Thursday, November 10, 2016

a glimpse into the future

at his high school graduation last month
allan is former rhino (graduated 2015), and current leader and coach at bvsa.

there is no way to describe all that we have been through with allan, or to even attempt re-telling all of the special "allan stories".

but i will say this...

when allan started in the academy 6 years ago, he was a little punk.  several times we found ourselves on the brink of kicking this little smart-butt kid out of the academy.  he had some charisma and personality, but it did 95% damage, leaving a 5% glimmer of hope.

thankfully, God could care less about odds.  in fact, he has always delighted in defying the odds!  can you imagine what the odds were against david beating goliath?  or the against sarah and abraham having a baby? consider the odds against joshua, moses, elijah, jonah, jacob, joseph, gideon, esther, noah, job, daniel, shadrach meshach & abednego,  paul, and jesus... just to name a few!

well, add allan to that list :)

in a village where abuse, addiction, machismo, and hate-your-neighbor is pure commonplace, God rescued and radically transformed this young man.

allan accepted jesus, developed a love for the bible, and has never been the same.

he shares the bible with his parents, brothers, sister-in-laws, cousins, nieces, nephews and practically anyone else that will listen!

at the end of his day in the academy, he hustles down to his house with his bible.  whoever is there becomes his disciples for a couple hours.  if its his little nieces and nephews, he tells them bible stories and encourages them.  if its his older brothers, he talks to them boldly about how to be better dads and husbands.

his brothers must look at him like he's crazy.  the baby of the family, and the only one without a wife and kids...  giving them advice - and even scolding them - for the way they treat their families.

he recently asked his oldest brother, who was yelling at his son for hitting his sister, "why do you think he does that?"  he went on to explain to his brother, 18 years his senior, "you can yell at your son all day, but he's only repeating what he sees you do your wife.  you treat your wife like trash, so he treats all girls like trash.  he wants to be like his daddy."

astonished, his older brother actually responded humbly (which is unheard of in this culture), and it opened the door for allan to share more.  since then, their relationship has improved, and allan is beginning to see some changes in the way his brother treats his family.

usually around 9pm, he rushes into the house to tell me whatever happened.  if its not a story about who he shared jesus with, its a question about scripture.  a deep question...  like "why do catholics pray to mary?" or "what should i say to the jehovah's witness people that visit buena vista?"

i love those questions.

recently, he came in past curfew and said he was sorry - that he had just spent 2 hours talking about jesus with a policeman who had left the church years ago because of its hypocrisy.  he told the cop that his frustrations were justified, and that jesus himself shares some of the same frustrations.  the cop was so shocked by that comment, that he kept asking allan more questions- for 2 hours!

allan started a soccer team for the girls of buena vista this year (Las Rinas), simply because he wanted to make them feel special.

he has a serious girlfriend, and talks to her deeply about purity, maintaining boundaries, and working together to be sure their relationship honors God.

he takes advantage of evenings, weekends, and any other free time to ask the rhinos how they are doing, if they are falling victim to sin in their personal life, and encourages them.

last week, we heard of a local family who lost everything they had in a house fire.  thankfully no one was injured, but by the time we arrived they lost all of their belongings in the fire.  knowing how crushing of a blow this is to a poor family who barely earns enough money to eat, allan had an idea.

he asked all the rhinos if they would be willing to door to door, raising money for the family.  (a few days later, a local pastor told me he had never heard of anyone doing something like this before - not even a church!)  that explains why the boys seemed embarrassed when allan made the suggestion!

allan delivering the blessing to the family
but allan encouraged them, and soon all the rhinos were out in the streets knocking on doors.  after several hours, they had raised 900Q (about $120), 2 boxes of food, and a large garbage bag of clothes.  knowing that our village is not known for its generosity, this was truly a miracle!  allan later told me that he knew people would not want to give, but he had put together the boys in groups of 5 because he knew the people would feel obligated to give, or else rumors would spread that they didn't help out.  wow!  allan had invoked a strategy that was as wise as a serpent, while maintaining a motive that was innocent like a dove!  (matthew 10:16)

when we delivered the money, food, and clothes to the family, it wasn't only the young family that was overwhelmed with emotion.  they cried humble tears as allan shared, but i too was fighting back my own...

by the way, allan is not some awkward, overly-spiritual weirdo.  far from it!  he is a natural leader with a charismatic personality.  he's a self confident young man and a good public speaker.  and he is a phenomenal soccer player.  he is actually well respected and looked up to in the village because of his soccer skills.

i think his reputation as an athlete, and a fun guy, is partly what confuses people when he is so bold about his faith.

you see, in our village, the christian church is bound by deep legalism.  once you become a christian you become a lifeless robot.  you even have to give up soccer and anything else "of the world" when you join the church.

so the people are dumbfounded by allan.  even after accepting jesus, he is still allan - funny and free.

yesterday, after a rough practice where several boys got into some trouble, he called a meeting.  he read the boys a passage from proverbs about not letting your pride block you from receiving counsel and discipline.  he told the boys how God has graciously given them wise counsel through the boy's academy, and not to be rebellious fools who reject it.  he warned them that, like those who have quit the academy for similar reasons, they would regret it.

sharing with the rhinos in the academy
as i sat there watching and listening, a huge knot formed in my throat.  i was seeing something that perhaps this village has never seen before.  a young man, born and raised in buena vista, sharing solid bible teaching with a younger generation.

i was seeing a young man from buena vista, full of the holy spirit - but free from legalism and nonsense.  a young bible teacher who understands grace, sharing with kids who live in a village where grace does not exist.

i was looking at a radically transformed young man who had not only fallen in love with jesus, but longed to tell others about him as well.

and i'm pretty sure i was getting a glimpse into the future of the buena vista soccer academy for boys.
 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

the most important blog i can write

The data and statistics shared in this blog are approximate, based on research comparing various sources.  I am using rounded figures, but the numbers and percentages are at a minimum very close.

I wrote this over 6 months ago and never posted it.  Not sure why.  I have a lot of drafts that I never post.  But I was encouraged today by something I read by John Piper.  It fired me up, and sent me back to this entry.  So, here it is.  Thanks Piper!

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I don't currently attend a local sunday gathering.  But I love listening to good bible teaching.  Oftentimes, I listen to sermons while I exercise, or as I am working in my office.  I probably listen to 3 per week.

The messages always have common elements.  They are based on scripture, logically structured, and well-prepared.  They usually use relevant examples and almost always use humor to connect with listeners.  I listen to sermons by people who I am pretty certain genuinely love Jesus.

