Tuesday, December 29, 2009

what did you have for Christmas dinner?

our friends the moreau's wanted to give huge plastic bins of food to families for christmas. paul had remembered a family from when he was here in august and felt like we should find them. after a not-so-easy walk up the Buena Vista hills on christmas eve afternoon, we found the house.

there was a little bit of an awkward silence before one of the 18 or 19 year-old sons shared his heart. he was clearly moved, and shared with us the impact that this gift meant to their family. then his 20 something year-old brother did the same thing.

in this culture, men this age do not share their emotions like this, which told us how much it meant. trying to hide back tears, these young men were showing us that they had no food for christmas eve dinner, nothing for christmas day. no ability to have a special christmas dinner celebration.

could you imagine?

i am convicted. i take so much for granted.

Friday, December 25, 2009

giving gifts to jesus

we debated doing the huge christmas party again this year in buena vista. last year it was awesome, but this year we were hesitant.

in poverty, where kids don't get gifts for christmas, the last thing you want to do is steer them towards the westernized version of christmas - where gifts mean so much. as much as we want to give the kids a gift, there is beauty in the simplicity of celebrating the birth of Christ without needing gifts.

so we didn't do a big fundraiser for the party like we did last year. a few weeks before christmas, we were worshiping with our friends at Journey in Jacksonville, when my buddy Vic shared a thought. imagine if it was your birthday and all your friends came over. they acknowledge it's your birthday ("happy birthday!"), but then they all begin opening gifts for themselves as they celebrate your birthday. as Vic put it, "that would be pretty jacked up."

the passages of study that day were the many in scripture that show jesus represented in the poor. according to God's word, when we help the poor, we help Jesus. when we give to the poor, we give to Jesus. when we reach out to the "least of these" - in them we find Jesus. he closed with a challenge to give gifts to Jesus this year. in celebrating His birthday, give something to those in need - give to Him.

with that, the party was on. we decided to forgo buying gifts for each other, and instead finance the 2009 buena vista christmas party. it was wonderful. every single kid walked away with a gift and a cookie. the kids were much calmer than usual (when we do other types of distributions), and the entire event ran smoothly. we prayed that God would protect their hearts from the silly correlation between "Christmas" and "presents." we asked God to receive the glory as each young child smiled and received his or her gift. i believe fully that He did.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

working with 6:8

helping 6:8 ministries with mission teams has been such a blessing. today is the last day with a group of college kids with converge, a ministry headed up in jacksonville by our friends anthony and danae widener. 14 of their students were able to raise the money to come spend a week with us in guatemala. not only that - they were also able to raise the funds to build a home for a family. during this past week we were able to meet the family. it was a special moment as we all circled together around the family inside their cornstalk home and prayed for them. some prayed for blessings on the family, others praising God for the opportunity to help them...

but one prayer struck me. i don't know who prayed it - i didn't open my eyes. but one of the students fighting back tears simply said "God, please forgive me... forgive me for my lifestyle. forgive me for living the way i do." it was a wonderful and honest reaction to the situation.

its a privilege to be partnered with a ministry that is determined to change the hearts of those inside the american church. i cannot think of a better way to do it.

Friday, December 18, 2009

the beautiful letdown

today we did a shoe distribution out of the community center in Buena Vista. the beautiful: more than 500 pairs of shoes were distributed to people who needed them - many of which were waiting in line barefoot. the letdown: many of those in line, including families we have been friends with for more than a year, pushed, cut in line, and cheated. some went as far to hide their kids or disguise themselves to get through the line a second time.

in a song by switchfoot called the beautiful letdown, the songwriter speaks of how being letdown by the world and all it has to offer is, in reality, a beautiful thing. as kerrie and i unwound from the emotionally draining afternoon, we felt beautifully letdown as well. the letdown was obvious... relationships we are working on, people we have built homes for, etc... so disappointing to see them behave like this. but the beautiful part is more difficult to explain. for us it was a beautiful reminder of a certain reality. the reality that while poverty can at times illuminate simple beauties - family, community, dependence on God - it can also bring out the worst in people. poverty is painful. it causes people to do wrong in order to get what they need. remember the prayer in proverbs 30? "do not give me too much, for i may forget you... do not give me too little, for i may steal and dishonor you" (paraphrase).

today we were reminded of some of the ugliness of poverty. we were reminded why the heart of our ministry is relational, and why we need to be prepared to be here for the long-haul. deep change takes time. i pray God may help us show Jesus to these people. and when "gold and silver we have none", may we be able to give them what we do have - Jesus. (Acts 3:1-10)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

high and holy

We just returned to Guatemala from a 2 week trip to the US. It was great to see friends and family and to be together with our stateside church community. We shared a lot of laughs, tears, and fun together.

This was my first time back in

One of the main things I can’t stop thinking about is the American mind-sight towards celebrity, sports, news, and Hollywood. For 2 weeks I heard about Tiger Woods, Tim Tebow, Preisdent Obama, college football, and the economy. You cant go anywhere without the latest issues reaching out to strangle you for your attention.

Tiger: the stable, solid, classy professional golfer who maintains an impeccable reputation… let us down. News broke that he has been unfaithful to his wife, which was followed by many other reports of multiple mistresses.

Obama: the president who was going to save us all from the mess left by the Bush administration… letting us down. His approval rating currently lower than any president (at this point in their term) in history.

Tebow: the outspoken Christian quarterback, looking to lead his dominant Gators to another championship… let us down. After a poor performance in the SEC championship game, he sobbed as if the world was coming to an end.

The economy. Politics. College football. Artists, entertainers, and cable news.

Around and around we go. I myself engaged in a 2 hour conversation (argument) about college football that left some of us involved upset with each other! I know… boys will boys and its just innocent fun. But is it? What’s the point? By getting so fired up about it, aren’t I implying that it’s pretty serious stuff? When really, is it important at all?

This time next year, much less 5 years from now, all of these stories will be forgotten and we’ll have new ones to suck us in. We’re literally obsessed with the stuff. Fox News is giving me a headache. Even ESPN, which I occasionally love to veg out to, is beginning to sound like nails across a chalkboard. Why?

My friend Derek recently wrote and recorded a song called High and Holy. I think the title of his song explains why the things of this world (should) lose their flavor.

When our hearts become captivated by our high and holy God, something changes. Our perspective shifts, and the things that excite us (or let us down) are no longer the things – or people – of the world.

The last 2 weeks are a blur and we were running at a crazy pace. But now, sitting here reflecting, I can honestly say that football statistics seemed more important to me than statistics that really matter - like homelessness, hunger, clean water, etc. And I found myself being more intrigued by how celebrities were living than by how Jesus lived.

I can see now how quickly and easily I was swept up into the madness. And even though I was recognizing parts of it along the way, the pace of life made it difficult to find time to come before God and pray, seek, be refreshed and straightened out.

The latest “Tiger Woods Scandal” was dominating the headlines. As much as I entertained conversations and discussed the topic, it is hitting me now how truly amazing it is that we are so fascinated by the fact that Woods was unfaithful to his wife. Statistically 60% of all married men cheat. In the context of celebrity, I bet that number goes to 90% or more.

What is the big shock? Based on those numbers, you would think the headlines would read “Surprise, Surprise… Another One Down.” I think the reason its such a big story – the reason we get so hurt, excited, whatever – is because our hope is in people as opposed to in Christ. I actually think Christians are the worst. Mel Gibson, George W. Bush, Tiger… these are all people that Christians have placed so highly on a pedestal, only to be “stunned” when they let us down.

The reality is that humans will always let us down. We sin, we fail, we screw up… that is what makes us human. It’s unfortunate that the Christian community often forgets to come together in these times to encourage, support, and lift up the fallen – even if it can only be done by prayer. Instead, we run to the tabloids, soak it in, criticize, defend, and of course…gossip.

Jesus was – and will always be – perfect. He is high and he is holy. He will never let us down, he will never slip up and make that fatal mistake. We’ll never see him on the front page of the newspaper, crying or defending himself. We’ll never read a statement from him regretting his actions and apologizing for the hurt he has caused his friends, family, and fans.

