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."

Friday, December 31, 2010

Prayer & Praise: January 2011

Each month we receive prayer and praise updates from the churches with whom we partner across Zimbabwe and Zambia. Below are just a few of those updates. We hope you'll take some time to pray about these requests and praises, and remember the work of our church projects in Africa.

ZBA OVC Support Project – Zambia

Pray for the ten ZBA church planters and their families who are serving and promulgating the Word of Christ in some of the most remote areas.

Pray Mushili Baptist Church as their sanctuary is in need of repair. Ask that God would provide the resources, both physical and human, to refurbish the building.

Praise God that recent seminary graduates will be joining the ZBA workforce as church planters!

Fruit of the Vine (Vineyard World Outreach Church) – Zambia

Praise God that a number of leaders have experienced a direct call to love vulnerable children!

Pray that God would fill the leaders of this project with confidence and grace as they begin working with vulnerable children. Ask that the Lord would send His Spirit in power to equip these leaders to meet the needs of the many broken children in their community.

Free Methodist Church – Zimbabwe

Pray that God would attend to a young boy named Bright who was unable to complete his year-end ninth grade examinations due to sickness. Ask that God would completely and expeditiously restore Bright’s health as he recovers from malaria.

Ask that God would provide rain for the many farmers who have planted crops. Pray that God would provide a plentiful harvest to be shared among the community.

Praise God that many children successfully completed their year-end examinations with the love and support provided by FVI!

Thank you and prayers needed for Vuyani

Friends - thanks for investing in the hopes and dreams of children in 2010. On behalf of the 5,200+ kids we served in 2010, I'm so thankful for each and every one of you. Personally, I thank you for the opportunity to guide you and introduce you to the children, our partners in Africa, and our network of Board members, volunteers, staff, and supporters in the USA.

When we started Forgotten Voices, we didn't know how or when the needs of those we met would be addressed. We knew that God would work through local churches to meet the needs of children we could not deeply know to a level necessary to determine which needs, when, etc. Every child is known personally by their church. Every child has a story that breathes more hope Dec 31 because of your investment in them. We are so thankful you have helped respond. We don't know all of you or how you came to know us, but we are thankful that these children are not forgotten.

Not every story in 2010 ends with joy, however. I just got off the phone with Fibion, our Zimbabwe Director, who told me that a dear young friend of mine is not well at all. Her name is Vuyani, age 17. She is suffering greatly tonight from anemia. We've featured her picture before (she is in the pink), but never her story. After losing her mother, Vuyani and her twin sister were unable to continue going to school. Fibion's church helps send them to school and meet other needs, such as retreats, food, and counseling.  Vuyani's smile is contagious and she is one of my closest young friends in Zimbabwe. We humbly ask you pray for Vuyani. When I saw her in November, she was so frail she couldn't walk. She recovered for about 2 weeks after 9 months of bedrest. Her sister has been reading course material after school for almost a year because Vuyani had to stop attending because of her pain.  In the past few days, she has turned for the worst. Now, she can barely speak and is very, very sick. We pray for healing, but also for peace as she suffers. Right now, people are caring for her on your behalf. Thank you.

As we go off to celebrate, please remember to pray for Vuyani as we continue working to help your investments realize the needs of the healthy and the sick children orphaned by AIDS in southern Africa.

Finally, Fibion's church wanted me to thank you for your prayers & support. Just today, we sent funds that will help the church care for 230 kids, including Vuyani. The church is entering the new year by hosting a 5 hour prayer service that is underway right now. As we pray for them, Fibion also wants you to know that they will be praying for you.

You can continue to give online to support our work at Forgotten Voices' website. Thank you.

Peace and love this new year,
Ryan Keith
President - Forgotten Voices International

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas from the almost forgotten

Last night at Katie's parents' Christmas Eve service, I watched with delight as my daughter quietly jumped up and down throughout the whole service...quite a feat for a six month old. On the inside, I could tell she was singing because her bouncing to the beat was so passionate. Only occasionally would a shriek of joy cry out. Being that it is our first Christmas, I'm soaking up every minute.

Her passionate joy taught me two things that I wanted to share with you this Christmas:
1) That as we celebrate our King, let us dance about with joy for the birth of Jesus. He's not just "the reason for the season", as the phrase goes.  He's the reason for our salvation. He's the reason for our Hope. He's the purpose of our lives. He's redemption from death. He's life for you and me, if we believe and follow Him.

2) As I watched her dance, I was again overwhelmed by how much I crave this joy and security for the kids our ministry serves.  I kept thinking about what would've happened if local churches weren't helping bring life after death of their parents. I couldn't stop thinking of the hundreds and thousands of people who live, in part, because of our ministry. This means that they are still alive, in part, because of your investment.

You can click on the captions below each picture to learn more about each child.
Eddie, a future pilot

Nelson, a future farmer.
Peterson, a future cameraman

Neatness, a future accountant or air hostess. Now, maybe a teacher.

Shelton, Concilia and Magret, back in their home for Christmas.
While I hope you take some time today to read back through the many reflections from our advent contributors, I wanted to also let you see some of the many faces who live and have the opportunity to teach us to live like Christ because you helped them stay alive. When Christ ascended into heaven, He left behind His church as Plan A. There is no Plan B. Through your investment in local churches, by God's grace, we are helping bring redemption and hope from death. I will, without exaggeration, be forever thankful for each of you.

On behalf of all the people we serve, our volunteers, our staff and Board, Merry Christmas from Forgotten Voices International.

With great joy and thanksgiving,
All the best,
Ryan Keith
President, Forgotten Voices International

Friday, December 24, 2010

Death to Life at Christmas: Part 2

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10)
Yesterday, I shared a short reflection on why Jesus came. He came at Christmas to die, so that we may have life and have it to the full. In coming to die, we are offered a life of laying ourselves down for Him, just as He taught us with his life.

This year, that's what I'm learning about Christmas. At Forgotten Voices, as I reflected yesterday, we deal with death a lot and it can be incredibly overwhelming for me to process. Then, I think about our partners in Africa and the sacrifices they make by doing this day after day. How does a man like Pastor Fibion wake up knowing he'll likely encounter death several times today? How does Pastor James rise to care for children in his own house, knowing that more will come?

Over and over, our friends and partners in Africa teach us a lesson they have learned from considering the birth of Jesus -- He came to die. They consider this often in their day to day lives, offering themselves up for others to bring redemption in death.

Under this tree, the visit of Forgotten Voices was birthed. In the death of this woman, we saw redemption in partnering with local churches to meet the needs of children left behind.
Prudence, age 3, died in Jan 2006.
On just my 2nd trip to Africa before Forgotten Voices was birthed, I remember sitting with sick this woman slumping into the arms of her mother (pictured above). Her name is Mrs. Mpofu. Two Zimbabwean pastors (one, named Garret, pictured to woman's right), my friend Dale (white guy there) and my friend Trevor (Board member - not pictured) visited this woman with me the day before she died in January 2005. She would leave 2 kids, Peterson (pictured below with Ryan) and Prudence (Pictured left), behind in her death. You can click their names to learn/see more.  I remember so distinctly sitting there crying out to God, "What do I know about this and what can I do?"

