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 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

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