Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Aldo

please join us in fervent prayer for Aldo and his family.

Aldo is a new rhino.  he came into the program in the end of march.  we knew right away he was different.

we had a couple of open roster spots on our varsity team, so we offered a tryout for anyone 16-17 years old in the village.  mynor and i wondered why we had never met this kid.  Buena Vista is a small place, but Aldo didn't even look familiar.

turns out, Aldo travels to a nearby town (santa lucia) for school.  somehow as he was growing up, we just never met him.  he's a pretty quiet kid, so i'm guessing he didn't bang around on the playground or hang in the street much.

when we later met his family, we were truly impressed with the way his father was committed to sacrificing their family money in order to pay for Aldo to go to a private school in santa lucia.  practically unheard of in our village...

even though we've only had Aldo in the program for 2 months, you get to know someone pretty well when you spend every day with them.  Aldo is kind, respectful, and intelligent.  just a sweet and solid kid.

about 10 days ago, while my family was traveling overseas, a terrible accident happened.  

Aldo had left the academy after practice/tutoring, and wasn't feeling very well.  he went home to rest, but before laying down he went out to get some grass for his cow to eat.  he climbed a tree and started cutting off some brush with his machete.  his little brother was with him...

the machete made contact with some high voltage wires that were running from a nearby cell tower, and in an instant Aldo's body was completely fried.

it is a miracle that he is alive.  by the time he made it to a local hospital, emergency measures were taken to save his life.  his left arm was amputated, and a few days later his right leg.

we were devastated when we heard the news.  we had already been dealing with some very difficult circumstances within our academy, and were on the other side of the world.  the news of Aldo was overwhelming.

back home, mynor and walda were handling things the best they could.  mynor visited the hospital right way and said Aldo was unrecognizable.  he was unresponsive, and being kept alive on a breathing machine.  the doctors did not know whether he would make it or not.

mynor later received a call from Aldo's dad.  at this time, only his arm had been amputated.  his dad said "i have great news!  first, they had to amputate one of my son's legs."  mynor was shocked.  this was not good news at all.  but Aldo's dad went on...  "but they finally took Aldo off the machines, and he is breathing on his own!  he also opened his eyes and recognized me for the first time!"

to give a picture of how unique this is...  in our little village of Buena Vista, if you are disabled in any way (mentally or physically) you are considered an "invalido".  literally, invalid.  even your own family and friends consider you "cursed" - punished by God - and from that point on you become like a town leper.  ignored, made fun of, and cast out.  this is such a brutal place.

which is why the way Aldo's family is handling this is so amazing.  they are rallying around their son, and brother.  they are loving him, encouraging him, praying for him - and celebrating the "bright side" of the situation.  may God bless them!

here with the rhinos, we are doing our best to walk our boys through such a tough time.  it has been a heavy situation for sure.  they are sad and confused.  some of the questions have been:  why Aldo?  why not one of the boys who has left us and stabbed us in the back?  why not someone who is a bad person?  why would God allow this to someone who had so much going for them?

while there are good biblical answers to these questions, the answers make less sense in the context and culture that we live in.  its just hard to explain.  and for now, thats ok.  what we are primarily focussed on is praying for Aldo, and preparing to welcome him home with so much love and joy that it would be impossible for him to feel rejected.  we want him to feel the unconditional love of Jesus through all of us - his team, friends, church, and family. 

would you please join us in praying for Aldo's delicate heart?  right now, his experiences growing up in BV are no doubt leading him to assume the worst about his life going forward.  pray for God to protect his mind and heart from such evil.  pray for him to find his worth in the coming weeks and months in his identity in Christ!  pray for his body.  pray for his family.  pray for all of us going forward...

having had Aldo with us for only a couple months, we aren't sure where exactly he is when it comes to his salvation or his relationship with Jesus.  we are praying that this tragedy would draw him close, not far.  we pray that despite the cruel circumstances, he would come to know how much Jesus loves him.


