons. But, as God is my witness, the very first child I met at this forever home --- nearly 5 years after my first trip to the giant blue room --- was a child I saw that first trip. He had been rescued.

I sat down on the chair and watched him crawl into my lap. I was unable to speak for awhile, overwhelmed by the memories of this child's face and to the glory I was giving to God for his deliverance from that vile place to this oasis of love. He had been learning to walk and was making great strides. He had a yard to play in now. How great is our God!?!??! Sing with me, HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD!??! HOW GREAT. HOW GREAT. HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD.

Forgotten Voices is now proud to be a supporter of this ministry to abandoned children in Zimbabwe. It is led by a large church in Zimbabwe, but they need our help, just as so many other heroes of the faith do, too in Zimbabwe and Zambia.

You can help us invest in this ministry and 24 others that we are experiencing on this Journey Across Africa.

To make a gift online, visit ForgottenVoices.org or send a check to Forgotten Voices, PO Box 1368; Mechanicsburg, PA 17055-1368.

Pray on, as we rise to meet the enormous challenges we see. Nearly 5,000 children are receiving care from our network of church partners. You can join the movement of hearing their stories and responding by being a voice for these champions for children. By doing so, you are helping us equip them with the resources they need to meet the physical & spiritual needs of these vulnerable kids, orphaned by AIDS.

NEXT STOP: We go to a seminary equipping church leaders --- graduates that are leading Forgotten Voices' church partnerships in Zimbabwe. Where character, service, leadership, and reconciliation is taught, so giant blue rooms are responded to with love and hope --- not crippling hopelessness. Come back and be challenged again by the inspiring place that is a 2nd home to me: the Theological College of Zimbabwe.

Thanks for reading. And thanks for loving. Thanks for being a voice and not simply moving on, forgetting their cries. I love you for this. If they could give you a hug themselves, they would.

With a giant bear hug to you,
Ryan

PS To learn more about the abandoned children and the woman behind it, you can read a recent post here. Again, the names are protected.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Stop 7 of 25: Sewing Hope for Caretakers

What we are doing is real, my friends. As real as it gets, actually. When facing the opportunity to meet the physical and spiritual needs of people --- an opportunity that people sometimes wait their whole lives for --- our response determines the essence of our own humanity.

Sometimes, when I get off conference calls or come back from Africa or wake up here in the USA and look at the to-do list for the day, I feel almost debilitated. Stunned by the task before us, humbled by the enormity of the mountain. When day after day, I have email conversations and phone calls and breakfasts with people that express great joy for our work, then choose to do nothing to help it continue --- it's tough.

But then, I remember. I remember the faces I've seen. The stories I've heard. And the promises of our God. It's not about me or you. It's about being faithful to the things God has called us to do --- defend the fatherless and the oppressed by listening to their cries. It's about living out the desires of God, even when we feel alone in the world. God is there with us and those we strive to serve. His word constantly tells us this.

"17 You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more."
Psalm 10:17-18

Even if there is not even one out there responding to the calling that God has given us to follow, our work goes on because God has called Forgotten Voices to give voice to the forgotten voices of southern Africa --- the local churches meeting the physical & spiritual needs of children orphaned by AIDS in their communities.

You stand with us and that inspires me daily, just as our projects inspire us. Do you know of someone in your life that should hear about the ministry of Forgotten Voices? Consider passing along a link to this Journey Across Africa.


THE NEW LIFE MINISTRIES CHURCH
MUSHILI, NDOLA, ZAMBIA

One of my favorite people is Christian, who I've written to you about before on several occasions. I invite you to read some of these previous posts to learn more about the background of this hero of mine in Zambia.

The church that Christian leads, New Life Ministries, is helping lead the way for Mushili, Ndola, Zambia. So many children have been pouring on to the steps of the church that they now have a children's ministry, men's ministry, and women's ministry built around the plight of the orphan. They've built a garden on the church grounds for people to come voluntarily and grow crops for the ministry. They've worked with the city to build a cell phone tower so the church has money to support vulnerable children. They're working on improving schools and economic opportunities by giving their time, talents, and resources to the plight of children -- the fatherless, who need a champion and are crying out to God to be remembered.

By God's grace, the church there is responding with an abundance of love and you are joining them in that response --- by giving your time to tell your friends and your resources to invest in helping Forgotten Voices answer their prayers.
This first group of women, some of the initial class of 15, is about to graduate the program in December. Praise God!!!! :)

Project impact description: 50 children orphaned by AIDS back to school by Forgotten Voices helping church pay school requirements and 60 widows trained in tailoring skills, as well as start-up fabric (15 every 6 months for 2 years). To do this, we've also helped the church acquire 4 sewing machines and repair 7 machines that were donated by the local community.