There's another commonality though that I can't help but notice.  With the exception of 2 pastors i listen to (for this very reason), rarely do any of the messages mention or imply international missions in any way.  Maybe 1 out of 8 mention something about missions - and even then, its not exactly an imploration.

Before you think I'm being sensitive just because "missions is my thing", I beg you to think again.  This has nothing to do with me.  It's not personal.  Just hear me out - because I don't think it's me who is ultimately saddened by the lack of focus on missions within the christian church.


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The final instructions of the resurrected Jesus were simple, and have come to be known at The Great Commission:  Take everything I've taught you and GO make disciples in all the nations of the world.  (Matthew 28:19-20, my paraphrase)

This was Jesus' final request before he left and returned to the Father.  But consider the weight of the moment...

Jesus had spent 3 years living with the disciples, teaching them daily.  They watched him heal the sick, the blind, and the crippled - even raise people from the dead.  Then they witnessed his torturous murder on the cross, and saw him take his last breath.  After 3 days in hiding... scared to death... doors locked...  the resurrected Jesus walked into the room they were hiding in and said "peace be with you."

I-N-S-A-N-E!

After 40 more days together - preaching, healing, and having been witnessed by thousands - it was time for Jesus to say his final goodbye.  All of it... from His miraculous birth to His miraculous rise from death, had come down to this.  Do you think the disciples were on the edge of their seat?

Take everything I've taught you and GO make disciples in all the nations of the world.

He left his followers with the power of the Holy Spirit, and charged them to cover the earth with the good news.

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Presumably, all christians accept the fact that the Great Commission applies to all of us.  None of us are exempt from the responsibility of reaching the world for Christ.  In christian circles, it is often said that the Great Commission can be fulfilled through the combined efforts of "goers" and "senders."  That is, we are called to do one or the other.  If all christians are to participate in the command to reach the nations, we must be either a goer or a sender.

In theory, the calling for some to do the "sending" while others do the "going", is quite accurate.  As a missionary worker myself, I thank God for my team of senders who fund our mission.

But on a broader scale, it seems the idea of "goers and senders" has simply become a good way to justify the fact that almost no one is going.

In Luke 9 and 10, Jesus sends out the 12 disciples, then 72 more, into villages to share the gospel - so that people will believe and be saved.  He told them "the harvest is plenty, but the laborers are few."

It was true then, and it still rings true today.  


An American perspective

The population of the United States is 319,000,000.  Supposedly, 75% of americans say they are christians, which means there are 239,250,000 christians living in the USA.

If we accept that the Great Commission can be fulfilled by a combination of goers and senders:

  • What ratio do you think would be appropriate?  
  • How many senders per goer?  
  • What strategy would help accomplish that goal most effectively?

Out of the 239,250,000 christians in the US, there are currently 127,000 american missionaries "sent out" into the world to tell the nations about Jesus.

That means the american church is responding to the clear instructions of Jesus with a game plan of 239,123,000 "senders" getting behind 127,000 "goers".  Or put more alarmingly, 99.95% senders, and 0.05% goers.

That's what we, as american christians, will answer to when our Savior asks how we responded to his final command.  "We sent 0.05% of us out to tell the nations."


A global perspective

There are about 7.3 billion people on the planet.

Over 5 billion of which are NOT christians.

In total, from all countries, there are 400,000 christian missionaries serving in the world.

So, sticking with the concept of using goers and senders to strategically accomplishing the Great Commission:  of the 2 billion christians in the world, 1,999,600,000 of them are supposedly senders.

But there's an even sadder twist to this story.  The overwhelming majority (more than 4.5 billion) of the non-christians in the world live inside the 10/40 window...  where only 8% of the worlds missionaries are currently working.

That's right.  Around 8% of the already embarrassingly low number of "goers" - are working to reach 4,500,000,000 lost people - the majority of the world's unreached.


Getting back to the American church

I live and work in Guatemala.  But I am an American.  I love America and I love the American people.  That's why my heart hurts deeply for the condition of her church. 

To the vast majority of churches in American neighborhoods, the Great Commission of Jesus is clearly an afterthought, if not an absolute non-thought.  That may sound harsh, but the data is undeniable.  The overwhelming majority of money, time, and focus of the average American church goes toward everything other than the lost nations.

Take this study from the Evangelical Christian Credit Union (various studies from other organizations show similar results).  The study breaks down the average American church's budget:

82% goes to salaries, facilities, and administration
12% goes to its own programs
4% is designated as "other"  (2% of which is tagged "cash reserves")
2% goes to international missions

The numbers speak loudly - and they are shameful.  If where we put our money reflects where our heart is (and it always seems to), the American church puts a 2% value on the final instructions left by Jesus.  A 2% value on reaching the nations for Christ.

Right up there with rainy-day cash.

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If at the end of the day all of Jesus' teachings are true, he is who he says he is, heaven and hell truly exist, and the eternity of every human soul hangs in the balance... what in the world are we doing?

Paul said (in 1 Cor 15) that if we are wrong about Christ, we should be most pitied.  Think about that.  He had given up everything for the advancement of the gospel.  He gave up comfort, career, status, safety, security, and any sniff of a routine that brings contentment.  He called for all christians to live in such a way that would justify the claim: "if we're wrong about this, we should be most pitied, because we're giving up everything for it!"

Would anyone examining your life call it pitiful, because of all you've given up?
 
Quite to the contrary, many christians are far more interested in a nice seat, quality worship music, good youth programs, a fun community, a dynamic pastor, funny and relevant sermons, and a cool ambiance - than we are the 5 billion lost souls around the world.  As we put the Great Commission on the back-burner, our self-absorbed bubbles reek of comfort, financial security, career ambitions, entertainment, fun, and recreational hobbies.

There is no greater matter of urgency.  This can't be put off until tomorrow, next week, next year, or when the kids are out of the house.  This is wartime!  People are dying.  Hell is welcoming souls. 

John Piper wrote in his book "Don't Waste Your Life":

“I am wired by nature to love the same toys that the world loves. I start to fit in. I start to love what others love. I start to call earth "home." Before you know it, I am calling luxuries "needs" and using my money just the way unbelievers do. I begin to forget the war. I don't think much about people perishing. Missions and unreached people drop out of my mind. I stop dreaming about the triumphs of grace. I sink into a secular mind-set that looks first to what man can do, not what God can do. It is a terrible sickness. And I thank God for those who have forced me again and again toward a wartime mind-set.”

If you are a christian, this is wartime.  It is time to enlist.  It's time to make war!  Maybe you say your salvation is secure, but what about your neighbor?  What about the 5 billion who desperately need Jesus?  We must be willing to give up our own life in order that they know Him. 

