Forgotten Voices' Mission:

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

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bridging People: Why I Give

Friends - last night, an incredible group of college students from Messiah College presented various self-created projects they've been working on for Forgotten Voices all school year. Thanks to Jesse Schwamb, our Volunteer Director for Economic Sustainability, who has helped advise them throughout.

Our leadership team of volunteers met with the students in person at Messiah's Student Union. I am in Boston right now, so I joined on Skype, as did Remmy Hamapande, our program director in Zambia. He called in from Ndola, Zambia.

From left to right are: Jesse Schwamb (FV volunteer and group mentor), Xu, Liz, Chris, Kelsey, Timo

As the students presented their work on marketing items like buttons, a new iGoogle theme, PowerPoint templates, long-term plans for college student involvement with Forgotten Voices, an incredible village savings & loan program they are implementing in Zambia... I was deeply, deeply touched... wow. I was humbled by their abundant joy and hope for people that they may never get to meet in person. Their deep and unrelenting love for the work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus came to redeem us from our sins, to transform our souls to draw us closer to the Father. He came to save us. He came and lived among us lowly humans for the purposes of demonstrating the love of the Father to us here on earth --- to make the ultimate sacrifice of his life --- to die on the cross so that we may have life and have it abundantly.

Last night as I listened to these students present, I teared up thinking about how their work to model self-sacrifice must make our God so so happy -- beaming really. See, last night, I didn't just hear God's people sharing love. I also heard and experienced the love of Christ for me, for you, and for people in southern Africa. Every time we give - with our time, money, hearts - to the things that God wants for us, we draw closer to him. Every time, without fail.

Over the past week, I've been overwhelmed by the needs I hear and see daily. Unable to stop the craziness that is life for children I have grown to love; love for local churches in southern Africa that you all allow me to minister to on your behalf - pastors caring for kids. My heart has been troubled by the reality that the need will always be greater than the resources we have as humans, but also feeling of doubts and disappointment for the kids I know about that we are yet unable to help. When we think of giving the world OUR love, it is easy for the tank to empty.

But -- Late last night, after the meeting, a dear friend wrote me some encouraging words that I now share with you. These words are my prayer for you, as well as the students I met last night.

Keep on doing what you're doing, brother. Don't grow weary in doing good because the good you are doing is overwhelming so many hearts that are feeling overwhelmed.

So, dear friends, as we ponder the tragic sacrifice of our savior on the cross this Friday, may we also take great delight in the redemption that Sunday will bring. The complete and utter shift in the way the world works --- the completely open opportunity offer up our souls to God to follow our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

May this short video on WHY I GIVE (see below) bring you joy, as you all bring me joy. Daily, like last night, I get to see and experience the love of Jesus Christ through you.

Happy Holy Week, as we await our risen savior, who came to save and redeem the world, including you and me. For that and for you, I'm thankful.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Christmas Memories - Part 3

Over the past 2 days, we've shared a story from a family who chose to give a family gift to Forgotten Voices this year, passing on their typical gift exchange. Now that Christmas has passed, they are sharing what this experience meant to their family and how it changed their views on giving. This is the third and final part of their story. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 by clicking on the link.

Thanks! Enjoy!


Family Christmas Gift: Part 3

Giving money designated for 'gifts to family', to those who have next to nothing in the way of material things, helped to put the Christmas season in perspective. Instead of focusing on buying yet another possession for someone, I was reminded that we all have so much more than we need. Christ came and saw those who were overlooked by others, and I appreciated the opportunity to do the same!

It took so much of the pressure and commercialization out of Christmas. Having spent my last couple of Christmases in a place that in many ways was void of the materialism of Christmas it was nice to redirect my Christmas here. Forgotten Voices has been dear to my heart for a while so I was excited to be able to, as a family, impact children's lives. The pressure felt like it was gone. Christmas day no longer was about the gifts but about the fellowship of family. We also knew that we were taking action in a small part to 'feed the orphans and the widows.' To have practical action and a significant change to Christmas really made me realize the impact of Christmas in a whole new way. It was also neat to work together as a family for a greater purpose. We were so excited because no one knew what the total would come to. I know that for me, I was surprised at how much money was given and in turn thankful that we could impact so many lives with it. I hope that we continue to do it for years to come. In fact, as one day I hope to start a family, I would like to do this as a new family.