PRAY (in their words):
- We praise God for answering our prayers for financial support as we’ve been praying for the same.
- We praise God that we are able to take the children whom we registered to school
- We praise God that we are able to keep about 15 widows by empowering them with the skill of tailoring.
- Praying for the project that we have to continued supporting the orphans and empowering the widows
- Praying that after we have given a skill to the widows, we also have to find resources to empower them thereafter
- Praying for the completion of the church building
- Praying for most of the widows who are sick. There are on and off to classes.

NOW: By the beginning of December, we need to send another $4,000 to this church to continue assisting this program. Money we don't yet have. Please consider making a gift to help Forgotten Voices meet the physical & spiritual needs of children orphaned by AIDS and those that care for them.

To make a gift online, visit ForgottenVoices.org or send in a check to Forgotten Voices; PO Box 1368; Mechanicsburg, PA 17055-1368. All gifts are tax-deductible. THANK YOU!

NEXT STEPS: We head back to Zimbabwe, where you'll meet some children that I think about almost constantly. I'm excited for you to hear their story. Come back tomorrow as our Journey Across Africa continues.

All the best,
Ryan

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Stop 6 of 25: Touring Twapia -- Part 2

Literally just down the road from Twapia ECZ, where I took you on Stop 5 of our journey, is the Vineyard World Outreach Church's feeding program in Twapia. This is a project Forgotten Voices has not assisted yet, but we hope to start by the end of this year if we can raise funds: $2,500/year.

While Forgotten Voices typically invests in more holistic projects because we find ourselves helping churches starting at the very beginning, the Vineyard's feeding program is a bit different. The value of the model we use is that we can adapt programming based on the needs, or Gaps, of a particular church. Vineyard's feeding program is a piece of the community response.

We are helping Twapia ECZ send kids to school, a Vineyard church in Ohio is helping Vineyard do a more robust feeding program, and World Vision is also working in the area on HIV/AIDS education. Together, we are joining together to equip local churches in Twapia to meet the physical & spiritual needs of children orphaned by AIDS in the community.

Description: The Vineyard World Outreach Church runs a project in Twapia of 150 vulnerable and orphaned children by feeding them twice in a week and providing for their school requirements. Of these hundred and fifty children, seventy five of them are already being assisted by Vineyard Columbus, Ohio. We hope our $2,500/year piece also helps the local church achieve a sustainable commercial block making project. We also plan to involve Farming God's Way (which was Stop #3 on our Journey) to help this community grow a long-term supply of food and create a more self-sustaining environment. But, we need to also help meet the critical short-term food needs.

Ryan with Lameck, the Vineyard church's pastor helping lead this project

Ryan and Lameck preparing the meal. Another interesting note is that the Vineyard church views this as a missions project and service to the community, as they don't have a church in Twapia, but are extending love to churches in the area, like Twapia ECZ, who have identified this feeding project as a community need.

Some of the many kids assisted by the feeding project. Currently, there are 75. With Forgotten Voices' assistance, this project will grow to reach 150 vulnerable children.

# Impact/Activities: 150 children will be given food twice a week and helped to continue with their education. Block making will render sustainability of the project in the long run. Farming God's Way will also be a partner, but in a different project line item so we can reach a collection of churches, not just this project.

PRAY: Pray for God to deliver resources to Forgotten Voices, so we can equip this church project with the resources they need. Pray for the kids and their families, or caretakers, as they await the start of the project. Pray for wisdom for the community pastors, as they are struggling to keep up with rising demand, as they await funding. Pray for Remmy, our Zambian Program Director, who is seeing these needs daily and leading our response formation with the local churches. Pray for new donors to see this need. Maybe you know someone that would be moved to act in responding to these prayer requests.

NOW: We need $2,500 for the Twapia Vineyard Feeding Project. Please join us in giving to this project. Feel free to make an online donation or send in a check written to Forgotten Voices; PO Box 1368; Mechanicsburg, PA 17055-1368 USA.

NEXT STOP: We'll stay in Zambia. Come back tomorrow to meet another project in the greater Ndola, Zambia area.

-Ryan

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Stop 5 of 25: Touring Twapia -- Part 1

This time last year, Remmy -- the Forgotten Voices' Program Director in Zambia -- shared with us about a community called Twapia on our blog.

You can read Remmy's entry about Twapia Evangelical Church of Zambia here. Meet the Chiwasas and hear their personal story of intervening with their church to champion the cause of potentially forgotten people.


That was a year ago --- before you all gave and helped us launch a partnership with this church. By God's grace and your faithfulness in giving, we are several months into equipping this church to meet the physical & spiritual needs of children orphaned by AIDS in the Twapia community.