Working with pastors to decide what would happen to the kids.
Under the tree with Mrs. Mpofu and below around the circle, were pastors who did know what to do. They were offering themselves up before God so that Mrs. Mpofu's kids may have life and have it more fully. They committed their ministries to look after the kids and meet the physical & spiritual needs of the children orphaned by AIDS. They knew their names, histories, parents, situations, etc. They understood what was going on more than you and I could even imagine.

Through the death of so many people that we know at Forgotten Voices, our partners have continually shown us that God wants to redeem death through the example of Jesus' birth, death, and resurrection. In the midst of our pain, God wants us to just come as we are and offer ourselves to Him. I don't think I would've committed so fully to helping develop Forgotten Voices until I saw such an extreme case of death and result. By partnering with the church, we've seen thousands of kids restored to life after losing their parents. We've watched hope win, when death and darkness appeared more logical.

Ryan and Peterson, visiting Peterson's mom and sister's grave site in 2007.
As I continue to walk hand in hand with some of the kids who have experienced death, like Peterson (pictured left with me and below), we get to partner with the church and help redeem death. By investing in the lives of the children left behind by AIDS, we don't just help them. We - you and me - get to experience life-transforming hope in learning more about God's deep love for all of us.

Ryan and Peterson, learning to use a camera in 2006.
On behalf of all the kids we serve and have been served because you all join us in offering life after death, thank you! Thanks for joining the pastors sitting under trees and offering life to their hopes and dreams for the kids in their communities.

As we celebrate our King's arrival tomorrow, may you be encouraged by the work God has allowed you to join. May you find peace in coming, as you are, before Him in worship. May the darkness of our world be enveloped by the promises of our God to redeem of all of this. May you know, without a doubt, that this baby came for you and me. This Christmas, despite the pain we see around us, we have redemption and hope because Christ is born so that we may live fully.

Merry Christmas,
Ryan Keith
President, Forgotten Voices International

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Death to Life at Christmas: Part 1

PART I. The story of Christmas is about Death to Life. Jesus came as a baby, born in a manger. The redeemer of the world. God - Literally here on earth. But He didn't just come to be cute and have us throw a party in His honor every year. He came as a gift - offered to all of us for us to accept. He offers Himself to take on the sins of the world so that we may have eternal life if we believe and follow Him. As a Father, God gave us His son, which we celebrate at Christmas, so that He would die for us, which we mourn and celebrate during Easter. He showed us His majesty and triumph over sin by RISING and offering us eternal life.

Can you imagine giving up a child to die for the betterment of others? As a father of a beautiful 6 month old girl, Avery Joy, I'm immensely thankful for this incredible gift that God has bestowed upon my wife, Katie, and I. Avery's giggles, new tricks, and even tears at 3am bring enormous joy to all who encounter her. When I think about Jesus being born for the purposes of dying for me, this strikes me in such a more powerful way now that I have a child. He came to redeem you and me and invite us into His Kingdom if we only believe.

The Christ-mas story of Jesus' birth and future death helps me see the redemptive value of death. Though our thoughts are of great anticipation for life at Christmas, I challenge you to also reflect on Christ's death this Christmas -- His death so that we may have life.

At Forgotten Voices International, we interact with death a lot. A LOT. I've now sat with hundreds of people in their final stages of life. I've met hundreds of parents, caregivers, and kids who are no longer alive. I've sat under trees, holding the hands of men and women...praying for them and asking God to grant them peace in their suffering. I've watched so many parents cling to life, fearing what will happen to their children after they pass away.

Because of Christ's example of sacrificing Himself so that others may have life, the Church has an example to follow. A promise of redemption in the darkness.

Tomorrow, in Part 2, I'd like to share pictures from a profoundly significant day in my life leading Forgotten Voices. Pictures I haven't seen in a couple years until preparing for this post. Pictures that are around me but I've been unable to look. But this year, by looking at Christmas as a story of Death to Life, I'm learning to love and trust in God in new ways. I want to show you what God is teaching me and how our partners in Africa are offering hope to all of us, in the midst of darkness. Jesus' birth showed them.

May God grant you peace and joy in the busy season that is Christmas in America. May you stop and reflect - with great anticipation - for the coming of our King.

Until tomorrow,

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Breaking out of the bubble

It is almost a year since my first visit to Africa. While I had worked with Forgotten Voices International for some time and understood the devastating description of conditions there – life expectancy in the 40’s, over 1.5 million children orphaned by AIDS, and the large number of households headed by children, I was still not prepared for what I was about to see. When I returned to my comfortable life in the US, I was struck by the words of a friend of mine following a trip to Africa, observing that those of us in the US “live in a bubble, insulated from the harsh reality that is always present in places like Zimbabwe and Zambia”.

As a way to avoid slipping back into complacency, I have taken some of the photographs from my trip to Africa and placed them on a digital photo frame in my office. Every morning I turn it on to remind me that there are places in the world where there is little opportunity to rise above the forces of poverty, illness, and injustice. The faces that appear on my digital frame are real people with names that I can remember - James, Fibion, Neatness, Petersen, and many others. They are not an abstract problem to solve. They are people whose faces call out to me to see them as God’s children and to respond through the eyes of faith.

My experience in Africa has convinced me that the Church of Jesus Christ stands as a beacon of hope and the manifestation of God’s love in the most difficult of circumstances. I have also come to appreciate that the FVI model of working through local churches is the most effective way to meet the needs of orphans. As a relatively small organization FVI can be very nimble in response to the needs identified by the local church, and can help to create solutions that have true local ownership. Africa is like most places in the world where empowerment and dignity go hand in hand. Working through the local church also provides a framework with integrity that is sorely lacking elsewhere. In short, a higher percentage of the dollars spent by FVI is reaching the targeted needs of those in distress.

I urge all of you who live in the “bubble” we call the United States to join the work of Forgotten Voices International. If you are looking to make a difference in the world, you have come to the right place!

Stephen Proctor - Chair, Forgotten Voices International

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Learning from Hope

Today's story is from one of my favorite people in Africa - my dear, young friend Hope. She is Remmy Hamapande's niece. Remmy is our Zambia Director, who some of you were able to meet in Oct/Nov 2010. One of my favorite things in all the world is to sit and learn from children. Hope's eternal joy and quiet smile always warms my heart. It is no exaggeration to say that she has helped me get through dark times. When I come to Zambia, I stay with Remmy's family, including Hope.

After spending a long day with children who have recently lost their parents or assessing a difficult situation, it is common for me to return home exhausted and out of steam. But, Hope - like God's gift of hope - always invigorates me with her request to play games outside or UNO. Her endless joy refreshes me and helps me refocus on God's hope for all who I've seen that day. She is always concerned to make sure I'm doing well and always enjoys a laugh. From Hope, I've learned to come home to my daughter ready to play, laugh, and love despite a tough day. For all the kids we serve, I long to create a family environment of laughter and hope - a lesson Hope has helped me learn again and again.