The promises of God will continue to always be kept. There is comfort in that. But there is also responsibility. I saw in the last couple of weeks how easily I can slide back into the mix… the firestorm of media, politics, and the pursuit of success. It is a machine that churns away, steadily churning and crushing souls at an uncontrollable pace.

I pray for my loved ones serving Christ in the US. Avoid the nonsense. Be a voice of truth in the midst of constant distraction. Stay close to the spirit of Jesus, so that your senses remain sharp and you can recognize immediately when even the subtle attempts of the world are drawing you in.

Remember that your God is high and he is holy. He is unchanging. He is not going anywhere. And he is the ONLY one who will never let you down.

You are high and holy.
you alone are worthy of our praise.
Enthroned in glory,
boldly we approach you as our king.

-song by DH

a year and a half. I learned that this is a long enough time to forget things, and to change perspective. Long enough to be caught off-guard by even the simple things that, until being away for a while, I may have never given much thought.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

back in the US of A

today we returned to jacksonville, the first time since leaving for guatemala over 16 months ago. i was reminded how long it had really been by the simple fact that hearing English in the miami airport caught me completely off guard. another simple thing that struck me was all of the men in the airport wearing suits & ties. just saying that seems ridiculous, especially considering the fact that i used to wear one every day. but after almost never seeing one in almost a year and a half, i found myself thinking "i wonder what the special occasion is?"

on the drive from miami i found myself admiring the organization of the traffic. people were using their lanes, stop signs and traffic lights were being used, and people even used blinkers. amazing!

i also noticed that there was no shortage of new bmw's, benz's, lexus', and porsche's on the road. had the economic crisis somehow avoided south florida? i was also blown away by the advertisements, strip clubs, car lots, and restaurants. all familiar sights, but somehow seemed foreign to me again. maybe its shallow of me to think along these lines, but when you're coming from rural guatemala (where many have dirt floors, no water, no electricity), it sure makes the financial meltdown i keep hearing about on cnn seem pretty relative.

on a brighter side, i was reminded today how much my family loves me. my brother picked us up from miami and drove us 6 hours north to jax. we arrived at my folks place, where they were anxiously waiting with my sister vicki and my nephews. right after that, my little sis jacki and her husband matt showed up with my nephew brett, who until today i had never met. the next few hours was spent hanging out, catching up, playing with babies, throwing living room catch with the men, laughing, and just enjoying being together.

i predict that it won't take much of the hustle/bustle american-dream-pace before we are missing life in guatemala. but being with people you love is so wonderful. i am praying that the next 2 weeks will fill us with valuable time spent with friends and family, and an opportunity to thank them for all the love and support they give us...and that we head back refreshed and excited to get back to work.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

blanca

so many awesome things have happened in the last week, i haven't been able to keep up with it all in my journal. but today was so amazing, even though i am in bed with my eyes half-shut, i am forcing myself to take a minute and jot something down.

about 6-8 months ago we met a precious girl named blanca suzanna. at 13 years old, she had already had experiences in her life that are totally unimaginable. her story is one of abuse, neglect, exploitation, and extreme poverty.

today, after God beautifully connected different events into place, we celebrated as blanca and her family moved into a new home.

the crazy thing about today was seeing firsthand the transition from the old house to the new. with a team from journey church here helping, we tore down their old house, and moved all of their belongings to the new home-site. but as we dug into their existing home and personal items, we had no idea what we were going to find.

the soot was so thick on the furniture and roof that it turned anything or anyone who touched it completely black. the beds were ripped up, and full of urine, excrement, bugs, and dirty clothes. the house was utterly disgusting. as we worked, we were all quietly emotional, and thinking the same thing.

i am finishing up a video that i will post that gives more detail about this special story, but for now just wanted to share and praise God for today's events.

the day ended with this sweet girl and her family waving us goodbye from the front porch of their new home. the bright pink house behind them (her favorite color), blanca was giddy with joy - something that we have not seen often since our friendship began.

i will never forget the last hug she gave kerrie and i.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

chicken biz underway

today the chicken coop small business project for 5 families was officially launched.

it was a great day. we bought 100 baby chickens, 500 lbs of feed, vaccinations, water dishes and tarps. God dropped a blessing on us by bringing us Rosa (Romelo's wife) who is pictured to the right. she will be helping as a consultant to the business. this is a HUGE blessing, as she is a local woman who runs a very successful chicken coop business out of her own home. she was excited to help, as she has been a friend of deepStream for a long time and is eager to be of service.

it was a long and fruitful day. we walked each family through the business... how to care for the chickens, how to prepare for "sell time", where to sell, how to make the best profit, and the best way to buy the next round once the mature chickens are sold. they all seemed to understand the vision of the project - to improve their way of life over the long-term, and give them an ongoing income.

we ended each meeting by praying over that family's business, seeking God's blessing on it, and asking Him to use it to provide for the needs of these very poor families.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

friendships and a new baby!

our friends the lopez family (one of the 12x12 families) knocked at the door yesterday asking if we could be available to help them get their daughter in-law home from the hospital. she had just had an emergency c-section and had no way to get home (the doctor said she could not ride the chicken bus!).

today we received the call and brooke and I headed to san felipe to get them. mom wasn't feeling great, but their sweet little daughter was perfect and precious.

they all (extended family and cousins included) piled into the truck and after a quick pharmacy stop we got them home. before we left, this family who only a couple months ago lived in a tiny tin shack on a dirt floor asked me what my charge was for the trip. brooke and i looked at him like they were crazy and I said "we are friends! this is what friends do!"

they insisted that we at least stay for a soda, so we did. we prayed over the baby told them we'd check back in a day or two.

tonight at our dS gathering, we were praising God for these types of things. it's the relationships that we cherish - the friendships. that is the fruit from all of the other ministry work that we do.

in fact at each 12x12 key ceremony we tell the families: "we pray that now that your new home is complete, it can just be the beginning of our friendship. we are not interested in simply building homes and saying goodbye!"

this particular family is a great example of this. our friendship with juaquin and maria is genuine, and we love their 4 kids like our own! today was just one little reminder of the friendships in this community that God continues to build.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

kids enjoying summer

(in guatemala, the kids summer break runs from mid october to mid january.)

our friends carlos & thelma have a small art gallery and school here in magdalena and are doing a 2 week art camp for local kids. our kids and the schmidt kids are loving it! they are learning to paint and having a blast - every day from 8-12 this week.

in addition, jake has been wanting to work on the 12x12 construction jobsite. today was his first day... after art school he went to romelo's house and worked a half day with the guys. he said it was hard work - mixing concrete, and moving and setting blocks. he came home and told me "dad, it was really hard work but i think i need to keep helping these guys. can i work with them all week?"

i love that he wants to work, but even more than that i am loving that he enjoys being out there with romelo and the guys. he told me word for word everything they said, repeating all of the jokes, laughs, and fun conversation. on a side note, i am amazed at his fluency in spanish. it is such a joy listening to him communicate.

it is just great to see all the kids enjoying life here in the village! praise God!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

the sin of stress

A familiar passage from Philipians has been a big help for me lately. It is a well-known passage, but at least for me it is too easily "recited" without appreciating the depth of it. Maybe that's because until I am presented with a unique challenge, I am able to avoid the difficulty of what it says.

It says to rejoice in the Lord always. To let gentleness be evident to all. To not be anxious about anything, and to let the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds.

Some recent difficult circumstances have made it a challenge to "rejoice always", and to be free from anxiety. But the truth of God's Word has made it clear to me - has reminded me in a perfect and beautiful way - that it is my own issues, my sin, and my pride, that keep me from rejoicing. It is my sin that weighs me down with anxiety.

If I am fully honest with myself, shouldn't I be willing to admit that "stress" is a cop-out term that is used in order to describe anxiety and lack of ability to rejoice? It is so easily accepted and understandable to be "stresses out." But is it really just a justification to be living in sin?

I'm not saying being tired, worn down, or exhausted is sinful. But if our "stress level" has us in a state of anxiety that keeps us from rejoicing always, why is it that we don't recognize this is a problem - a big problem? After all, sin is sin.