We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed;  perplexed, but not driven to despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken;  struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.  2 Corinthians 4:8-10

Thursday, April 13, 2017

refuse to sell-out this easter

don't sell-out this easter.

don't hijack the holiday.

don't fall for the exchange.

the world would have you trade the extravagant love expressed through the bloody, beaten, jesus on the cross...  and the glorious empty tomb that represents victory over death...  for a bunch of nonsense.

i'm not judging you.  its up to every christian what to participate in (and what not to) when it comes to this stuff.  for sure, our family's approach to christian holidays has developed over time.

however, i do plead this of you:  don't sell-out.  don't fall for it.  don't confuse your kids.  don't make this glorious weekend about the easter bunny, easter eggs, new clothes, and horrendous bonnets.

don't give such value to something that doesn't deserve it.

as christians, why can't this weekend be about celebrating jesus and nothing more?  why do we have to add anything else?  why water down the best story in the history of the world?

after (willingly) bearing all of our sin... and (willingly) accepting an inhumane and barbaric death...  a glorious exchange was made.  his perfect and sinless life - for our forgiveness, freedom, and salvation.  3 days later he overcame death, allowing us to be born again to the living hope in Christ Jesus!  1 peter 1:3

amazingly, the book of isaiah (ch 53), written over 700 years before the birth of Jesus, prophesied his death and resurrection in detail.  the fact that, from the very beginning, this was God's plan to save the world is nothing short of astounding.

how he watched his son being crushed, spit on, beaten, and tortured is beyond me.  why was it necessary?  couldn't there have been another way to make an exchange for our sin?  some other way that we could attain forgiveness and salvation?

the fact is- all of us deserve wrath and punishment for our sin.  God in his infinite grace provided a way for his wrath to be avoided; a way for us to be reconciled to him.  the Way?  through the sacrificial death of his son Jesus as the payment for our sins.  it is through faith in him, as the perfect sacrifice, that we can be reconciled to God.  its only through the death and resurrection of Jesus, that a sinner deserving of hell can be saved.

the wonderful truth of the gospel is that christians are saved from punishment, not because "we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as a sacrifice to take away our sins." 1 john 4:10

and we get more excited about chocolate bunnies??????

lets not get distracted!  our God is a jealous God.  i can't imagine that he'd be pleased when we justify the celebration of his death and resurrection (the most important accomplishment in the history of the world, and the foundation of everything we live for), with easter eggs and new dress clothes.

don't do it.

REFUSE TO SELL-OUT!


here's a few resources for celebrating easter:
READ:
1. luke 24
2. 1 peter 1:3
3. romans 5:8
4. john 3:16
5. isaiah 53
6. 1 corinthians 11:23-26
WATCH:
1. The Passion of the Christ
2. The Bible Miniseries, Episodes 9&10 (Mark Burnett)
3. The Son of God (Chris Spencer)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

mimi and papa

anyone who knows my folks would describe them as genuine, down to earth, kind, and generous.  but another one of my favorite things about them is how they have always loved my friends as if they were their own kids.  i first started talking notice of it when i was in middle school and high school.

we lived in a deep southern town that was basically 50% black and 50% redneck.  (sorry lake cityans, but its pretty true.)  when i was a kid, i actually saw the kkk march down main street.  we even had people burn crosses in our front yard.  lake city, florida was a tough place in the late 80's - early 90's, and i was right in the middle of the racial conflict.

as one of the only white kids on the basketball team, many of my closest friends were black.  i stayed over at their house, and they came over to mine.  so many great memories.  i loved those guys.

the first time i had a bunch of my friends from the team over to my house to stay the night, i wondered if my parents would be uncomfortable.  after all, we had just moved from dallas, texas where we lived in an area where there were very few black people.  before that, we lived in boise idaho, where, during those days you could go years without seeing a black person!

so i just didn't know how it would go.  soon, my 12 or so buddies were all over the house...  running around, playing basketball, jumping on the trampoline, swimming, diving in the fridge, etc.  i remember waking up around 2 or 3 in the morning to a bunch of noise, and walking downstairs to see what was up.  my dad was playing poker with a few of the guys and they were having so much fun, laughing so hard.  i remember thinking to myself... my pops is a pretty cool guy.