I'm thankful Hope offered to write this. Though she is shy, her heart is full of love for all of us. I hope that her reflection, offered with love, offers you hope.

Ryan Keith - President, Forgotten Voices

(Click to enlarge)

Hope Shanungu, 12 year old from Ndola, Zambia

Monday, December 20, 2010

Welcome to Starbucks, would you like to save a life or just coffee today?

"I’ll have a grande extra hot soy with extra foam, split shot with a half squirt of sugar-free vanilla and a half squirt of sugar-free cinnamon, a half packet of Splenda, oh and put that in a venti cup and fill up the "room" with extra whipped cream with caramel and chocolate sauce drizzled on top?"

As Americans, we want what WE want, when we want it and how we want it. It’s hard not to be surprised by the labels we receive like “selfish, egotistical, or narcissistic,” when we have so much and millions of others have so little. The saddest part about this is that as Americans, we have to make sure everyone else around us knows just how much we have, compared to others.

In contrast, Forgotten Voices International (FVI) sees the needs of those that are suffering and less fortunate and humbly works to care for them. FVI focuses its energy in Africa, specifically within Zambia and Zimbabwe, to come alongside the churches and selflessly fulfill God’s calling to help those, specifically orphans, affected by AIDS/HIV. These orphans struggle to have even just one meal a day, medications, education, or even a parent alive to show them love --- and our biggest difficulty in life is trying to decide what kind of milk we should get in our coffee?!

Psalm 119:36 says, “Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.” The New Living Translation of this verse offers clarity, “Give me an eagerness for your laws rather than a love for money!” The selfless nature of FVI, to go follow and serve the Lord demonstrates a sharp contrast to that of many people today.

Forgotten Voices does not simply swoop into Africa like Superman with a camera crew, a bunch of McDonald’s cheeseburgers and Nike sneakers to come save the day and receive instant gratification and personal gain. Instead, in Zambia and Zimbabwe, Forgotten Voices goes into communities and partners with the local churches to holistically empower and uplift the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the people. They do this by funding HIV/AIDS orphans’ schooling costs, hosting sewing classes for widowed women, equipping the jobless with the tools/skills needed to have their own farm for a financial/food source, and many other initiatives.

I support Forgotten Voices and work to help build and grow this organization because I see genuine needs of forgotten people in Africa who have nothing, while I have so much. I frivolously waste my money and time doing things that only serve myself. Did you know that it only costs $15 to send one child to primary school for an entire academic term (4 months)? Considering that a typical Starbucks coffee costs at least two or three dollars, it puts things in perspective. By fulfilling my own frivolous needs, I am, in essence, closing a door on the opportunity to change and perhaps save an orphan’s life.

This organization and the people that work with it are not trying to leave a personal legacy or receive praise and honor for what they do. Much of the work done through Forgotten Voices is “behind the scenes” and if you asked any of the assisted children what “Forgotten Voices” was, they probably wouldn’t even know what you were talking about. Instead, FVI is trying to demonstrate Christ’s GENUINE love and compassion through their service to those that have been forgotten or disregarded by society.

Working with Forgotten Voices is not meant to make me feel like a better person or to receive a nice pat on the back for “sacrificing so much of myself,” -- it’s about having no other option. We all cannot just sit back and go on with our lives as our brothers and sisters in Christ suffer and fall by the way side. We need to volunteer, donate (even if it is just giving up one cup of coffee for the week), pray, etc. because others’ lives depend on it.

Heather Murphy - Forgotten Voices Public Relations Intern and student at Messiah College

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Crushed & re-made everyday on our journey to heaven

Note: On a recent phone call with Fibion, I asked how we could be praying for him and his ministry. He began to tell me about the week he’d just had, full of dramatic emotional highs and lows, one after another after another. I was struck by the emotional toll that such a week would take on a pastor like Fibion, but also struck by the fact that this was not particularly unusual for many pastors in Zimbabwe. I asked if he would write about his week for our blog. His account of the week, as well as his reflections on how to respond, are below.
- Ellen Shaffer, Director of Project Management

On November 29th, tired from the chores of activities in town and from traveling 15km away from Bulawayo, I arrived home only to receive the news that my nephew was detained by police for juvenile crimes. I had to put aside my plans to plant maize in my garden to go and hear his story. The following morning as I was working in my garden, I saw one of our church members with a somber face. His father had collapsed and they had taken him to the hospital. Late in the afternoon someone came and told me that the old man had died upon admission. We had to start visiting the family every evening to comfort them until the burial day on Saturday. After the funeral, I had to rush for a class with the candidates for baptism the next day. Sunday morning saw thirty three individuals being baptized and one being admitted into full membership. We also had a Christmas party which included 85 children. Amidst the joy, we also had to announce sad news - the death of the beloved father of some of our church members and also of one member admitted at the hospital. On Monday morning, as I was asleep, I received a call that one of the high school students supported by our partnership with Forgotten Voices, had died and the burial was to be on Tuesday. Another painful moment!

How does one deal with such a mixture of experiences and emotions; sadness and happiness, sorrows and joys? It would seem God is crushing, mixing and molding us into special vessels for his noble purposes. In His Christmas story, Jesus says that He came to do [God’s] Will, to be crushed so that we are saved and receive His joy [Hebrews 10:5-7]. Let us pray that God will enable us to be used and spent for others.

Fibion Ndhlovu
- Zimbabwe Program Director

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas in Zambia

Typical Zambian child’s Christmas: Celebrating Christ’s birth, a gift of life to mankind!

It is Christmas time again! This period always reminds me of the days when, as a young boy in my father’s home in Livingstone, Zambia, my siblings and I would be so excited and expectant of what our father had for us. We would be playing with friends in the mud, but eagerly waiting for that moment when he would stand on our house veranda and call us inside so that we would try on the clothes and/or shoes that he had bought us sometime back, but kept from us for this special day of Christmas. This would be one of those days when being told to take a bath was a joy instead of a hassle. Bathing would be done from a huge basin placed in the shower room; and together we would scoop the waters and splash them on our soiled bodies with zeal knowing what is motivating us. Thereafter, each one would try on their new pants and/or shoes to see if they fit. Then we would all go to church for the usual Christmas service even though only mom would take us there. In the afternoon back home, as we wait for a meal that consisted of rice and chicken for the first time in many months, we would wander around so that friends would see the new clothes our parents bought us. This tradition showed how much our parents loved and cared for us.

Unfortunately, though this may still be a typical child’s way of celebrating Christmas across some families in our country, it is no longer like this in many homes. HIV/AIDS has decimated many families leaving children with no parents from whom they would expect new clothes; expect a heavy meal of rice, chicken, bread and sweets; and above all, expect this sincere love and care from a parent. Orphans have no one to look to for a gift of love like this. Christmas at church was normally celebrated as a service early in the morning, and later in the day families would gather in their homes and enjoy meal fellowships. As years went by, it was observed that many children being orphaned had nowhere to go for a feast after church. It was then when my church began to have not only a service, but also a meal fellowship together with the orphans at church.

