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, September 24, 2010

Game Changers - Are you One?

When Forgotten Voices started as a ministry of West Shore Evangelical Free Church, we were trying to discern how our young adult ministry and church should play a role in what God was doing through His Church to address the AIDS crises in Zimbabwe. Amidst so much going on, what was our part? What was not our part?

Early on, we tried to make sure we were looking for what God was doing first and then try to join Him in that work instead of trying to create our own path, then pray that God supports that. If you are interested in this approach to discerning God's will, I thoroughly recommend checking out Henry Blackaby's Experiencing God (workbook). I'm going through this now (my 3rd time since high school). I go through it every 4-5 yrs to remind myself of how I was raised and explore what God is doing around me.

Well, from the very beginning, this search for God's work around us has helped me become aware of Game Changers in my life --- people I meet who are not just talking about it and not just doing stuff to change our world's greatest dilemmas. These are people who are shaping the conversation, attacking problems with laser focus (with action AND original thoughts), while remaining grounded in a deep, personal relationship with Jesus Christ that is GROWING and not becoming bitter at a world that hasn't quite "got" what these game changers are trying to teach us. People who just keep going because Christ loved us, so we get to love others.

Today and in recent days, I've been thinking about these "game changers" in my life --- in Africa and the USA. Because we couldn't do everything in Africa or even several things, we had to discern. Through this process, we found Obert and Fibion. We then found Pierre with Farming God's Way (now Foundations for Farming), then rediscovered James and The Rock Church....among others. Then, in Zambia, we discovered God's work through Remmy and Sarah. On and on...

Back in the USA, I've met a few people in my life who are definitely game changers. I want to share briefly about one person who I met with this week. Later this week, I'll try to share about another. As I listened and discerned what God was showing me, I learned that I need to share her story with the hopes that you may join me in praying for her so that her work may blossom. What she had to say was too important to keep to myself.

1) Heidi Burkey at Discover the Journey is a Game Changer. If you don't know DTJ, visit their website. Heidi is definitely a game changer. She is part of an incredible 5 person team doing work around the world, telling stories of hope and possible transformation. Stories that need to be told, yet the subject of the story has no voice to share to a larger audience. DTJ tries to find these stories, then give voice to the story teller through documentaries that are created as the story unfolds before their eyes when filming. Lots of people do documentaries. What makes her a GAME CHANGER is the way they are telling them, the way their ministry has grown to reach the halls of power at CNN, UN, JAM...all over. The impact their stories have had on high school students, adult groups who gathered to watch Rescued. Heidi and DTJ are game changers because the stories are not about them at all, nor is the credit they've received from telling them. Incredibly, despite having their ministry's story on for a few days after their documentary on CNN appeared, they yielded little more than a few more hits to their website. Heidi and several of the 5 person team were/are doing 2-3 jobs to pay the bills. Friends were/are filling gas tanks and buying groceries to help them keep telling these stories...often unpaid missions around the world to find and tell stories of hope in the midst of hopelessness. When I sat with Heidi today for several hours listening to what God was teaching her, it was clear that the attention they have received from the CNN piece had not changed her ego one bit. She remained grounded in the belief that God's role for her was to share love where apathy seemed to triumph, internationally and in the USA. In doing so, she is not bitter when action doesn't follow. It's a struggle to not be frustrated, but in that nexus between what she hopes people find and what they immediately react too from the story... she sees God's patient love and grace for her and those suffering in the USA and in the stories she is privileged to share.
I've followed DTJ's work since around its founding. The founder, Jonathan, and Heidi are people I've prayed for over a long time. Now, I invite you to join me in those prayers. That God's work would continue to flow through them. That they would be receptive to demonstrating love to their subjects in the story and those receiving the story. That they would rejoice in the knowledge that God is going to redeem all of this some day, even when the hope in the Sudan or Haiti or NYC or DC or Angola or wherever they are seems just a spec of smolder in a dark cloud of pain.

Specifically for Heidi and her 4 teammates (including Jonathan), pray for financial support so they can lose their part-time jobs to fulfill their mission full-time telling stories. Pray for Board members to emerge to help lead them into a new season of growth and maturity. Pray for some transition questions looming.

Join me in praying for Heidi and Discover the Journey. Certainly one of the highlights of my day today in California.

Do you know a Game Changer in your life?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"Great is Thy faithfulness O Lord my Father..."

"Great is Thy faithfulness O God my Father..." was the song upon my lips as I witnessed what God is doing in her life. Yes, the words of Lamentations 3:22-26 could not depart my heart as I listened to her story...

Lwiche Chanda, is one of the orphans that was empowered by New Life Christian Center, Mushili's tailoring program. Lwiche lost her father in 1996 and was, together with her other siblings, raised by her mother who struggled to raise them through selling vegetables by the roadside near their home. "Life became very rough when dad died", she recalls; "none of our extended family members offered to take us on, especially when it came to school fees", she continued. Because of the difficult situation, she could not continue with her schooling and soon dropped out.

