Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Hopelessness should win more than it does if logic and reason were the only judges of outcome. It doesn't win though. It loses again and again, with hope shocking us over and over.
Over 2,000 years ago, a baby was born in a manger. Jesus came among the poor to redeem all of mankind and help shepherd us into a relationship with our God. He came to die on the cross for our sins, taking the pain and offering us eternity in heaven if we believe and accept the free gift of forever relations with our God.
His humble entry is what I cling to every year as I lead Forgotten Voices. The fact that God chose the poor, not royalty, to usher in the King of Kings speaks volumes to me. The fact that God chose redemption through one small baby instead of a massive army offers hope to those around the world who suffer.
At Forgotten Voices International, we are constantly learning valuable lessons about sacrifice, love and hope in the midst of hopelessness. With kids dying all around our church partners, they keep going. They surely get overwhelmed. We've cried with them, cried out to God with them…seeking relief and comfort in our grief. But we keep going because the promises of our God to one day redeem all of this are embodied in the Christmas story.
At Forgotten Voices, we are daily experiencing healing and hope in the midst of our suffering. Those of us lonely and lost in the USA are finding incredible joy in ministering through service and volunteering. We are hearing stories of sacrifice of cars, xbox, and childhood birthday parties to love kids in Africa.
This Christmas, we invite you to reflect with your families on stories we offer here. These stories come direct from our staff, Board members, volunteers, pastors we serve, and kids we are privileged to help care for in Africa. Stories will appear here every day throughout December.
May their stories drive you to love like Jesus and pause to remember what all the chaos of Christmas is about - a small baby who came to redeem the world and again show that hope in God always wins.
Ryan Keith, President
Forgotten Voices International
Give a gift certificate from Forgotten Voices to someone you love this Christmas.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Through the church and with help from Forgotten Voices, 26 orphaned children are able to attend primary school, and a community farm has been established that allows people without land to plant crops and feed their families.
The efforts of the congregation and leadership at this church have not only changed lives, but an entire community. More than a dozen families actively participate in their farming program, and plans are in place to use a portion of the crops grown to generate income that will sustain their efforts to send orphans in their community to school indefinitely.
What a powerful ministry. Right now, a team from Forgotten Voices is visiting the Free Methodist Church outside of Ndola, and bringing their expertise and encouragement to the congregation and Pastor Murekezi as they continue to care for those without a voice in their community. You can be a part of this exciting project, just one of nearly two dozen that Forgotten Voices is involved with.
Join our efforts through volunteering, donating, or sharing these stories with others.
We're focused on locally developed and run orphan care in Zimbabwe and Zambia. We hope you'll join in our efforts to help those without a voice wherever you are.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Today the team has landed in Ndola to visit the Theological College of Central Africa and meet up with Zambian Program Director, Remmy Hamapande. Leading up to this trip, Remmy had the opportunity to visit the United States for the first time, speaking at numerous events and learning a lot about America culture (and enjoying no small amount of pizza along the way!).
Tomorrow the team will visit Lubuto Church of Christ, an hour and a half drive from their current location in Ndola. Through partnership with Forgotten Voices, Lubuto Church of Christ has been able to send over 80 orphans to school, provide sewing and empowerment projects to 32 widows, and construct a hammer mill for the community.
With the hammer mill in place, the church is now able to generate enough income to sustainably provide for the orphans and widows it currently supports. This project is a powerful example of what successful international partnership can look like, a model that Forgotten Voices is seeking to replicate elsewhere. It's important to note that the ideas for these self-sustaining projects are generated and spearheaded by the local people, as they clearly know what's most needed in their own communities. Forgotten Voices can then act as a conduit for their plans to become a reality.
Please continue to keep the Lubuto Church of Christ in your prayers, as well as our team. May the team's visit provide encouragement to the local community and leadership there as they seek to empower a growing number of orphans and widows across the region.
You can also keep up with the team's journey on facebook as they continue their time in Zambia.
Friday, November 12, 2010
Our team in Zimbabwe is doing a great job sending updates our way as much as possible, given their limited access to email and cell phone service. They've spent the last two days at Mtshabezi Mission, which houses the Brethren in Christ National AIDS Programme, one of our original partner projects.
