Dear Tired,

Lifting tired arms, one letter at a time.

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7 

After nearly 14 years of listening to local churches in southern Africa, including 12 years shepherding Forgotten Voices in its early days, I’ve been called by God to step away from staff leadership and transition into a new role as a Board Member. On July 1, I’ll become the Pastor of Strategic Initiatives for West Shore Free Church, my home church in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.

The same church that asked me to go to Africa has called me home. I’m stepping away from staff leadership for something I’ve loved shepherding in its early days so that I can step deeper into something I’ve always loved… the local church.

Originally passing on Harvard to go to Zimbabwe when my home church asked is a decision to say yes to that has changed my life. An invitation from the same church inviting me to focus locally was a surprising, yet humbling, calling to receive. Through much prayer and discernment over a couple months, my wife, Katie, and I, joyfully accepted. My dad used to always tell me, “when the cries of our neighbors come, the Church should be there.” My life doesn’t belong to me, but to God, and we are thankful.

Shelton, Ryan, and Steve

From L to R: Shelton Taguma (new Executive Director), myself, and Steve Proctor (our Board Chair)

I’ll be concluding my role as President on June 1, then taking a month to be off the grid, before continuing to advise our new Executive Director, Shelton Taguma. Shelton was unanimously selected after a 7-month process to determine our needs and pray for God’s provision. Join me in praising God for Shelton’s arrival and for our staff continuing to lead and serve our mission. I can’t tell you how excited I am about the future of our ministry, as Shelton and our team embody our mission and values. This September, I’ll be joining our Board of Directors to support Shelton, our staff, and our mission in a new way.

In my new role as a Pastor of Strategic Initiatives, I’ll be helping deepen our local church’s understanding of the needs of our neighbors through listening, building off of lessons I’ve learned from pastors in Africa. So often, those of us in the West (myself included) have thought of churches around the world as grateful beneficiaries. In this new season, I hope to testify to what I’ve seen God do through the church in Africa and let them guide us to being better neighbors, too.

I’ve always loved the local church; my home church included.

Over the past ~2 years, I’ve voluntarily helped my home church listen to local people in our region across the sectors of education, healthcare, marketplace, government, and law enforcement. Through the process, I was helping us use approaches I’ve learned from engaging with leaders in Africa. After 250+ interviews by our senior pastor, a team of other volunteers, and myself, one theme emerged across all 5 sectors: vulnerable families.

Once on staff, I’ll initially be guiding strategic initiatives focused on strengthening families, with a specific interest in mentoring, transportation, and supporting vulnerable children and families among us and around us. It will be a learning process for me, our congregation, and our staff. I’m praying expectantly for God’s guidance, as He has always provided.

I wasn’t looking for a new opportunity. But…after going through so many glorious and hard moments with the LORD, my wife and I have grown closer to God over the past 12+ years while leading Forgotten Voices. In the end, Katie and I are thankful to know God’s voice. The same God who called me to the seemingly forgotten places of southern Africa was now calling me back home to Pennsylvania.

God is calling me to a new city along the same road.

Over the past 14 years, the #1 lesson I’ve learned is that God doesn’t ask us to be God. He asks us to be faithful. Faithful to strive to be an excellent sentence in the middle of an exceptional book that He is writing.

Come what may, each of us has an opportunity to be joyfully obedient to be faithful to use the pieces God equips us with and say yes when He calls, while fully knowing we must look for the pieces God is creating in others. Together, we can do great things so that all may see and know that God is on the move.

Together, we’ve served thousands of children and we couldn’t have done this without YOU. I’ve met so many amazing people, each of you image bearers of God. My job has been merely to bridge two sides of the same ocean by connecting people (like you and me) who want to serve vulnerable children, but don’t know how, with those who do know (local pastors in Africa), but could use our help carrying the load. Being your and their representative along that bridge has been a joy.

I hope I’ll never tire of thanking God for your faithfulness and prayers over the years. The miraculous and glorious moments of pure, unhindered joy have filled many notebooks and I’ll look forward to sharing some day. In the coming weeks, months, and years, I’ll surely unpack the experience this has been.

While there are far more people to thank than I can possibly list, I want to thank 4 groups today: our partners, our staff, our Board, and my family.

Our partners have showed me what it means to love well and give God their everything. I’ll forever be in their debt for introducing me to a deeper relationship with God and learning, as they trust God with every aspect of their livelihood and hearts. Since day 1, our partner churches, families, and children drive what we do. They are the heroes of this story that God is writing in southern Africa.

Our staff – both current and past – have been the quiet servants behind the scenes. I often say that I get far too much credit and not nearly enough blame. I’m thankful for the many ways each of them has revealed characteristics of God in the everyday work.

Our Board of Directors has walked this journey with me from the beginning. Though some of the people have changed, the commitment to our work has remained the same. They’ve literally sustained me and my family in some seasons. They’ve invested their hearts, talent, time, and treasure into our mission. I cannot thank them enough – from the beginning days through the extra time they’ve put in, as of late, shepherding us through this season of transition. Thank you!

Most of all, I want to thank my wife, Katie, and our 3 children. Before we got engaged, I asked my wife to come see Zimbabwe with me, believing God was not releasing me yet from this work, but I also knew I couldn’t live without her. She came and, thankfully, she fell in love with our mission, too. Though I’ve been more visible in my role, Katie has been a big part of our work’s heart. Through it all, she has not only supported me and sustained me, but cheered me on. She has been the quiet whisperer of encouragement in ways no one will know but me. I’m so thankful for my children, too. Recently, they expressed how they are “kinda sad to think we won’t be working for Forgotten Voices”. This is all they’ve known of Daddy at work. It’s been a family mission together. I thank God that our mission has been a part of their story from day 1 and I pray their love for the vulnerable only builds and builds.

We look forward, as a family, to continuing to serve our mission with our time, talent, and treasure.

Thanks for reading and for praying with me for this new season of Forgotten Voices and our family. More to come, I’m sure.

Thanks be to God. Great things He has done. May all who see us, see Him.

All the best,

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