Thank God, for through Jesus Christ, he has showed how much he loved and cared for us. As a child, I am sure Jesus grew to desire children’s play just like my siblings and I did; he yearned for His father, Joseph, to give special treats during special days for him and his siblings and therefore he knew what childhood life is like. Christ once said “I will not leave you orphans…” John 14: 18; meaning he understood how tough a life an orphan underwent. He now dwells in the Church, and through it he has championed the love and care for the many orphaned children. They find refuge; they find compassion, care and love in the church. This is why the ministry of Forgotten Voices International has identified partnership with local churches as the ultimate solution to the plight of the orphan. The Bible continues to remind us that; “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” James 1:27. These things are closest to the Father’s heart as He commands us to respond with love, John 15: 12.

Therefore, as we celebrate Christ’s birth, a gift of life to mankind, let’s remember the many orphans that have nothing or little to eat. We can do this by donating to the ministry of Forgotten Voices in its partnership with local churches in Southern Africa; we will make one more child’s Christmas life forever blessed and meaningful.

Remmy Hamapande - Zambian Program Director

Friday, December 17, 2010

Changing Lives Through Education

All of us hopefully have or have had employment. Maybe we have had many different types of jobs. We may like the one we are in now or it may be hard for us to see the purpose in going to work and contributing our 8 or so hours a day to this corporate machine called American economics.

I myself have had the struggle recently of finding full time employment. It has been hard and there have been dark days, but along the way I picked up a part time job tutoring students in math. I have a math degree and am happy to use it to help these students. Many of them will not go to college or will have a very hard time in college with their current math level. For the couple hours I see them a week, I strive to change that. In helping them with their math right now, I am helping to shape their future. They realize that they can do it and that they are smart. Rather than math being a crutch, they realize their strengths.

Over in Zimbabwe and Zambia, many children aren’t just struggling in a specific subject. They are hoping for the opportunity just to go to school. Just to learn. Aristotle once said, “Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity.” What these children need is a refuge; the opportunity to learn, to change their futures. This is where Forgotten Voices steps in. We, through the local church, allow these young minds to grow and learn.

So today while you are working, think about what you can do for the education system. Can you help out in your local school system? Maybe you want to help Forgotten Voices reach out to those forgotten students in southern Africa. If you are a student, count your blessings that you are able to attend school in this country. Think about what you and your classmates can do to help other students throughout the world. Give the gift of learning by contributing to Forgotten Voices International and visiting

Matt Kirkley
- Volunteer Director of Student Relations

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Nine Days in Zimbabwe

I have been helping behind the scenes with Forgotten Voices International for several years now. Over five years ago, my friends began describing how God was moving through the dreams of young adults and Zimbabwean pastors. I wanted to be a part of God's movement, so I started volunteering. As the ministry grew, I agreed to take over donation processing and write thank you notes to our amazing supporters. After a few years, my service became more routine. This fall I was given an opportunity to see how my contributions help change lives through the work of Forgotten Voices.

This November, I spent nine days in Zimbabwe. Those nine days will forever change the way I view the work of Forgotten Voices. I met many families that are living in difficult situations: little to no food to eat, no seed to plant and suffering from the effects of HIV/AIDS. This redefined my understanding of difficult.

Since returning, I have been unable to stop thinking about and praying for the Moyo family. Luwazi, his wife and 6 month old twins, Emmanuel and Ethel. They live with five other people in Waybai Village about 8 km from Mtshabezi Mission station. Luwazi is suffering from AIDS related illnesses. His wife and Ethel are HIV+, and thankfully Emmanuel is not. The day we met them, they did not have any food to eat and no seed to plant. We talked to them, listened to their story, took pictures and prayed for them. Then we walked away. It was very hard walking away knowing that all we could do was pray for them, but prayer is a powerful thing.

Their story does not end there. The following morning, we met with Pierre, our partner with Foundation for Farming. Forgotten Voices partners with them to provide seed, fertilizer and zero-till farming training to families in southern Africa. We shared with him the stories of Luwazi and the other families that we met the previous day. Before we parted ways, we had a plan for him to provide seed, fertilizer and training for thirty families the following week. So as we were celebrating Thanksgiving, they were preparing their food supply for the rest of the year.

There may be times I may be tempted to slip back into mechanical routines or struggle with screaming kids, but those nine days bring life into perspective. There's real suffering and difficulties in the world, and there is a loving God already preparing a provision for those in need. Last month, God used Pierre, next month it may be you.

Julie Bunch - Volunteer Director of Administration

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Less presents, more Christmas

The story of Christ’s birth is a story of promise, hope, and love. God’s gift to us was built on love. When Jesus loved he loved in ways never imagined. He loved the poor, the forgotten, the overlooked, and the sick. He then commanded us to feed the hungry and to care for the widows and the orphans. Forgotten Voices has enabled me to follow that command. There are few places in the world where the need is more pressing than where Forgotten Voices is working.

It never ceases to amaze me how God strategically places us where He can best use us for His purposes and glory. I am constantly looking for God’s direction in my life and when the Lord blessed us with three boys in two years I knew I was needed at home. With the prospect of all three boys in school I wanted to find a way to use the skills God had given me for His glory. One thing I know is that when God is in the changes of life, it is exciting and filled with good things!

When Forgotten Voices approached me to help with accounting, I assumed it was just another organization that was helping people in Africa. Two things changed that view. What amazed me first was the unique approach that Forgotten Voices takes. Forgotten Voices works side by side with and empowers the local churches to come up with sustainable solutions for orphan care. This puts ownership and pride in the communities, not in the Board of Directors. Second, I was overwhelmed by the sheer numbers. There are over 2 million children across southern Africa who have become orphaned by the AIDS virus. At one board meeting Ryan was talking about the fact that even If we help 100,000 children this year there are still thousands of children Forgotten Voices will never touch. Where is the hope? A friend of mine told me not to let the great need overwhelm you, rather let it move you. I cannot change the whole world, but I can still make a difference.

This Christmas we, as a family, have decided to buy one less unnecessary Christmas present. I have been given many Christmas gifts over the years. Some were deeply thoughtful and greatly appreciated. Others, while appreciated, likely ended up in the white elephant gift exchange the following Christmas. By buying one less unnecessary present we can contribute to the mission of Forgotten Voices so that our family will be able to be a part of a gift that is lasting and life changing. After all, isn’t that what the First Christmas was about?

Dyan McAlister
- Forgotten Voices Board Member and Director of External Reporting, Presbyterian Senior Living

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Generosity Small Enough to Change the World

One of our partners in Africa once told me “Even the mighty Victoria Falls began with one drop of rain.” I will never forget that conversation or the lessons I learned that night about God’s provision. When we respond to the call to service, there is no telling how God will enhance, magnify, and multiply each individual act of generosity into an enormously powerful and far reaching impression on the world.