after high school, my dad made a commitment to follow jesus.  the man who was once a hardcore disciplinarian, started to become a softie.  his heart changed.  he loved my mom differently.  when i came home from college he would hug me differently.  everyone in my family knew this change was real.

life has taken all kinds of twists and turns since then.  as i have followed God all over the place, my parents (although sometimes reluctantly!) have been very supportive.  even the year we moved to pennsylvania with the schmidt family and my folks thought we had joined some kind of cult (haha), it wasn't long before they were loving the schmidt's as if they were their own.

they have always welcomed (practically adopted) my friends into the family, no questions asked.  from my black youth basketball team 25 years ago all the way to my 30 guatemalan boys today... and every white, asian, black, and latino friend in between.

my parents & their neighbors with the leivas in florida
recently, some friends of ours here in guatemala, the leivas, went to florida on vacation.  my folks offered their place to stay, stocked up on groceries for them, gave them the keys to their car, took them out to eat, and honestly i don't even know what else.

when mynor came home and was telling me about it, he said to me, "brock, who loves like that?".

another friend of mine told me recently that my mom and dad are like the parents he never had.

some other best friends of ours have spent every easter sunday for the last 10 years at my parents house.  the crazy part about that story is that my own family hasn't been there for the last 9 years!

there are countless more stories.  helping out my friends when things are tight.  supporting their ministries.  giving them a place to stay.  giving them work.  they are 2nd parents and 2nd grandparents to many.  better put, they are simply "mimi and papa" to everyone.

all of my friends say the same thing - how much they love my parents.  but what touches my heart the most, is how much my parents love them.

a couple years ago, we took 15 boys from guatemala to the florida to play in a soccer tournament.  we were going to stay in a hotel, but our budget was too tight.  so we packed into my parents place instead.

we pulled into the driveway to find my parents and sisters waiting on the front porch with open arms.  my mom had bought each boy a bathing suit and a disposable camera.  they had borrowed enough sleeping bags and pillows that each boy had a nice place to sleep.

in charge of all the food, my mom was the first one up and the last one to bed.  before i crashed at the end of each long day, i will never forget what i heard each night as my mom walked back and forth from the kitchen.
bladimir at jax beach 2015

"te amo mimi", over and over, would break the silence of the quiet, dark house.

my mom would loud-whisper "te amo" back, and sometimes "te amo too", which of course would make them laugh.

keep in mind, this is not a group of boys that says "i love you" to their own parents.  nor do they hear it said to them - ever.

as all of the rhinos ran around my parents place, treating it like it was their own house for 6 straight days, i would sometimes just find myself in a daze, thinking about things.

one was how much mimi and papa love to give.  another was how little they care about their stuff, even though their stuff is very nice.

but i also thought about my high school basketball team sleepovers during the years of racial divide in lake city, florida.  i even thought of how my parents allowed me go sleep over at my black friends' homes (on the literal "other side of the tracks"), when i knew that other parents (and even our black head coach!) thought they were crazy.

among many other things, my folks taught me to treat everyone the same.  they taught to me how to love people.  and i am very thankful for that.

so to answer that question - "what kind of love is that?".  i think the way mimi and papa love is kind, patient, unselfish, sacrificial, and unconditional.

which sounds a lot like God's love for each one of us.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

luis: from pain to joy, part I

luis (far right) with his mom (left) and 3 of his siblings
i am starting a "series" on luis...  in prayerful anticipation that a beautiful story of pain-to-joy continues to unfold.  

at only 14 years old, luis has experienced more darkness in his life than you could imagine.

when he was 8 years old, he fell from a tree not far from his house.  he landed on another tree stump that was coming out of the ground, with ragged branches attached to it.  one of the branches pierced his stomach - went all the way through - and came out of his back.  when his mom approached the scene, a crowd had already gathered around luis' motionless body.  his intestines laid on the dirt next him.

an ambulance finally arrived, and the responders told luis' family that he was not going to make it.  somehow, miraculously, he survived.

