Saturday, December 31, 2011

Milagros and her family need prayers and help


while christmas eve was one of the most fun days i've enjoyed in quite some time with friends and family, it was just the opposite for our friend Milagros and her family. you may remember Milagros... i have blogged about her in the past. we helped her through a tough time a couple years ago when she needed some serious medical attention.

on christmas eve, her husband was robbed and murdered - shot 5 times in the chest.

we walked to the village of Tablon today with the Schmidt's, and a team visiting from memphis, to visit Milagros and her family. together we were able to give her a donation to help off-set some costs they have incurred (burial, morgue, etc). but the needs for this family are just beginning.

PLEASE read more at mark & gina's blog, watch the video mark posted, consider helping out, and most importantly pray for Milagros and her precious family.

"true religion... to look after orphans and widows in their distress..." James 1:27

Sunday, December 25, 2011

the gift of friends


hope you are having a great christmas!

our last couple weeks have been memorable to say the least. we have our dear friends the harmons in town and we have tried to pack as much into 10 days as possible! in addition to quick overnight trips to mynor's coffee plantation and monterico beach, we have had end of season tournaments, ceremonies, and christmas parties for the 30 boys currently in the boy's academy... we have given out dozens of christmas gift "food baskets" to people in need... and yesterday we had the privilege of sharing the news to 21 families that they would be receiving a new home soon thanks the "home for christmas" campaign through the 12x12 love project! finally, last night we had a big christmas party with all of the deepStream families serving together here in guatemala.

for us this christmas we feel especially blessed that the deepStream family in guatemala continues to grow. last night (christmas eve) amidst games, laughs, and fun, it was easy to be thankful for this blessing. while many christmas gifts are temporal, the gift of christian family is eternal. serving together, living, journeying, working, laughing together... are gifts that will never grow old.

we love you all. we miss you all. we appreciate so much your friendship, support, and prayers.

feliz navidad!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Doña Juana


our family has become close with Doña Juana. she doesn't know her age (probably 70-80). she doesn't know any of her living relatives. she is in late stages of cancer, it is literally eating away her flesh (she doesn't have a nose). she lives in the home of one of the families we have built a home for through the 12x12 Love Project, in exchange for watching their kids while they work.

Juana cried hard today as we visited. Kerrie gave her a pair of "fuzzy crocs" to warm her feet, and a nice warm under armour sweater. denea gave her a food basket full of food and goodies from the students of "converge on campus".

she cried, quoted scripture, and shared her heart. most memorable was her quote from matthew 25 when she said "the bible says that what you have done for the least of these, you have done for Jesus... today you have done something very special for Jesus."

it struck me later that night that i have always read matthew 25 from the perspective that i am the one being commanded to love and help the poor... and that Doña Juana reads the same passage from the perspective that she is the poor.

it is a simple yet incredible fact, that in moment such as these - taking care of people that are in need - the scriptures are being fulfilled, lives are being changed, and Jesus himself is receiving the glory.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

worse than a widow


that is what she said... "i am worse than a widow."

she didn't say it in a way that wanted attention, or hoped for any response. she was just saying how she felt.

i have blogged about enrique before. one of our rhinos, he is a precious kid with an unimaginably difficult life. his dad is an abusive alcoholic and his mom works ridiculous hours to take care of the family.

his mom has never asked us for anything. in fact, the only times she has ever walked up to the academy is when we host parent meetings. hesitant and embarrassed, she knocked at the door tonight.

she apologized for the "bother." was clearly nervous. i tried my best to put her at ease. she began to share...

they are completely broke, in debt, and desperate. they have no food. they owe money to the tienda, who has been allowing them to buy food on an "tab" to be paid later. on her last trip to the tienda, they told her they couldn't allow it to continue.

enrique wants to continue studying next year, but there is no way they can afford it. (the only costs are the uniform and school supplies).

that's when she said it. "my husband... all he does is drink. he takes the money i earn for the family, and uses it to get drunk every single day. what am i supposed to do? i work long hours to take care of my children, but he steals the money i earn. he is hurting us. i believe that i am worse off than a widow."

my eyes filled with tears. i asked her what all she owed, and told her we would share her need and do all we can.

enrique will be here tomorrow, like always, for class and practice. he will have his typical sweet smile on his face. this week, his team is walking through the village, giving out food and cookies to their neighbors. knowing enrique, he will do this with joy in his heart, despite the overwhelming needs in his own home.

--------------------

if anyone feels led to help enrique's mom, please send me an email at brockadamjohnson@gmail.com or you can donate through our website here. here are their current needs:

- $270 to the local tienda for their last 3 months for food.
- $75 to cover all costs for the 2012 school year
- any additional donations will be used to buy food for their family

Thursday, December 1, 2011

opportunities in sufferings


a few weeks ago we were elated (a little shocked, but elated!) to find out that kerrie was pregnant. we shared the news with a few people, and began to really get excited about the thought of having another baby. needless to say, our kids were bouncing off the walls ecstatic (i was too!). a few nights ago, kerrie started bleeding and cramping, and sensed that something was wrong. at a doctor's office monday morning, we confirmed that she had miscarried. as if the bad news wasn't enough, this miserable day had just begun. following a couple hours of tears, letting the kids know, and making some arrangements, kerrie had to have an uncomfortable procedure to clean out the remaining placenta... and after 7 hours in a hospital came a bill that we couldn't afford.

very strange to experience such joy followed by such sadness....

we've had a few days to take it in, share as a family, pray, and think. while i consider myself a faith-led person, i have tendencies to be a practical thinker... so i kept trying to figure out why God was taking us through this trial. what can i learn, and how can i grow through this? i wondered if this experience was to help us, especially kerrie, better relate to the many local women who miscarry or lose their newborns. i also wondered if God allowed kerrie's body to reject the pregnancy because it knew something was wrong.

while either or both of those scenarios could be true, in my own quiet time with the Lord i was able to reach a different conclusion. phillipians 4 is so good. most christians know the reference to the "peace of God that transcends all understanding." but guess what allows us to know this amazing peace? its when we rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS, and we are thankful in ALL situations - including the toughest ones. immediately following this verse, paul shares how he has learned to be content in all circumstances... wonderful and miserable.

i have realized that i dont need to know Gods reasons why, as long as i am willing to seek him and grow. strangely, this tragedy has helped our family know God a little bit better. it has helped us strive for contentedness and peace in a tough circumstance. it has made us a little bit more dependent on Him. that alone makes it totally worth it.