It's no wonder that the passage goes on to say "let the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard your hearts and minds." For me, that hits home. Because when I am in a funk, my mind can cook up all kinds of negativity. I am quick to be frustrated, quick to anger, and quick to rude sarcasm when I my anxiety level is high.

I am praising God right now, thankful for his word of truth, and for waking me up to see my filth. I am his... made for eternal glory... for so much more than this world can throw my way. With that in mind, who am I to be anxious? Who am I to be stressed out because of my difficult circumstances? Maybe I take myself a little too seriously. Maybe I temporarily forget sometimes that my Father is the King. That he is on the throne. And that my life is just a vapor.

Life can be hard and I'm sure I will face my share of difficult circumstances on the road ahead. But I pray today that when those times come I will be quickly reminded that I am a son of the Most High King. That He is fully capable - in any and all circumstances - to give me a peace and joy beyond comprehension.

I need to be reminded that when I chose to take up my cross and follow Jesus, I agreed to submit my life to his glory... and to rejoice in Him ALWAYS!!

romelo

we headed out as a family today to pay the 12x12 construction staff and check on the current houses being built. this month we are building 2 very special homes. one of them is for romelo, who is our foreman for the construction crew. with his home, we are completing the original 12 homes sponsored by journey church.

after building the first 11 houses, we all decided to reward romelo's family with a new home of their own. their living conditions are not much different than many of the families we have built houses for, and he has never once complained.

romelo loves the 12x12 ministry, and loves building homes. he believes in what we are doing. at each key ceremony, i notice him... he is always having the best time - laughing and celebrating. he blushes when we publicly thank the construction team, but he is always willing to share a few words.

for me, it is a joy to see him taking so much pride in building the current 12x12 home - this one for his own family to enjoy!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

missionaries or friends

One thing that is real difficult here is managing the roles of "missionaries" verses "friends" as it relates to the local people.

What we desire is to develop genuine friendships with the people. But it is hard to do that when we are only thought of as the missionaries here to help them. Obviously, we want them to know that we are here to help them as well, but it is the balancing of both that becomes a challenge.

Our hearts desire is to be considered by the locals as neighbors and friends. That is actually the way that God has led us to be the most effective "missionaries" we can be. For us, it's through the relationships that we feel we can best point people to Jesus, and also allow us to see the deeper needs that go beyond the physical.

As we continue to oversee ministries designed to meet the physical needs, we pray for God's help in developing friendships that are real and that he would guard the locals from the temptation to take advantage of us.

Monday, October 12, 2009

our supporters

been sick for a week. something about the flu in guatemala... its not the normal deal. anyway, feeling much better today and excited about some things going on this week.

tonight kerrie and i are thinking about all of our supporters and praying for them all. we are so fortunate to have a special bunch that believe in what we are doing and give so generously. we could not be here without you...

Friday, October 2, 2009

judi & her little sis

today during dS basketball, one of the girls on my team named judi brought her little sister to practice. everywhere she went she was toting her little sister - about 1.5 yrs - along with her. (pictured to the right is judi, her sister, and her teammate evelyn.)

at one point it finally hit me that judi is only 10 years old! (i am realizing that i have been here a while because these things don't even strike me as odd anymore.) anyway, i asked judi about it and she said "no one was home when it was time for practice so i couldn't leave her alone." turns out that because her parents both need to work, judi stays home several days a week caring for her little sis.

later after practice i had this funny thought of all the ymca teams i have coached back in the US. i was trying to imagine what i would have done if one of my 10 year olds came to practice with their 1 yr old sibling and told me the same story!? called the police? immediately taken them to a relative or neighbor? who knows.

it's just so amazing to experience such a different culture and different way of life. even crazier, the fact that i am getting so used to it and beginning to accept such things as completely normal! God is awesome...

Monday, September 28, 2009

13 years married to this amazing woman

today marks 13 years that kerrie and i have been married - and 18 since we started dating.

what a wild ride we have been on. because of God's grace (and kerrie's patience and loyalty), we stand together after many difficult years, more in love than we have ever been.

check this out: when we first got married, we didn't have much of anything. we had no money, we were working and going to school, barely making ends meet. but these were some of our happiest times. before long, we had everything. i had a great job, we had lot's of money, cool cars, a boat, nice house, exotic vacations, etc, etc... and it's during these years that our marriage struggled. and now... back to having nothing (this time by choice!), trying to live for others instead of ourselves, and we're happier - and closer - than we have ever been!

i am so thankful for this amazing woman. she is my rock, my accountability, my soul mate, and my best friend. she keeps me pointed towards the truth.

she is a lot of kind & sweet, mixed with a dose of raw & feisty.

she is the embodiment of honesty.

she loves jesus like no one i've ever met.

she is beautiful.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

what esbin is teaching me

Just about everyone who has visited us or been on a mission trip to Guatemala has met Esbin. He’s the 10 year old disabled kid that 6 months ago could barely move. He is undiagnosed, and has been bedridden for the last 3 years. Today Guicho and I spent the day with Esbin, and his sister Mildred, in Guatemala City visiting doctors.

The Doctor

Guicho’s dad is a friend with the most well known brain surgeon in Guatemala, who made time to examine Esbin this morning. He asked detailed questions about Esbin’s history, then he did a complete physical exam.

Unconvinced, he called a friend who is a neurologist, who immediately came over and examined Esbin as well. I was shocked at how much love and concern these two men (clearly among the top in their field) seemed to have for Esbin. Together with the neurologist, we talked through what they believe to be their diagnosis and how we could best attempt to rehabilitate. But before any diagnosis could be official, we would have to have several tests done.

So the Doc called another specialist and requested an exam. The specialist said he could take us next week, and the Doc explained our situation and pleaded to see us immediately. They obliged, and scheduled us for later the same day. When we left his office to head to the next appointment, he refused payment, saying “I am so thankful for the way you are helping my people and the children in Guatemala. We are going to get Esbin well, and you will never receive a bill from me.”

During the next appointment, Esbin had all of his nerves tested for response time. Little needles stuck throughout his body while getting zapped with an electric charge. He cried and yelled for his mom. This was difficult for all of us. When we were leaving, the receptionist said “normally this tests cost Q3,000, but the doctor called and said to only charge you half - that he was paying for the other half.”

The Day

In between appointments we had lunch at Pollo Campero, a famous fast food chicken place in Guatemala. (We asked the kids earlier if they could eat anywhere in the world where would it be.) So today became their first time in a car, in a mall, and to Pollo Campero. Needless to say they were overwhelmed as they looked around at everything. It was sweet though…especially as Mildred (13 yrs) stood in amazement as the people came up and down the “moving stairs.” She would touch the top step with her foot and quickly pull it back, wondering how it disappeared. Finally, Guicho took her for an up and down just for fun…

We still have some blood tests to do next week, then we’ll return to the main doctor for a complete diagnosis. From there we’ll form a rehabilitation plan likely to include dental work, nutrition, and therapy. (The neurologist said Esbin’s teeth are so bad that it would be impossible to begin a nutrition plan until he has major work done.)

From what Guicho and I gathered during all of the meetings, Esbin has something similar to Gilliam Barre Syndrome. Basically after getting sick, the immune system attacks the nervous system and begins a process of attrition to the entire body. While this is a disease that is normally able to be rehabilitated back to health, what sets Esbin’s case apart is the 3 years of living in a vegetative state following the onset of the problem.

The Difficulty

What I have wrestled with is the whole 3 years of nothing stage. I watch Esbin’s mom, his sister, and family. They seem like good, honest people. They obviously love him dearly. Initially I was frustrated with them and partially blamed them for not doing anything. How could they just let this kid lie in bed, wasting away into nothing for 3 years!

But over the last year I have gotten to know them, their community, their culture, and their lifestyle. Sadly, until someone else intervened with suggestions and offers to help, this is what happens in extreme poverty. Esbin’s family cannot afford to eat every day, much less pay for bus fares, doctor’s appointments or medicines. They lack the education & sophistication to read – much less figure out how to call and make appointments, study symptoms or diagnose a condition. Mom and dad have to be gone all day just to try to provide enough for the family to eat, which makes it impossible for a physical therapy program, special diet, or any type of regular exercise.