around that same time, some of our friends who also live here in Buena Vista met luis' family and realized how malnourished the younger kids were.  they started them on a milk program to gain strength, and would regularly make deliveries of large bags of nutritious powdered milk.  

despite much success with other children in the milk program, these children were not gaining weight.  sadly, the baby died due to malnutrition.  it was soon discovered that luis' mom was selling the milk for drugs and/or alcohol.  her selfishness and neglect killed her own child.

luis' dad is quite the character.  he has another woman and other kids, and everyone knows it.  he is an abusive alcoholic, a womanizer, and an all around bad guy.  

when it was brought to light that luis' mom was HIV positive, our friends took her to a center in Antigua that helps underprivileged AIDS patients.  when the people there saw her paperwork, they told her that her husband's name looked familiar.  come to find out, he had been receiving treatment for his own HIV diagnosis for years, without telling his family.  he didn't care one bit that his wife and kids likely had the fatal disease as well.

soon another one of luis' younger siblings would die of AIDS.

in january of this year, when a tall lanky kid from lower Buena Vista made the final cut at tryouts for the Rhinos, i did not realize who he was.  not even a good soccer player, we decided to keep him because of his height - thinking maybe we could mold him into a goal keeper.  it wasn't until a week later that i connected who he was, and what family he was from.

so thats why God compelled us to keep him!

as i have gotten to know luis better over the last 3 months, its clear that he has been living in denial.  like any young man with a troubled past and broken home, he does not like to talk about it, or admit any of it.  he prefers to pretend that all is well.

a couple weeks ago as we were visiting his home, luis was playing tough guy - telling us how everything was great, his family is good, his dad is a great guy, and on an on.  after a while, and some direct pressing, he finally broke.  in front of his mom, and siblings, the truth started coming out.  he cried.  his mom cried.  we all prayed together.  

little by little, the light and truth of holy spirit will soften his heart.

i am so excited to have this young man in our academy.  i trust God brought him to us with specific purpose.  and i am believing the light of Jesus will someday fill his heart, his home, his future home, and his future family.  luis will one day know the God who promises to turn our sorrows into strength, our sadness to joy, and our tears to laughter! 

luis is embarrassed of the scars across his stomach and back, from his accident of 6 years ago.  everyone has told him that when his mom approached his lifeless body, she was drunk out of her mind.  she exploded into a tirade of crying, laughing, screaming, and cursing.  unconscious, luis obviously didn't see or hear any of that...  but he's heard so much about it from others that he feels like he saw it with his own eyes.   

no doubt, his scars are a reminder of his dark past.  of his deadbeat mom - a village addict and floozy whose neglect is basically responsible for the death of his little brother and sister.  without question, his scars represent much pain, brokenness, and sadness he has experienced in his short life.  

but as i told him recently, those scars should also serve as a reminder that JESUS SAVES.  let your scars not only remind you where you came from, but also point to where you are going.  let them remind you that God is Healer and Redeemer, and that he holds your life in his hands!

i told luis to be proud of his scars - show them to everyone!  and if people make fun of you, reminding you of how your mom acted that day...  welcome that conversation!  let it be a pathway to sharing how the whole world can abandon you, but God never does.

for luis and for all of us, let our scars be a bold reminder that God uses our suffering to glorify himself (1 peter 4:12-13), that he holds our future in his hands (jeremiah 29:11), that he never abandons us (deuteronomy 31:8), and that he has a wonderful and specific purpose for our lives (psalm 139:13-16).  

please pray for luis.  ask God to fill his heart, and to draw him to himself!  pray for us too, that we use wisdom and sensitivity as we point this young man to freedom and truth.



stories in pictures: World Sports United

we recently had a visit from our friends from World Sports United.  WSU is an organization that uses a passion for soccer to help meet needs in under privileged countries around the world.  

it was an incredible week! in addition to the obvious blessing that it was from a soccer standpoint (the team included a Division I head coach, current and former Division I players, former professional players, and current professional trainers), it was a special trip in many other was as well.  
here's some stories in pictures...