over the last 10 years or so of taking God's word seriously, the very biblical idea of joy in suffering has been a mysterious concept that we've been pursuing. honestly, i don't feel like we suffer much at all. in fact, when i compare "where we live", "what we do", and "what we're sacrificing" to the examples given in the bible, i always feel like total B team! i have a friend named Cesar who puts me in my place in this department as well - taking joy in suffering to another level.

but i am learning something. situations such as the one we recently experienced are actually "opportunities". they are opportunities to suffer with joy in a way that can bring glory to our Lord Jesus. they are opportunities that help us prepare for greater sufferings that may come our way. and they are chances for us to gain the Lord's trust in permitting us to suffer for his glory time and time again...

my prayers this week have been riskier than normal (if that even makes sense with an all knowing God!). i am praying for God to trust me with greater suffering. i love God's word... it saved my life! so i am clinging to the constant and mysterious strand throughout scripture where God uses sufferings to glorify himself. all of the saints, the biblical heroes, suffered. they considered it joy to be counted worthy. they realized that their Savior is glorified best through their sufferings.

From Romans 5, The Message:
There's more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we're never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

happy thanksgiving


happy thanksgiving everyone!

we had a great one. spent the morning handing out food baskets to 14 families. they were donated from a family in the U.S. what this family does is donate food baskets to families in need, then for christmas gifts for their own friends & family, they send out a picture of the guatemalan family who received the basket. the christmas card says "this family in need received a basket of food in your name."

how beautiful is that? we've been talking a lot lately about using the christmas season as a time to rebel against the machine of consumerism and instead help those who are suffering around the world. i think this example of doing just that is awesome.

the only thing i wish is that the families receiving the cards & photos could be there when we give the food. to see the faces, hear the stories, and receive the hugs. our morning was full of special moments and it was quite obvious that God used these baskets to help some people in very specifically tough situations. one of which is Maria (pictured here), a single mom struggling to take care of her 5 children.

after that, we got together on this beautiful sunny day with the steeds, leivas, schmidts, and bunsos. mark's brother matt and his family are also in town, and their friend rodri as well. we enjoyed a meal, soccer, football, and hanging out together.

pretty close to a perfect day.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

girls share about cesar


blogging from savannah, GA... we are here for "Faith Promise", a week celebrating the mission work done around the world that is supported by savannah christian church. i was blessed to have a chance to share our story, and about the Rhinos, at their main campus last night. i am thankful and humbled to have had that opportunity.

and my daughters madi (14) and brooke (13) had a chance to share about Cesar with over 400 students at "blitz"! blitz is the middle school youth group at scc who partnered with another family to build Cesar's family a new home last year.

the girls were also asked 1-what is school like in Guatemala? 2-why did your family move to Guatemala? 3-what do you miss about America? and 4-what can you share with the students about following Jesus? we (kerie and i) weren't able to be there b/c we were sharing at other campuses, but everyone told us they did a great job! so proud of them...

having a great time here. feeling loved and encouraged. nice to have a time to reflect, praise God, and thank people. missing our Rhinos, buena vista, and our guate fam.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

for cesar, defying the odds is normal


late sunday afternoon we got a call from andrea that cesar was worsening. she said she had never seen him like this before. he was throwing up, wincing in pain, and unable to sleep. when we got there, he seemed to be slipping in and out of consciousness, his eyes opening for only a moment before nodding off again.

if you have visited us before, you probably met cesar. without going into great detail, i can confidently say that he is the most amazing person that i have ever met. 7 years ago he was given a few days to live - his spine is fusing together and his body is withering away due to an unstoppable degenerative disease.

he fights on... confined to his bed, he shouts out praise songs, gives glory to Jesus, and clings to scripture for his strength. he knows more scripture by memory than you can possibly imagine. it keeps him full of joy and hope. it keeps him going. from his bedside, his faith convicts and challenges all who meet him. often times, it leads people to their eternal salvation.

on this day it seemed to be the end. at one point he said, "this is it, i cant take it anymore." one by one, we all knelt at his bed and said our goodbyes. even his relatives came through, saying what seemed to be their final words.

he faintly quoted scripture. when he would open his eyes, clearly longing for strength to even speak, he would repeat over and over "God is good, and he'll always be good." somehow, as he struggled to stay with us, he began shouting worship songs.

it would be appropriate to say that we could't believe what we were seeing. but because i have been around this man and his family for the last couple years, it simply felt normal. with cesar, he makes radical faith seem normal.

the image that is stuck in my mind is when his little girl joselyn (7) laid on his chest sobbing as he stroked her head and told her that it would all be ok, that he would always be with her, and that God would take care of her.

today at 7:15am my phone rang. when i saw "cesar & andrea" on the caller ID, my heart sank, assuming he had passed away. but she said she was calling b/c cesar wanted her to tell us all thank you, that he was feeling a little better. he said that as all the kids (johnsons, schmidts, bunsos, steeds) came by his bed with words, prayers, and tears, he felt as if angels surrounded him with comfort. andrea said he really just wanted to say thank you to all the gringo kids.

cesar, andrea and their family are fighters. their love for Jesus, for others, and for life itself, is nothing short of incredible. cesar is still in a lot of pain and not sleeping. please join us in prayer for them during this difficult time.

Monday, October 24, 2011

this is why we are here


this is why we are here. all of the long days, emotional roller coasters, crying, working, laughing, worrying, praying, grinding... its all for moments like this.

a couple of our older Rhino's (in the boys academy) chose to give their lives over to Jesus.

this puts in perspective the last 4 months of daily interaction, friendship, struggle, practices, classes, and experiences. sometimes in the daily grind of it all, the bigger purpose of what we're doing can slip my mind. but friday night, around a fire pit on the roof of the bvsa house, it all made sense.

me, mynor, and anthony were sharing about our own walks with Jesus, his love, grace, and the freedom and joy we have in Him. as we talked, Gato (pictured far right) - by far the hardest, toughest, most distant, street kid on the team - broke down. actually "broke down" doesn't begin to do it justice. this was a new experience for me. Gato's heart was literally overcome with pain. he couldn't breathe. as he gasped for air, he leaned over and told me he couldn't take the pain as he tapped his chest over his heart.

his symptoms were as if he was having a heart attack. he needed help. he began to cry. as we prayed over him, he finally gave up. he let go of the life and the image that he was holding on so tightly to. he chose to be free. to give it all to Jesus, and start over.