Thank you for reading these thoughts. I pray that you will think about ways that are outside of the box that you can impact your world with Christ's love. There are many ways to impact all corners in the world. Just one of them being the family Christmas gift.

Our Family

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Christmas Memories - Part 2

Yesterday, we posted a piece about a family who chose to give a family gift to Forgotten Voices, instead of giving to one another as they usually do. Now, those gifts are giving all year long to help Forgotten Voices. Today, we continue their story from the eyes of another family member, as he/she reflects on what was learned about this exciting choice. Enjoy.


Family Christmas Gift: Part 2

Even though according to our culture, our gift giving was never extravagant, we did still get caught up in the hustle and bustle of buying gifts. These gifts, though appreciated were primarily satisfying wants.

For the past few Christmases, we as a family had given to another organization (Samaritan's purse). This year we decided that we would take the money that we normally would use to buy gifts and devote it to a project. We chose Forgotten Voices. It was good to be able to provide gifts to people truly in need. Also we were hoping that these people who were being helped could at least hear the Gospel. Frankly, this year, the hassle and stress of Christmas was gone.

1. It was cool every time I saw a commercial for something I might want but didn't really need to realize I was helping someone to have something they really needed.

2. There was a lot less worry about getting the perfect gift.

3. There was less dealing with unhappy shoppers.

4. I enjoyed getting just fun little gifts.

5. As Christmas approached I found myself getting more excited about what the total would be. In fact, I decided to put my Christmas bonus in there too.

Come back tomorrow for part three, where another family member shares a new perspective.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Do you remember how you felt at Christmas? This family does

Note from Ryan: Almost daily, I get to witness quiet acts of love, when no one is looking. People who share their stories with me about what it means to give and love children they will never meet. Sometimes, people want to share their stories with others...not to get credit, but to share how God has worked in their lives -- to share the lessons they've learned.

The next 3 blog posts are a series that will share such a story.

The name of the family is secret. In their words, "it's not about us." This past Christmas, they gave up giving traditional gifts to one another --- the whole family, even the kids. :) They made a group decision that will give gifts all year round to kids that needed a champion in southern Africa. Kids served by Forgotten Voices. Kids that have a church willing to help them, but the church needs some help to be equipped to meet the physical & spiritual needs of children.

I'm humbled by the loving touch of this family. Every day for the next 3 days, I'll share a perspective of a different family member, as they shared it with us. May you be touched by their story of how Christmas changed them on the day and all year long.

Peace, love, and thanksgiving,

Family Christmas Gift: Part 1

This year our family decided to do something different. Rather than buying gifts for each other, we decided to give that money to a charity. The charity we chose was Forgotten Voices. At the same time we decided to get very small (stocking) gifts for each other that we spent very little if no money on. As we were doing this, we realized that we were giving this money to people who needed it a lot more than we did. What we didn't expect were some of the other impacts that this decision had on us. Each member of our family has contributed thoughts on how this impacted them personally.

Since we just did very small gifts, we tried to make things. That allowed us to think about the person while we were working on it. It also allowed us to spend the holidays creating things with our hands instead of wandering around a mall looking for just the right thing. It allowed us to give personalized gifts as well. We budget money for gifts to friends and family and then also have a separate budget line item for giving – to those who cannot give back. We were able to give to the non-profit because we had money set aside in the giving category even though we had run out of money for gifts.

I think that is great to give about Christmas time because it helps keep things in perspective. On Christmas Day we were going to our relatives and driving through Lancaster City. A seemingly homeless man approached our vehicle at a traffic light. We donate money to Water Street Rescue Mission in Lancaster City so that they, who are better informed/equipped to give, can use the money to best serve those who need it (like this homeless man). With this situation in Haiti, we are currently waiting to give until we have a clear sense of what needs there are and what ways can best serve those people. Organizations like Forgotten Voices, Water Street, Compassion and World Vision can utilize money that we provide in much better ways than if we tried to do it on our own.

1. It's neat that instead of getting and giving presents that we may or may not use; we can give money to people for whom it could be the difference between life and death.