The reality is, Esbin’s parents didn’t have any idea what was happening with their son. And if that’s not sad enough, they didn’t have any way to try to figure it out or try to help him. They didn’t know where to start. All they know each day is the challenge that is before them: work long days in hopes to eat that day, figure out how to carry Esbin back and forth to the bathroom, try to maintain a home and a family, and do it all over again the next day.

So I continue to wrestle. Why do I have so much? I always say I know the answer… “God blesses some so that they can help others.” But then I wonder why did he bless me to help them, and not them to help me? Why for me is eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner a given? Not even a thought? When for them one meal a day is a prayer and a hope? Why do I get the liberties of all-you-can-eat 24 hrs a day, warm home and bed, car, computer, tv, restaurants, desserts, travel, and entertainment… while families like Esbin’s suffer and just long to get through another day?

I don’t know. (And please don’t email me any textbook theological answers!) One thing I do believe is that God wants me in this place. He wants me to wrestle, to ask the questions, to cry and to hurt. I believe he wants me to feel the guilt – along with the joy – that comes as I seek about these things.

The longer I live as a Christian, the more I learn that there are no simple answers to many questions of the faith. There is only a journey. A journey that requires our willingness to jump in blind, letting go of everything we thought we knew, and just take a walk with Jesus.

what Esbin is teaching me

please shoot over to the dSg blog for a recent experience...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

bball league

yesterday we kicked off our first full sports league. we'll practice and play games every friday afternoon for the next couple months. for me, this was a special day. it has been something that has been on my heart ever since we were called to guatemala.

something about being on a sports team opens up up your heart. there is something unique about the environment that helps you rely on your coach, trust your teammates, and grow together.

and in areas of poverty, where many of the kids are on their own all day long without much attention from parents (even less from dad), this is an opportunity for these kids to learn about relationships, love, grace, and respect. a chance for them to learn about Jesus.

today i felt a special peace. i am so excited about the league. this is where i am supposed to be...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

sweep the leg


last week we had a friend visit who has more karate credentials than i can begin to list. he runs a bunch of karate schools in the US and is apparently one of those "experts in everything combative" types.

he asked if he could do a demonstration in Buena Vista... so he came up and showed them some skills, broke some boards, and hung out with the kids. We had a great time and more importantly the kids had a blast. Thanks for coming Dave!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

surgery update

stefani's surgery went great!! she was in the hospital for less than a full day, and is home and recovering well. we'll know soon the results from a biopsy on the "tumor", but for now all has been removed and she is healthy and happy. thank you to the people who donated the funds to make this special girl's life so much better. just to think she was suffering every day from the pain of this thing, and now is free from it!! praise god!!

Friday, September 11, 2009

pray for stefani

stefani (see blogs below) heads to the hospital tomorrow morning for her surgery. she'll be there all day before we get an update. please join us in prayer for her!

Monday, September 7, 2009

tired

it has been a great last few days, and tonight i am spent. you know that feeling when you're not necessarily "sleepy" but you're just physically & mentally exhausted?

in the last few days we have had some visitors here who have been so generous. their heart for the poor, this community, our ministry, and our families has left us feeling overwhelmed. while they were here, we packed so many things into a short amount of time. this morning, after getting the kids to school, grabbing quick workout and meeting them for breakfast, we took them to the airport and guicho and i stayed in the city to run some needed errands.

after getting home around 5 we received a call from a family that is here visiting (to consider returning as missionaries) asking us to meet them for dinner in antigua...

finally home around 8:45, a friend is waiting at the door. drunk, broken, and crying, he needs a someone to talk to. we hang out outside the door for the next 30 minutes or so. i prayed for him and tried to share some truth, but i think he was too smashed to hear anything...

i am so very thankful for all god is doing, and praising him for having the energy to try to keep up. but tonight, i am beat. tomorrow is a new day!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

SP

to protect his identity because i know he doesn't want any credit, i will call him SP (which is the initials for a nickname he earned by the buena vista kids).

SP and his wife recently visited and poured their generosity on us and our community. in a short amount of time, they have blessed 2 local families with new homes, donated 2 chicken coup businesses, purchased a truck for our ministry, provided a handicapped kid with 10 weeks of physical therapy, gave cash donations and work tools to various dS and 12x12 staff, and felt led to support one of the dS families on a monthly basis.

i am at a loss for words!!!!!!

i almost didn't blog this for fear of embarrassing SP and his wife, but i just had to share it - and say MUCHAS GRACIAS - one more time. to god be the glory!!

love you guys.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

our new community of believers


last night god blessed us with a sweet deepStream community gathering, and reminded us of that wonderful feeling of gathering in homes to worship, hang out, have fun, learn from god's word, pray, plan, and dream...

together with the salazar's and schmidt's, we had a fruitful wednesday night "dS" gathering. (we had started the wednesday nights with amy and the salazar's, but the arrival of the schmidt crew almost doubled us!) the evening included a great meal, lots of worship, prayer, some great talk time with the kids, and an adult discussion of galatians 3 that trailed off into many different directions...

there is something so refreshing and even exhilarating about this type of church gathering. the intimacy is intense. it is personal. you can't hide, no slipping in & slipping out. everyone has a voice. we are equally qualified to edify, encourage, teach, listen, suggest, share, and learn. struggles, worries, challenges and needs are laid out on the table - bringing about the opportunity to provide for each other in real and tangible ways. the bond that is created in these environments is strong.

just think of the early church of the new testament, following the death & resurrection of jesus...

devoted to teaching and fellowship... praying and breaking bread in homes... providing for each others needs... having all in common... of one heart and soul, with no belongings the called "their own"... (acts 2 & 4)

this is a sweet picture of the fellowship of believers, and one that i am so thankful god has given us the privilege to be a part of so quickly after moving to a third world country! i am excited about whoever else god may be bringing to multiply our community here in guatemala...

Monday, August 31, 2009

sleeping in mud

i am drenched! just got home from helping a family we love get a tarp down on their floor so they can sleep above the mud tonight.

they stay at their in-laws house, and don't have beds so they sleep on the floor. tonight there was a crazy rainstorm and their kids came banging on the door asking if they could borrow a tarp. i was thinking it was going to go on the roof to help plug some holes... but it was to cover the muddy floor they were sleeping on.

i am heartbroken thinking of them as i sleep comfortably in my bed tonight...

Friday, August 28, 2009

deeper relationships

the last few days have been busy with helping the schmidts get settled. car, furniture, fridge, groceries, home repairs, and misc trips to the city for various things. it has been great to be able to help them get up and running.

but its crazy how strange it feels to have not been out in buena vista (the pueblo we are working in) in a few days. for me it is a sign that we are truly growing close to the people and developing deeper relationships with the locals. there are many people, families and kids that i think about constantly and i am anxious to see them this weekend and see how they are doing...

Monday, August 24, 2009

reunited with friends

mark & gina, with their 4 precious kids, arrived in guatemala today on one-way tickets.

praise god for bringing great friends to work with us here. there is so much to do...

they bring gifts, talents, and a big bold love of jesus with them to serve side by side with us as we reach out to this community. i honestly cannot believe they are here, and living only 3 doors down.

