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!