I love talking to kids who just celebrated their 10th birthday. Nine is far less cool than 10. Ten-year-olds walk a little taller and have a new swagger about them. Double digits! You're about as cool as you can be when you are 10: You haven't hit the awkwardness of middle school; you know enough about stuff to be listened to by all kinds of people; yet, you're still curious and developing into your true self.
Forgotten Voices celebrates our 10th birthday on October 22, 2016 -- Double digits!
Where we've been...
When we started, we had no idea how the global economy would change, impacting the lives of children and families around the world. Our first church partners were in Zimbabwe, which went into an economic crisis in 2006 that resulted in 2.6 trillion percent inflation - arguably the world's worst economic crisis in a century. Almost everyone in those early years who was an "adult" in our business would ask me, "but why Zimbabwe? It's so hard." What we didn't know (pretty much everything) allowed us to listen to those who did (local churches). We didn't know how operationally difficult Zimbabwe would be, compared to Rwanda or Kenya or other places. If we had, we may never have started or found our guides in local churches, who knew what needed to be done first. Because of a childlike faith and commitment to God's local church that outweighed all the barriers we "should've" recognized, we began with a spirit of curiosity that has served us well.
In our first decade, God has enabled Forgotten Voices to thrive. While giving to the nonprofit sector grew by less than 2 percent last year and very few grew by more than 5 percent, we've grown by about 20 percent each of the last few years. From our initial goal of reaching 120 children through 1 local church in Zimbabwe in 2006, we've grown to reach more than 14,000 children and family members through more than 87 church partners across Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi in the past year.
Where we're headed...
Turning 10 gives us a moment to celebrate where we've been, and also to look ahead to where God is leading our work. With solid public support, we are eager to embrace the growth He has provided, while remaining committed to ongoing learning and innovation. No matter how big the opportunities or challenges ahead may seem, we will always believe that local churches are an integral part of God's plan for caring for orphaned and vulnerable children.
I'm most proud of this: Forgotten Voices has maintained its child-like faith and awe, embracing what the world says can't be done simply because it hasn't worked yet. One of our organization's core values is to be "creative, yet urgent" - constantly innovating, while trying to learn along the way. Another is being "contagiously hopeful." While I'm at the helm, I pray we will always be far closer to embodying the swaggering hope of a stereotypical ten-year-old than the jaded cynicism that overtakes too many adults.
In thinking of Forgotten Voices on the cusp of our 10th birthday, I am reminded of a story my late mentor, Cliff Jones, used to tell as an illustration of how God blesses our journeys. It went something like this: "If you are ever on a walk in the woods and you come across a small turtle atop an impossibly large log, think of me. You are mistaken to believe any position of strength, or power, or prestige has been gained from my own wisdom. I was put here by someone, and this great journey we are on can only continue if that someone helps me onward."
On behalf of our Board of Directors, our now 24-person staff around the world, hundreds of volunteers in the local African churches we serve, and more than 14,000 children and their family members impacted by our services in the past year alone, thank you. You dared to believe that what you and I don't know creates room for local churches to lead and serve orphaned children in their communities, and we are overjoyed to celebrate God's faithfulness in these efforts. I join you in wishing Forgotten Voices a very happy 10th birthday, while also affirming my confident hope that our best days lie ahead.