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."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Join us Pray for Elizabeth

Meet Elizabeth Njalila, 17; she is one of the many orphans Forgotten Voices, through her local church in Zambia, has been helping meet her school needs. However, Elizabeth has been unwell for sometime now and has not been going to school. She is suffering from a heart condition. Doctors say her heart is enlarging and that is why she feels dizzy and gets tired easily.

Because of this Liz has not been attending classes and it hurts for a young girl like her to be sited at home and watch friends go passed her home to school. Please join us in praying for her as she has now been admitted to Ndola Central hospital.

Your fellow servant in God's ministry,


Monday, April 26, 2010

Goats for sustainability

Last week, the TCCA Principal, four alumni committee members and I visited Choma to meet with TCCA graduates doing ministry in the Southern Province of Zambia. Choma is a town about 700km south of Ndola. It was a time of fellowship, encouraging one another in the Lord and above all, reconnecting with fellow Christians. The next day, in the evenings as the fellowship was getting to a close, we prayed together and had Holy Communion. Then came the sad moments of saying goodbyes to one another. However, I decided to stay back and join Wamunyima, a grad doing ministry with the Brethren in Christ Church's Compassionate ministry. Forgotten Voices has been very much a part of this church's ministry; and it was an honour for me to visit some of their projects deep in the rural areas.

Apart from the usual school requisites for orphans and food supplement assistance most beneficiaries and care givers receive, the BICC is also involved in projects that would sustain the lives of recipients beyond FVI and other donor help. The goat project is one such exciting venture the church has been doing. Teachings on how to keep goats and sustain oneself from them are being undertaken prio to distribution. Most goats are distributed to villagers in remote parts of Choma rural.

I was more than excited to briefly be part of the goat distribution project. We distributed six goats to each family and they were eleven families in total. All the recipients are people living with the HIV virus and the project is meant to help sustain their lives as goats provide high quality milk, and when they multiply, they are easy to resale if necessary. The beneficiaries will have to redistribute the first six off springs to the next family. The trend continues until all the intended beneficiaries are helped. There was excitement and jubilations among recipients at a local thatched BICC church. The local pastor was happy too saying that members will be strong and health again.

This would not have been possible had it not been your choosing to demonstrate Christ's love to people you may have just heard stories about. You have indeed chosen to echo Jesus' words in the gospel of Matthew; "...I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" Matt. 25: 40. Well, it's a fact, goats are now sustaining people's lives in these forgotten villages of Choma.

I am your fellow servant in God's ministry,


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Adoption - Beginning Resources to Explore

Friends -

Adoption is a complicated and wonderful process, which has blessed many of my friends and challenged others. First off, I know very little about it, but this post is a result of lots and lots of questions lately.

Lately, in conversations with friends of Forgotten Voices and strangers I meet along this journey of life, adoption has been coming up. Forgotten Voices does not directly deal with adoption, nor do any of the countries we work in allow for adoption outside the country. So, for us as an organization, the adoption question is not in play for our direct ministry. Instead, and some may argue in addition to local people adopting kids in Zim & Zambia, Forgotten Voices is working hard to equip local churches to care for children orphaned by AIDS in their communities --- helping provide some resources of time, money, and tangible products like seed & water to meet the physical needs kids have daily, especially the roughly 300,000 kids that live without an adult in Zimbabwe & Zambia. We equip churches to help a sliver of these so far and you can read about some of our church partnerships here.

But what about adoption? Well, I believe I need to learn more about it personally and professionally. I know I care about kids and I've dedicated my heart to advancing Forgotten Voices' mission, but adoption? I need to learn more. That's one reason why I'm going to Summit VI in 2 weeks (April 28-30) in Minneapolis to come together with leaders from around the world to think critically about how to adopt well, still equip local communities to care for children, and support foster care services, as well. Wanna come? Check out Summit VI --- not too late to register.

Orphan Care & Adoption are not issues to allow yourself a quick "I don't know" or "it's not for me" without consideration. This question about how we defend the vulnerable in our society is SOOOOO important, especially to Christians. In fact, in James, we read this:
"27Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27 (NIV)

SO... if it's SOOO important that the Bible calls looking after widows and orphans a measure of TRUE religion, where do we begin? Let's start with some honest, practical questions...

One of the biggest questions I get is "why is it so expensive", followed by, "is there help? because there should be help".

Today, in a course on performance leadership I assist with at Harvard's Kennedy School, we are going through a case on adoption, foster care and child protection services. While the case was from quite a few years ago, my classmates were really intrigued by what is involved today to adopt and what current government support is available to help families in adoption. So - where do we go?

