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About the Author
  • Ryan
  • Ryan
  • Husband, father, advocate for children orphaned by AIDS. President of Forgotten Voices. Fan of the Red Sox, Dr Pepper, and improving the world.

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Meet a “widow” – Grace may surprise you

I present a woman I call Grace* (renamed for lots of good reasons), who shares her story of life as a widow and a word of thanks to her local church. “Grace” is one of 75 women who have graduated from a sewing school run by a local church in Ndola that Forgotten Voices is proud to equip with your resources. The women are widowed. Through the program, they are able to provide for their own children’s needs, preventing children from becoming the most vulnerable without either parent. Their skills also help fill voids in the marketplace. May you be encouraged as you meet her and hear from her, in her own words.

We are currently raising $20,000 to equip local churches to fulfill their locally developed income generation ideas, including almost $3,000 to help Grace’s church continue equipping women to care for children orphaned by AIDS. You can give at http://www.forgottenvoices.org/donate. Thank you!  In Grace’s words, “don’t get tired. Keep it up, until Jesus comes.”


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grace sewing Meet a widow   Grace may surprise youI’m always struck by the matter of factness of the way some women in Zimbabwe & Zambia speak about their situations after losing a husband. It is common for them to speak directly about losing their husbands, refer to themselves as widows, and speak bluntly about the challenges they face. This is stark contrasts to the deferential way married women often speak.

She tells me, “I am a widow. I lost my husband. My back is against the wall, but I have faith in God and trust He will provide. He will help me provide for my children.” I’m always in awe by her (their) directness. Though sad to hear those words, her quiet confidence is refreshing and contrasts to the pictures we sometimes see portrayed about her reality.

Helpless. Naive. Lost. Unwise. Lazy. While not always the case in our American church culture of missions, there is often a matter of pity and a hero complex running full steam at trying to solve the “problem” this woman can’t seem to figure out for herself. Just this past weekend, someone said to me, “Ryan, I’m glad you are there to help them figure out their problems for them.” With a smile and the grace women in Africa have taught me, I began to explain…

Organizations like ours do the plight of “widows” a disservice when we present their situations as beyond hope, without intervention from your gifts. We take away the voice she has, sometimes for the first time in her life. True. She is often sad. Certainly vulnerable. But helpless and silent? I haven’t seen that. The women I meet are also not unwise or lazy.

Recently I’ve been using the following example to try to communicate their situations beyond our comprehension. “If a woman is 31, has a 1st grade education and has 6 kids and a grandchild, there are not many things she has chosen in her life. Things have been chosen for her, too early and too often. After losing a husband, when she manages to keep all 6 kids alive on sheer will and love for her children, we all should stop and learn from her. Let’s not be so quick to share a thought on how to solve her problem. Just listen and learn. Encourage. Equip. If we can’t do those things, may we be silent. May we be still. May we learn to see grace and dignity push upward from the dark embers of her life the world sees as dead, yet she sees as hope. May our deep prayers fan the flames that stir within her, fanning hope and life from our God to her. In doing so, may our hearts for God grow, as well.”

At Forgotten Voices International, we are passionate about equipping local churches to care for chidren orphaned by AIDS in their communities. Sometimes those children have lost both parents, but sometimes they lose a dad and mom is left alone to “make a plan,” leading openly for the first time in her life. Churches we partner with are working hard to help equip these women with skills & resources to live out their dreams and care for their own children. One of the great joys you and I have at Forgotten Voices is to sit, listen, and learn from the dignity that is so evident when we merely equip women to do what they yearn to do. When we stop trying to “do international development,” and instead be students of grace and learning.

Thank you for investing in our mission to partner & equip churches & caregivers, ready, willing & able t care for children orphaned by AIDS. You, dear friends, are fanning life & hope where the world sees death & darkness. To God be the glory.

-Ryan Keith

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Posted in Confessions of a Nonprofit Leader
  1. I’m really encouraged by the relationship between the church and women like Grace that is exemplified in her speech. Not only did her church offer a training opportunity, but they noticed if she was missing and they sought her out to encourage her when she was struggling to provide for her children. As much as she now remembers and relies on the training she received, she also clearly remembers and is reassured by the fact that her pastor and church care for her and want to see a better life for her family. So happy to have “met” her here :)

    Reply March 7, 2012 at 12:10 pm
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