This is a cause that requires extreme, irrational, unreasonable, and unthinkable action.  The kind of radical faith we see in scripture, and have read about over the centuries.  And it requires an all out rejection of the comfortable, safe, mismanaged and incorrectly prioritized, consumerist version of christianity that is luring millions to lukewarmness.

It requires taking up our own crosses, as Jesus said, and following Him.

And following his charge to all the nations.


 "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."  Acts 1:8

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."  Matthew 28:19-20


The world is desperate for more goers.  Is anyone out there willing to risk it all and go?


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

i'm a grandpa!

alex, rosibel, and baby madison
before you read that title and draw another conclusion, let me explain :)

if you are familiar with us and our work in the village on buena vista, you probably know rosibel.  she has been like my own daughter for many years.  after losing her father when she was young, she has a lived a life that many would consider tragic.  but she made the best of things with an incredible grit and determination.  not to mention maintaining a joyful spirit and beautiful smile.

here's a couple stories i've written about her if you'd like to check them out. one from august 2012, and another from december 2010...

i will never forget the first time i heard God tell me to take special care of this girl.  it was 2010, and we were walking to a nearby village where rosibel's grandma lives.  as we quietly walked the long trail, she reached out to hold my hand.  she didn't say a word, just held my hand for the next 10-15 minutes as we walked.

i looked back at kerrie at one point (walking close behind us) and saw tears in her eyes.  we knew rosibel's story.  we knew she needed a daddy.

the last 6 years with rosibel have been special.  during that entire time, she has been together with alex, one of our rhinos (read a little about him here).  alex, aka "pastor", graduated from the rhinos in 2014.  all things considered, its been a really good relationship.  with alex being a rhino, and rosibel being like our own, we've had tons of opportunities to invest in their lives. 

when they told us they were expecting a baby, we were a little disappointed and a little happy.  in this culture, marriage doesn't always come before babies.  rephrase... marriage never comes before babies.

of course i agree that sex before marriage is wrong...  but there's more to it than that.  in extreme poverty, people don't officially get married because of the costs associated to it.  the expense is literally the only reason that weddings/marriages aren't common.  even the cost to go to the courthouse and register your marriage is too much for most couples to afford.

so people typically begin life together without taking the formal steps.  arguably not the right thing to do, but understandable at the same time.  unfortunately, in extreme poverty, things such as these don't get to fit in a nice, neat box.  

part of our job as missionaries is helping people get to the heart of the matter through a relationship with jesus, while not forcing our privileged way of doing everything.  so with regards to rosibel and alex, we walked them through seeking forgiveness for having sex before marriage, while staying positive and encouraging them regarding the beginning of their new family.

in one of those "counseling times", alex emotionally told me how thankful he is for his time in the boys academy.  he told me that being a rhino molded him into the man that he is.  he told me that the husband, soon-to-be father, and christian that he is... is all due to the years he was in the academy learning about jesus and life.  he said he learned how to be a husband and dad by watching the men here at the academy.  holding rosibel's hand, he promised me that he would take care of her always.
  
baby madison alexandra was born a few months ago.  when we went over to see her the day after she was born, rosibel handed her to me and said "diga hola a tu abuelito", which means "say hi to your grandpa."

my heart was overwhelmed.

God willing, baby madison (named after my oldest daughter) will grow up a lot different than rosibel did.  her dad - a rhino forever- will love her, protect her, and lead her to jesus.

and i'm sure she'll have the same grit and determination as her mom.  yes- baby madison has hope,  tremendous hope.  

and she has a proud gringo abuelo too.


Saturday, October 1, 2016

colin kaepernick, the presidential election, and the american christian

a few years ago, i had a conversation with a friend back in the states.  clearly upset, he told me how the country was in trouble... how religious liberties are being taken away, christians are being punished for making decisions based on their beliefs, laws founded on general christian principles are being overturned, and the government is aiming to monitor and regulate christians, churches and christian organizations.  things are headed in a terrible direction, he told me.

when i responded "maybe that's what we need", he looked at me like i was crazy.  i suggested that maybe a little bit of persecution could actually start a revival.  maybe some pain/suffering would help ignite the true Jesus followers, and even rid the church of the "lukewarms" who, in the long run, are actually hurting the faith by softening its message.  (rev 3:15-16)

i'd be lying if i told you my friend thought i had made a good point.  i think he politely said something like "yeah, maybe", and then changed the subject...

but similar thoughts have swirled in my heart for years.  sometimes i write about them in this blog, and sometimes in my personal journal.  currently, stuff like the chaos of the american presidential race, and a pro athlete refusing to sing the national anthem in protest against injustice, bring a lot of these thoughts to light again.

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my brother chad sent me an interesting article about the colin kaepernick story.  basically the author makes the argument that, as christians, our full allegiance should be to Jesus - and nothing else.  he points to the early church who submitted to state, prayed for its officials, and followed its laws...  but regularly pointed out the injustices and failures of government in light of the teachings of Jesus.  they understood that their allegiance - and hope - rested in Christ alone.

the article describes the book of revelation as "an aggressive critique of government, written by a pastor imprisoned for his lack of patriotism."  it goes on to say that "John boldly lambasts Rome for its immorality, greed, pride, excessive luxury, and addiction to military might that stained the world with blood to secure its interests."

in general, the author is asking for a deeper look not only into whether or not kaepernick's protest is productive, but if christians can actually learn something from it.  even though the argument that he is "disrespecting the country and what it stands for" is understandable, is protesting a serious injustice by not standing for the national anthem such a horrible thing to do?  maybe it's actually a christian thing to do.

kaepernick has stated numerous times that he is thankful for the military, and for his american
freedom.  even military officials and veterans who have met with him have said that he is being respectful in his approach.  i personally think he has made some big mistakes in the delivery of his message.

are there any trump supporters out there that admit donald makes (big) mistakes in his delivery, even though his position has merit?  if so, it may be wise to extend some grace to kaepernick, and consider the actual message instead of the style of the messenger.

which leads me to wonder...  for those who are most upset about all of this, what is the bigger issue  - that kaepernick is disrespecting the country by refusing to stand for the anthem, or that they don't see the recent acts of police brutality against blacks as a legitimate cause?

if the latter, i don't even know what to say other than... "seriously?"

if the former, i am a little more empathetic.  i understand the personal and emotional significance, especially for veterans and others who have loved ones serving in the military.  its easy - and understandable - to feel slighted when someone dishonors the flag in light of how many people have been killed or injured defending it.