"Thank God", she says, "last year when I heard about the tailoring project the church was offering to the orphans and widows, I jumped at the offer and enrolled". She was among the first group to graduate and she has been doing quite well in her small found business as a tailor. She proudly displayed her products when we visited her at home and joyfully shared how she can now support her mother and the last sister whom she has been assisting to continue with school. Her future hope is to one day buy her own knitting machine which she only learnt how to use during her training. "With it I can knit jerseys and sell to school going kids, especially during winter" she said.

I thank God for this opportunity to convey her heartfelt gratitude over what God, through the ministry of Forgotten Voices, is doing through the local church. Her life is once again dignified as she can fend for herself and her family. Indeed, "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassion never fails. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness", Lamentations 3:22-23

Your fellow servant in God's ministry,


Monday, September 20, 2010

What I want for my birthday

Friends, thank you already for the tremendous outpouring of love and thanksgiving to mark my birthday. What a year it has been:

personally - my beautiful wife, Katie, and I celebrated our 1st child's arrival (Avery Joy - she was born June 6) and moved our family from Boston to PA into our first home.

professionally - I graduated from grad school, went to Africa 3 times, watched you help our church partners in Africa send our 5,000th kid to school among many other amazing things!

Along the way this year, I've met some incredible people and shared many memorable conversations around the world. Our God has abundantly provided for Katie and I. There are too many to list here, but know I rejoice with you at the Lord's favor upon our house.

On a sad note, I lost my grandfather this dad's dad - Isam Keith. When he passed away, I was unable to go to the funeral because of bad weather. I lost many friends in Africa due to AIDS related deaths...too many to list here. For my grandfather and these friends, I dedicate this year to your memory and the love you have helped me learn to share with others.

Last year, I felt like God wanted me to share 20 stories of people and places that have influenced me and blessed my life.   This year, for my birthday, I've been rather silent --- trying to talk less and listen more.

I've decided what I want for my birthday. It's simple really. I want you to pray for me. I'm inviting you to join me in praying a prayer for God's continued guidance on my life. I'm asking you to pray for me as I lead Forgotten Voices, stand in the gap for kids (it gets emotionally overwhelming), and for me most importantly as a father and husband.

Pray that I continue to listen to the Lord as He leads our ministry. Pray that I seek His wisdom, not my own. Pray that my life is a sacrifice, ready to be molded into a cup that serves the Lord's will. Pray that my eyes are open to see God's work all around me and join him where I should, yet remain fervent in prayer for those areas where I should not work, but others should. With our work, it's easy to get distracted with good things that are not ours to pursue.

From the bottom of my heart - whether I know you personally or you just read my blog - you all inspire me. You help me see and experience love through your support for kids you may never get to meet, but you love them just the same.  Through you, I've learned how to love more deeply.

I love because Christ loved me. Today, as you pray for me, know that I continue to pray for you. That you also would come to know and experience the love of Christ in your own lives. That your love for our work at Forgotten Voices would also flow into a love for your neighbors and family. That you would delight in the presence of our God. I'm overwhelmed with gratitude today that you and I get to play a small role in extending love to those around us --- here in the USA and around the world.

Today - pray for me as I lead and serve. I'll pray for you. And take a moment to share love with someone around you who needs it. That's what I want for my birthday. I'm thankful for each of you and your warm greetings.

All the best,

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Demonstrating Christ's love in the village

Meet Pastor and Mrs. Golf Lungu, 2007 graduates of the Theological College of Central Africa (TCCA). God has been using Pastor Lungu and his wife to bring hope in the rural area of Pemba in Southern Province of Zambia, about 522km from Ndola. They founded a ministry called "Perseverance Ministry", with the aim of making a difference in the lives of the least evangelized people of their community, through their local church.

Pastor Lungu is a full time teacher at Jembo High School and also pastors a local church called Kanchomba Pilgrim Wesleyan Church, 10km from home. The Pastor says, "though it is a challenge to walk to their village church every Sunday or whenever there is need during the week, we are always happy as we know God is honoured through our service". His wife has offered their living room to run a Pre-School/Day Care ministry initiated to take care of children of teachers from the High School. She has also initiated a Tailoring School that is focusing on youths, especially the grade nine school leavers in the surrounding community. This has helped to delay girls from getting married early, as is normally the case in the village, because they are kept occupied with tailoring lessons and other related activities. In the village, farming is the main income activity of the rural peasant farmers, the Lungus have acquired some land to be growing corn, sweet potatoes, ground nuts and green vegetables for sale in times of good harvest and also for food security.

I came to learn about Pastor Lungu and his wife's ministry through the TCCA graduate network that Forgotten Voices has been part of since its inception. I met them during the Southern Province fellowship in Choma. Realizing their impact on their local community, yet with limited resources, Forgotten Voices organized second hand clothes and shoes from well wishers and sent them to their local church, Kanchomba Pilgrim Wesleyan Church. It was a blessing for widows and orphans, especially girls to receive these gifts. This fulfills Christ's words in Matthew 25: 36, "I needed clothes and you clothed me,..." This is how far your donations towards the ministry of FVI in Southern Africa goes; right in the village. And we say thank you for demonstrating the love of Christ to these people.

Your fellow servant in God's ministry,