The first question - what does it take to adopt? - is complicated, with lots of things to think through. Here is a great list of resources to explore from the Christian Alliance for Orphans, a membership group which Forgotten Voices is proud to belong to and support.

The second question - what financial assistance is out there? - has some answers too. Again, I draw from the Alliance's great leadership. Earlier in April, they posted a blog about current financial assistance.

From the Christian Alliance for Orphans Blog:

Amidst the intense controversy of the health care bill signed into law by President Obama yesterday, there’s at least one provision every orphan advocate can cheer. The adoption tax credit was preserved for another year...and increased in value!

To encourage and support adoption, the adoption tax credit was expanded by President Bush and Congress in 2001. This increased the value of the credit from $5,000 to $10,000, and indexed it for inflation (meaning the credit would increase each year to keep up with inflation.) For 2010, its value had risen to $12,170. However, the 2001 increase was scheduled to “sunset” at the end of 2010. This would mean that any adoptions finalized after December 31, 2010 would be eligible for—at most—a credit of only $5,000.

This sunset has now been extended one year. That means that it will need to be extended again before the end of 2011. For the present, however, this extension comes as very welcome news for families considering adoption or in the adoption process.

Specifically, the provisions contained in the health care bill include:

The current adoption tax credit has been extended until the end of 2011;
The value of the adoption tax credit has been increased from $12,170 to $13,170.
The increase is “retroactive,” meaning that any adoption occurring after January 1, 2010 is eligible for this higher credit.
The credit is now refundable. This means that even families that owe zero taxes can receive the full tax credit in the form of a tax refund to help with their adoption-related expenses.
To read the legalese in the bill itself, see page 903 of 906

This is CLEARLY just the beginning, but quite a few people have stopped me or asked me about adoption lately that I took some time to learn more and draw on some resources out there to help inform all of us. I welcome your own resources and thoughts to guide us further. After Summit VI, I'll surely have more thoughts and resources for you so we can all learn together.

These are complicated matters, but also matters that God asks all of us to consider. Enjoy the journey as you explore how you should help champion the causes of kids that need someone crazy about them --- every kid needs that!

If you are up for it, consider joining me in 2 weeks at Summit VI in Minneapolis, MN from April 28-30, where we'll explore these matters in greater depth. Like I said, I have a LOT to learn. If you can't make Summit VI, join me Nov 5-6 in Hershey, PA for the Mid Atlantic Orphan Summit. More details on that to come, but mark your calendars now. Thanks for reading and sharing this journey with us!

Keep dreaming, keep wondering. Thanks for loving kids with us.

All the best,

Twitter: @forgottenvoices
Facebook: Forgotten Voices Fan Page

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pressing on

How should we respond when God doesn't answer our prayers the way we expect?

For the past 6+ months, we have been planning and anticipating a wonderful opportunity to connect the two "sides" of Forgotten Voices International. Pastor Fibion Ndhlovu, our Zimbabwe Program Director, was invited to be a featured speaker at the Christian Alliance for Orphans annual conference - Summit VI. This invitation not only created an amazing opportunity to share the ministry of Forgotten Voices with churches and orphan-advocates from across the country - coming straight from one of our Zimbabwean leaders. It also meant a chance for us to introduce Pastor Fibion to many of our partner churches, donors and volunteers who have committed themselves to supporting children orphanned by AIDS and the churches who care for them, but have never traveled to southern Africa themselves.

This past week, less than a month before Fibion was to arrive in the United States, we learned that he has been denied a visa for the third, and apparently, final time. All avenues and options have been exhausted, after tireless effort by both Fibion and our US staff. More important than all of our efforts, countless people have been praying for Fibion's visa to be granted so that he can come as planned to speak, share and fellowship with us. And yet what seemed to be an opportunity straight from heaven has now become a closed door. We are left feeling disappointed and, frankly confused.

So how do we respond to our differently answered prayers? I can tell you that Fibion's response was this:

"Thousands of people here and there were praying that this would work out. It did not, so we just rejoice at the Lord's will and press on."

I'm inclined to follow his lead. I have a lot to learn from our Zimbabwean and Zambian brothers and sisters whose faith has been tested far more often than mine by situations of wondering why.

So join me, will you, in rejoicing that God wills that His people care for widows and orphans in their distress. Join me in rejoicing for the many who prayed over this situation. Rejoice over the many who had already agreed to welcome Pastor Fibion into their churches, their classrooms and even their homes.

And join me in pressing on in the work of protecting vulnerable children. Today I finished canceling all of Fibion's speaking engagements, but I will press on - turning my attention to preparation for the Summi VI conference, which several of us will still be attending. Will we see you there??

How will you press on today to support pastors like Fibion and the children they serve?

Ellen Shaffer - Director of Church Relations