By Stephanie Struck

Author’s note: Forgotten Voices is a 501c3 non-profit that isdemonstrating the love of Jesus Christ by equipping local churches in southern Africa to meet the physical and spiritual needs of children orphaned by AIDS in their communities.” Ryan Keith, president of Forgotten Voices, told his story to Fieldnotes Magazine in June 2013 for this article.

“I never sought to start or lead a ministry like this.” In 2004 Ryan Keith visited Zimbabwe on a fact-finding trip for his church to see how his local congregation could respond to the AIDS orphan crisis.  On his trip Ryan witnessed local pastors and church leaders mobilizing their communities to provide care for orphaned children, even though they lacked certain resources to do so.

Ryan visited a gravesite on his second trip to Africa with Peterson, who lost his mother and Prudence, his only sister. Peterson's life and his mother's death helped Ryan realize he didn't know what to do, yet this orphan crisis required a response to assist those who did. Credit: Krista Photography.

Ryan visited a gravesite on his second trip to Africa with Peterson, who lost his mother and Prudence, his only sister. Peterson’s life and his mother’s death helped Ryan realize he didn’t know what to do, yet this orphan crisis required a response to assist those who did.
Credit: Krista Photography

“I saw God on the move through these pastors and  started telling their stories [when I returned]. People who heard responded… and Forgotten Voices was birthed to listen to the hearts of local churches, who desired that the global church innovate the way orphan care was being done most commonly.”

Pastor Obert, a local pastor in Zimbabwe, jumps rope with children supported with Forgotten Voices. Obert told Ryan, "Before Forgotten Voices, in 20 years of doing orphan care an outsider had not once asked for my opinion." Credit: Krista Photography

Pastor Obert, a local pastor in Zimbabwe, jumps rope with children supported with Forgotten Voices. Obert told Ryan, “Before Forgotten Voices, in 20 years of doing orphan care an outsider had not once asked for my opinion.”
Credit: Krista Photography

Forgotten Voices has two purposes: to listen, and to innovate for a new model of care. Ryan longed for the American church to engage differently with the AIDS crisis in Africa. While he was unsure what to do he knew that a good way forward would be to assist those who do know what to do and who are already mobilizing their communities to respond. And so, together with his African friends and partners, they dreamed up a unique model of care.  One of these was Remmy Hamapande, who now serves as the Forgotten Voices Africa Director. Remmy, originally from Zambia, left a career at an international bank to pursue a theology degree and become a children’s pastor.

What makes the Forgotten Voices model unique? “Forgotten voices partners with the best-educated pastors, graduating from theologically sound seminaries in Africa, where they receive community development training and HIV/AIDS counseling trainings before we give them one dollar. The goal is to help meet the physical and spiritual needs of orphaned children and draw all of us closer to the heart of God.”

The Forgotten Voices model has four key elements: custom plans, quiet investments, flexible partnerships, sustainable income. They help pastors “create custom plans that uniquely meet gaps in orphan care to complement existing work of their churches.” Further, they “make a quiet investment into their customer plans to a level that they can eventually raise on their own, yet [they] are unknown to beneficiaries.” As a result, Forgotten Voices has seen great local ownership of the work. Additionally, they strive for flexible partnerships with pastors, “allowing them to amend their plans as the needs of vulnerable children constantly change.”

Forgotten Voices has grown and refined its model over the years. As participants in the Praxis Accelerator Program, Remmy and Ryan learned to focus on the areas in which their group excels (custom plans, quiet investments, flexible partnerships). They also found encouragement. Ryan reflects, “Dreamers and entrepreneurs are often lonely, but Praxis put us all in the same room, provided us with a technical knowledge to diagnose and solve hard problems, and then set us free to keep dreaming.”

Ryan and Remmy have formed a beautiful working partnership over the years. Ryan describes that he thinks in terms of possibilities and scale while Remmy thinks in practical realities. “[Remmy’s] job is to constantly listen and observe what his pastor’s heart and business mind are telling him, then [Ryan] tries to mobilize people in the USA to follow.” Ryan describes his job as president simply to listen and share truthfully about what they are seeing and learning.

“He’s one of my closest friends now,” Ryan says of Remmy Hamapande, pictured here. “Remmy thinks in practical realities, holding my feet to the fire to truly equip churches by listening first and always.”

“He’s one of my closest friends now,” Ryan says of Remmy Hamapande, pictured here. “Remmy thinks in practical realities, holding my feet to the fire to truly equip churches by listening first and always.”

For Ryan, “the biggest obstacles have been letting go of total control, building a trustworthy pipeline in Africa, and having patience with ambiguity and setbacks.” He adds, “Letting go of control has meant sitting with unspeakable pain, fully aware that this problem is not for me to fix or speak into or give a dollar toward. Sitting with pain and letting go of control is crucial. The reality is that you and I don’t know [what to do], but what we don’t know gives space for us to listen to those who do.” This is where listening and partnering with local church leaders is key to the organization’s work. Ryan shares that, “we believe Forgotten Voices is uniquely positioned to help innovate orphan care through the local church by catalyzing a sustainable, community-based response to the orphan crisis.”

Pastor Obert, with Happiness, sharing a smile amidst the pain. Local pastors are daily ushering in hope where we too often see despair.  Credit: Krista Photography

Pastor Obert, with Happiness, sharing a smile amidst the pain. Local pastors are daily ushering in hope where we too often see despair.
Credit: Krista Photography

Fieldnotes Magazine and Ryan invite you to learn  more about Forgotten Voices here and in this video. Ryan says, “If [you] want to help orphans, but don’t know how to get started, we’ve learned that’s a wonderful place to be. We can help you partner well.”

Stephanie Struck is an executive assistant at the Max De Pree Center for Leadership and copy editor at Fieldnotes Magazine.

Fieldnotes Magazine is a publication of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary. We would love to hear from you about people, businesses, or other organizations we can interview or feature. Please email The Editor at Fieldnotes Magazine.

 

Comments are closed.