As I return home from an amazing trip to Zimbabwe full with stories of tragedy, sadness, hope and triumph, I am reminded of the prayer Paul prayed for his partners in Philippians 1:3-6.
Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
I was so moved by what I experienced on my trip, that I felt compelled in turn to share about the work that God is doing through his church in Zimbabwe. The quote above is taken directly from Pastor Ayibongwe, the pastor of the Brethren in Christ church in Nguboyenja. His church is located in the heart of several of the oldest and poorest communities in the city of Bulawayo. Ravaged by the HIV/AIDS virus, young adults aged 20-35 are starkly missing from these areas. Instead, the neighborhoods are characterized by grandmothers, grandfathers, and elderly relatives caring for orphaned children. These elderly people, in the midst of their own health and financial struggles, are entrenched in the responsibilities of being primary caregivers to children without parents of their own. As we sat down to discuss the situations his church and community are facing, Pastor Ayibongwe opened the conversation with the quote above, “Your partnership was an answer to our prayers.” We then toured through the neighborhoods, meeting several children and families served by this church’s orphan care ministry. As we walked from home to home, children from all over the street called out and waved, “Pastor! Pastor!” Some of these children attend his church, but many do not. The same could be said about the orphans his church is assisting, some attend his church, but many do not.
From Pastor after Pastor, from church volunteer after church volunteer, from church after church that we visited, the story was the same. The Pastors and the churches were known to the people in their communities far beyond the confines of only those that entered their church doors. Their reach extended far beyond their own parishioners, to the undefined boundaries of their communities. The pastors and church volunteers with whom Forgotten Voices partners, know the needs of the people in their communities, because they are present in their homes, in their lives. The pastors and volunteers are sharing in the struggles, the triumphs, the fears, the hurts and the joys of the people in their neighborhoods. They are the hands and feet of Christ, ministering to physical, emotional and spiritual needs alike.
The work does not come without a cost. For many of the pastors in Zimbabwe, but if Africa as well, they sacrifice daily to press onward in their calling. Ministering to poor communities in Zimbabwe, suffering from a 90% formal unemployment rate, not only do they face the daily challenges of helping others make ends meet, but many also find themselves facing the same challenges providing for their own families. Yet they are continuing to do the work to which Christ has called them….spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ, clothing and feeding the hungry, caring for the orphan and widow….all of this summed up in loving their neighbors, loving their neighborhoods.
I went to Zimbabwe to help minister to children orphaned by HIV/AIDs and to witness the work of Forgotten Voices, an organization I dearly love. However, primarily what I witnessed and experienced was part of the church of Jesus Christ in Zimbabwe, in the faces of pastors, church volunteers, and youth leaders meeting the needs of the people in their communities, from orphaned children to the elderly.
There are some moments in life when you wish you would have responded differently to something someone said. That’s how I feel now that I have spent some time reflecting on Pastor Ayibongwe’s words,
“Your partnership was an answer to our prayers.”
“No,” I would say, “Your partnership is an answer to our prayers.”
The churches are already doing the work. The churches are already doing the work effectively. But they do need our help…they need our resources. Forgotten Voices International needs more donations to help support more churches, more communities, more orphaned children. I realize that most readers of this blog are already partners with Forgotten Voices. If so, “Thank you for your partnership.” However would you consider going one step further? Would you consider helping us get the word out about the work of these churches beyond the boundaries of our “blog readership”? Please consider telling your church and your friends and their churches about the work of Forgotten Voices and asking them if they will partner with Forgotten Voices. Please consider inviting someone from Forgotten Voices to speak at your church or hosting an event for us. Please consider asking your church leadership to host an Orphan Sunday event on November 4th and highlighting the work and needs of Forgotten Voices. For more information or assistance with any of these opportunities, feel free to contact me or any member of the Forgotten Voices Leadership Team.
Let’s help support and partner with these pastors and churches in a work that is truly an answer to the prayers of many of us.
-Kathy Goss Volunteer Kids Serving Kids Coordinator