2. It's cool to help kids at Christmas since I'm not a kid anymore

Come back tomorrow to hear from a 2nd family member...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Clean Water for a Health World; a ministry of Forgotten Voices

Yesterday, 22nd March, was World water day and it gives me great pleasure to note that Forgotten Voices International, through its ministry with local churches in Africa, has been and still is very much part of assisting partners access clean water whenever and wherever possible. James Moyo, a pastor of the Rock church in Bulawayo, greatly appreciated when a well was sunk on his startegically positioned plot to offer clean and safe water not only to his family, but also to the surrounding community.

Through the Rock church's partnership with FVI, this well shows a very tangible example of how far your donations to this ministry goes. Indeed it goes beyond helping with school requirements for kids, to helping them avoid water borne diseases like cholera by giving them a chance to drink clean and safe water.

Kids around the surrounding community used to walk long distances carrying water cointaners and pushing wheelborrows to fetch water, which in most cases wasn't even clean water at all. This resulted in many children missing school as time was mostly spent on fetching this precious commodity. And many other times they missed school because they got sick from drinking unclean water. This is no longer a problem in Pastor Moyo's community!

In Africa, water borne diseases like cholera are still a problem and this mainly because of unclean water. Industrial development and population growth have not been marched with concerted efforts by local authorities in making sure every person is accorded with clean and safe water. This is why FVI through efforts by local churches would always support such initiatives. Pastors like James Moyo minister to a cross section of people in society most of whom are the most vulnerable and very much affected with issues of quality water.

Pastor James isn't just preaching the Word to the community, but he is also helping in giving clean water to those that need it most. Water is life; this is why we concur with this year's theme: Clean Water for a Health World indeed!

Your fellow servant in God's ministry,


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Summit VI is Coming - Are you?

Ellen Shaffer (our volunteer church relations director), Fibion Ndhlovu (our program director in Zimbabwe & a local Bulawayo pastor), and I are going to represent Forgotten Voices at Summit VI in Minneapolis on April 29-30. Brad Davidson, a member of the Forgotten Voices' Board of Directors, will also be there -- networking his heart out, connecting ministries with shared hearts -- he's really good at that, one of the many reasons we love him.

Ellen and I are SOOO excited about the opportunity to interact with people from around the world who passionately care about the key mission of Forgotten Voices -- equipping local churches to meet the physical & spiritual needs of children orphaned by AIDS in their communities.

Fibion is excited to come all the way from Zimbabwe to share what God is placing on his heart -- how churches in the USA can work to equip local churches around the world.

It should be a great time of fellowship. Katie, my wife, went last year and I was insanely jealous of her experience. I was in the midst of exams and couldn't go, but THIS YEAR I'm not missing it.

Why? It's one of the largest collections of churches, individuals, organizations and activists who care about orphan care, adoption and foster care -- here in the USA and around the world.

I'm also going because Fibion is speaking, right before John Piper. That's right. Our friend, Fibion. I'm excited to hear what God has to share through my Zimbabwean friend. It's his first time to the USA and he's totally excited about the opportunity. He will then be on a panel the next day, discussing how the Church around the world can better work together.

Finally - I'm going to meet people. Maybe you? I hope you consider coming.

Below is the full breakdown of the conference and the summit. Really do check it out. It should be a crazy good time w/ passionate people -- all committed to demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ by coming alongside kids that need a champion.


With Haiti’s earthquake drawing global focus to the plight of orphans, Christians from across America and beyond will gather in Minneapolis, MN, for the Christian Alliance for Orphans’ Summit VI on April 29-30, 2010. The objective: to inspire and equip Christians to “care for orphans in their distress” through adoption, foster care and global orphan care ministry rooted in the local church.

Join Fibion, Ellen, and I at SUMMIT VI: REGISTER TODAY!!!!

What you can look forward to:

· Featured speakers will include national champions of orphan care and adoption, including John Piper, Mary Beth Chapman, Tom Davis, Doug Sauder, Stephanie Fast, Jedd Medefind, and Al Mohler. Compelling voices from the global church will join as well, from Africa to Central America.