TODAY: We are helping this local church send 40 children orphaned by AIDS back to school. In addition, 15 other vulnerable children are attending school now. 10 widows and 2 others in the community are receiving income generating project assistance and life-skill training to better equip them for the difficult roads ahead in life.

In short, the church is responding to the commands of Christ -- to look out for widows and orphans. Praise be to God for our opportunity to hear their experiences and come together to support their work.

Imagine life for these kids if you had not said yes to donating to Forgotten Voices? Imagine if Twapia ECZ had said no to trusting that God would provide assistance to help them meet the calling they believe God has placed on their church to do this work? Thanks for your faithfulness and saying YES!

NOW: Pray for Twapia ECZ's continued service to these vulnerable children and widows. Pray for Forgotten Voices, as the costs for this program are about $4,000 every 6 months and the next payment is due in December. We currently do not have funds to keep these kids in school. Pray about your ability to help be a voice for these children and the church that is caring for them 24/7. Maybe you and some friends want to take on this challenge?

NEXT STOP: Our next stop in the journey won't very long. I'm taking you to a project about 200 yards away from Twapia ECZ -- a new project that we haven't started funding yet, but the Board just approved. We are looking for people out there that want to partner with us to get this project off the ground. Tune in tomorrow as you pray about Being a Voice for the community of Twapia, in partnership with Forgotten Voices.

Until tomorrow,
Sleep well,
Ryan

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Stop 4 of 25: Smiles in the mountains


Thank you for your prayers for Fibion & his fmaily (see yesterday's post to catch up). I spoke with him today and the funeral will be held next week.

As we chatted, we were reflecting on a place we like to go -- way up in the Matopo Mountains of Zimbabwe. A place to retreat and get away from the crazy busyness of our world. It's a place called Shumba Shaba.



Throughout this mountain range are little collections of shops. They are called Growth Points -- intentional development to try and bring about economic growth. Some of these places have schools. In partnership with Farming God's Way (blogged about this earlier in the journey), one area at the bottom of the mountain range is helping improve farming and sending kids back to school with school fees. Pretty cool!

The local church, Matopo BIC, is partnering with Forgotten Voices, Farming God's Way, and a local Rotary Club in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe to help provide seed and school fees for folks that are caring for children orphaned by AIDS. Each homestead (like this one below) has a unique need and partnerships like this help the families receive the specific service they need, while also recognizing their desire and right to lead the way in determining what's best.

Ryan, from 2004, with kids that live near the local Growth Point in the Matopo Mountains.

NOW: Forgotten Voices is helping this partnership send 30 kids to school. 30 children that have a champion in their community, but need a little help from you and me to continue finding their voice at school.

PRAY: Continue to pray for the partnership, as it grows becuase of God's faithfulness to allow it to grow in impact, as well as the growing pressures with more and more kids losing parents daily. Pray for the adults taking in the kids -- for patience, trust, and hope in God.

NEXT: Pray for your involvement in supporting the work of Forgotten Voices. Costs have gone up 400% in this neighborhood, driving up school fees and hurting our chances to continue doing all we are doing now. The stresses on us in this part of Zimbabwe are tremendous. We need an additional $3,000 before year end to cover the costs we expect in January for this project.

Consider giving at ForgottenVoices.org and being a voice for this community. Please continue praying for our ministry and all that interact with these kids. Pray for the children. Thanks!

Journey continues: Tomorrow, journey with me to a land up north of Zimbabwe for our first stop in Zambia. We'll visit projects in greater Ndola, Zambia that Forgotten Voices launched with local churches in 2009.

-Ryan

PS I know that I've heard from some of you about wanting to know more details about where these projects are and specific stories about these locations. Due to on-going political tension in these particular regions, I have chosen not to do so. But, be assured. The specific stories of kids are coming! :) Tomorrow, as we travel to a freer land -- Zambia. Later, you'll meet more kids from Zimbabwe with specific details about who they are and where they live. Thanks for understanding, as we operate in difficult political challenges in some parts of the region. Many thanks!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tragedy strikes the Forgotten Voices family - a pause in our journey

Friends - Last week, I wrote about growing tensions mounting in Zimbabwe and called on all of us to pray for the region.

Tonight, I'm sad to inform you that our beloved friend, Fibion, who I just wrote about a few days ago --- lost his nephew to a brutal killing in South Africa earlier today. Our prayers are with Fibion and his extended family.

Fibion and I have chosen not to go into details, other than to call you all to continued prayer for the tension, stress, and violence that is brewing and breaking out around southern Africa. Pray also for the Forgotten Voices family of church partners, donors, staff, and volunteers -- that we may press on in answering the calls to love, even when it hurts. Fibion also powerfully called me to remind you all to pray for the new people that came to his church this past weekend...that they would know and come to know Jesus this week. Amidst his suffering, Fibion provides wisdom to us all.