however, for american christians, i am always amazed at how deeply infuriated we get about stuff like this, while remaining comparatively silent on scores of issues that are much more closely connected the heart of Jesus.  what about unreached people groups?  extreme poverty?  sex trafficking?  sexual immorality?  innocent families fleeing terrorists?  getting the bible to countries where christianity is illegal?  the orphan crisis in the world?    

it reminds me of a chick-fil-a story a few years back, when republican christians packed every chick-fil-a on the planet to support ceo dan cathy's comments in opposition to same sex marriage.  not that its a bad thing to support a restaurant (or product) that shares your beliefs - nothing wrong with that at all.  its the passionate outrage about these issues that seems misplaced.  again, comparatively speaking.

could you imagine how effectively we could address these bigger issues if people were as passionate about them as they are colin kaepernick not standing for the anthem?  ironically, some are so upset with him because of their cause that they won't give his cause any consideration whatsoever.

at the end of the day, its the attack on "rights and freedoms" that people get so worked-up about.  several people have explained that to me over the years when this type of conversation comes up - that the issue is one of rights.  but if we can think of ourselves as simply christians for a minute (not as americans), what exactly are our rights anyway?  what are we owed?  what are we guaranteed?  what are we promised?

its critically important that we identify as christians first, keeping in mind that God's word applies to all cultures and nationalities.

the assurances of scripture must take precedent over the assurances of state.

our devotion to Jesus must precede our devotion to america.

our allegiance to country must not even compare to our allegiance to God.

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a couple weeks ago, my friend mark passed along another article my way.  you can read the whole thing here, but again, i'll give a short summary.

basically, the author is making the case that the "patriotic gospel", like the prosperity gospel, is just another false gospel.  its a gospel that worships freedom and rights.  its a gospel that implies christians should have an easy existence, and their security should come from government.

i think the writer's points below warrant some good consideration:

The patriotic gospel is a gospel that pays lip service to a god that is in control, but heavy on emotions that say man is who protects us.


It’s a gospel that suggests living out and sharing your faith is dependent on having the freedom to do so.
It’s a gospel that looks to the government, rather than the church or the home, to do the heavy lifting on matters of faith.
It’s a gospel that suggests without conservative Supreme Court justices, or without guns, or without a strong military that life will be unbearable for Christians.
It’s a gospel that suggests one’s greatest source of identity and value can be found in one’s nationality.
It’s a gospel that laments the loss of prayer in schools, rather than the lack of prayer at home.
It’s a gospel that dreads a future in which Christians are persecuted for sharing their faith, but puts no real emphasis on sharing it now.
It’s a gospel that says it’s better to silence opponents than minister to them.
It’s a gospel that looks to Fox News for truth, rather than the Bible.
It’s a gospel that calls for blood when someone “disrespects” the national anthem.
It’s a gospel that says persecution is having to hear someone say “happy holidays.”
It’s a gospel that says eating at Chick-fil-A counts as living out your faith.
Friends, it’s simply a false gospel.
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my conversation several years ago was with a friend who was worried about christians in america losing their rights.  i think thousands if not millions of american christians feel the same way.  and for sure, things are happening that validate their reasoning.

but we must not forget that, as christians, suffering is essential to everything we believe!  in fact, i would go as far to say that suffering makes the christian faith relevant.

maybe that's a big statement, but i think its true.  absent of suffering, christianity would be, in large part, irrelevant.

our faith becomes most relevant when it is rejected and persecuted against.  when christianity is safe, comfortable, protected, and made easy, it becomes inconsequential and ineffective.

christians were never promised safety and security.  we were never promised freedom and rights.  we were never promised a comfortable or privileged life.

what we were promised, was hatred!  we were promised persecution, trials and conflict.  we were called to suffer.

in matthew chapter 10, Jesus says we are like sheep sent out among wolves!  he says men will deliver us over to the courts...  we will be hated for His sake (but the ones who endure will be saved)...  he says do not fear them who can only kill the body, but fear he who can kill the body and the soul in hell.

and thats not even the toughest part!  it goes on...

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.36 And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

one response to Jesus' teaching in matthew 10 is to turn away, and call it nonsense.  fair enough.  but an unacceptable response is to claim to be a christian, and then live in such a way that denies it.

many american christians purposefully avoid, and fight hard to protect against, the very things Jesus called us to embrace!  and we justify it because of the freedoms and rights come with being american.

i understand the conundrum.  i get the fact that as american citizens we expect american laws to be upheld.  as american citizens we defend those rights, and thats ok.  but waaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyy before we identify as americans, we MUST identify as christians.

our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a savior, the lord Jesus Christ.  (philippians 3:20)

...you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.  (ephesians 2:19)

we must reject a soft, american-version of christianity that whines and complains every time our "rights" are violated.  while we may have rights as americans, we certainly don't have any as christians.  and we are christians first and foremost.

the good news?  for those of us who are willing to give up our rights and freedoms for Christ's sake, we are also promised:  joy, peace, grace, forgiveness, unconditional love, and eternal life.

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as an american, i am thankful for a country that provides freedoms that are unmatched anywhere in the world.  i realize that such privilege is extremely uncommon, which makes the USA a very special place.  and i certainly honor those who have given their lives protecting our wonderful nation.

you see, it's possible to be both a patriotic american and a passionate follower of Jesus.  its the prioritization of the two the matters.  remember, Jesus said our love for him should make our love for our own kids look like hate!  considering how much i love my kids, it seems impossible for me to even grasp what my love for jesus should look like.

that's exactly how i think of allegiance to my country compared to allegiance to my King.  much more than i am an american, i am a follower of Jesus Christ.  and no matter where on the map i was born, i know that as a christian i am owed nothing.  i am willing to lose my life (my rights, my freedoms, and my pursuit of happiness) for His sake.

i do believe that more persecution towards christians in america is coming.  but instead of crying foul when our "rights" are violated, as christians, we should consider it an honor.

for blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

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THE MESSAGE, 1 PETER:4 12-13 Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.
14-16 If you’re abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate. It’s the Spirit of God and his glory in you that brought you to the notice of others. If they’re on you because you broke the law or disturbed the peace, that’s a different matter. But if it’s because you’re a Christian, don’t give it a second thought. Be proud of the distinguished status reflected in that name!
17-19 It’s judgment time for God’s own family. We’re first in line. If it starts with us, think what it’s going to be like for those who refuse God’s Message!
If good people barely make it,
What’s in store for the bad?
So if you find life difficult because you’re doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust him. He knows what he’s doing, and he’ll keep on doing it.