· Music will be led by Steven Curtis Chapman, Peder Eide, Desperation Band and other artists.

· More than 50 workshops delivering nuts-and-bolts for adoption, foster care and global orphan programs – designed for both laypersons and leadership

Orphan care resources for church ministries, as well as personal orphan care and adoption journeys
Breakouts will also include 5 “Hague Hour” Credits for Adoptive Families.
Q&A sessions and networking opportunities with respected adoption, global orphan and foster care organizations and veteran ministry leaders.
For Christians stirred by the plight of orphans, Summit offers the biggest and best opportunity of the year to learn how to act upon conviction. To learn more and register now, visit the Summit website here.

A taste of breakout topics:

· Haiti and the Local Church: What’s Next?

· Bridging the Great Divide: Building Positive Relationships Between Church Ministries and Government

· Understanding Childhood Development of Overseas Orphans

· A Lifelong Love: Keeping the Gospel at the Center of Orphan Ministry

· Church-Based Orphan Ministry 101

· Fundraising for Orphan Ministry

· Starting in the Right Direction: Helping Pre-Adoptive Couples Make Sound Decisions

· Now What? Helping Children Age Out of Foster Care

· The Financial Challenge of Adoption and How the Local Church Can Respond

· Engaging Church Leadership

· A Child’s Journey Through the Foster Care System

· How Does It Work? Models of Global Orphan Ministry Based in US Churches

· Practical Ideas of Orphan-Focused Events

· Understanding HIV/AIDS and the Orphan

· And many more…

And there’s more! Five sessions will provide pre-adoptive families with needed Hague credits.

· Adoption and Orphans: Becoming a Multicultural/Multiracial Family

· Adoption and Orphans: Attachment and Trauma (Part I and II)

· Adoption and Orphans: Grief and Loss

· Adoption and Orphans: Acclimating to a New Family Member

“American Christians are stirring to the needs of orphans both at home and abroad as never before. What’s thrilling is that even small ministries in local churches can make such significant impact. There are millions of parentless children worldwide, but a single statistic matters more than any other: it only takes one caring adult to make a lifelong difference in the life of an orphan.”
- Jedd Medefind, President, Christian Alliance for Orphans

Sunday, March 14, 2010

God will never forget your help

About thirty five orphaned children in Chipulukusu (sometimes called Mapalo, which means 'blessings') could not hide their joy as they received school shoes, jerseys, uniforms, pencils, pens and books for their school. Kola Baptist Church was a center of activity as Sarah called out names and children came forward to receive their share.

All this was made possible because of your donation to the ministry of the local church through Forgotten Voices. By saying "yes" to helping orphans in Africa, you have rekindled the hopes of these little ones whose parent, and in most cases both parents, have died. They will forever appreciate your assistance as they have no one to help them except the local church. Through the local church, FVI has been a blessing to these children at Kola Baptist and its ministry within the surrounding community.

One old woman pulled me aside and said, "this is the first time such help has been rendered to our church's orphans and we have no words to describe the joy we are feeling now; We struggle to feed our grandchildren let alone taking them to school is just but a luxury and now part of our burden is lifted". I must mention here that in this community most of these kids, indeed, are being kept by their grannies as most parents have since died from HIV related deaths exacerbated by poverty.

There is nothing that satisfies my heart than seeing these little ones smile again and look into the future through an education you are helping them receive because of your help. Remember, God will never "...forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them" Hebrews 6: 10.

Your fellow servant in God's ministry,


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Update on Eddie, age 14, the future pilot

Friends - Two weeks ago, I shared the powerful story of my friend Eddie, age 14.

An important update from Remmy, our program director in Zambia:
Eddie has qualified to senior high with very good grades and the government has taken to a school where those who get good grades go. Thanks for writing about him on the blog.

Join me in praising God! Join me in praising God for the outpouring of love you all have shown Forgotten Voices --- a ministry of social justice, where Christians that are able to share resources with those in need are doing so to demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ to their neighbors.

Join me in praising God for this update on Eddie! And join me in praising God for this opportunity you and I have to be agents of love to those in need --- to stand with our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe & Zambia who are choosing to love and defend and support kids like Eddie, as a demonstration of Jesus' love for all of us.

With love,