Their itinerary at Mtshabezi included plans to visit the local school with Neatness, a young girl who's story you MUST hear if you haven't already. Learn more about her here.
They also planned to go with the AIDS Programme staff to visit families in the community who were being assisted by Forgotten Voices, or who could (and need to) be assisted if the reach of the program were able to grow. According a text from Nate this morning, these visits were hard. Many of these families are in desperate situations, lacking food or seed to plant for the next harvest. No doubt our team met some individuals who are living out their final days with HIV. These moments are difficult to put into words, whether it's a brand new situation or one you've been in more times that you care to count.
As you pray for our team, please also pray for the families they are meeting. I'd also encourage you to read the following two blog posts, as they may give some insight into what our team - both those seeing this for the first time and those who have been there before - are experiencing.
Both were written in the past few years.
The first is written by Ryan Keith, reflecting on one of the many times he's spent sitting with someone on their deathbed in Zimbabwe or Zambia.
The second is written by Stephen Bozzo, a friend of Forgotten Voices who has traveled to Zimbabwe several times to see our project partners in action. This blog is from his very first visit to Mtshabezi.
This weekend, the team will be visiting our partners at Foundations for Farming (think back to those families who are in need of food and planting seed - this partnership is part of our response). They'll also visit Matopos Primary, another school where children who have been orphaned are assisted by a partnership with Forgotten Voices. They'll worship at The Rock Church on Sunday before flying out Sunday afternoon, headed for Zambia.
Thank you for your prayers!
Ellen Shaffer, Director of Project Management
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
We wanted to provide some visuals for you all as you're reading about the people and places referenced by our team.
First, here are a few photos from The Rock Church, which the team visited yesterday. Ryan commented yesterday on the newly installed irrigation system and improvements made to the well that Forgotten Voices helped to drill several years ago.
Drilling the well in 2008
Garden planted after the well
Water tanks obtained in 2010
Click here to read a post from our Zambia Director, Remmy Hamapande, about the impact of clean water on a community.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Goodbyes are always sad, but easier when hellos are just around the corner.
During the flight, I learned a few things. My priorities seem to have shifted since the last time I flew. I usually get on the plane terribly exhausted, but want to watch movies most of the time anyway. This time, my exhaustion beat out my desire to catch up on movies out that I’ve heard about, but haven’t seen. So, I slept. A lot. I missed dinner, so they brought me one after many had finished. I almost missed breakfast. All total, I probably slept about 9+ hrs of the 14 hr flight. I’m thankful. I needed it, clearly.
I miss Katie & Avery more than I imagined missing them, which was a lot. But on the drive to JFK, I was also praising God for this sense of loss being away from them. It helps connect me to a glimpse of the suffering faced by men all over southern Africa. Due to high unemployment (90+% in Zimbabwe and 80% in Zambia), men have to travel great distances to find work and money to feed & provide for their families. I’ve always been sad to leave Katie, but we both reflected that this trip our dependence on each other is greater because of Avery.
Who will help Katie when Avery is screaming for no reason? When Katie needs a break? Needs to debrief about her day?
I’m not trying to get too personal, but instead connect to the men I’ve heard a lot about but couldn’t really relate to until I left Avery. Like many families in southern Africa, we have a great support system. Friends and relatives will help Katie care for Avery. We are thankful for them, but they are not me – they are not Avery’s dad.
I’ve heard lots of people in Africa share with me over the years that this prolonged time away – sometimes years – leads people to feel incapable of providing for their families and/or emotionally disconnected. Have no fear. This isn’t the case for us. But I am thankful for this glimpse of sadness that men seeking work might face leaving a child and wife. Unsure of how they will provide. If they haven’t managed to find work, ashamed to come back.
This feeling of helplessness – this critical season in a man’s determination of his own dignity & worth – is often the beginning of the AIDS cycle. AIDS is spreading in large part because of the time away. The hopelessness and worthlessness sets in and a man finds comfort with a woman close to his factory job or a local dive bar. He may even start a family with his person, unwilling to return “home” for fear of everyone in the community and family seeing him for how he sees himself: a failure.