To me, Forgotten Voices represents all that God can accomplish when even a few people are willing to sacrifice of their time and resources in order to serve the needs of others. Through what started as a very small group of committed volunteers, God has blessed our efforts and used the resources of our donors to make a difference in the quality of life for thousands of vulnerable children and their communities devastated by the AIDS pandemic.

Although, I am no longer involved in the day to day operations of the organization, our family is committed to continuing to donate our time and resources to Forgotten Voices throughout the year. We know from experience that a small sacrifice here can mean a world of impact for our brothers and sisters around the world.

Matt Hoover - Forgotten Voices Board Member and Director of Commercial Leasing, Triple Crown Corporation

Monday, December 13, 2010

December Prayer & Praise

At this midway point in our Advent series of blog posts, it seems fitting to turn our and your attention to God's ever-constant promise to hear our prayers. Each month we receive prayer and praise updates from the churches with whom we partner across Zimbabwe and Zambia. Below are just a few of those updates. We hope you'll take some time to pray about these requests and praises, and remember the work of our church projects in Africa this Christmas season.

Northrise ECZ – Zambia

Praise God that many children have been inspired to achieve new educational goals with the provision of school fees!

Pray that the Lord would provide moments of dawn in the midst of discouraging times for many orphans who are attending school. Ask that God would provide encouragement in the form of friendships and pastoral care.

Echoes of Mercy Project – Zambia

Pray for a twelve year old girl who lost both parents to HIV-AIDS and has also tested positive for the disease. Pray that God would comfort her as she attends school and that He would cover her with a sense of love and purpose.

Pray that the project would continue to find new and sustainable ways to raise the required resources to serve children in their community.

Free Methodist Church – Zimbabwe

Praise the Lord that a number of woman have recently attended a literacy class in which they are receiving an education to help them better care for orphans! Ask that God would bring to bear immense fruit as a result of their studies.

Pray for the church to strive together in unity and for God to intervene in love when conflicts or pressure arise.

Pray for those who are currently looking for employment. Ask that God would bring about wholesome employment opportunities that will meet the needs of many families.

Pray for the encouragement and strengthening of local leaders who serve everyday with courage and compassion.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Why Local?

What is so great about working through the local church? Why local partners? Why local projects?

These are some of the questions I’ve been asked about the mission of Forgotten Voices International. The answer that I try best to give is that change, change which is self-sustaining and the community that is called to bring about that change is the global Christian Church. We, the global Christian church are a community called together to embody, exemplify, represent, personify, characterize, bring to life (ok you get the point) God’s redemptive relationship with creation. The church communities, both locally in the United States and in Sub-Saharan Africa are the primary social structures through which the Gospel works to change the lives of communities and individuals alike. How do we, as the church in America best fight against the seemingly entrenched causes and effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in southern Sahara Africa? We stand alongside our brother and sister churches in the region, affirming that our roles are one and the same; we are the visible expression of God’s redemptive work.

We will as one, embody the hope of Christ by providing the children of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa a chance to no longer be defined by the disease that took the lives of their loved ones, but instead be empowered by schooling, health care, counseling, income generating projects and access to clean water.

We will as one, exemplify the call of Christ by empowering the pastors of sub-Saharan Africa to stand up and lead their congregations in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

We will as one, build long-lasting relationships with orphans, pastors, theological colleges, caretakers, and churches in order to unify that visible expression of God’s redemptive work.

We will as one, make mistakes, learn from them and humbly ask for God to continue his Great work of redemption in our individual lives, communities, government structures, culture, and all of creation.

Will you, join us, as we become one global Christian Church seeking to share the love of God through physical assistance and spiritual restoration in Zimbabwe, Zambia, the United States and around the World?

Lindsay Reilly - Forgotten Voices Board Member and Research Analyst at Global Scripture Impact

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Two Million Voices

Just about three weeks ago, my friend and colleague, Ryan Keith left for Africa to continue his work as CEO of Forgotten Voices International. He is returning with Remmy Hamapande, the FVI staff member from Zambia who has been visiting the US for the first time over the several weeks before Ryan left. Spending time with Remmy continues the education begun with my first trip to Africa last January. His visit is a powerful reminder of the profound difference between being a Christian in Zambia compared to the life of a Christian in the United States.

For many of us, going to church on Sunday must meet a number of important criteria - parking must be convenient, the seating comfortable, the music energetic and flawless, sermons inspiring (but not too long), and a quick exit from the church to get on with the rest of the day. In Zambia it is possible that orphaned children may arrive at the church on Sunday morning, requiring the cancellation of services. Congregation members may be asked to take responsibility for children who are without parents, helping them to find distant relatives or to take them home to meet their needs. Looking at the two experiences, one wonders what would be the effect on attendance at church in the US on Sunday if there was a possibility that you could return home with an orphan.

This contrast is one of the many reasons why I am drawn to the work of Forgotten Voices. My human nature acknowledges the attractiveness of being comfortable and inspired, but the plight of over two million orphaned children in Zimbabwe and Zambia calls out to me. Even though their voices seem weak and distant to those of us who live in the bubble of western society, something must be done. As Christians we are the hands and feet of Christ, in our own neighborhood and around the world. Next Sunday we may not be asked to take an orphan home from church, but we can support those who do – Forgotten Voices International.

Steve Proctor - Forgotten Voices Board Chair and President & CEO, Presbyterian Senior Living

Friday, December 10, 2010

Loving Locally

During this advent season of brotherly love, Forgotten Voices International (FVI) is working to respond to God’s gift to us, Jesus, by supporting those in need through our prayers, personal contact and finances.

FVI seeks to provide an avenue where we can “love our neighbor as ourselves”, and more specifically enable us to reach out to orphans and widows. In doing so, FVI has narrowed its mission to victims impacted by AIDS, while seeking to support initiatives and projects proposed and run by local people. This emphasis is very powerful in that it seeks to build-up local capacity to handle the physical, spiritual, relational and economic devastation that this disease creates. Through FVI we in the USA are able to partner with, support and encourage the work in Africa, at whatever level we feel most comfortable, through activities ranging from one on one correspondence to simple giving.

I personally am a Civil Engineer by trade, with 11 years of working in developing countries, primarily in Africa. My personal experience is that the population that we are trying to help will become more involved in projects that they themselves help to formulate and run. As an outsider to their situation we often more clearly see the “big picture” and the desired trends while the insider has personal, relational and day-to-day inputs that are beyond us. The combination of the two groups, however, can be very powerful and impact many lives.

FVI’s strategy of working through local churches is not coincidental and adds a unifying cement to the FVI approach. Together we in the USA are able to reach out to Africa as joint members of the body of Christ who are seeking to provide comfort to the victims of this terrible disease. Together we can act as one family, under one leader, Jesus. It is Jesus, through the work of the Holy Spirit, that guides, unifies and encourages our hearts to reach out to one another and who multiplies our love for each other. It is this same Jesus, whose birthday we celebrate during this advent season.