more on the topic


Friday, September 23, 2016

correcting the ship

not gonna lie...  we've been in a little bit if a funk at bvsa the last couple weeks.  issue after issue.  it has led us to a place where we feel like there is a disposition of entitlement and/or selfishness hanging over the rhinos.

maybe we have been guilty by creating an environment where "receiving" heavily outweighs giving.  we talk a lot about giving, but perhaps don't implement enough tangible ways for the boys to practice it.

so we've had some tough talks lately.  in fact last week at tuesday night discipleship class, i told the 12 boys who were there that my tank is running on empty and i have nothing left to give them.  i compared myself to a pastor who shows up every sunday to teach, only to see the same faces in the same chairs - year after year - of people who aren't doing anything.

like the crowd in john 6, they just show up, and say "feed me."  of course, jesus recognized the false motives right away and called it out.  for me, it has taken a while to figure out, but i think we finally got it.

for the boys who have been here 4, 5, going on 6 years, its definitely time to get off momma's milk.  time to start taking steps toward spiritual independence.  steps toward real growth, and hopefully even leadership.

i am amazed at how jesus spent 3 years with the disciples, and from that point on they just exploded.  the power of the holy spirit inside of them was unstoppable.  they were human, so they certainly continued to make mistakes, but at least they didn't need their hands held anymore.  they didn't seem to need "fed" every day - or even once a week.  "attending" church was not an option for them...  they became the church.

it was as if they made a specific decision that their days of being spectators were over.  with the power of the holy spirit that jesus promised, they could now do the teaching, preaching, healing, baptizing, and discipling!

that, of course, is our desire for this place.  that bvsa be a discipling ground for future men, who will become the husbands, dads, and spiritual leaders in the village.  men who, like the disciples, don't need to be spoon-fed the gospel anymore!  men who walk with jesus, love God's word, and realize the power of the holy spirit inside of them.

we talked about dialing down all of the constant giving from the academy to the rhinos.  we talked about how we can create a culture of contribution, where everyone is giving and participating.  we talked about a lot of things.

3 of the boys have quit since then.  one literally saying "if you are saying you have nothing left to give me, then why would i even come?"

for a while, i was an emotional wreck.  over the years, when a boy has quit, i typically find myself down at their house trying to talk them into returning.  i usually feel an enormous pressure that their being in the academy is how they are going to meet Jesus...  and so at all cost i need to get them back.

but this time, something in my spirit was saying "don't do it."

through much prayer, God led me to some scripture that helped calm me down and give peace.  i read through the times that Jesus gave "tough teachings".  when there were large crowds, he almost always took advantage of the moment by giving the most difficult teachings.  he talked about dying to yourself, giving up your own desires, and being willing to give up everything to follow him.  he talked about how you'll be persecuted, possibly even killed, for following him.  he talked about how your own family will likely turn on you.

after these hard teachings, the people often bailed.  i imagine they said things similar to what our rhino who quit said...  "if there's nothing in this for me, i'm outta here."

but jesus didn't run after them, attempting to soften the message so that they might stay.  he never tried to "convince" people to follow him.  he shared God's unconditional love with people, while telling them the truth about the cost of following him...  and he let the chips fall.

one time, after jesus gave a tough message, many of his followers turned away and no longer followed him.  he turned to the disciples and said "do you not want to go away as well?"  when i read the story in context, i kind of hear that comment in a sarcastic tone.  almost like, "there's the door boys if you want to leave too."

but peter responds, "to whom shall we go?  you have the words of eternal life..."

as we work toward correcting this issue of selfishness and entitlement that has crept into our ministry, please pray with us that our boys respond the same way.

that they realize that this academy, for many of them, is the only place they hear the truth.  its where they learn about life, love, family, and sacrifice.  as peter said, it's where they hear words of eternal life.

maybe in their first year, they come to the academy every day for the soccer, or for the delicious lunch!  but i pray that as they begin to experience the love of jesus, and the words of eternal life, their hearts will change.  they will become boys - young men - who will desire to give more than receive.

young men who will love giving so much, that they might even give up everything to follow jesus.



Tuesday, August 30, 2016

insanity of god - movie

one of my favorite books is the insanity of god, by nik ripken.  i read it over a year ago and it had a profound impact on me.

my wife told me this morning that she read that the book had been made into a movie, and is premiering tomorrow night in theaters all over the US!  so i thought i would share the info and website in case anyone might read this and want to go.

the movie event is being hosted by david platt and includes a Q&A with him and the ripkens.

INSANITY OF GOD THE MOVIE

MORE INFO

wish i could be there to experience it with you...

Monday, August 29, 2016

alarming percentages regarding american christianity

10 or so years ago, i read a book called revolution by george barna.  the book impacted me for several reasons, one of which simply being how the barna group uses statistical research to reach conclusions about the christian church.  i've followed the barna group's research ever since.

percentages are fascinating to me, and simple statistics can speak volumes.  they can tell the bigger story.  they tell the truth.  and in many cases, they should lead us to action!

i read a barna statistic about a year ago that has been haunting me ever since.  i keep thinking about it, talking to people about it.  i just can't shake it.

first, almost every polling research organization shows that between 70-80% of americans say they are christians.  that # has been around for a long time, so no shock there...

but barna group asks it another way in one of its polls.  it asks how many americans have a "biblical worldview".  in order to have a biblical worldview, according to barna, you must agree with the following 6 points:

1- absolute moral truth exists
2- the bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches
3- satan is a real force, not just symbolic
4- a person cannot earn their way to heaven by good works
5- jesus christ lived a sinless life on earth
6- god is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still reigns today

call me old-school, but to me, including those 6 points in the question is simply still asking who is a christian!

i guess in the day and age of "identifying as", there is less value put on literally defining who you are and what you believe.  in fact, i went back to check barna's (as well as gallup's) polling on how many americans say they are christians, and sure enough... the question is posed as "do you identify as christian", as opposed to "are you a christian?"  i will leave that alone for now.  another issue for another day :)

let me get to the disturbing percentage that has been weighing on me over the past year...

so we've established that approximately 75% of americans say they are christians.

but get this: only 9% of americans agree to the 6 points of "biblical worldview" listed above.