it was intense and beautiful to experience. anthony, mynor and I knew exactly what was happening - God was literally fighting for this young man's heart, so strongly that he had his head between his knees in pain, gasping for air. but he had to be the one to let go, he had to choose to say yes to the grace of Christ, or to hold on to his sin. he said yes, and he was freed.

another Rhino, Josue (2nd from left), shared with us that he had fallen to the temptation of the world. satan, he said, had many things to offer him, and they were all too strong for him to say no. in tears, he said he wanted to leave it all for Jesus Christ. he confessed that his life of sin only brings temporary happiness, and he longs for true, lasting joy.

i am so amazed that i get to be a part of this. are you kidding me God? i get to be there in the trenches for these battles? what an honor!! thank you! thank you! thank you!

this is what it is all about. this is how the future of this village (and any village for that matter) can be changed and transformed. God, help us disciple these boys well. use these young men to break the generational chains of sin and abuse in this place! we praise you for what you are doing!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

hearts softening


i know i write a lot about the rhinos, our 30 boys who we pray will one day change the entire village of buena vista (www.bvboys.com). they are an amazing bunch of kids, and we dont take lightly each day and each opportunity we have with them.

i think we just experienced a breakthrough.

a team from savannah christian church was here serving, and they did a week long "camp" with the boys. every day was full of activities... interactive games, arts and crafts, drama skits, music, dancing, and much more. we even closed each day with worship songs and prayer.

for us as the staff at bvsa, one thing that we all agreed on was that this week came in God's perfect timing.

we have been spending the last several months getting to know the boys. through schooling, practices, movie nights, and opening our home, we have been seeking to get to know each of them deeper. now we know that God had planned this week in his perfect timing to soften their hearts towards hearing his voice.

i could not believe how they cried tonight. so sad to see their new friends leave, they stood up one by one (voluntarily) and shared how much the week meant to them. some of the comments included "i will miss you so much", "i love you more than my own family", "you have filled us with joy and happiness", and "i will pray for you every day."

God used this wonderful, selfless, and loving team of 12 individuals to soften the hearts of our rhinos. i watched one of the hardest/toughest of our boys break down in tears tonight as he hugged them goodbye.

how exciting for us going forward, to work with these softened hearts and be able to share more with them about the one true hope found in Jesus Christ!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

another unexpected death


have had a broken heart lately. a local man in his 30's named Angel died last week, leaving behind a wife and 3 kids (15, 11, and 9). Angel worked for us on the boy's academy jobsite for the last 5 months that we were under construction. as usual, the family is unsure why he died. from various people, i have heard "bronchitis", "neumonía", "heart problem", and "lung problems." whatever it was, as is the case with so many others who have died here, i can assume that it was something that could have been prevented. which means that it was none of those causes that killed him... rather it was poverty that caused his death. no health insurance, no doctor or hospital visits, no money for medicine, and nobody to help. i just wish we would have known.

when we went down to visit them, Geronima (Angel's wife) was sitting in their house next to the memorial shrine that they had set up in their home. her 15 year old son Edgar sat on the other side of the shrine, crying. we brought food and toys, but what do you say? so we just sat there and shared with them in their sadness. i ended up sharing about Jesus with them. i dont even remember it all, but i hope what they remember is that He is always good, even when we dont understand.

i am reminded - yet again - about the definition of true religion as stated by the apostle James, the brother of Jesus. true religion is caring for the widows and orphans in their distress. as we sat in Geronima's home that day, she asked me in tears, "what are we supposed to do now? our family does not work without Angel. he takes care of us. he does everything for us." if these words dont define a widow's distress, i dont know what does.

I told Geronima and Edgar that our door is always open to them, and to please come to us with any needs they have. i worry that they won't, as they seemed extremely reserved and shy. but we will check in with them regularly, and i will keep praying that God provides for all of their needs.

if you would like to help them out, make a donation by clicking here, and note "for Geronima's family". we will carefully use all donations for them in the most appropriate manner that we can, beginning with food, bills, and daily needs.

Monday, September 26, 2011

more than a trip to mcDonalds


have you ever been to new york city? if so, do you remember the first time you stood in times square and found yourself in awe as you looked around at all the buildings, lights, and billboards?

now imagine what that same experience would be like if you grew up in a small farm town, and this was your first time to ever leave home.

now times that by 100.

that must have been what it was like for our rhinos the other night. we traveled into guatemala city to play against a high profile futbol academy with 4 outdoor-fields with synthetic grass, in a lighted staduim-style atmosphere surrounded by giant billboards on all 4 sides. then (after a tie and a win)..... we took them to mcDonalds.

we confirmed, for every single one of them, it was their first time to guatemala city. this fact is amazing, because from our village of buena vista (which means "good view"), the sights of guatemala city are all these kids have seen since they were born. but from buena vista, the city is a distant, far-away place that they will likely never visit...

each sight captured their attention. the bus ride was shockingly quiet...because they were all glued to the windows, anxious to take everything in. when we entered the stadium, it was easy to sense their mixed emotions of excitement and nervousness. they all must have used the bathroom 3 times before we played.

but it was the trip to mcDonalds that i will never forget (link to short video below). as i sat back and watched these boys enjoy a happy meal and play in the playplace - something most of us consider completely normal - i couldn't stop my eyes from watering. my mind kept drifting back to their village, and their living conditions. the thought of their families... and how they were doing something in this very moment that none of their parents had done in their whole lives.

as we ate, my wife and i sat there speechless, just taking it in. surrounded by people (ourselves included) who completely take for granted a mcDonalds meal, God was giving 15 boys from the poor village of Buena Vista a moment that would forever be lodged in their memory.

as if the moment wasn't special enough, most of the boys saved half of their meal so that they could take it home and share it with their families. the next day at bvsa, they all told us that their parents said to thank us.

i feel blessed to be a part of something groundbreaking that God is doing in this place. not that it has anything to do with traveling to the "big city" or eating at mcDonalds... but in the process of all that is happening, generational chains of poverty are going to be broken, and brighter futures await.

quick thank you to lindsey - a 24yr old girl who is visiting - for sponsoring the 15 happy meals.

check out this short video from our trip to mcDonalds!!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