Chuck Arnold - Forgotten Voices Board Member and Project Engineer, C.C. Johnson & Malhotra, P.C.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Different Way to Think About the Holidays

It is great to be a part of the Forgotten Voices team. I am just at the very very beginning of really getting involved.

It's amazing to read about what this organization is doing and what it means. We're approaching the holiday season and I'm thinking about the CRAZE that we all so easily become a part of- stressing out about what we have or don't have...but it makes me think about the real issues. There are children who have nothing that the Forgotten Voices team is helping.

It would be great to shift our thinking from what WE NEED to what we CAN give. I'm joining the 10 together campaign to do what I can to help a child. A little goes a long way in the countries that Forgotten Voices is reaching out to.

I want to be more involved in this work because I think it will keep me focused on others who are in need and it's neat to think about what I can do to help someone else, rather than thinking about my own needs! For me, it is a way that I can touch a life even though I am not physically out there- I can still be a part of it.

Amma Johnson - Singer, Songwriter and Entrepreneur

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

No Greater Joy

The mission of Forgotten voices is to equip churches in Southern Africa to empower AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children. In so doing we directly help widows and the downtrodden of the world. I love this because it allows us to directly fulfill a biblical mandate; Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (KJV). Wow. It doesn’t get too much plainer than that. My son Stephen got me involved with Forgotten Voices International several years ago. Stephen went on his first trip to Africa in 2007 and I had the opportunity to go in 2009 and then again in 2010. While these trips are always a bit depressing because you experience first hand the horrors of the AIDS epidemic and other assorted atrocities it is also an unbelievable opportunity to serve. In my opinion there is no greater joy.

Forgotten Voices is making an immediate and direct impact on peoples lives in a very positive way. This is what I love so much about the ministry. The funds raised go to the people in need and they see immediate benefit. Period. I’ve seen this first hand and it melts my heart every time I see the results whether it be with an orphan feeding program, a farming program, school fees or whatever.

My work at Forgotten Voices has been the single most rewarding thing I have ever done. It makes me feel that I am playing a small role in not only helping people who are desperately in need help but I am also helping to build the Kingdom of God. What cold be a more noble purpose or fulfilling activity? If you are considering helping out in some way – there are so many ways that you can – I highly encourage it. I can personally assure you that you will not regret it.

Steve Bozzo - Forgotten Voices Board Member and Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer,

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Together We Can Love the World

When Forgotten Voices asked me to be director of student relations, I was surprised and elated and experienced a plethora more thoughts and emotions. To join an organization that is on the forefront of protracting change in southern Africa, one can’t help but jump in with both feet. I don’t know how else to do something except to jump in with all that I am and have. To be able to use my gifts and talents to save lives [bring hope to] and communities in southern Africa is something that I feel honored to do. The AIDS epidemic is so much bigger than me, but as Remmy reminded us, it starts with saving [helping] one child at a time.

The fact that Forgotten Voices isn’t going into a hurting area and telling them how to fix their problems is one of my favorite things about the organization. We don’t know everything and southern African communities are a completely different culture. Those on the ground in Zambia and Zimbabwe understand much better how to support those forgotten voices in their communities whom have lost their parents.

The fact that I get to tell stories and connect communities excites me. Forgotten Voices is a personal organization with stories of personal lives: the fourteen year old girl who takes care of her family, the teen in New York who gives up a car so that an orphan can go to school. It is through personal relationships that we will be able to not only change these lives right now, but also for eternity.

So what is my story? There have been many things that have brought me here. I spent my most recent time in Germany ministering to high school students whose parents were impacting communities all over the world. The gift to mentor students that had such a heart for their fellow man was a very special thing. They have had a special opportunity by growing up in places far from their home.

Students here have the same passions and abilities to change the world. They want to use their gifts now. They don’t need to wait for more schooling or a steady job to start changing their world. They want to help now. And they are. If I can help them to channel their excitement into helping their world, then I will jump at the chance.

So what can we do together? We can spread the word. We can raise awareness about the things going on in southern Africa. This Christmas season we can pray for those whose voice gets so easily lost in the hustle and bustle of American life. We can remember that Jesus came to earth to save the lost and hurting; that when we serve the least of these, we are serving him.

So after you finish reading this please do a couple of things for me. Look us up on Facebook and ‘like’ our page. Follow us on Twitter. And finally, pray about how to serve those who need your help, whether they are down your street or across the world.
And one final question. How are you demonstrating God’s love to your world?

Matt Kirkley - Volunteer Director of Student Relations

Monday, December 6, 2010

Mighty Mouse: Cartoons, Courage, and Christianity

Source: Paul Terry Productions, "Mighty Mouse"
Mighty Mouse always amazed me when I was a kid. He was just a mouse, but seemingly knew no bounds for what he could do to solve adult problems all around him. No matter how hard they got, Mighty Mouse solved the problem with courage.

As you may have noticed today (Dec 6), cartoons have invaded Facebook in an attempt to raise awareness of child abuse. The simple idea that a cartoon seen would trigger memories of a simpler, care-free time where we remember just how vulnerable we were as kids... then realize that kids all over the world are being abused right around us. My prayer is that it causes all of us to take some action to empower and protect a child today.

When I learned of this Facebook movement yesterday, I was struck instantly by the story of a 6 year old child in Zimbabwe that I do not know and haven't figured out how to help YET. He dominated my mind throughout this last trip to Africa. Early in the trip, a dear friend of mine in Zimbabwe asked me for some advice about child abuse case law in Zimbabwe knowing I have studied under one of the most respected child rights advocates in the world during my time at Harvard (You can read some of my research on widow & child rights here). Yet, nothing prepares you for the story my friend told us. I don't want to trouble you with the same images that trouble me.

But the big picture is this --- A 6 year old child orphaned by AIDS was being abused by his own grandfather, yet no one in the family was willing to file a complaint to the police fearing reprisal and violating the sacred trust of family.  Like in any society, families experience great shame in sharing family secrets of this horror and in a male driven culture this was especially true.

I didn't know what to tell my friend then, but I promised to ask everyone I saw who may be able to help her as she begins trying to intervene. This child needed a church champion. Pray with me for his liberation.

Over and over, as I asked pastors in Zimbabwe and Zambia, I was saddened to hear that abuse among children orphaned is VERY common. Every pastor had first-hand experience with my question and almost all of them had personally intervened where culture and lack of laws protected the abuser. Though I was struck by the horrors of abuse I heard, I was also struck by how amazing Christians can be by the courage that God provides. Pastors shared stories of their interventions, how sermons and time with families began changing cultural habits to value kids, and how Christ's love trumps pride we fear will be tarnished. Kids were being saved by these champions. Kids were being protected by churches that were taking kids in instead of leaving them alone and vulnerable.

Without their own "mighty mouse" in the local church, even more abuse would happen.  These theologically sound, vetted pastors are checking in on the kids, taking many of them into their own homes or finding quality caregivers within the church community. They are doing what they can.