(that number includes the 75% who say they are christian.  within that group, only 19% agree with the 6 points above.)

those 6 very basic, foundational beliefs regarding what it means to be a christian, plunges the number of "american christians" from 75% all the way down to 9%.

is that not unfathomable?  for me it is heart breaking.

what pains me even more is the fact that the 6 points of "biblical worldview" aren't even close to being the most difficult teachings in scripture.

why not take it a step further.  what if we come up with a new category... lets call it "literal teaching of jesus worldview".  in order to have a LTJW, you agree to the following 6 points (in addition to the 6 biblical worldview points listed above):

1- jesus, the son of god, fulfilled prophesy by being tortured and killed, overcame death, spent 40 more days on earth teaching and healing, ascended to heaven in his resurrected body, and will return again to set things right once and for all.
2- hell is real eternal torment, and everyone who doesn't know jesus is going there
3- lust is the same as adultery, and anger is the same as murder
4- loving money is the root of all kinds of evil and its almost impossible for the rich to enter heaven
5- jesus separates people into heaven or hell based on what they did for the poor
6- we must endure suffering and persecution, and deny ourselves daily in order to be a follower of jesus

what percentage do you think would agree to that list?  it seems to me that, in light of the audacity of the 6 LTJW points, the swing in #s would be even more drastic than the original 75% to 9%.  but even if the downtick was similar, the drop would be from 9% to around 1%.

examining those numbers brings to life another literal teaching of jesus:

"enter by the narrow gate.  for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  for the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."  mat 7:13-14

MAY THE REALITY OF THE PERCENTAGES SPUR US TO ACTION.


Friday, August 26, 2016

recent trip to Tikal

the trinity fitness team that visited us last month brought a surprise for the rhinos.  they did a fundraiser that raised enough money to take all the boys to tikal - a very special place in guatemalan history, and one of the most famous sites of mayan ruins in the world.

they were beyond excited when we announced the trip!  tikal is a place that they have all heard of, but couldn't imagine having the chance to go to.  its not at all like going to the city or to the beach (excursions we have done)...  its an 11 hour drive each way, up into the northern jungle of guatemala.  a tough trip, but an amazingly beautiful place.

the last couple hours of the drive moves into dense rainforest. and once you enter the national park of tikal, the monkeys swinging freely from trees is almost as breathtaking as the massive mayan temples - some of which date back as far as before Christ!  the rise of this area would become the world-power of the mayan region politically, economically, and militarily for the next 800-900 years.

remarkably, the temples and ruins became covered and swallowed up by the rainforest for nearly 1,000 years after that, only to recently (within the last 100 years or so) be discovered again.  after a huge excavation project, some of the ruins have been cleared out and huge archeological finds have been discovered.  although much of the tikal ruins remain underground, what has already been unearthed is unthinkably daunting.

in 1977, george lucas used tikal as a site for some of the filming of the original star wars.  mel gibson's apocalypto also filmed at tikal, and several of the tikal temples were recreated off-site for other scenes.

because of his unique love of guatemalan history, we also invited our friend dr. carlos to come along on the trip.  it turned out to be a very special trip for the good doc, but not because of the mayan ruins or the history of tikal!  God spoke to his heart deeply while we were there, and we are excited to begin teaching him more of the bible and helping disciple him, his family, and marriage, in a new direction!

we returned home last monday from the 4 day trip.  it was an amazing experience and overall just a great time.  always such a tremendous blessing to expose these boys to things and get them out of the bubble of Buena Vista.  thanks again to Trinity Fitness for helping make it happen!





Thursday, August 25, 2016

update to blog asking for help for davis family & bvsa honduras

when i sent out the email on July 29th (blog post below) asking for help for the davis family & bvsa honduras, this is the follow up email that i sent out the very next day:
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as you know, at this time yesterday i sent out an email about the davis family's recent trials, and an ask for help in getting construction started on their new home.

the specific remaining need to complete the homes was $58,000.

this morning, some donations came in.  more and more throughout the day.  this evening, paul texted me a total of what they had received.  then i sent him a total of what i had received.

then we added them together.

$58,000.

SPECIFICALLY 58,000!  not a penny more, not a penny less.  

after getting over the immediate shock...  we shared a cry/hug/celebration together via text :)  at this point, we are all just resting in God's goodness.

THANK YOU.

i know the davis fam is feeling a boost in their collective spirit.  some new energy!  for sure things will get tough again.  but today...  we bow down before, celebrate and praise a God who loves us each specifically.

we would have been amazed and grateful with any support.  but He chose to provide the exact the number we put out there.  

in light of their recent struggles and perseverance, what a special way for God to tell paul, jessica, mikayla, shae, mcKenna, and lulu "i am with you specifically... i have called you specifically... i love you specifically!"   

thank you Jesus.  we praise your holy name!

Friday, July 29, 2016

davis family perseverance & need for new home!

when you get a free minute, search "bot fly removal" on youtube.  just don't spend a half-day following links - as tempting as it is!

was that crazy or what?

now...  take that miserable experience you just watched, and times it by at least 10.

can you imagine?

what do i mean by "times it by 10"?  let me tell you about the davis family's last few months...

davis fam and axel on the futre bvsa-travesia site!
already struggling with jessica's lupus symptoms (her health had been on the decline), and shae's skin problems (she had broken out with several rash's and/or allergic reactions), shae noticed a weird bump on her clavicle.  it kind of looked like a normal insect bite...  at first.

ultimately worms and puss were extracted from the hole.  and more worms.  and more puss.  finally - over skype - dr. carlos diagnosed her with what seemed to be a bot fly manifestation.

the good news was that a bot fly is a one-and-done issue.

not this time!  what would follow would be a 2 month battle with dozens of worm extractions, skin infections, fevers, and illness - from every single female member of the davis family.  (which is the entire davis family, minus paul.)

yep, all 5 precious davis girls suffered from these vicious bites, infections, and worms being painfully extracted from their bodies.  all this while jessica's health continued to fail.

my family had the privilege to keep shae in our home for a full month during this time.  she was forced to leave honduras because of the environment and climate, so that she could heal better.  because of jessica's health issues and paul's travel schedule, they sent her to us for a month.

if i can just say - as a side note - that this is what family is all about.  can you imagine how hard it was for her mom and dad to send shae by herself to another country to suffer through this horrible situation without them?  but paul and jess knew she would be loved and cared for, and they trusted us to walk though this time of suffering with their daughter.

it was not easy.  i still remember laying on the pull-out sofa, night after night, holding shae in my arms as she cried her eyes out...  while dr. carlos extracted worms from what was now 12 different bot fly locations all over her body.

including her scalp.

i don't think i need to share every detail.  just know that mikayla (17), shae (14), mckenna (10), and lulu (7) all got hit with this in some form or another.

as i was talking with paul regularly through this, at one point i felt like he was at the end of his rope.  he was the only one who never got sick, but would have traded places with any one of his girls in a heartbeat.