I’m sad to say I’ve heard it before. But, until I thought about these stories through the eyes of a father – eyes I now have – I couldn’t really relate. I still can’t, completely, obviously for lots of reason: I have a job, purpose, and a determined time away. But I do thank God for this glimpse. This trip, for the first time, I’ll see differently the pains of a family who have lost a father to AIDS related deaths or a dad who is away indefinitely.
As we prepare to land, I can’t shake the feeling that God is going to rock my world and help me to see anew the challenges of AIDS and the church’s role in meeting the needs of children. I’ve never really looked at this from the perspective of a man, but always through the eyes of a child or mother. I’m scared, because my heart is already so full and I fear I can’t handle more love for more people – that it’s been easier to simply blame the men for the failures on their family. It’s been easier to not allow my heart to also break for the worthlessness they feel as men.
But, as we prepare to land, I’m also thankful that God is God and I am simply Ryan. I’m also thankful for 6+ yrs of lessons on listening to local voices…that the things I don’t know or scare me create an open space for people who do know – the men, in this case – to more honestly share with me because they will sense I am genuinely concerned and open to learn more about the pressures they face.
Like always, we land with more questions than answers. My prayer for us all – you, our team, and me – that we allow God to guide us in life. That we remain centered on him in our own travels, wherever they take us. That, even in our despair or uncertainty or doubt, we remain grounded in our God’s ocean-like love for each of us. It is that Christ-like love that I hope we share on this trip. And it is that unending, Christ-like love I pray you find ways to share while you wait for us to return.
Together – across the same ocean – we may learn to see more like Christ sees us. For those glimpses I’m grateful. For the rest I have just received, I rejoice so I’m ready and able to see this land I love through new eyes….and a new heart…as a new father.
Keep praying. Keep loving. Keep looking. Keep listening and seeing opportunities to love all around you. We will try to do the same.
We are moments from landing into Johannesburg, South Africa. Will write from the terminal, Lord willing.
All the best,
Monday, November 8, 2010
I am not going alone, but I am leaving Katie & our daughter Avery behind (1st time). I'm going with 5 others, listed below.
We ask that you pray for us as we go. Why are we going? We are going to listen to, learn from, and encourage local churches in Zimbabwe and Zambia who are faithfully demonstrating the love of Christ to children orphaned by AIDS in their communities. We are going to share love for the 5 year old who prays faithfully every night for our ministry. We go to share love in Africa for the youth group who helped raised $6,000 last year for Forgotten Voices. We go for a senior citizen who committed to praying last week for Forgotten Voices. We go for you.
PRAY WITH US!
Nate (TEAM LEADER) - Nate's wife, Ellen, is on staff with Forgotten Voices, leading project management and communication to you all. Nate is the Volunteer Executive Director of Forgotten Voices, leading our volunteers and helping me manage day to day functions within our small ship. :) Please pray specifically for Nate, who is our team leader. I'll be helping him as he learns all that is involved so he can lead trips on his own in the future, allowing me to take trips off or go to new places.
Julie - serves faithfully as our Volunteer Director of Administration at Forgotten Voices. Her husband, Trevor, is on our Board. Julie has a gigantic heart for kids and serves Forgotten Voices to model to her children the ways of Christ. Pray for Julie's children and husband, as well as for Julie to find opportunities to use her big heart for kids.
Remmy - our Zambian Program Director, who has traveled with us for 3 weeks around the USA, returns with us. He is the husband to Irene and father of Ginney, his 14 yr old niece that they adopted at 3 yrs old. Pray for Remmy's safe travel back home.
Steve - in the roofing business and on the missions Board at Carlisle E Free in Central PA. Pray for God to use his unique gifts.
Ian - our Missions Pastor at West Shore E Free, where my wife & I attend. He is a world traveler after 20+ years on the missions field. God has given him a gift of relating well to perfect strangers, which I have observed several times already this morning.
Ryan (me) - President of Forgotten Voices.