To honor our dear friend Fibion's loss and to focus our prayers tonight, we pause our journey around projects. We will resume tomorrow.

To send a note of encouragement to Fibion, please email Remember@ForgottenVoices.org or post a comment here on blogger. I'll make sure to collect them and get them to Fibion's family.

Many thanks for your prayer and love,
Ryan

Monday, November 2, 2009

Stop 3 of 25: Planting seeds for success

Pierre, leader of FGW in southern Zimbabwe. Read Pierre's story here.
With Pierre (blue coat) and friends, checking out the deep green, tall maize/corn.
Matthew 9:37
"Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.'"

It's really a miracle to watch a small seed emerge into a corn stalk that can be eaten. Growing up as in suburban Boston, I remember being mesmerized when I'd visit dad's parents in rural Tennessee and playing in their 80 yard long/20 yard wide garden. My grandfather would bend down to the base of the corn stalk and explain to me how the little seed had grown and what was needed to make it grow: cover, water, light, and weeding. Back when I was a little kid, this hands on science lesson was merely a passing summer activity.

Little did I know that I would later spend a lot of time thinking about corn (or maize in Zimbabwe) and praying for tens of thousands of seeds you've helped grow around southern Africa. Forgotten Voices is proud to partner with an incredible ministry called Farming God's Way, which is also now known as Foundations for Farming. Seemingly every week, I'm telling more people to check out the ministry and learn how God is using a simple idea to transform a continent. Miracles are happening with FGW everyday!

Lots of people talk about volunteering their time, but the folks at FGW are literally equipping thousands of local farmers and demonstrating the love of Christ. The work they are doing requires more people like you to invest in Forgotten Voices so we can help them help even more!!! Will you join us in helping FGW reap an even greater harvest???

Farming God's Way is training local people in such an incredible way that I've witnessed personally on many occasions. Not only is FGW working to increase the yield of local, small farmers, but it is spreading the gospel and transforming seemingly hopeless situations into hopeful crops, hearts, and minds. FGW uses untraditional ways of covering crops with God's blanket (dry corn stalks, hay, leaves as mulch) and helps farmers learn to carefully measure the depth of holes, distance between holes, and which seedlings survive. This reduces clean up time and increases yield dramatically.

Imagine how this changes life for a kid. instead of weeding 6-8 hrs a day, the average FGW farm requires less than 30 min of weeding every day, while seeing 200-350% more yield than traditional farming. Children that had to stay home from school because there was too much work to do are now reconnecting with their studies and developing a greater sense of agency for themselves. This is particularly true for children orphaned by AIDS, who often don't have extra hands around the homestead to help them with their farming chores. FGW is dramatically changing the economic and spiritual futures of a new generation of leaders.

Every time someone receives training in FGW to improve their own crops, they have to go train others (typically 10 others) in their community so people rise out of poverty together. This helps more people benefit from our investment in FGW and strengthens the communal nature of Zimbabwean and Zambian culture.

Forgotten Voices is proud to support FGW, now for the 3rd year. October and November are planting months. By Forgotten Voices providing seed & farming supplies to FGW, with your support, we are helping equip local people and vulnerable children with the resources they need to meet their own physical & spiritual needs. We are equipping local church volunteers with training in FGW so they can share the miracles God is providing through FGW with those in their congregations and people across their communities.

This year, because of your support, an estimated 1,000 individuals will benefit from training, seeds, and support for the 100+ farms FGW is helping in southern Zimbabwe with our funding and a to be determined amount of farms in Zambia. An estimated 10,000 people will indirectly benefit because of the training that the 1,000 people you are enabling us to train because of FGW model of recipients training 10 of their neighbors.

PRAISE GOD! It's incredible how little seeds we help FGW buy and their volunteer network that is reaching so many will change the lives of people all over Zimbabwe and Zambia. How cool!!!! You give. We support. FGW equips. People eat. Kids live. AWESOME!

I don't look at corn the same way I did when I was a kid visiting Tennessee. Today, because of your investments and the good work of volunteers at FGW, everytime I see corn I see hope in the midst of hopeless situations. I see miracles from God.

To support this ministry, you can do the following:
1) Pray for the seeds that are being planted now.
2) Pray for rains to come.
3) Pray for financial support to come in so we can be prepared to buy seeds again in bulk incrementally over the next 6 months.
4) Give to ForgottenVoices.org to help us pay for the seed we've purchased, training travel costs, and farming training and planting materials needed.

What's Next?:
Join me tomorrow as I bring you through rough, dirt roads...up into the Matopos Mountains to Stop #4. We'll see the work of a rural school that is parntering with Forgotten Voices to care for 30 children. Buckle up though. The road out there is VERY bumpy, but the pictures and stories from our friends there inspire us daily. See you then!

-Ryan