6 years ago we all left jacksonville for pennsylvania. this is where the ministry (lifestyle) of deepStream began: give god everything, and follow jesus anywhere... live life to the full... live your ministry - every day... life is ministry!

who would have thought this desire to live in such a way would have led us to being neighbors in a small poor village in guatemala! makes me wonder what lies ahead...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

thanks for the reminder

today i was checking out of a local grocery store and i watched a huge black spider (body about the size of a golf ball) with yellow markings climb over the cash register. it walked right onto the keyboard. the cashier looked at it and completely ignored it. i think god used this little incident to remind me that i live in guatemala...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

update on stefani

so honestly, stefani's trip to the specialist was a bit of a faith step. (stefani is pictured below)

at the time, we didn't have the money to pay for her surgery, and neither did anyone else who is here working with deepStream. we had enough to take her in for diagnosis but that was about it. in fact, a friend who was here that day gave us $80 to go towards her appointment and all of her tests.

we all knew going in that that we'd get a quote from the doctor on the surgery. we knew stefani's mom would here the amount. we knew we wouldn't have enough.

but we knew we could trust god to provide. we would tell stefani's mom that god is GOD and he can do all things.

the doctor quoted us $625.

the next day as i was checking emails, theresa (who handles our finances) had sent me an email to let us know of 2 unexpected financial gifts that had come in.

one for $550
one for $50

we had spent about $50 that day on stefani's appointment and tests, leaving $30 left from the friend that had given the donation that morning.

$30 + $50 + $550 = $630. all received the same day we took stefani to the doctor, and received the quote for $625.

for those who don't know how we live, this is an absurd amount of money for us to receive in one day!

will you join us in praise of our awesome God - who knows our needs before we need them! let this encourage all of us to step in faith first, trusting God fully to meet us there.


But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6: 30-33

Thursday, August 20, 2009

stefani

over the last several months, we have grown close to a particular family. kerrie, sarah and amy have really connected with the mom and girls... and guicho and i with the boys. (they have 4 boys and 3 girls.)

a couple months ago we were talking with the mom (maria) about their needs. we asked if they needed anything in particular that we could pray with them about. because everyone knows our ministry build homes, this question usually leads to being told how much they need a new house. but maria said their house was fine, that they have plenty of tortillas for food, and don't need anything like that.

then in tears she proceeded to share with us that her youngest girl, stefani (pictured to the right) has an intestinal polyp that is very dangerous. she has had it for a long time, and it causes great pain when she uses the bathroom, it bleeds frequently, and she has been told that it is cancerous.

she cried as she talked about it.

living in the kind of poverty that they do, it is almost impossible to get something like this treated. they would need to get to guatemala city to see a specialist, have tests run, etc.

they wouldn't know where to begin. they have probably never been out of their town, they don't read or write, and they don't have a dime to spare.

long story short, we (dSg) arranged appointments... and today sarah and kerrie took stefani and her mom to a specialist in guatemala city. she was officially diagnosed and we were given all of the information we needed for surgery and procedures going forward. they also took her to a lab for bloodwork and surgery prep.

be praying for her as we plan to get her scheduled for a biopsy and for surgery.

thank you god for leading us to this family and this precious little girl!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

would you like a new home?

today was incredible. we have a few guys here visiting from lake city, florida. the entire week has been amazing, but today was just awesome.

one of the guys and his son are here representing their youth group who raised 3k to build a family a home. another guy who is here, along with his wife and kids, donated another 3k towards a home. so over the last few days we have visited 5-6 families, allowing them to connect with the locals and determine who they'd like to build for. right away, both of them knew exactly who they wanted to bless.

today we shared the news. it was simple, beautiful, and emotional. (video here)

these families living conditions will be RADICALLY TRANSFORMED within the next couple months.

even better than that, they will witness the radical and transforming love of christ.

today i am thanking god for letting us serve him here in guatemala. what a joy to be a part of it. also thanking him for these generous people whose hearts are broken for the poor and are stepping out and responding. praise jesus!!

Friday, August 14, 2009

lake city boys

today a group of 6 men from lake city florida arrived. unlike most of our visiting groups, this group is a collection of guys from different backgrounds and different churches. its incredible actually, how each of them ended up here.

one is a close friend and supporter of ours. over the last several months, as he talked with different people about coming to guatemala, God assembled a very unique and specific group to make the trip.

tonight we all hung out and talked through the chain of events that got each person here, and as i sit here writing i am still in amazement at all of the stories.

looks as if God is up to something. such a joy following Him and watching things like this unfold...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

emily

one of the most precious faces i have ever seen knocked at the door today. i was working on the computer and almost didn't get up to answer it...

a 6 year old girl named emily was standing there. i had seen her before, but never really talked to her. i know her big brother pretty well.

she asked if we had any trash she could go through, to see if she could find something to eat. my heart broke. i asked her if she was hungry. she said yes, and that her family is too. she was so beautiful and innocent.

"love your neighbor as yourself." as yourself!! the scripture is ringing so loud in my head i can't hear anything else.

we help them. how can we help everyone? god, help us.

tonight emily and her family are hungry and cold. many families, some that live only a few feet away from us, are hungry and cold.

God - increase my wisdom and my faith. thank you for giving me a reality check as i was sitting there worrying about my family's monthly support.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

edvin

edvin is an 11 yr old boy that lives in buena vista. he hasn't been able to get out of bed since he was 4 years old. undiagnosed, he lost all control of his body, and now has no muscle tissue whatsoever. this is what happens in extreme poverty. you don't just go to the doc and get things fixed.

in the last year, we have seen God use edvin in many ways. my friend alex who visited had a life changing connection with edvin. through visitors, he has been rehabilitated on a regular basis. people bring milk, food, and vitamins.

currently, a college kid named mike is staying here for 3 weeks and walking 3 miles each way, every day, to spend half days with edvin. they are exercising, reading, drawing, praying, and hanging out. yesterday, mike brought edvin down to our jobsite to play with the other boys. it was beautiful.

over and over i have heard people ask edvin, "do you believe you can walk again?" "do you believe in the power of God?" "do you believe in miracles?" and every time, he shouts back "si" with enthusiasm and a smile.

edvin is slowly improving. in fact, we've seen incredible growth over the course of a year. but it seems that the real change is happening in those that visit. could it be that God is using edvin to change others, and not the other way around? we may look at edvin and feel sorry for him (poor, handicapped, malnourished), but could it be that in God's eyes it is us who need more help? using God's scale of "poverty", i wonder who is the poorer? us or edvin?

Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?
James 2:5

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

juaqin prays for us

today we delivered beds (donated by some friends of ours) to a family that we recently finished building a new home for. they were so excited, climbing up to the top bunk and pretending to sleep...

the father stopped to share with us his thankfulness. he said he prays for our family every day - that god will protect us here in guatemala. "this is a dangerous place to live, and these are dangerous times. so i pray for you every day that god will keep you safe."

what a blessing to know that this kind, poor, family who lives on about $2 per day is praying for our safety. they recognize that we are out of our element, that we have "risked" our own security to help him and his people.

i told him i cannot think of any better way for him to show his appreciation than to pray for us just like he does. i believe god hears his prayers, and is honoring them...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

thinking about my kids

watching jake play today at the soccer field made me think. he is the only gringo on the team - on the field for that matter. blond and blue-eyed, he sticks out like a sore thumb.

amazingly, he beams with confidence here. he does not hesitate to speak spanish. of all my kids, he is clearly the fearless one... engaging conversation everywhere he goes.

i know he knows everyone is looking at him - all the time. when he hangs out with his team, they all stare at him as if they are captivated by a great movie. in these moments, he shines. he is funny, he dances, he laughs. he even laughs at himself.

while the girls aren't quite as socially confident as jake (here in guatemala), they are getting better each day. they are older, so getting embarrassed is more of a concern, and there is more of a desire to say things correctly. but their confidence is growing and they are very content.

changing our environment, culture, and language has been a difficult transition for all of us. but it's nice to see the positives sometimes. i can see my kids gaining strengths - developing character - in ways that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

Friday, July 31, 2009

bryan and my friend

one of my friends who has been here a few times has practically adopted a guatemalan family here. he and his wife are like parents to these kids. they cry uncontrollably every time they leave to go back to the states.

recently, my buddy asked to film the boy, named bryan, saying a few words about his life. bryan started talking and it wasn't long before he started speaking directly to my friend. "thank you for helping us. thank you for helping us with a home, with clothes, with food. thank you for loving us. you're like my daddy."

it's no coincidence that bryan's father is an alcoholic who is rarely home. from what i can tell there is very little, if any, love and affection shown to this boy from his dad.

i pray that as they grow up, bryan and his sisters will learn and experience more of the love of the Father who never leaves us, abuses us, abandons us, or forsakes us. the fatherly love that surpasses our understanding.

in the meantime i am thankful for our friends, who are giving them a glimpse of that very love.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

grace

a friend knocked at the door late tonight. drunk out of his mind, crying, asking for help. his marriage is falling apart, his family crumbling. he shared with me that he told his pastor everything and his pastor said "i can't keep making time for this - don't come back until things are better."

what? this blows my mind. to say that is to not understand jesus at all. hearing this gave me a new energy and commitment to not grow weary. to keep helping the helpless, to keep loving the unlovely. to stand for truth, but never stop extending grace.

this man needs grace. he needs to understand what it is. to know that jesus waits and longs for his broken return to the cross, and that the cross is enough.

let us not pretend to be perfect as the church. let us confess our sin openly to one another, without fear of condemnation or being cast off. let the church be the open arms of christ, willing to take in the sinner and love him back to recovery.