 after practice with allan and the junior varsity boys


after a full practice, and friendly game against the varsity boys


some close friends of ours recently suffered a great loss.  our friend lazaro (one of the first 12x12 homes we ever built in buena vista) unexpectedly passed away.  he left behind his wife carmen and her 9 kids.  with the WSU team, we were able to bring some encouragement and love to the family.  we painted their house inside and out with bright colors, brought new mattresses for all the beds, 100lbs of beans, 100lbs of corn, and a bunch of fruits, vegetables, pasta, milk, etc.  we also gave carmen a "lady's bag" full of sweet gifts that all women would appreciate, such as soft towels, earrings, slippers, lotions, etc.  despite the tough time they are going through, it was a special day that hopefully allowed them to feel loved by God and not forgotten.


kerrie and milena sharing the ladies gifts, and some laughs, with carmen and her daughters


eddie realized right away how big of a barcelona fan cesar was, and made his day by giving him his barca hat!  it was a very special morning with hermano cesar...


elder, jake, wisman, and cam during a tough workout out in the village.  the workout included a run through the mountains to a neighboring village, a hike up into another mountain, lugging firewood to a family in need, some soccer drills, and much more.  i think all the gringos would agree that everyone gained some respect for the physical condition of our rhinos!


eddie and his group carrying firewood through the village


after an early morning 5v5 game with some the guys...


coach ruiz doing his thing...


cam, jack, mauricio, and milena with our dear friends abuelito juanito and abuela delfina


Friday, March 17, 2017

stories in pictures

a well-timed picture can tell a story.  this one is from a random day out visiting families in the village last week.  the young girl was taking a break from making tortillas.  the (live) chicken hanging from my 4-wheeler was a gift that a family had given us earlier in the morning...  



our friend maximo has been paralyzed from the waist down for 30+ years.  in the last 8 years we've given him 3 wheelchairs.  (buena vista roads are tough on a wheelchair!)  but we've never given him one like this.  a friend from the states bought this one for him.  it's the cadillac of wheelchairs - the best that money can buy!  heavy duty, soft leather, moveable leg rests, etc.  he was moved to tears...


luciana is loving having the boys living with us in the house.  her and darwin watch the show "blaze" together almost every day.  denilson comes down from rhinos and goes straight to her little playroom to spend time with her.  they are all so good to her.  and she adores them all.  this picture is of her and allan together at lunch.



our weekly grocery shop with 7 young men living in our home.  should we be going through 5 gallons of milk a week?!  


with some friends visiting from the states, helping out in a local lettuce farm.


celebrating robin's 16th birthday.  our family now includes (left to right) jake, pato, robin, darwin, enrique, darwin (on the floor), and allan (not pictured)


another family visit - the view from their back porch...

Friday, March 3, 2017

recent story - bridgette and priscila

been a while since my last post.  if you've read the last couple of entries, you probably understand why.  man - things never slow down!  under "normal" circumstances, the time i like to write is between 10pm - midnight.  but so far this year, that time slot has been filled with...  sitting in my living room chair snoring :)

so much has been happening.  more than i can possibly keep up with in my writings.  but a recent quick story has been sticking in my mind.

we hosted a group a couple weeks ago.  my brother, chad, brought a bunch of his friends - as he typically does every february.  it was an extraordinary few days, full of memories.

among other things, they brought a bunch of gift bags for grandmas and widows in the village.  you know... stuff women love.  basically a big, nice shoulder-bag full of goodies.  things like soft towels, slippers, earrings, chocolates, hair brushes, blankets, lotions, etc, etc.

btw... this is stuff that women in our village have never received in their life.

translating for bridgette as she shares with priscila
but one of the women we chose to give this special gift to was not a widow or a grandma.  priscila is perhaps worse than a widow.  she is a victim of regular abuse - both physical, verbal, and every other kind you can imagine.  

she is the mother of one of our rhinos, so we hear all the stories.  we have tried to intervene.  we have confronted the husband face to face.  we have called police.  we have surrounded him in prayer.  but he continues...

on this day, chad and his friends arrived with gifts to lift priscila's spirits and remind her that she is special. my job was to simply translate, as bridgette showed her all of the gifts and explained what they were.

but i couldn't help myself.