Daily, I hear stories of vulnerable kids our church partners in Africa know about but can't help because they lack funding. This trip, more than any before, I connected our actions to equip churches with stopping abuse of children orphaned by AIDS. We are not just sending kids to school, but getting them out of being home alone. We are not just providing them seed & fertilizer, but giving them their own food source so they don't have to beg or barter themselves.

You and I are like simple mice, presented with giant problems. How will we respond? Will we harness the courage of our childhood cartoon inspirations or let this suffering slip away into the busyness of our adult lives?

Our local partnering churches in Africa are working in very adult scenarios, full of bleak conditions, where hope should not win by all logic. But, the story of Jesus coming in a manger reminds us that hope springs out of the poor. The faith, love, sacrifice, and joy in the midst of fear for Joseph and Mary shows us that God can equip us to be champions and shepherds for His desired work in the world.

Jesus came to redeem the world. He came, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again. As He left us to return to heaven, He left the church behind to demonstrate the love of Christ. To bring hope to the hopeless. To defend the fatherless. To take our mouse like bodies, inept by the world's standards, and offer ourselves up as living sacrifices to bring God's hope to our still hurting world.

This Christmas, I'm reminded of our need to not fear what we cannot solve in our world. Instead, may we offer our best before God and do what we can. Thanks for helping local churches be courageous to protect children from abuse. Their mighty efforts are made possible in part because of your mighty efforts. For that and for the kids we all get to serve, I'm forever grateful.

Have courage today,
Ryan Keith
President of Forgotten Voices International

Be a champion for a church looking to be a Mighty Mouse for a child orphaned by AIDS in their community.  Give today at

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I give because I'm a skeptic

Some time ago, I graduated college and went about looking for a job that would make me exceedingly wealthy, powerful, and enviable. The job I found was just a shade different (about as different as chalk and cheese), but nonetheless provided me a unique opportunity to meet and train under the person I was to be replacing. It seemed he was leaving the company to launch a full time career in nonprofit racketeering or some such thing, which I didn’t give much thought to at the time.

Shortly thereafter, when I discovered my career aspirations with this company were a pipe dream, I began to learn a little more about this particular nonprofit (actually completely legitimate) and thought this person I had replaced may have had the right idea after all.

The organization I am referring to is called Forgotten Voices International, and its mission is orphans.

Now I’m sure you’ve seen the commercials of starving African children as many times as I have, and most likely you’ve felt as I did somewhat skeptical about where your money might end up should you decide to give. My skepticism began to train down on Forgotten Voices to see if their nobility was actually a cause worth giving for.

And shortly thereafter (about 2 years of skepticism), I had finally come to terms with the fact that this organization was and is of the strongest integrity in its mission to serve the weakest of people: orphaned children.

The heart and authenticity of the Forgotten Voices team is overwhelming and contagious, they just genuinely care about the well-being of the world’s most helpless humans. They aren’t afraid to partner with existing infrastructure or organizations, take advice from the local community, or make public that ultimately their goal for these Churches they sponsor is to be self-sustaining lifelines for children orphaned by AIDS in southern Africa.

My participation in the work of Forgotten Voices has been mostly behind the scenes getting the word out to others about the organization. Primarily, the conduits I use to raise awareness about the projects and work of Forgotten Voices and the stories of people they’ve helped are through social media. It’s an exciting medium to help nurture because anyone can get involved and easily help the cause. Inviting your friends to join the Forgotten Voices Facebook page, retweeting news from our twitter feed, sharing our YouTube videos, commenting on our blog, and forwarding our email newsletter are all simple and effective ways to contribute to the work of this incredible organization that gives voice to those who are forgotten.

Social media donations are pretty painless, but I would advise you to be skeptical about where you donate your money. If you’re looking for an organization that will be a good steward of your contribution, I would encourage you to consider Forgotten Voices as I have.

Brian Reilly - Volunteer Social Media Manager

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Here I Am

Two weeks ago today, I stepped off an 18.5 hour return flight from South Africa. I'd taken a group of pastors from Central Pennsylvania to see the work that Forgotten Voices is doing in southern Africa. In a two week whirlwind tour we visited Zimbabwe, Zambia and spent one night in South Africa. We visited with roughly 15+ families and met with only a handful of the 150 churches that partner with Forgotten Voices. We experienced humorous moments - see picture of baby monkey chewing on Julie’s ear - and heartbreaking moments - like the visits with families who had no food and no seed to plant. We prayed, we laughed, we cried, but most importantly we had the opportunity to meet true heroes of the faith. We spent time with devoted pastors, listening to what their church is doing to help their communities, praying with and for them, encouraging them and rejoicing with them over the work that is being accomplished.

Every single day these men and women arise from their beds and say, “Here I am Lord, use me.” Throughout the day they change their hats - one second they are a pastor, the next they are counselor, a social worker, a business man or woman working on income-generating projects to benefit their communities. They put on each hat with a spirit of humility and a reliance on God and the Spirit to lead, guide, and direct them. When you sit with these men and women you can begin to see what it means to be the Church in the community. Each of our project partners adds a unique approach to addressing the AIDS crises. They develop locally-relevant action plans for meeting the needs of children who have been orphaned by AIDS and other vulnerable children in their network.

I love volunteering for Forgotten Voices to help equip our church partners to fulfill their action plans for their communities. I have witnessed firsthand the value these action plans bring to a community and have seen our partners transforming communities one child at a time.

I serve by leading our volunteers here in the United States and helping run the day-to-day operations of our ministry. Forgotten Voices has roughly 30+ volunteers in the USA who help us equip our brothers and sisters in southern Africa. We are looking to grow our volunteer network throughout 2011. If you are interested in volunteering please visit this link for volunteer opportunities.

In closing, my challenge to you is to arise each day with the spirit of “Here I am Lord, use me.” Learn from our partners, grow along with us as God continues to reveal new things about Himself, and participate with us in making a permanent change in the life of children.

Nate Shaffer - Volunteer Executive Director

Friday, December 3, 2010

True Sacrifice

As a “missionary family”, people are often saying thank you to us for the “sacrifice” we make in our work with Forgotten Voices. I am always a little taken back and never know quite what to say in response to this. I do not often think of what we are doing as a sacrifice on our part. Sure, Ryan travels quite a bit and Avery and I are not always able to join him. Sure, he works a lot of nights and weekends, since calling Africa and working with volunteers requires odd hours. Sure, we might be able make a little more money doing something else with our time. But sacrifice? After spending time in Zimbabwe and Zambia and hearing the stories from our partners in Africa, I certainly do not feel like we are sacrificing much.

I have seen first-hand what I would consider true sacrifice. Sacrifice is the grandmother taking in her twelve grandchildren after their parents have passed away due to AIDS related illnesses. Sacrifice is the twelve-year-old who stops going to school so he can work and care for his younger brother and sister. Sacrifice is the home-based care worker who volunteers her time to visit with widows and children who are orphaned. Sacrifice is the pastor who conducts many funerals in one week – week after week. Sacrifice is the pastor who works tirelessly to support his congregants as they work to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the hurting families in their communities. Sacrifice is giving when it would be easier not to – when it would be easier to focus on themselves, but instead focus on the needs of others.