SEEDS: baseball, wrestling, school, girls, and soccer


this afternoon our property was littered with neighborhood boys. there were a few rhinos (members of the academy), but most were other neighborhood kids who live nearby. one of which is a known antagonist of our program, who constantly heckles me and our boys. he was standing outside the gate so i invited him in. i have made the mistake in the past of engaging his comments and spouting back at him... so today i had the opportunity to try another approach... invite him in to hang out and play some ball.

there were no breakthroughs, but we had a good time. my daughter brooke accidentally drilled him in the mouth with a baseball, which i thought was pretty funny. being about 15-16 years old, he was clearly embarrassed, so he laughed it off as well...

at one point me and a few of the older boys found ourselves sitting up on the balcony hanging out as the others played below. he (the antagonist) was up there with us. we all talked about school, girls, and soccer. again, no breakthroughs... but maybe some foundation laid for the future.

one thing i know is that God's promises are true. we are called to love the poor in the name of Jesus. i know that if i do that for these boys, it will not return void. i believe that every seed planted in His name will eventually return fruit, even if we never see it for ourselves. today, a few "seeds" took the shape of teaching kids to throw a baseball, play football, wrestling in the grass, and hanging out on the balcony talking about school, girls, and soccer...

we should all take advantage of our moments to plant seeds. the opportunities are all around us, all day long...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

blessed by the moreau's... again...


recently we were visited (again) by the moreau family from lake city, FL. do you have people in your life that simply leave you speechless because of how generous they are? thankfully we have several... and the moreau's are certainly one of them.

they have come to guatemala every 3 months for the last couple years. they have blessed countless guatemalan families with houses, kitchens, stoves, and water projects. they sponsor the education for several local kids, and bless widows with new roofs and kitchens. they have fed more families than i can possibly count.

in addition to all of that, they bless us. not only with needs and finances, but with love and encouragement. their friendship is real... its the kind that encourages you when you need it, shares truth when necessary, and always leaves you wanting to be a better person.

while the moreau's have given thousands of dollars and countless hours to directly help the poor in their time of need, they also have a tendency for blessing our ministry in "behind the scene" ways that don't have as much emotion, or feel-good involved. they buy ministry vehicles, lawn mowers, car parts and paint. these are the things that are difficult for "missionaries" to keep up with or ask for because of the awkward nature of the expenses.

think about it... someone donates $100, feeling led to bless the poor... and we reply with something like "wow, this was amazing timing because we really need a new tailgate for the ministry truck!" don't exactly walk away feeling warm and fuzzy, right?

but thankfully the moreau's (and others) know that these things keep us here, working more efficiently, allowing us to keep the ministry efforts alive... all of which are focused on blessing and serving the poor in the name of jesus christ.

during their las trip, we celebrated a weight room that the moreau's donated for the boys academy. even though they have no desire for recognition, we had a little plaque made to show our thanks... not just for the weight room, but for the unwavering support and friendship.

having great friends makes me want to be a better friend to others.

thanks moreau's.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

wonderful & dark... more on robinson


finally got a chance to meet robin's mom. is it possible to describe our time together as wonderful and dark?

robin's mom is precious. she shared her struggles and fears with us. since her husband died, she has been in survival mode. raising 5 kids, working from 4am to 8pm. paying for her oldest who is studying to be a mechanic, and prepared to pay for her next oldest to continue his studies as well. she grinds away every day, just to keep them afloat.

recently she received death threats from someone that apparently knows her. they would follow her and her family (knew what they were wearing that day, etc) and said that if they didnt pay them a certain amount of money they would kill her and her son. this type of extortion is common here. but to bring it upon a widowed woman fighting for the survival of her family infuriates me. sadly, the longer we live here, digging in, the more of this unheard of darkness we see (or hear about) in many of the people.

robin's mom told us that she pretty much "stays" scared. says she cant sleep some nights.

on this day we had brought her a giant food basket with approximately a month's worth of food. we also had friends visiting who after hearing her story offered to pay for the oldest boys schooling for 2012. her response was simply: "God hasn't forgotten me."

james 1:27 says that true religion is caring for widows and orphans in their distress. i would say "distress" would define the last decade of this particular widow's life. God, help me practice religion that is pure and faultless.... help my family be a blessing to this woman and her family.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

robinson


robinson goes by robin... he is one of my favorite kids. he talks a lot - enough to drive kerrie and walda crazy on most days. but his constant chatter is always upbeat, joyful, and funny. during some down time with robin recently, he shared with me about his dad. years ago, his dad was killed by some bad men trying to rob somebody's home. robin's dad responded to the lady's call for help, and ended up dead on her front porch.

robin is now 11. his older brother castulo, now 18, took on the role of provider & protector. robin speaks highly of his big bro. "he took care of us when my dad died, and he still does. he is a good person. and he is the best goalie in all of buena vista."

we invited castulo to play on our men's team. not just because of robin's glowing recommendation, but as a way to connect with him. in addition to finding out that robin was right about his soccer skills, we also found a bigger version of robin with a permanent smile glued to his face.

robin also told me that ever since his dad died, his mom has had to work double-time. she leaves home between 4:30 and 5:00 in the morning and doesn't make it home until 7pm. in fact at our last 2 parents meetings, it was castulo who came to represent robin.

i can't imagine how difficult robin, castulo, and their other brothers and sisters lives are. and what explains the joy they maintain? what else could explain it other than our mysterious God who can make joy out of sadness, and use all things for good. for us at bvsa, all we can do is pour our love, time, energy, and resources into kids like these and trust God to glorify himself in the process.

i believe the sky is the limit for kids like robin and his brother. they have taken on a serious load of responsibility at a young age. they have learned to be men at the age that most kids are still whining about what's on their plate for dinner. they learn to work, cook, and provide when most kids their age are wasting away hours per day in front of a tv or video games.

kids like these, after overcoming such circumstances, are incredibly tough and savvy...prepared to handle whatever comes their way. sadly though, in places of such poverty, the opportunities just aren't there. we are doing all we can to make sure that is not the case for robin, and others like him here in buena vista guatemala...

oh, if you didn't notice... robin is playing goalie in the picture to the right (and he is a stud). to me, that just makes sense, since his brother is his hero.

www.bvboys.com

Sunday, August 21, 2011

going away to the mountains


jesus took breaks and went away to the mountain. i cant even imagine how chaotic his world was, and how necessary it must have been. even in my little world, these short breaks are a must do from time to time.

