Executive Director: Kelly McGugan
A Kentucky boy who now calls Memphis home… Kelly’s life was forever changed in 2010 when he went on a mission trip to Ethiopia. Since that time, he has led multiple mission trips back to Ethiopia, helping others gain a new perspective on how God loves us and His call to help and serve the least of these (James 1:27). Additionally, Kelly started a sports ministry program and partnered with a local university in Addis Ababa. That partnership not only opens the door for TFC beneficiaries to attend school but also provides a venue for TFC’s Ethiopian team to use soccer fields to play games with the children. Kelly has a passion for missions, both foreign and local and believes the Lord is a missional God. His life verse is Romans 8:28.
Kelly is married to his beautiful wife, Heather. They have two boys, Kyler and Declan, and attend Central Church in Collierville, TN. He currently serves on the missions board at Central and both he and Heather help in Children/Student ministry. Being a Kentucky boy, it’s a given that Kelly loves basketball, but he also enjoys going to football games when he can. Kelly and Heather were both competitive soccer players and love watching “the beautiful game.”
Field Director and Co-Founder: Joe Bridges
Joe and his wife, Karyn, are really just ordinary people who have fallen in love with the people of Ethiopia, especially the children. After experiencing the site of thousands of children living on the streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia firsthand in 2006, they helped start The Forsaken Children, Inc. (TFC), which exists to bring lasting hope to Ethiopia through these, Ethiopia’s street children. Joe and Karyn have a passion for partnering with Ethiopian ministries to carry out this task and have loved doing so! Most importantly, Joe and Karyn fully recognize that The Forsaken Children and their Ethiopian partners are not these children’s savior, but they know who is and aim to direct those whom God puts in TFC’s care to Jesus. The loves of their lives are their three kiddos – Jack, McLaine, and Silas!
Bookkeeper/Treasurer: Kara Moses
Kara is a founding board member for The Forsaken Children. She came to love the ministry of TFC and gained a passion for their vision through her relationship with Karyn Bridges. As her best friend, Karyn would share all the stories from her time in Ethiopia that broke Kara’s heart. In response to her brokenness, Kara desired to find a way to help Joe and Karyn with their ministry and was ultimately invited to be on the board. Having previously worked for a non-profit, Kara immediately took on trying to help with bookkeeping and anything she had former experience with. That helpfulness eventually turned into Kara officially taking on an administrative role with TFC in 2009. Kara lives in Memphis, TN and lives with her awesome husband, Johnpaul and their two daughters. Alyssa is their oldest and is quite the artist. Kelsey is their young entertainer, singing and dancing all the time. Kara is a home schooling mom and part time administrator for TFC. The Moses family attends Central Church.
Communications Manager: Lisa Conley
With a heart for loving and serving the nations toward Christ, Lisa served as a member of a local Memphis-area church staff for over 10 years, advocating for and supporting missionaries and missional causes. Through her time in that capacity, she came to know and love The Bridges family, and the work of TFC. She and her husband Joel have been blessed with four beautiful children. As a follower of Christ and as a mom, Lisa’s heart has been stirred and broken for those children who are alone and vulnerable on the streets of Ethiopia. Lisa and her family are active in local inner-city ministry, and are members of Harvest Church.
Chairman: Heather McGugan
In June 2010, Heather and her husband, Kelly traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on a short term mission trip. For just over a week, they were able to invest with The Forsaken Children’s Ethiopian team, Onesimus, and therefore fall in love with the children and community it serves. Since their first experience in Ethiopia, the McGugans have jumped in with both feet to serve The Forsaken Children and ultimately the street children of Ethiopia. Heather served as a board member for 2 years before taking a 2 year leave of absence and has now returned to the board as Chairman. Kelly spent several years serving as the Volunteer Sports Ministry Coordinator, board member, and has led multiple trips back to Ethiopia – both of them working hard to advocate “lasting hope for Ethiopia”. Heather and her family live in Collierville, TN with their son, Kyler, baby Declan on the way, and two furbabies, and attend Central Church.
Secretary: Suzanne Vrbas
Suzanne first met Karyn Bridges on a mission trip to the Czech Republic. It was a friendship/kinship from the start. There was an immediate connection for missions and a love for people. When Joe and Karyn were married and began the work of The Forsaken Children, Suzanne and her husband were among the first supporters of the work in Ethiopia. In 2013, Suzanne and her husband, Daryl traveled with Downline Ministries to work with TFC’s Ethiopian team in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Daryl & Suzanne are native Texans. They moved to Memphis 26+ years ago and have 2 grown children and 4 amazing grandchildren. Suzanne is retired from school counseling. She is blessed to be a part of The Forsaken Children Board and desires to see God work through this powerful hands-on ministry to change the lives of street children in Ethiopia now & forever.
After sponsoring short-term missionaries to Ethiopia over the years and listening to their stories, Meme decided it was her turn to go. Her first mission trip was an incredible experience and truly opened her eyes to see the world differently. She was able to see how important it was to let street children know that they are loved, and that followers of Christ from other countries cared for them as well. A long-term impact of this experience was coming home and seeing more intensely the needs of her own city. Meme is a schoolteacher in the public school system in Memphis. She is very involved in her school and sponsors many of the extracurricular activities at Southwind Elementary. She is able to share Christ’s love with children both in Memphis and Ethiopia. She is married to Woody Alleman and between them they have 6 adult children and 3 grandchildren. Meme has been a member of Central Church for 31 years. She has been involved in the children’s ministry all of those years and served on the children’s ministry staff for 10 years.
David and his wife Diane met while living overseas and have had a heart for people of other lands ever since. They have had the privilege of leading numerous mission trips and seeing people deepen in their passion for missions as a result. As the parents of two children born in another country, they also have a passion for orphans and living out James 1:27, which lists the care of orphans as one element of acceptable religion in the sight of God. In 2010, David was invited to be on the Board of Directors for The Forsaken Children, bringing experience of overseas ministry as well as over a decade of work in Christian non-profits. David, Diane and their three children live in the Memphis, TN area where David works for FedEx as a marketing analyst and Diane works as a homeschool mom. They are members of the Collierville Bible Church in Collierville, TN.
Rev. Don Gilbert
Don and his wife Linda, currently live in Orange Mound, an inner-city community in Memphis. Don served at Central Church for 29 years and knew Joe and Karyn before they were married. As the Missions Director and Pastor, Don worked with Joe in establishing the Ethiopian ministry and getting his Masters in Social Work. He has traveled to orphanages and been a part of ministry to children at-risk, across the world. Don worked with Joe to send mission teams to support the work. Don has a heart for the least of these and is excited to join the Board. Don is the Executive Director of Kingdom Community Builders, a non-profit focused on community development in the 38114 zip code, inner-city Memphis. Don and Linda have four grown children.