Monday, July 20, 2009

stefani

met a lady today with her 7 kids (2.5 to 12yrs) who was working outside in front of her father's tin house. she has a 5yr old named stefani who was born with an mysterious illness. she cried as she told us about her condition. no ability to do anything about it...

been running into a lot of these situations lately. where the people simply do not have the ability, finances, or means to find out what is wrong with them or their children. they know something is wrong, but they just cant do anything about it.

it is so hard to know what to do. jesus says love them as yourself. in other words, do what you would do if stefani was your own daughter. wow... help me jesus. give me the ability to obey your word.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

francisco

walking through buena vista today, and old woman asked me if i could help her son. he fell 4 years ago and broke his foot. it obviously didn't heal correctly because he has been unable to walk for 4 years. he only gets out of his bed to use the restroom, with help from his mom and sister.

francisco lives in a poor rural town in a 3rd world country, his "home" tucked into the side of a steep mountain. in his world, a broken ankle means never walking again. in our world, its a 3 to 6 month setback...

makes me think about justice, and how god's justice is different than mine. in luke 18 jesus says whoever exalts himself in this life will be humbled, and the humble will be exalted. it's hard to remember that god thinks eternally. his scale of fairness has heaven in mind, and so many times in scripture we read "blessed are the poor." i pray for francisco, that his reward will be great in heaven.

Monday, July 13, 2009

the dunlaps

in january we had a bunch of guys come down and help us prepare the teamhouse for future trips. it was a special week. a group of guys from all different backgrounds - working, serving, and bonding.

one of the guys was alex dunlap, a close friend of my brother chad. he had a great experience here - and was impacted greatly with a collision of sorts with the gospel of jesus. he told me in january that he would be bringing back his family.

the thing is... lots of people say stuff like that. but he meant it. he is here now, with his mom, sister, cousin, and some friends. they are building a playground for kids in a community where the poverty is such that the kids don't have clean water, shoes or enough food - much less a place to play.

they are building basketball goals, laying grass, bringing in playground equipment, and painting. the kids in the village are crowding around the area - playing and helping with eager anticipation. it is truly a beautiful sight.

these are the hands and feet of jesus. serving the needy. helping those that can't help themselves. loving on the "least of these." caring for those in need and expecting nothing in return.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

blanca suzanna

kerrie and i have been thinking a lot lately about blanca suzanna. she is a 13 year old girl who lives near us. she was raped right after she turned 12 and now has a 1 year old baby. as if that isn't frightening enough, she is also mentally disabled, with what appears to be some kind of retardation.

yesterday kerrie and sarah took their family a box of food and spent some time visiting.

about a month ago, someone who had heard about her situation anonomously made a donation and asked us to use it the best we we could to help her. we have been praying about this. the needs for this family are so great (they live in extreme poverty), its one of those situations where you have to ask "what would help them the most?"

it's hard to answer that question unless we get to know them better. so, that's what we have been doing. we are beginning to have some ideas, and praying for wisdom as we prepare to do something for this family. please pray with us... i will keep you posted.

Monday, July 6, 2009

family time

today we snuck away to a nearby park for some needed family time. it was awesome. my favorite part was playing baseball together. it has been 6 months or so since jake and i have hit (we used to go hit all the time). so i was a little nervous that he had lost some skills. but in no time he was back to his old self...

we had a great time together. this has been a challenge for us - finding time to just be alone as a family. like anyone in "full-time ministry" (what does that even mean? aren't we all in full time ministry?), it can be easy to justify a lack of family time because of all the good things you are doing. lots of time we are out working on various projects together, so it seems like family time. but it's not, because we're not alone with each other...just us. when it's just us, it is different. more personal, and more intimate.

i was reminded today how important it is to set apart this time on a regular basis.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

dreaming & planning

having developed a little phobia for everything too organized, i am trying to "dream" first and "plan" later. in the position God has me in currently, it would be a disaster if i didn't stay organized. but i don't want to be so organized that i feel like i'm running a business again. i want to let the spirit lead, be flexible, stay open...

so dSg is dreaming about some exciting things on the horizon:
  • building a playground for the kids of Buena Vista. soccer, basketball, and playground equipment!
  • starting dSg sports leagues. partnering with the Leiva family and providing FREE, QUALITY sports leagues to poor kids who can't afford to play in other leagues...
  • exploding growth for the 12x12 love project... the ability to have many homes being built at the same time...
please join us in praying and "dreaming" about these things! if God blesses these desires, i guess i'll have to start organizing... haha.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

a little r&r

we had the hult's and widener's here for about 10 days. after a solid run of teams and projects, it was nice to mix a little fun in with some work. we did a one-nighter to the pacific coast and stayed at a cool little joint called johnny's place. awesome weather, cold drinks, lots of volleyball, and a blast with friends. thank you god for a refreshing break! pics here.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

ruben and my trash

Not including the neighborhood kids asking for our kids to come out and play, we average about 10 to 15 knocks on our door a day. Most of them are locals who have heard about the home building ministry and want us to consider them for a new home. Others ask for food, shoes, clothes, or other things. Many of these are friends – people we know – and others we are meeting for the first time.

But a couple days ago we had a different knock. At first glance it seemed normal enough… a group of young kids either asking for something or wanting to see if Jake could come out and play.

“We were wanting to know if we could have your trash,” said Ruben, a kid that I had chatted with several times out in the streets. I remembered it was trash day, so my guess was that this kid was asking to take out our trash and fishing for small tip.

“Are you wanting to take out our trash and earn a little money?”, I asked him. He looked at his friends and smiled, as if that sounded great…but I could tell that’s not what he meant. He said, “actually we were wanting to go through your trash and see if we could find some food.”

I looked into his eyes and I swear in that moment I saw my son Jake looking back at me. I thought of sending my kids out to ask for trash in hope that they could bring home some scraps of food. I saw my own girls walking around hungry, rummaging through the neighbors trash.

Then I thought of the days, perhaps weeks worth, of food that is sitting in our pantry. The amount of food that spoils because we don’t eat it in time. Those items in the back of the fridge that we forget about until cleaning it out every few weeks.

As I considered what to do, my flesh voiced it’s concern. “Our door cannot become a place to come and receive constant handouts… If all we are to the people is a Santa Clause of sorts, we will never develop true relation

Thankfully the penetrating truth of God’s word came through louder than the voice of my sinful body.

“Love your neighbor as yourself…” (Mark 12:30)

I am called to love Ruben as if he were my own son. To love him and care for him to the same degree that I love and care for myself. Honestly, that seems absurd. How am I supposed to do that? What does it look like?

Maybe God was trying to teach me what it looks like by making me see my own son when I saw Ruben.

Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:15-17)
ships… As soon as the word gets out that we hand out food and/or money, we’re going to get bombarded…”

poverty struggles...

in general, the men in my town are not good men. it is common, even considered normal, to beat your wife and kids. there is little, if any, affection shown from husband to wife. it makes me sad. even the men that i have become friends with... they do not treat their wives with respect. i am praying about how to help. i spend hours counseling and praying with them. so far nothing has changed. every glimmer of light soon gets swallowed by a dark cloud.

i know things don't change overnight, especially problems as deeply rooted as these... where generations of example can be a very tough cycle to break. i pray for patience and a constant desire to help. without good men, does any family, church, community, business, really have a chance?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

dominos

today i was thinking about how crazy it really was how the 12x12 love project started.  not only the 12x12 project, but the other chains of events that have taken place as a result.  

in a way it's a story of obedience.  it's as if god has a row of dominos waiting to be knocked down - one after another - but the first one has to be a difficult step of faith.

as our family was obeying god's call to guatemala, a pastor from journey church in jacksonville was obeying god's call to give away the money they had saved for a new building.  then my buddy obeyed god leading him to introduce me to his pastor before we left for guatemala...

a month later, having arrived here, i hear from the pastor and he asks if they can send us resources to build 12 houses in 12 months.  the 12x12 love project is born!

and now...  the families who were in our home church in jacksonville (who we felt terrible leaving), are deeply connected with the community at journey church, who are deeply connected with us in guatemala.  wow.

i can't help but think this is just the first few dominos...


Saturday, June 20, 2009

leftovers of leftovers

spencer took a recent mission team to a nearby restaurant that i love. he brought me all the leftover meat that the team had - 4 carry-out boxes! last night my family ate various steaks, chicken, ribs and sausages for dinner... and still had 2 carry-out boxes of leftovers remaining.

tonight, trey and i walked to the home of some friends and offered them the remaining meat. they were elated. this is a family that lives on dirt floors, struggles to make ends meet, and sometimes goes without anything to eat at all.

for so many people, leftovers of leftovers is a huge blessing...

Friday, June 19, 2009

jake's cumpleanos

today was jake's birthday. we had a party at the teamhouse - guate style! we had dueling power ranger pinatas swinging on ropes at each other (all birthdays in guatemala have pinatas and fireworks). lots of neighborhood kids and 12x12 families were there, and all the kids got a chance to smash the pinatas blindfolded. we all enjoyed pastries and coke... and jorge (employee from the 12x12 project) surprised everyone with a firecracker display.

after the party jake opened some gifts at home. spencer, trey, and amy were here, and jake had some gifts from family in the US that had been sent down.

he had a great day. i can't believe he is 8 years old.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

sergio

today i met a kid named sergio outside a little shopping center in san lucas. we hung out for 15 minutes or so while i waited to get my truck washed. he lives in santiago. his dad recently died, his mom ran off with another man (and lives in another city), and he was left with his grandma. sergio gets up every morning at 5:30 and walks to this busy pubic area. he shines shoes from 6am to 7pm.

every day
.

he charges Q3 (35 cents) per shine and he told me he averages about 5 shines per day.

sergio is 12 yrs old. my daughter madi's age. he is working for a living - long, hard days. such a sweet kid and cute personality. where will he be in 5 years? 10? 20?

god, please take care of this child of yours. protect him from the future that the statistics say is inevetible. give him a passion for you that leads him to overcome the odds.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

paying for bomberos

a friend (who will remain unnamed) stopped by this morning at 7:45. we have been friends with her for a while. for several months her husband has been beating her and the kids, stealing all of their food, and finding his comfort getting intoxicated in the street. he came by to tell me her husband has been home for 8 days - sober - and is very sick. despite hearing of his sickness, i was thrilled to hear he was home and sober... as we have prayed with him and for him so many times.

she wanted to call an ambulance to come pick up her husband and get him help, but can't afford it. she tried all of her family and only raised 10 quetzales (about $1.20). she wasn't sure how much an ambulance cost, but thought it was les than Q100 ($13). i explained to her how many people come to our house asking for money every day... and how the flood gates could open up if we become known as a cash window. so i told her to call the ambulance and see if they will come by our house and we'll see what we can do. she was so excited...

20 minutes later the "bomberos" were knocking at the door, with her husband in the ambulance. i reached inside and took his hand, told him i loved him and we'd be praying for him. we paid the ambulance Q60 and they pulled away.

waiting to see how things went at the hospital...

Monday, June 15, 2009

neighborhood kids

one of many knocks on our door today was a few kid's from up the street asking for our trash. my first thought was that it is monday (trash day), so they are probably asking if they can take out our trash for us in exchange for a few quetzales. i was ready to oblige... when they said "we want to dig through it to see if there is any food."

Friday, May 22, 2009

the rainy season

“Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest… I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.”

- Jesus


God is moving actively in the ministry of deepStream guatemala. He is all over the place, doing so many things at once. He is using his children (many of you) to provide for us. He is sending people to help us. He is opening doors of opportunity for new ministries. He is saving souls and changing lives – using our little ministry to make a difference.

Then why, if everything is going so well, does it have to be so hard?

In Guatemala, the rainy season began this month. For me, it has begun literally and metaphorically. In the last few weeks we have had people close to us die, personal attacks against our ministry, car problems, financial problems, sickness, hospital emergencies, and staff challenges. Some of it is easier to deal with than others. Each one isolated, I can usually handle without a problem. But when it all comes at once - when the rain pours – it’s difficult to stay the course.

Thankfully God has reminded me that trials have purpose. Sometimes He uses them to correct a sin or a bad pattern…so I begin seeking and asking. Other times He is permitting the enemy to attack, which brings a testing of my faith and perseverance. Or perhaps in all of his wisdom and mercy, God is using the storms to sharpen me… to refine my impurities in the fire.

I think God is teaching me that there are things I can’t see when the sun is shining. In order for me to see things more clearly, He has to bring the rain.

God’s word is teaching me in this area. Even Jesus in all of his perfection was taught obedience through his hardships (Heb 5:8-9). If the perfect Son of God had room to learn from his hardships, can you imagine how much more we should be learning through our own trials?! When the struggles – even catastrophes – come, why isn’t our immediate reaction to fall on our knees and ask: “what are you trying to teach me?”

Considering how ridiculously clear the bible is on this matter, it should (in theory) be easy for us to see that when we face challenges, God is working on us. Acts 14:22 says “you must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Paul said we must persevere so that we become mature and complete.

Being refined is not easy. It’s like a painful peeling away of a layer, but the stripping process hurts. The bright side is that it’s a process designed to have a beautiful end result. We come out sharpened and strengthened.

In addition, living in a community surrounded by extreme poverty, I am constantly reminded of the scale of my suffering when I look at things “by comparison.” Thinking this way doesn’t always make things easier, but it certainly gives perspective on the gap between what I view as difficult versus the difficulties of so many others. I think it is healthy for all of us to do this at times.

In the end I am thankful that God allows me to suffer, experience pain, or endure persecution because it brings me back to Him. I finally break down and come that wonderful place of complete dependence. For this I am grateful to see that my recent rainy season of trials is actually just a gift of his mercy and love for me.

Monday, May 11, 2009

claro

Claro died today.

I have only known Claro for a few months, but I loved him. God connected us, which always builds a friendship bond at a faster pace than otherwise. We met after his nephew came to us and asked if we would come visit his home. He had heard our ministry built houses in the community, and said his uncle Claro was in great need.

He was right. Claro’s house was more like an old tool shed. Made of cornstalk, there were gaps everywhere, allowing space for the cold, rain, and wind to make life miserable. The inside was barely big enough for a twin-size makeshift bed, and a fire. The floors were dirt. His only belongings were a few dirty pieces of clothing, a some filthy dishes caked in soot, and a machete. He cooked over an open fire about 2 feet from his bed, giving him a constant inhale of smoke and dirt. No electricity, no water, no plumbing… his house was cold and dark.

But Claro was a joy. He smiled and talked. And talked, and talked... He told us how cold and dusty his house is, and how it always makes him sick. At 65 years old or so, he is difficult to understand (even for the locals), because he blurs and joins his words in a unique mutter. But he said “thank you God and thanks to you” no less than 20 times every time we talked.

When we finished his home, roughly the equivalent of a concrete block 2-car garage, he stood inside and cried. “Never in all my life did I think I would have a home like this.” That statement froze me. I wondered what kind of home I could envision myself standing in that would warrant the very same comment from me.