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i share this story because i have been nothing short of amazed at the davis family's fortitude and perseverance.  and i believe, at this point in time, they need an advocate.  

they aren't going to stand up and shout "please help us, just look at how much we're suffering!"

but they do need some help.  and since kerrie and i, and the leiva family, have had a front row seat during their last 3 months, we believe that advocate is us.

let me tell you one more thing before i share some specific needs.

as jessica was in and out of the hospital dealing with her own health concerns during all of this, her and paul said something to me that i will never forget.  i had been wrestling with how to give them some encouragement...  just feeling like everything about "enduring suffering" had been said at that point.  so i told them that if they feel like they need to head back to the US for a while, take some time off, rest, etc - please do so.  i just didn't want them to feel like we had any expectations of them.

without hesitation, their response was: "that's not an option.  if satan is attacking us like this, it's because the village of travesia is worse off than we even know.  the enemy must like travesia just the way it is if he's trying to run us out of town.  the more he attacks, the more committed we are to stick this out.  he's only making us more certain of our call."

and that's been their dogged firm stance ever since.

just a couple weeks ago, paul went out to the site of the future boy's academy in travesia, only to find a bunch of boys running around the property playing soccer.  he sent me a short video of them playing, with a note that in-part read:

"...this is why we do what we do.  this is why we suffer illness and infections, and cry and go to bed frustrated.  why we scratch our heads and wonder if we heard God correctly.  it's so these boys will find the same Jesus that we know..."

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so...  we want to get the davis family out of the filthy area of puerto cortez where they currently live as soon as possible.  we want to get them into the village of travesia.  into a new, clean home that is better for their health and overall well-being!

**WE NEED TO RAISE $58,000**

that amount will complete the davis home, as well as build a small home for axel and jason to share.  (jason is moving from savannah, GA to come join the bvsa-honduras team!)

once the homes are complete, the family can relocate to travesia and begin a simple/basic version of
the boy's academy program.  with just the homes in place, they can begin doing devotions and soccer practices on site.

after that, an additional $133,000 will be needed to build the gymnasium, classrooms, weight room, locker rooms and kitchen (without furnishings) at which point the ministry will be in full operation.
travesia boys standing on the future davis' home site

for now, we are shooting for the goal of $58,000 in order to get the davis family out of their current situation, and into travesia where they belong!

please go to bvsatravesia.com to read more about the davis family, the rest of the bvsa honduras team, and the village of travesia.

and you can click here to donate!  whether you write a check or use paypal, be sure to note "bvsa honduras".

of course you can always contact myself or paul davis with questions or for more information...

thanks for considering helping.  we couldn't do it without you!


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

mission teams & trinity fitness

wisman, elder & the BV rainbow
have you ever literally seen the end of a rainbow?  trinity fitness' recent visit started with a beautiful rainbow coming through the clouds and landing directly in our village!

maybe it was a sign of things to come...  because this was a special group of people that showered the Rinos AND Rinas with love and friendship.

i'm not going to lie...  mission teams can be, well... interesting. sometimes a bit of a challenge :)

in fact, i recently shared a post with my entire family from a girl who works in full time mission work.  her post was about photography, and how people who visit 3rd world countries can sometimes exploit the poor with their search for the perfect shot.  she even went as far to say that some people literally make the trip just to get that ideal selfie or image of themselves serving the poor, or holding an orphaned child.

she quipped, "ever since my experience, my profile picture will never be the same."

maybe a little cynical.  but...  those of us who work on the ground in missions, specifically in places of extreme poverty, can no doubt relate to those situations.

the famous Trinity Victory Pose
for us at dSg and bvsa, we have re-structured how we do mission teams.  always striving to revolve everything we do around the betterment of the village and the local people (not the visitors), we moved away from hosting "mission trips" and renamed them "partner visits."  maybe that seems like a subtle difference, but we see it as more than just a name change.

as we grow, we continue re-evaluating and checking ourselves.  we want to work hard AND smart.  we want our workload to line up with our priorities.  and we want our energy to be proportionately in line with the end goal God has called us to.  anyone is business (and hopefully ministry) know what i'm talking about!

so as we continue to serve this community, in hopes of raising up it's future leaders who will break the generational chains of poverty and abuse, we aim to partner with people who truly want to help in that process.

while some ministries that host mission teams work hard to impact the american visitors, that is simply not the priority that God has laid most heavy on our hearts in this place.   the cool thing is, as we truly dial-in on the goals to serve the local village, it happens anyway.

back to our recent visit from trinity fitness...

these friends came with the intent to serve, love, and work hard.  not once did i feel that anyone was in it for themselves.  real friendships were made, tears were shed, and lives were changed.  i am thankful to anthony and denea widener for many years of friendship.  they have long been supportive of the rhinos and all of our work.  they believe in our philosophy on "partner visits", and they bring folks who also desire to get involved with something meaningful and long-term.

30 Rinas in their new running shoes!
this was a week that included games, dancing, lots of exercise, hiking, visiting families in their homes, praying with struggling moms, blessing young girls with God's love (as well as some new shoes), soccer, music, a special time with our friend cesar, lots of prayer, and lots of tears mixed with lots of laughing.  and it ended with an announcement that trinity fitness had raised the funds to take all 32 boys on a 3-day trip to see the famous ruins of Tikal next month!

i think its safe to say that the trinity fitness team 2016 truly left a mark of love and encouragement.

anthony - i never would have thought, when you walked into my sports agency in 2002 looking for representation... that our story would lead us to where we are!  we were both lost at that time, pursuing the wrong things.  we were both rescued by the grace of jesus the following year, and then in 2005 God reconnected us and restored our friendship - this time centered around Him!  he truly is the Redeemer.  its an honor to be in this fight with you my friend.  through all the ups and downs, God receives all the glory.  lets keep running hard together!

thanks to the entire trinity fitness team for a great week!  and for not being "that kind of missionary" that the above mentioned girl was talking about in her blog post :)


Trinity 2016 team with the Rhinos (holding up their Tikal trip ticket)


Thursday, July 14, 2016

saying goodbye to my baby girls

i had no idea this would be so hard.
brooke and madi at their new apartment

last week, i said goodbye to my 2 baby girls.  we pulled away from their apartment with tear filled eyes and lumps in our throats, headed to the airport to fly back to our home far away.

i remember when my parents dropped me off at college.  knowing they were a 90 minute drive down I-10 made it pretty unemotional.  i could shoot home on the weekends anytime - and certainly for birthdays and holidays.

not the case this time.  we knew how far away we were going, and knew it would be a long time before we'd see them again.

our youngest, luciana (3yrs) cried and screamed the whole car ride.  "i want the girls!"...  "take me back to their house!"...  "papi, please pleeeease turn the car around!"... tears streaming down her face.

i can't even describe the hurt i was feeling in that moment!  i wanted to ball myself, but tried to be the strong one (yeah right) for my wife, luci, and jake (15) who was no doubt struggling as well.

thankfully as jesus followers, we know that growth comes from pain.  and we know that through our sacrifices, God is glorified.

i am seriously clinging to that - because right now i kinda want to bag the whole missionary thing and hunker down somewhere comfortable and just be with my family.