there in the background, against the wall, stood priscila's husband.  with a stone cold expression on his face, he was probably bothered by the fact that we were in his home.

i took advantage of the opportunity, and went on a rant about how special women are.  i explained that this group of friends were here to remind the women of Buena Vista that they are loved and cared for.  i shared what the bible says about how men are to treat women.  i looked directly at his eyes and told him that his wife is soft, gentle, delicate, and precious...  and that his job is to protect her, provide for her, and make her feel wonderful.

it was a long and exaggerated - on purpose.  my hope was that the spirit of God, through the truth of His word, would pierce the heart of this mean, alcoholic, abusive man.

i can't say whether it did or not.  but i know it meant something to priscila.

as bridgette lovingly shared all of the items with her, she graciously received them, but showed no emotion.  just a slight smile and "thank you" - nothing more.

until her husband left the room.

one of the group members had asked to see the family's property, so the husband walked out to show them around.  the second he left the room, his wife broke down into tears.

thankfully, bridgette was there to hold her.  priscila needed a woman's understanding arms around her.  as bridgette held her into her neck and shoulder for several minutes, priscila let out her unexplainable pain with a hard, emotional cry.  

unable to speak spanish, bridgette could do nothing more than simply cry along with her - which is exactly what was needed in this moment.

as soon as the voices and the rustling sound of the group returning towards the house were heard, priscila swiftly wiped away her tears.  within seconds, the lifeless expression she had on her face before had returned.

the moment was such a symbol of the oppressive cruelty and abuse that men hold over women in our village.  we see it over and over again through daily life experiences here.  for generations, women have been considered worthless outside of sex, cooking, cleaning, and caring for the kids.  they are often treated like garbage.

not any more!  a new generation of young men are rising up.  soon the village will be full of rhinos,  and those discipled by rhinos.  young men who will break these awful chains of abuse towards women.  young men who will fight to defend these precious, innocent daughters of God.  

indeed, the girls of Buena Vista will soon reap the benefit of all the years of tireless work and effort invested into the buena vista sports academy for boys...


Sunday, January 22, 2017

robin & flipping 4-wheelers: life ministry is so good

just completed our first 2 weeks of our "life ministry investment program".  (6 young men - future leaders - living with us full time.)  i cant really describe how i feel...  tired?  in shock?

why are kerrie and i so exhausted?  why do we hit the bed and feel like we've just been struck by a truck - every single day?  why do the days seem like a blur?

i dont even know the answer.  i guess its because something is happening every second.  i dont know.  its just been nuts.

one thing i love...  are the unexpected, unplanned conversations that come up all through the day and night.  its the part that reminds me why we did this.  so we can invest more deeply.  even though we feel like we already have been, its just different when you're literally living in the same house.

robin (center) with jake and pato - 2011
one example of dozens over the last 2 weeks...

robin has been like my own boy for many years now.  here's a couple stories from years ago about him and his family, as a reference: aug 2011, sep 2011.

anyway, i sent robin (now 15) out to do some work for me on the 4-wheeler.  darwin went with him.  they were way up in the mountain, climbing a dirt road, taking a (fast) left turn.  as they rounded the turn, a truck coming down the hill appeared, and it was too late to even slow down.  they crashed head-on.

thankfully, the 4-wheeler has a monster front-rack, and the rack is what hit the truck.  however, the impact did throw the ATV into a flip.  the boys were thrown off, but thankfully no one was hurt.

except the pickup.  it had a busted headlight, dented bumper, and dented fender.

when darwin came in the house out of breath and said "robin needs you", i knew something was wrong.  when we arrived at the site of the accident, robin approached me with tears in his eyes.