The house only has two small rooms. Instead of basking in the glory of his new space, he immediately moved his son, daughter in law, and granddaughter into the adjacent room.

2 weeks ago, with some friends that were visiting, we delivered Claro a new bed. When we moved out his old one, made of stiff hay, he said “don’t throw that away, I can sell that and make a little money!” We all laughed. He sat on his bed. We could tell he was amazed at how soft it was.

A few days later, some other friends had decided to bless Claro with a new chicken coup they had built. We went to his house to surprise him. After yelling for him and getting no answer, my friends waited at the street and I went up to see if he was home.

I peeked in the front door and saw Claro lying in his bed. He was on top of his blanket, which made me smile as I realized he wasn’t cold. I felt bad waking him up, so I stood there and just looked at him for while. He looked comfortable.

I called out his name and he popped up…said he was just taking a quick nap. We gave him the chicken coup. He was very grateful. He told us he could manage the baby chicks without a problem, and he was excited about the new micro business opportunity.

That was a week ago. Today, I ran into Claro’s son on the street. Sobbing, he gave me the news that Claro has passed away suddenly in his sleep. Unexpected. Just like that, Claro was gone.

I just got home from the viewing in Claro’s house. He was lying in an open coffin, in the exact place that he had served us his famous fried chicken just over a month earlier at his home dedication. As I stood over his coffin, looking at his face, I could hear his scratchy voice: “Gracias a Dios, Gracias Ustedes.”

I am so humbled, so honored, to have had the opportunity to show the love of Jesus to Claro in the last couple months of his time on earth. After a long, difficult life living in extreme poverty, Claro spent his last couple months in comfort. I wish it could have been longer, but I believe he went out with a sense of dignity, an appreciation for God’s blessing, and the ability to leave behind a safe, warm home to his son.

Peace Claro. See you again soon. I’ll be looking forward to feasting together at the Lord’s table – and having another round of that fried chicken.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

a day in the life...

We started the day off heading to a meeting with our new landlord in the village of Magdalena. As I walked the streets with my family we noticed our neighbor (named Magdeleno – yes, named after the town) in the street with his grandson, trying to saw a tree stump in half. (typical everyday sights, blocking traffic!)

They were using one of those long old-school saws with handles on both sides, where 2 men push & pull from each end… Magdeleno, who is probably 70 years old or so, was working this saw with incredible strength and agility, but after a couple minutes was clearly exhausted. So I jumped in. The first 90 seconds I was strong as an ox, although the dull saw wasn't doing much. 10 minutes into it I was pretending that I hadn’t completely lost my breath and that my back and shoulders felt wonderful. About 20 minutes later we were sweating bullets but had sawed the stump in half. Victory! Just a typical morning in Guatemala…

Then a short meeting with the landlord, sorting through a list of items…

Off to a key ceremony for a home we had built for the Marroquin family. What an emotional time. Such a privilege to be a part of this home building ministry that God put in the heart of the Journey church community in Jacksonville, FL. So much more than building homes… God is capturing hearts and stirring up this community. We hung out, laughed, shared the gospel, played guitar, sung songs, prayed together, and finally gave this family the keys to their new home. To finish it off, we enjoyed some delicious homemade tamales cooked by Maria Luisa. A beautiful time…

Next we met with our friend Maximo, a crippled man who lost use of his legs 25 years ago following the war. He sits in a wheelchair and carves images into small pieces of wood. We had struck a deal a couple weeks earlier on some of his artwork to sell in the teamhouse. Continuing to define our arrangement, what should have taken 5 minutes ended up taking another 45. (typical Guatemalan style.) Our prayer is that our visitors will buy his items, and in doing so help him sustain a small business…

Then to the next jobsite, which is for a 65 year old man named Claro. We hung out with Claro and the construction team for about an hour, mostly shooting the breeze and goofing around. We did manage to get a small business meeting in, as the construction guys gave me a little “petition” for a pay-raise. God help me use wisdom… are they trying to squeeze me for little more, or are they honestly sharing with me that they should be making a little more? I would truly hate for them to be underpaid. Will be praying on that one...

As we’re leaving the jobsite, we’re approached by a woman asking us to help her son. Brian is 10 years old and has problems in his kidneys, some kind of Hepatitis. He seemed to be in pain. His mom explained the ongoing problem and how they cannot afford to keep taking him to the doctor. We told her we would be praying for him, and considering how we can help. Our friend Mario Mendez, who is a pastor in Magdelena and has lived there his entire life, warned us that these are difficult decisions. He said the people will lie about these things for money, and once you do it the first time, the flood gates will open. Oh God… give us wisdom. I will not adopt a “policy” that confines you and squashes out our ability to let the Holy Spirit lead us. At the same time, we cannot be viewed as the Santa Claus of the village that gives every time we’re approached. I pray for your wisdom Lord. How can we decide who to help without your guidance?

From there, it’s off to visit our friends the Ixcajok’s. 2 hours can slip away in no time hanging out with friends. Luterio attempted to show me he knew a couple songs on the guitar. That was awesome. In tune or not, I loved listening to him sing praise to God while everyone else joked and visited. We played ball, wrestled with the kids, enjoyed lots of conversation – some serious, some light-hearted. These are the relationships we have been praying would form. Thank you Jesus…

Lastly, we’re dropping Amy back off at home, and saw Cesar, Lilian and their daughter Stefani walking along the street. This is a family we built a home for a couple months ago. It was great to catch up with them. A great sense of warmth fills the heart when you receive a hug and the words “we miss you” from a local family. We miss them too, as we haven’t seen them in a couple weeks…

At various points in the day, I felt like time stood still. One of these examples that I remember is while hanging out at Claro’s house, I noticed my son Jake sitting up on a hill with Jorge, one of the construction workers. They were pitching rocks down the hill, and chatting. It looked like a genuine conversation, and Jake was getting along fine with his Spanish. My heart thanked God in that moment for calling us here. I also thanked him for our children – the way they adjust and mold to fit whatever environment God puts them in.

Another time this happened was at the Marroquin family key ceremony. After all of our singing sharing, and celebrating, Maria Luisa asked if she could share something. With tears flowing, she told us how she could have never imagined receiving such a blessing in her whole life, and that the only thing she feels in her heart now is a desire to serve others. Wow… could her response to God’s blessings be any more biblical? Praise God…

At 6:00 it was time to head home – back to San Lucas. As we prepare to relocate this week to the village of Magdalena, we praise God and look forward to living there. It will be great to not have to “drive in” and “drive out.” This is our home. This is where God has called us to live out our faith and embrace community.

There are challenges and struggles ahead, this much I know. But today was a good day.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

transition

For us, one word seems to be congruent with our following of Jesus: transition.

Probably the case with everyone, just in different forms. If it’s not physical relocation, it may be with relationships, trials, spiritual growth, etc. It’s certainly been those for us too.

But it’s also been a lot of physical relocation-style transition.

6 months ago we moved to Guatemala, into the “pueblo” of San Lucas. We know that God placed us in this town with purpose. Friendships were made that were critical in His plan to get us where we are now. Deep relationships were formed that we trust will continue.

We thank God for our initial 6-month transition. We arrived to find that our neighbors (who we love) spoke perfect English, a true blessing when you change cultures the way we did. We lived in a townhome with a washer/dryer and a hot water heater. More tastes of home…

This next transition is yet another step in the direction of immersion in the culture. We long to live amongst the people God called us here to help, in the villages we spend all of our time. The whole deepStream “thing” is that life is ministry – that our ministry flows from our everyday. That God’s timing is not always our own. That ministry is not something we create, or set out to “do.” That we live, and minister, all in the same breath.

So… in order to be true to that belief, we are relocating into the village that we believe God moved us here to work in… live in.

If you’re able to pray for us, here are a couple things to add to whatever else God puts in your heart.

- for God’s protection over our family, and the kids
- for kerrie’s patience and strength to endure a more drastic adjustment
- spanish! without good spanish, we will struggle living in this town, as there are no english speakers
- for the villagers to receive us well

We’ll be making the move over the next 2-3 weeks. Thank you for keeping us in your prayers.