this one came as the result of a celebration of my old man's 60th birthday. we (his boys and son in law) were honored to find out that when my mom asked him what he would like for his birthday, he said a "guys trip with my boys and grandsons."

so we all met in LA where my brother lives, and drove 5-6 hours north to the yosemite national park, home of the tuolomne river. a 150 mile river set in the heart of the sierra nevada, the beauty of this place totally caught me off guard. we whitewater rafted incredible rapids, hiked, rock climbed, and slept on the river banks under open skies lit up by the milky way and meteor showers.

for me personally, in addition to the great time with my pops, bro's, and nephews, this was some special father-son time. jake and i are extremely close, we are best buds and do pretty much everything together. but it is always different when you "get away" together and do "guy stuff." in addition to all the adrenaline-filled-fun, we shared some great quiet moments together - praying and reading the bible. there were some very memorable moments and breakthroughs that i dont think we'll ever forget.

we arrived back in guatemala today. even tired from the long day of travel, i feel refreshed. excited to get back to life. thankful for the opportunity to hang with family, go deeper with my son, and to get away to the mountains.

click here to see some more pics from our trip...


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

photos from tournament weekend


CLICK HERE to see a bunch of photos from our first tournament with the BVSA Rhinos!!!

Also includes pics from our big spaghetti dinner and movie night with all 30 boys...

Monday, August 1, 2011

what a weekend



friday: two 2 hour training sessions, followed by a huge spaghetti dinner with all 30 rhinos, followed by a movie night (karate kid) with all 30 boys!

saturday: our first tournament! we were invited to play in a tournament in san lucas celebrating the grand opening of some new short-court (futsala) fields. we divided our boys up into 4 teams, and had nonstop games from 12:45am to 7:00pm. it was an incredible day, all 4 teams played great - 2 of the 4 advanced to their finals and 1 of them won their championship.

sunday: we had a team from arkansas in town (mynor's brother's church) and they scrimmaged against our rhinos.

needless to say, we are exhausted....

a weekend of firsts...
it was a great weekend in many ways. for many (most) of the boys it was their first time eating spaghetti, first time watching a movie, first time in a car, and first time in another city. when we pulled up to the fields, there was a huge crowd of people, music blasting, a live DJ, etc, etc... our boys were wide-eyed but we were very proud of how they kept their composure.

one thing we were all amazed by was their toughness on the field. being more on the "indigenous side", our boys were much smaller (and darker skinned!) than the rest of the players...but we out hustled and out-fought. clearly not "fitting in", many people throughout the day asked who we were and where we were from. it was an all around great experience for them!

one thing we realized toward the end of the tournament was that our boys were playing up in each age category. so we were playing against kids 2-3 years older than us in every grouping! that being considered we could not be prouder.

oh, and just as a side note, our two gringo boys played great too (my son jake and the schmidt's boy eli). they each scored goals, and played tough.

ok, i have bragged enough. thanks for listening....

Saturday, July 23, 2011

can we stay and play in the grass?


sitting here on a saturday night, downloading pictures onto my computer from the last week, and noticing how many are from the boy's of bvsa hanging out on the property after practices and classes. i love that they love being here. usually we have to tell them its time to go because either its getting late or kerrie and i have to leave! in fact today is saturday and they have been knocking all day asking to play. right now as i type a few of the boys and one of the neighborhood girls are playing in the grass with our kids. kerrie and i are enjoying watching them play...

the grass has been a real blessing. once the boys kept starting to ask to "play in the grass" all the time, we started thinking about how little grass is in buena vista. we had never thought about it before unless jake and i were wanting to go hit or throw baseball, and had to go find a park in another place. for the most part, buena vista is only dust and concrete. we are so thankful to those who donated to grass the property....

we are making memories, building relationships, setting foundation for all that God has to come!

here's a little video of the kids enjoying the property, playing with our kids, and dog piling anthony!!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

looking back...


crazy... i just came across the letter we sent out to family & friends back in june of 2008, explaining what God was doing in our hearts and our intention to move to guatemala. having been here almost 3 years now, i am in awe - again - at how amazing God is... and how he longs for us to surrender and follow... check out these excerpts from the letter:

"Two months ago, our family visited Guatemala for a week and we fell in love with the people. We saw the tremendous needs...we were able to love beautiful children who were longing to be hugged... we were able to take part in home-building projects... we met local christians desiring to bring sports and activities to the poor neighborhoods.. we left Guatemala longing to come back, our hearts and minds spinning with thoughts and ideas...

Each of us (our family) believe fully with our collective heart and soul that God is calling us to serve and live amongst the poor in Guatemala. We would be naïve to suggest that we know every detail God has for us, but what little he has already shown us is enough for now...

For now, we are simply responding to the unmistakable voice of Jesus, saying “go and see what I have for you.” Through whatever vehicle God provides, our desire is to help transform communities where poverty has stolen the hope, joy, and life from the people. These are communities we have seen for ourselves. We believe that once we get there, learn the language, and seek God’s path for us, he will give us specific avenues to make that vision a reality!"

for me to read those words right now is breathtaking. seeing how he has blessed our desires, because they matched up with His own heart. the sentence where we shared our "desire to transform communities where poverty has stolen the hope, joy, and life"... is precisely what we pray to see happen through ministry to the boys of bvsa!

and to re-read about our connection with mynor, bringing sports to poor communities, and even the connection with home building projects... all pretty amazing in hindsight. at the time we sent that letter out, we could never have imagined...

as kerrie and i read that letter again tonight we were blown away! praising God tonight for his faithfulness...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

there is hope for enrique


last friday, enrique (pictured here) began crying during conditioning drills in practice. by the time we got to the bottom of it, we determined that he hadn't eaten all day, and was now being pushed physically and experiencing a migrane headache. after a nutrition bar and some gatorade, he was ready to go.

yesterday after practice, enrique approached us in tears, and explained that he could not continue in the academy. things had gotten tough at home, and his family needs him to take on a job to help out. if he works from every day after school until 6pm, he could earn Q10 per day (just over $1). i will never forget coming around the corner and seeing anthony on his knees bear hugging this sobbing child and praying God's peace over him.

today we went to visit enrique's home. when i walked into the rough, dirty, dark home, i immediately recognized his dad. the only times i had seen him before he was belligerently drunk. in fact, his own mom and sister had apologized to me in the past, saying "don't listen to him, he is always like this."