"viejo, dejame explicar."  ("old man, let me explain".)  i was fully prepared to hear how he didn't do anything wrong, and how the truck came out of nowhere and nailed him.  one thing that is an absolute in this culture, is that men dont accept responsibility for their actions.  there is a big premium put on lying, cowardice, wiggling, and getting out of any situation - no matter what it takes.

but the first thing out of robin's mouth was, "it was all my fault."  i asked him to explain the accident to me (before i speak to the owner of the truck) to make sure we didn't have a potential 50/50 fault situation.

but robin insisted it was his fault.  finally i asked him, "robin, i appreciate your honesty... but if you were both coming around a corner, and neither one of you saw each other, maybe both are at fault.  could that be the case?"

he said, "brock, no... it was my fault.  i was flying.  i shouldn't have been going so fast.  there's no way he could have seen me.  he was going slow, but i was flying around that corner."

so we met with the owner of the truck, admitted our fault, and said we'd do whatever it takes to pay for the damages.  i had to hurry back home as i was in the middle of something, and never really finished the conversation with robin...  until dinner that night.

we all joined around the table as usual, and i could tell robin was still not himself.  when i consider the typical role of the "abusive man" in this culture, i could understand why.  he thought i was mad.  maybe he thought i was going to explode.  even though he's known me as a father figure for the last 6 years (he doesn't have a dad)...  nothing like this had ever happened.  he was definitely uneasy.

i told the group that something major happened today, and that i wanted robin to explain.  with a lump in his throat, he told the story.  when he finished he looked at me with giant tears in his eyes.  the whole table was dead-silent.  again, considering the culture, i knew why.  everyone thought the old man was about to detonate.

i looked him in his tear-filled eyes and said, "well robin, i want to tell you something.  (long pause.)  i am so proud of you."

i could literally feel the shock of everyone at the table!

i went on... "i am so much more concerned about your heart than i am about that accident.  your integrity means so much more to me than repairing that truck.  today is a day that you stood up like a real man, admitted your mistake, and said i'll face the consequences.  as far as i'm concerned, thats unheard of in this village.  God is so happy with you.  and so am i.  lets celebrate!"
robin with luci - 2016


from there we had a long conversation about integrity.

these are life lessons that the boys will never forget.  opportunities to solidify and "make real" so many of the teachings that we have shared with them over the years.

life ministry is so good.

even if every day is a blur, and every night ends in total exhaustion!


Thursday, January 12, 2017

big change!

things are changing around here in a big way.

6 months ago our 2 oldest daughters moved back to the states to go to college and be university missionaries.  it left our home kind of quiet and we all had to adjust.

last sunday we moved 6 young men into our home, with the idea that they be with us for a minimum of one year.  the girls' empty rooms are now filled with bunkbeds and teenage boys.  our home is now kind of insane and we're having to adjust.

for us, this decision was a question of obedience.  God has been clear over the last year+ in telling us to begin investing more deeply in a handful of young men.  specifically, those who show real potential to be future leaders here in the academy and in the village.  so, after much prayer and discussion, we picked 6 young men and discussed with them the possibility of moving into our home on a 1-year commitment.

we explained that it would be a year of deep investment in their personal and spiritual lives.  there would be daily devotions, responsibilities, and required sacrifices from their normal schedules.  more than anything, we just believe a year living under the same roof as "one family" will provide immeasurable ministry opportunities through daily life.

finally last november, we met with their parents and shared the idea.  we figured 2 or 3 would end up doing it.  wrong!  all 6 agreed.

so as of this week, our house just got a lot crazier and our grocery bill a lot heftier.

following God is a riot.  we're excited to see what He does with this!


Sunday, January 8, 2017

enrique is going to college

today i walked into the university of galileo with a young man from the poor village of Buena Vista to register him... for college!

enrique lopez will be studying business administration at the university of galileo while also working part-time in the boys academy in an administrative role.

its been a long road for this young man!  he has been with us in the academy since the first day we opened almost 6 years ago... has had an extremely difficult life...  has genuinely accepted Christ as the savior of his life, been baptized,  and committed to follow Jesus...  graduated from BVSA as well as from high school at CEDS...  and also slipped back into old ways and fell away from God. 
  
as of about mid-year last year he started coming back around.  he began expressing remorse for some bad decisions he had made.  he was struggling to understand grace and forgiveness.  as we walked him through those truths, the weight that had been heavy on him began to lift.  he started coming around more and began attending bible study again.  allan was also a huge influence in his life during this time.

i couldn't be more excited for enrique.  as we look towards the future, i believe his potential is limitless.  as he grows in his faith, there's no telling how God will use him!  

as he we sat in the office today and he received his textbooks for his first semester of college, i asked him in a whisper how he felt.  all he could utter was "nervous."

but as we walked outside of the registration office, he told me something quite profound.  he said "brock, no one from Buena Vista has ever gotten a college degree." 

wow - what a thought!  please join us in praying for enrique...