This morning, 5 others and I depart from JFK in NYC. We will travel 15 hrs on the plane to Johannesburg, South Africa. From there, Remmy will leave us in South Africa after 3+ weeks of traveling around the USA. He will set off to Zambia after a night’s stay with our dear friends, the Lockwoods. Our team carries on to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. We arrive Tuesday afternoon.
We will hit the ground running on Tuesday, likely eating lunch in the car on the way to a place that rescues abandoned children before they are placed in the “system” for years. We’ll then visit our partnership with The Rock church to check in on their water project we’ve funded with this local church. Our first day in Zimbabwe will finish with dinner at a dear friend’s house -- a local pastor. If people are still standing, we plan to have a gathering around the croc pit (where they ACTUALLY raise crocodiles) to debrief the day.
Pray with us as we begin the journey.
Follow our trip on twitter
Saturday, November 6, 2010
For now, here are notes from today's session, followed by our VERY simple GAP Assessment tool.
THANKS again for coming to the summit! May God equip you mightily for His plans ahead.
All the best,
LISTENING TO LOCAL VOICES
a workshop from Forgotten Voices International
“EQUIPPING CHURCHES IN SOUTHERN AFRICA TO MEET THE PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL NEEDS OF CHILDREN ORPHANED BY AIDS”
Remmy Hamapande, Zambia Director: Remmy@ForgottenVoices.org
Ryan Keith, President: Ryan@ForgottenVoices.org
Ways to connect to the local voices (From Ian Campbell, Missions Pastor, www.WestShoreFree.com):
• be the prayer wall: allow the local people to "pin" on you what they know and believe
• be the magnifying glass: draw attention to what is essential, and champion the emergence of local leadership
• be the bridge: facilitate the converging of vision, people and resources
• be the fuel: model servant leadership that causes others to increase
How to Unlock Local Voices -- Methods used for success
• Gap Assessment
– Identifying gaps in Water, Food, Education, Health
– What is church doing, community, and what’s left?
• Action Plans, based on Gaps
– Putting leadership in place to act on gaps
• Prayer and Project Reports
– Reporting back on progress of Gaps & project
– Explore unintended changes to church & community
Consider Possible Advantages of Local Voices Approach
• More accurate targeting of the issue facing community, as they are typically hidden & multilayered
• Often more cost effective in long-run
• More likely to be self-sustainable
• Community owned
• Dignity of people often restored and protected
• Less exploitation by donors that simply want to feel good
Consider Possible Disadvantages of Local Voices Approach
• Often more time consuming or appear that way
• Often tougher sell to congregation or group, as "results" may take longer
• Changing narrative may cause alarm, as priorities change as local people figure out their own priorities
• Democracy is sometimes messier, creating observed tension within communities
• Opening other community wounds, such as women's empowerment, chiefdom power struggles, etc
What has worked for you? Share it on our blog at www.ForgottenVoices.org, then click NEWS.
Click here to view a GOOGLE DOC of FORGOTTEN VOICES' GAP ASSESSMENT TOOL:
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
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.
Kabushi ECZ Orphan Care – Zambia
Pray that the orphans who have recently returned to school through this program would be equipped with strength and determination to realize their hopes and dreams.
Pray that the many vulnerable children in this community will turn to Christ and develop healthy relationships with their peers. Ask the Lord to encourage them to exhibit godly habits in their interactions with one another.
Praise the Lord that through partnership a new group of vulnerable children are now being assisted and are receiving an education that provides temporal and eternal hope.
Pray for all the children of the mercy Project who are entering the examination stage of their coursework. Pray that God would richly bless their preparation and provide them with the knowledge to pass their examinations.
Praise the Lord that many leaders have had uplifting visits with children and families throughout the community.
Bukwasho Project – Zambia
Pray that the Lord would provide the resources which will enable the church to finish construction of administrative offices that will be used to support the care of vulnerable children.
Pray for the church leaders to remain in unity and for the congregation to grow in the knowledge and love of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Praise God that a tailoring course has been offered at the church and that many in the community have benefited from this instruction.
Praise God that the maize harvest in this area has been plentiful.