as we shared with the dad about enrique - how well he is doing, how sharp of a kid he is, and how much potential he has - the dad smiled. he told us how good of a boy enrique is, and how respectful. he assured us he could continue in the program. we need to talk to enrique's mom - it seems clear that the dad is absent and she is the one providing for the family (she works every day from 5am to 7pm).

we (myself, mynor, and anthony) all got the feeling that enrique's dad was simply telling us what we wanted to hear. but at one point he looked at enrique, took a deep swallow, and with tears in his eyes, told him "enrique, the truth is, i don't want you to become like me." it was clearly hard for him to say this.

later that day we were talking with enrique. we reinforced how good of a kid he is, how much we love him, and how much jesus loves him... and that with jesus, he has hope. we agreed to pray for his dad and their family. i also told him that he we are always here to talk to, and he can share anything, anytime... that we are here to help.

thats all it took... with tears in his eyes, this precious boy shared how his dad gets violent when he drinks. "he hits my mom, and he hits all of us."

enrique is an incredibly sweet boy. he is in 6th grade. young enough to be led, shaped, and taught. his heart is very soft.

i believe enrique exemplifies why God created this boy's academy. without help, without somebody loving enrique towards something different, what ever stops him from becoming his father? the reality is (and odds are) that enrique is just a few years away from being an abusive drunk. this is the case because it is all he knows. it is a vicious cycle.

i pray for enrique, his family, his dad. i commit to be here for him. to tell him (and the others like him) about jesus, love, and hope... for as long as it takes. God, help me love these boys as my own... help all of us who are working with them to be patient with them, and lead them to you.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

stealing and growing


finding the need to blog more frequently... so much is happening everyday and i dont want to forget! i always love going back and reading old entries and being reminded of all God is doing and has done...

background: we believe God wants us to help the boys nutritionally, so we have started a cliff bar ministry. every day after practice, the boys get a cliff bar - to help recover from their workout. more than that, this bar is loaded with good stuff and is by far the best thing each of these kids eat all day long. most of them eat only two meals per day, both of which are usually tortillas. its the cheapest and most practical way to get full...

each day there are 15 bars on the table outside the gym after practice. today we had one come up missing, so one boy missed out on his bar. mynor and I gathered all the boys in the lockeroom - no one leaving until we figure this out.

we explained that we all make mistakes, we all sin. if the guilty one speaks up, there will be no punishment. "coach mynor" then interjected... and if not, we're all running until everyone pukes - today, tomorrow, and each day going forward, until we figure it out.

after a little more talking & encouraging, one of the boys, Luver, pulled the stolen bar out of his bag. we could see in his eyes that he was extremely nervous, burning inside.

unexpectedly and beautifully this led to a conversation about Jesus and the cross. we celebrated Luver's decision, and explained to the boys that this is what the cross - the blood of Jesus - is all about. we all steal cliff bars (sin in different ways), and the cross allows us to come before our God of Grace, repent, and be cleansed.

after the team meeting, mynor and I had a moment with Luver outside. we shared with him that he did a couple of things today, one bad and one great... and that the GREAT one completely erased the bad one! we told him we loved him, that Jesus loves him, and that no matter what else is going on in his life, no matter what other sins or darkness, it can all be cleansed at the cross.

after a couple long and tight hugs (something men dont do to boys in this village), Luver walked away with giant tears in his eyes.

i have been praying for Luver ever since. praying that he knows Jesus better, maybe experienced His true nature the first time. as mynor and i talked afterwards, we both sensed by the way he was looking at us that he was waiting to get smacked. knowing a little bit about his family life, that would probably make sense. we could both see the fear in his eyes as we spoke with him.

but what he got instead was something he had likely never experienced before. grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, and a hug.

i can't judge Luver. he very likely could have been trying to take something good to eat home for his mom or brothers. i cannot relate to being hungry so i cannot assume that i wouldn't do the same thing. but i can point this young man to a God who upholds honesty and righteousness, no matter what the circumstances. and i can point him to a God who knows all of his needs, and can meet every last one.

i just pray that Luver continues his journey towards Jesus, and for my own sensitivity and patience to be a help along that journey. will you pray for him too?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

reflecting...Jose and more


most of us grew up playing sports or other activities. i couldn't even try to count how many teams i was on, how many "seasons" all with uniforms, equipment, and half-time snacks. it was so common that, even for an avid lover of sports, i'm sure i took it for granted.

i can't even imagine how different it would be if i had grown up here, in the village of buena vista guatemala. take Jose for example. jose has never owned a ball much less hopped from season to season, sport to sport with new uniforms, shoes, and equipment for each one. Jose takes care of himself all day. he doesn't go to school, instead passing his days on the streets, usually getting into trouble. he has a mom, but hardly ever sees her. his dad died years ago.

Jose has never taken a shower or a bath (at least the way we think of them). he has an old concrete sink outside his house that his family shares with other families. it gets refilled every other day with ice cold water. to bathe, Jose and the others stand outside the sink in their underwear and splash water on themselves. this scheduled "cleaning day" happens once a week.

for a bathroom, jose's family shares a concrete hole with 2 other families. i have never seen toilet paper there.

ADVOCATE: an intercessor, a person who pleads the cause for another.

the boy's academy has allowed us to be the advocate for Jose and many others. Jose now showers under hot water with soap and shampoo at least 3 times per week. he uses toilets that flush. he has a private locker with "JOSE" on the front, equipped with his jersey, shorts, shoes, socks and underwear. at the academy, Jose has his own desk and school supplies, and is beginning to learn how to read and write.

i don't mean to glorify the material things that the boys are receiving, that is not the point. (in reality, it is the love and affection they receive that is infinitely more valuable.) but the thought of it all does overwhelm me. when i think about my own childhood, or that of my own kids for that matter, where it is "normal" to have these basic things and so much more. i just cannot imagine how Jose and the boys must feel, coming from where they come from, and receiving all of this at once.

thats why this one particular day was overwhelming. it was the second week since we opened the academy, and all the boys were receiving their equipment bag with all of their gear. we had our friends in town, the youngs and hults families. we called each boy's name and they came up, received their duffle bag, bathroom kit, socks, shorts, jersey, shin guards, and shoes. they tried to play cool but the smiles said it all...

then came their moment... fully dressed, first time in new soccer shoes, they entered their gymnasium together as a team. we all watched with chill bumps. we could sense the excitement and their hearts exploding from their chests!!

i made a little video that doesn't even capture a fraction of what it felt like.

please pray for us, pray for Jose and the others, and for the future of this place!