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ever since God rescued me from a life of empty pursuits and false hopes about 13 years ago, our family has been extremely tight.  i can't even tell you how many times we've been comforted by the fact that "at least we've got each other."  we've been through so much together.  like many families, we've been through tragedy, loss, and pain.  we've done several relocations, including to a third-world country where we didn't speak the language or have any friends.  there's nothing like THAT to bring a family together!

i'll never forget...  we had been in guatemala less than a month when brooke came home from school with a letter notifying parents that one of her classmate's dad had been kidnapped.  the letter contained important safety information and reminders, and asked families to be praying.

we realized right away we were not in suburban north florida anymore!

there's something about growing a family in another culture - especially an underdeveloped country of extreme poverty, corruption and violence - that forms a unique bond.  our kids didn't grow up with a huge social network.  not many extracurricular activities.  no fun youth group.  not even a general feel of safety or confidence to just go hang out with friends...  go to the mall, to a movie, etc. 

girls going away party with the rhinos
one product of an environment such as that, is that it meant we were always together.  and since we love being together, we didn't mind that!  school, work, ministry, weekends, activities...  all together.  in fact the girls were such an instrumental part of our ministry, when we hosted their goodbye party i had never seen so many tears!  the boys were losing not only their "tutors" in the classroom, but their sisters of whom they had grown up with.

for kerrie and i, saying goodbye to them was more than just proudly watching our kids "leave the nest"...  it was more like saying goodbye to life partners and best friends.

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my girls get nervous when they have to speak english in a formal environment.  i never knew that until recently, when they were interviewing for jobs and confessed to me how hard it was for them!  they tend to do/say things that, when speaking spanish, are perfectly appropriate in formal settings, but when speaking english just sound plain weird.  hard to explain, but trusts me...  its a real thing.

they feel awkward in groups of american kids and young adults their age.  their stories and interests just aren't the same.  they would describe it as being the third wheel that just feels awkward or out of place.

despite all of their experiences that will certainly give them a unique perspective on life, there are also some things they never really learned in light of their circumstances.  they can be around extreme poverty, pain, sickness and suffering - and feel right at home.  yet i watched them in a restaurant last week, struggling to figure out how to use the fancy soda machine - and ultimately just letting people pass them so they didn't have to wait on them.  sound silly?  maybe so... but in the moment, those little things can make you feel like a real idiot!  

more importantly though, there is a known thing about MK's and PK's (missionary and pastors kids) that is very true.  they can sometimes grow up in their parents shadow, even leaning on their parents faith and, spiritually speaking, just "go along for the ride."  while i know that is not the case with my girl's (their faith stories are very much their own), i do believe that mom & dad's absence will allow them to grow in their relationship with Jesus.   

we know that this adjustment needs to happen.  it's time to leave the nest.  to learn and experience some things they haven't figured out yet.  to depend more on God.  to round out their "experience and exposure" in helping them become the women that God would have them be.

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our talks with the girls over the last year have centered around one theme.  they are being sent to an american university as missionaries.  the purpose for this move is not to "get a degree" or simply "to go to college."  and its not just to gain the experiences that i already mentioned above.  

that would be the world's logic.  

if they graduate with college degrees in the process, that's great.  and we've encouraged them to work hard at school and do their best.  but most importantly, we send them to represent Jesus in a place where he has in large part been forgotten.  we send them to be a light in the darkness, an extension of love, truth, and grace to a classmate, neighbor, and co-worker.

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the morning after we had arrived back home in guatemala, luciana went to the girls' rooms to wake them up.  i guess she was confused or had forgotten.  when she saw their empty beds, she began to shout their names and sob uncontrollably.

it may take a while for the "new normal" to settle in.  but madi and brooke's empty rooms now serve as a reminder that God has called them to a new phase and a new challenge.  and in the moments when i want to cry and scream "this sucks!" (like right now) i will need to remind myself that growth comes through pain, and God is glorified in sacrifice. 

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yesterday i received an encouraging text from paul davis, who is in honduras with his family planting another buena vista boys academy.  it served as a reminder for me as to why we do hard things as christians.

after heading out to the property of the future boys academy of honduras, he saw that a bunch of local boys were playing soccer on their property.  touched by the moment, he sent the following message to me and a couple others, along with a short video of the boys playing:

Walked onto our beach today and saw this happening...just on its own.  This is why we do what we do.  This is why we leave family and say goodbye to our daughters; why we go thru brutal infection after brutal infection; why we cry and go to bed frustrated and wake up in the same state; why we scratch our head wondering if we heard God correctly.  It's so these boys will find the same Jesus we know and go thru the same trials and ask the same questions...all the while knowing that grace, peace and hope are a few steps away.  We have the honor of doing what Jesus loves, we have the honor of following his leading...we have the honor of being with him thru all that!  Love you guys and thankful for all the crap we go thru together as a team!

it was a beautiful and timely reminder that i needed to hear.

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i can sometimes have strong opinions about american suburban culture, how it can lead to a me-focussed life, centered around ambition, success, fun, sports, activities, and entertainment.  but you know what?  i'd be lying of i said i didn't want it!  that's the whole battle, right?  to fight against the desires of the flesh?

but God asks us to die to ourselves in order to save ourselves.  sacrifice what we want for what He wants.  i'm going after the fruit that comes from sacrifice.  the joy that comes from pain.  may God be glorified as we let go of our own desires for the sake of others, and for his glory.  may he be glorified as we say goodbye to our daughters and return to guatemala to focus on the mission he has called us to.

we must look toward our reward in heaven, instead of our "best life now."  and i am so thankful to have people in my life - my family, my church, my rhinos - to run with in that direction.

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God be with and protect my baby girls - they are more yours than mine.  thank you Jesus that they are best friends.  thank you that they love each other and are so good for each other.  i pray that their foundation of faith holds them up strong when temptation comes.  i pray for comfort over their sensitive hearts when they miss their family.  i ask that they learn to depend on you during this time.  i pray that they shine like bright lights and that people will come to know you because of their witness.  i ask you God to use them for your glory - however you want to.