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

feliz navidad! its been a busy end of the year...

merry christmas everyone!  what an amazing time of year.  i hope you are rejecting the commercialism and nonsense that always serves as a giant distraction from the miracle incarnation of the son of God!  we get a couple of US channels on tv here, and i am always so saddened at the overwhelming focus on santa, presents, and "christmas magic."  what an unworthy substitute for our king jesus, who offers us eternal life, joy, peace, and adventure!  i could go on forever about this, but i read something a couple of days ago that i'll just share instead.  i found it convicting, refreshing, and energizing!  such a powerful reminder of where our priorities as christians should be this time of year.

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its been a while since my last post.  we've been busy with christmas events, and just wrapping up the year at the academy.  honestly, we are just now finding an opportunity to take a breath!  if interested, here's what we've been up to recently...


in october and november we hosted friends from savannah.  we also celebrated the graduation of many of our rhinos.  pictured here are:  allan, enrique and carlos, who all graduated from high school at el centro educativo deepstream, run by our friends the schmidts.


dennilson graduated from his first year of mechanic school.  he did a great job and worked hard every weekend to complete the program and receive his certificate.


finally, josue (amazingly) graduated from high school as well - but from a saturday program while working full-time.  after learning how to read and write his first year in the academy, he went back to middle school and has been working hard to finish high school ever since.  at his school in san lucas, with over 80 kids in his graduating class, josue won the "perseverance award."  i can't think of a more appropriate award to explain the heart and determination of this young man!  we are so proud of all our graduates.


in november we were thankful to have kerrie's mom come visit.  after a few days in BV, we took her (and a few of the rhinos) to lake atitlan - a beautiful wonder of the world with booming volcanoes emerging from the water.  it is truly a guatemalan treasure, and it was nice to get away as a family for a couple days with kerrie's mom and a few of the boys.



soccer, soccer, and more soccer.  we finished the last few months of the year with an aggressive schedule, playing 11v11 games every week.  both our JV and varsity teams finished extremely strong.  we won the majority of our games, despite typically being hugely outsized.  we are really proud of how the boys began to gel towards the end of the season, and it gives us much to look forward to for next year!


december has been extremely busy!  its been crazy but fun scrambling around with the leiva family getting everything done. big props to walda who has handled a ton of the logistics!  we've hosted many events, including:
  • the annual bvsa staff christmas party
  • the annual trophy ceremony with all the rhinos and their parents
  • our annual christmas photo shoot for rhino families
  • 1st annual "decorate the plaza" event, and of course... 
  • our annual rhino christmas party and talent show!  

we were thankful to have our friends from trinity fitness come join the fun as well.

brock, mynor, anthony = the 3 wisemen
decorating the BV plaza












we also were able to take luciana and her friends to "disney on ice" in guatemala city for her 4th birthday!  it was an absolute blast, finished off with some fried chicken at KFC.  (dads favorite)



the first weekend of december, kerrie and i were able to head one country north to mexico - to be a part of our friends' wedding.  mauricio and milena have become special friends to us and it was such an honor for me to be able to share about jesus during their wedding ceremony.





one of the most special moments of the month came somewhat unexpectedly.  in all of the busyness, we had kind of forgotten about our girls team, las rinas.  so we were able to put together a little tournament for them, followed by a trip to Antigua.  it was priceless.  the first time for almost all of them to go out to eat!  they were ecstatic!  and after working with boys for so long, it was refreshing to see the girls express their excitement so openly :)  we're definitely looking forward to what 2017 has in store for our rinas!


 ~ FELIZ NAVIDAD ~
FROM THE BUENA VISTA RHINOS!




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.