Monday, July 11, 2011

fun with the boys


hanging out after tutoring with the varsity boys today. as is often the case when guys hang out, somebody ends up getting their head shaved....

i love the opportunities before and after classes & practices, to hang out and get to know these boys...

always read more about what's going on at www.bvboys.com

bienvenidos wideners!


on thursday, anthony and denea widener arrived in guatemala on one-way tickets! they are committing a year to serve here and jumped out of the gates ready to go on day one... fridays are set aside specifically for strength training at BVSA and anthony knows a little bit about that... so he led both sessions, JV and varsity, with two 2-hr training sessions.

denea got started this morning helping out walda and kerrie in the education center and is already getting to know the boys. i am so pumped about their arrival here... and looking forward to all God has for them, the boys, and all of us.

Friday, July 8, 2011

first 2 weeks at BVSA


we now have a couple of weeks under our belt at the Buena Vista Sports Academy for Boys. it has been nothing short of amazing, at least to me...

we have a rough & tough roster of 30 young men that we have started to get to know. there are orphaned kids, abused kids, kids with absent parents, kids who work full time jobs, and kids who were raised on the streets. these boys are tough. i would not want to be the "other team" if a brawl ever breaks out during a game...

at the same time, under the tough skin and hardened hearts, there are sensitive boys full of potential. in only a few weeks some basic things have become obvious, and given us so much hope for them. at the Academy, the boys feel like somebody. they love being here, and i believe that is because the feel some self worth. here they feel loved and appreciated.

there is one 17yr old young man who has a particularly tough-guy image. i have intentionally put my hand on his shoulder or neck during impromptu team meetings (like a do my own son), simply to show him some affection, that he is loved. i have not had any idea how he felt about this until today, when he gave me a hug goodbye. i was shocked. you would be too if you knew this kid.

to me, this is ground-breaking, bigtime stuff. this is the beginning. there is a long road ahead, but i believe it will be a road full of hope, laughs, tears, challenge, and joy. all for your glory, Jesus.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

finally


today we hiked up a crazy mountainous path through a beautiful rainforest to a visit a family. they live in a remote area, completely separated from anyone else. a local friend who took us to them described them as "abandoned".

when we got there, they were thrilled and amazed to see us. each member of the family, as they introduced themselves, said "we have never had visitors here before."

we shared about the ministries that we have here, and that we wanted to help them. we told them we would do what we can, and we will share with others about their needs, etc...

most touching was the old man (pictured here)... 72 years old, his wife passed around 10 years ago. he now lived with his son and 2 daughters, and all of their spouses and their kids. here's what he said before we left...

"God has shown me by your visit that he hasn't forgotten us. He knows our needs. We are all his children, poor and rich. Finally, he has shown us that we are not forgotten." when we prayed together, he fell to his knees and sobbed.

the entire thing was emotional, but what struck me was the way that he said "finally." i got the impression his 72 years have been tough. the 10 years since his wife dies probably tougher. he feels forgotten. abandoned, just as my friend had told me. maybe he hasn't received much help in his life. our visit gave him the chance to take a deep breath and say, "finally, thank you God."

is it not absolutely insane and amazing that we get the opportunity to be that for somebody? that God uses us to remind someone that he loves them... that he has not forgotten them! what a privilege!

He has blessed us so that we can be a blessing to others. i pray that as we help this family they do not see us at all, but only the awesome God that sent us to them. my son Jake described it by saying that we are like "the mailman"... the blessings are sent by God, but we get to deliver them. how beautiful is that...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

shoes


growing up in the states, and playing all the major sports, having the right shoes was always a big deal to me. they needed to be the right style, right brand, and fairly new in order for me to play my best. one thing that always amazes me when i watch the buena vista boys play soccer is how good they play in light of the shoes they are wearing.

many of the kids showed up to tryouts wearing rubber boots, or dress shoes. black dress shoes are mandatory for school, so for many of the boys that is the only pair they own. one kid showed up in an old pair of slip on crocs with bailing line tied around them to keep them on.

to see pics of the various shoes worn to tryouts, click here and scroll down to the photo gallery titles "shoes worn to tryouts".

i am looking forward to getting our boys into some high quality soccer shoes. thankfully we have friends donating indoor soccer shoes as well as cleats to the team! as good as these kids play in rubber boots, i expect they will play even better with a sweet pair of nikes.

oh - the kid in the tied up old crocs had a great tryout and made the team... so we'll be replacing those for him soon!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

JV team established


i will write more on the bvsa website soon, with pictures and more info. but wanted to share that we officially selected the JV rhinos. (we will have 2 teams of 15, a JV and a varsity.) we made the decision to change from 24 boys to 30, which i will explain more on that later as well...

what a day!! while we expected to need one more day to trim down to the final roster, both mynor and I had the same final 15 on our lists, so we decided there was no reason to wait!

with tears in his eyes, mynor told the 15 how proud he was of them, and how this was the culmination of months of preparation. hiding back a few of my own, i shared my own joy, and how so many people are behind them, praying for them, and supporting them. as hard as it was to make so many cuts, it was a amazing day!

these 15 are the JV rhinos!!

click here for more pics from tryouts...

Friday, June 10, 2011

tryouts day 1


i have stood on the current site for the buena vista boys academy almost every day for the last year. (in was in june 2010 when the money was donated for the land, and august when we broke ground.) but today was different. today, it was full of kids for the first time.

during orientation for the first group, i tried to hide my emotion. it was a little bit harder during the second group. as mynor and I shared with the 50 or so kids in that group, that they are the future of this village, i noticed my son jake and mark & gina's boy eli - listening intently. it struck me that they too could very well be the future of this village. i saw their faces, no less nervous and excited than the rest of the boys. for some reason in that moment, it all hit me pretty hard.

it was a great day. the first round of cuts were tough, many boys that we love won't come back tomorrow. we assured them that we would have plenty of leagues and activities for them soon.

tomorrow is day 2. we expect it to be more intense, and more difficult to evaluate. sunday we will round out the tryouts and pick the final team. will keep you all updated...

thanks for the prayers.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

los rinos de buena vista


during the recent inauguration of the buena vista sports academy for boys (more here) we announced the team name for the official 24 boy roster we will carry - the Buena Vista Rhinos (or, Los Rinos de Buena Vista). in case you don't know why we use the rhino so frequently, here is a quick summary...