Sacrifice was Jesus coming to Earth as a man and dying on the cross so that our sins would be forgiven. Christ’s love for us resulted in the ultimate sacrifice, so that we may have life. This leaves us with an incredible responsibility and blessing to honor Christ with our lives. I have learned so much from the pastors, volunteers and families in Zimbabwe and Zambia about what it means to honor Christ with my life through service to others. This Christmas, join our family in praying about how God may be calling us to serve those in our community and in Southern Africa. May we know what it means to truly sacrifice for the sake of others, and as we do, may we learn more about the love of Christ for us and for people all around the world.

Merry Christmas!

Katie Keith

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Grandmas are my heroes

Earlier this fall, my husband came down with a nasty flu bug which turned into a nastier sinus infection. He was sick for over a week, which left me balancing my job, our household, his care and our newly mobile eight-month old son. By the end of the first week, I was exhausted.

Enter the hero of our story - my mother-in-law. Armed with chicken soup and a stack of adorable baby clothes (she can't help it, she's a grandma!) she spent two days helping take care of our son so I could get work done. She played with him, fed him, rocked him to sleep, and I could relax knowing he was in good hands while I tended to other matters.

I read multiple reports each week from our church partners in Zimbabwe and Zambia. The week my husband was sick, I read through these reports with new eyes. Over and over, they referenced the needs of families made up of grandparents caring for grandchildren, after the middle generation of parents has died or become too sick to help. In Zimbabwe and Zambia, 86% of children orphaned live with a grandparent. Often these grandparents are both physically and financially unable to fully care for their grandchildren. The entire family faces hunger, children drop out of school, housing becomes unreliable and they become increasingly vulnerable.

I was tired after just one week of taking care of my child and sick husband. It's hard to imagine the impact of raising my son while my husband slowly died of AIDS-related complications.

I was relieved when my mother-in-law babysat my son so I could be gone for a few hours running errands. I can't imagine being HIV-positive and wondering who would care for him after I was gone - forever.

The holiday season is a time when many of us see our grandparents more than usual or remember the times we had with them more frequently. Will you join me this Christmas in making the grandparents in your life feel extra appreciated? And when you see them or think of them, remember to say a prayer for the millions of grandparents in southern Africa bearing an incredible burden of care for their families.

Ellen Shaffer - Director of Project Management

PS – One way to pay tribute to a grandparent in your life this Christmas is to give a donation to Forgotten Voices in their honor. Click here to find out more!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

World AIDS Day; "the fight continues...!"

Meet my adorable nephew, Usher. It is said that in Sub Saharan Africa, almost 1000 babies born each day are HIV+ and may never live to see their 5th birthday simply because they have unnecessarily been infected through their mothers. This figure is still very high and should be halted. With the strides achieved in medicine, it is possible to have 0 babies born HIV+; Yes, it is possible to have an HIV+ free generation if efforts are upped in the fight against mother to child transmission. I call upon everyone to join the fight. MTCT can be stopped; What are you doing to STOP this?!

Today is World AIDS Day, and the local church in Southern Africa is very much in the front line in fighting the scourge. Just yesterday I was talking with a pastor friend about the difficulties the local church is facing with the numbers of orphans that are growing. He was just narrating to me about a dearth of a father/husband that had occurred in his local church and the terrible misery the family has just been befallen. It's these and many more related stories that keep the local church at the helm of the social problems in this part of the world.

Forgotten Voices International has been one of the many NGOs that are making a difference in the ministry of local churches in Southern Africa. The local pastor, often times silently besieged with a lot of such suffering, has been given a lifeline, through the local church's ministry, to be a channel of hope for the future in the lives of the many orphans that come to his church door steps Sunday after Sunday. The fact that their education can continue, has given them much needed knowledge to manage the affairs of their lives with informed decision making; the fact that they are receiving food supplements, has given them strength to walk back to school and also manage to take their medication were necessary; the fact that they have been given seed and fertilizer, has given them household food security for most months of the year, bringing back family dignity and pride. This is the fight, and it continues...!

I appeal to everyone to respond to this fight by donating to the ministry of Forgotten Voices in Southern Africa. Your help translates into tangible and practical results. I believe nothing fills God's heart (and mine too!) with joy, than seeing children up and running because of what you are doing in their lives. Christ once said, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you" John 14:18. Let's make a difference in these children's lives!!

Your fellow servant in God's ministry,

Remmy Hamapande
Program Director - Zambia

Offering Gifts to Share Stories with You

Advent Stories: Ryan reflects on the construction of this year's end of the year newsletter. While it may seem like a simple task that all non-profits do at the end of the year, you'll read that this was not a one-party job. It was a collection of people, each bringing gifts of love, to share stories with you. We are thankful. Through this story, we hope you see the love of God and not just a mailing.
Nothing celebrates the spirit of Forgotten Voices like partnership and this year's end of the year mailing embodied that spirit. Just like our partners in the African church contribute what they can to meet the physical and spiritual needs of children orphaned by AIDS, we are always trying to look for ways to practice those principles in our day to day operations in the USA.

Daily, we meet talented people here in the USA who have skills and offerings that these folks want to give to Forgotten Voices. This year's mailing was a combination of these gifts.

A design firm, DuVoisin Design, led by Jean DuVoisin, designed the piece for us for free as a love offering to Forgotten Voices. The piece was written by 7 people. The stories within it were inspired by hundreds of faithful people in the USA and Africa, each person offering God their best to love kids looking for their champion.

The piece was printed, folded, stickered, and mailed by our friends at Dasher, a Harrisburg based company. Thanks to Brian Reilly, our volunteer Social Media Director, and friends at Dasher for their talents in producing the piece.

1800Flowers' CIO, Steve Bozzo (a Forgotten Voices' Board member) donated his services to help build a new online gift certificate form, making gift giving even easier this year. His team of experts and contacts provided us some cutting edge behind the scene tools at almost no cost to us, helping our gifts to kids go further.

Though it was our most robust piece sent to the most people in our organization's history, it was among our least expensive mailings.

It took almost 2 months to plan, compile, produce and mail.

I'm especially grateful to our volunteer leadership team (Brian - social media/mailing, Matt Kirkley - student relations, Nate & Ellen Shaffer - church relations story, Julie Bunch - kids serving kids and data on giving, Messiah PR Class - inspiring the TenTogether copy), staff (Remmy & Fibion - data & leadership, Ellen Shaffer - stories, data, and production), and our friends at DuVoisin Design, Dasher, and 1800Flowers.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving and Christmas, I'm thankful for each of you for investing in our ministry and joyfully expectant for the coming of our King this Christmas. May you and yours know the joy of family that our organization strives to provide through local churches in southern Africa.

May you know God's love for you this Christmas season,
All the best,
Ryan Keith
President, Forgotten Voices International

Give a gift that matters this Christmas - Give a Forgotten Voices' Gift Certificate to a Loved One