2 facts: rhinos cannot see beyond 30 feet. rhinos can run between 30-40mph.

those 2 facts together make no sense! could you imagine driving 40 mph in your car and not seeing 30 feet ahead of you?

but what makes the rhino special is that he will not run top speed alone. a pack of rhinos is called a "crash" - because when they get together, they run their hardest, without any concern for what lies ahead. they know that, together, they can run through anything.

what we are trying to do with the next generation of leaders in buena vista at times seems impossible. our hope is to lead these boys to break generational cycles of abuse, absence, and spiritual emptiness. many dad's beat their wife and kids because they have never seen a man in their life who didn't. the root of the problems run deep.

as we spend the next years digging in and attempting to bring life, hope, and grace in Jesus name to these future men, they will need each other in order to stay strong. that's where the rhino concept comes in.

just like the lead rhino runs hard, leading the pack, encouraging the others to run harder... these boys will look to their "lead rhinos" to push them. while we (mynor, myself, others) will take on that role of "lead rhino" in the beginning, our prayer will be that leaders begin rising up within. then as life's journey moves along, the lead rhino will naturally change, allowing various teammates to step up and lead while their loyal crash runs hard alongside them.

i pray that these boys will become a "rhino crash" - running hard for Jesus, growing together in their faith, and leaning on one another as they face their community together... a group of young men who love the Lord and their neighbors, work hard, respect women, and live lives of integrity.

eventually, may the influence of the rhino crash of buena vista spread like wildfire and have a transformational impact in this place.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

real, honest community


the bible has a lot to say about community. especially after jesus died, rose, again, and returned to inspire his disciples to launch the original church. there in the book of acts we can read about the early church community life.

you get the feel that people helped one another, sacrificed for one another, and loved one another deeply. and you don't get the impression that people were protective of their stuff, time, and space.

a few days ago we were walking around buena vista with some friends. as we walked by the front door of a sweet elderly family, they asked if we wanted to stop in for a visit. so about 12 of us packed into their house... they offered as many tortillas & salt as we could eat.

as we were leaving after about a half hour of stories and laughs, a thought struck me. imagine sitting in your home and seeing 12 people from another country walking by your home (maybe from india, mexico, or china?). is there any chance you would stop them, say hello, and invite them in for a snack?

sure, we do it all the time now that we live here as missionaries... but it is thoughts like these that make me want to rewind the clock to when i lived in the states.

these very simple and poor folks in guatemala continue to teach me about real, honest community.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

challenge/blessing of no internet


i can't believe its been a month since my last blog. we have not had internet for almost that long, and it has been tough to keep up. we should be (God willing) getting internet within the next week or so...

as much as i miss having internet, i love not having it.

we need it for several reasons: reconciling finances for dSg, bvsa, 12x12, etc. is a full time gig all by itself. updating websites & videos, and communicating blessings, needs, and updates are all very important for us to do what we do. i also love reading other people's blogs, seeing pictures, and being encouraged & blessed by so many of you. and of course, our kids need to be online almost daily for school.

but... i am also becoming more aware of how much time is purely wasted online. without having internet i have read my bible more, spent more time with my kids, talked more with my wife, and been less distracted in general. we also haven't had TV during this time (not as big of a deal as we dont watch much anyway). but without both of those options, i am not tempted to entertain myself during that split second of "free time" at night when i typically grab the computer or the remote control.

for me this is a weakness that i want to work on. i pray that what God has already showed me through this will help me organize my time better, and reduce unnecessary hours of meaningless browsing/watching. its easy for me to justify myself by saying its no big deal... its not like i am "sinning" or doing anything terrible, right? but that is a lame excuse i use that ultimately hinders me from growing in my walk with Christ. as he encourages us towards righteousness, and becoming more Christ-like, it is our responsibility to work on things that are obstacles on that journey.

do you have similar weaknesses? facebook? magazines? tv shows? lets encourage one another not to waste hours/days/years of our lives entertaining ourselves meaninglessly. our lives are too short... our time is borrowed... and God has much to do through us.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

pray for emily


asking for prayer for this sweet little 3yr old girl. her mom just brought her to our home, not knowing what else to do. she was in tears.

we think she has psoriasis, but not totally sure. it is very strange for a 3yr old to contract, but the symptoms, etc, seem to match up in every way. we are trying to confirm the diagnosis and get medicines, etc. you can help by praying for her, or offering any assistance, advice, etc.

TO SEE PICTURES OF EMILY, CLICK HERE

her name is emily and her entire body is completely covered in these sores. it started about 5 months ago and has spread rapidly.

while its easy for me to get frustrated at the parents for waiting so long to do anything, i have to remember that i cannot understand what it must be like to not have the means to do anything. it is not their fault. poverty destroys.

the good news is that the love of Jesus conquers all things. wherever you are today... go help somebody that can't help themselves. in the name of genuine Christianity, be their advocate. love radically...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

update on cruz


we are so happy and blessed to report this news. i dont think it could be any better. the brain doctor who was here from tampa studied the mri and ekg tests and quickly told us that the cyst is completely irrelevant. he said it is on a part of the brain that literally is unaffected by it... that it will not grow or ever have any impact on him. he said that it is not the cause of his fainting or convulsions - that those are from a neurological issue that can be maintained with the medicine he is taking. he wanted to be certain that cruz and his parents understand that this is VERY GOOD NEWS and that he can go back to school, study, and play in every why like a completely normal kid without any concerns whatsoever.

it makes me sad that they have been scared for so long, without the ability to get a solid diagnosis. i can't imagine living in that fear that something major was wrong with my child, but not knowing what it all meant. at the same time, i am praising God that he intervened and allowed us to be an advocate in this situation.

so... with the help we received for him from our friends howard & dawn, we are planning to continue helping with the medicine and eventually get him to a pediatric neurologist to monitor things. chris and i had a great day with them today, full of conversations about faith, God, church, etc. they are an incredibly sweet and seemingly genuine family. afterwards we celebrated at pizza hut (i asked cruz if he could eat anything he wanted what would it be... and he said pizza). we walked around a mall for a bit looking for a pharmacy, which was quite the experience for them. (they had never been in a car before last week, so a mall probably resembled another planet.) but it was a great time and we are thankful that they are sleeping in peace tonight. praise our sweet and awesome God!

attaching a pic of cruz at the mall. thanks for your prayers!

Friday, April 1, 2011

pray for cruz


cruz is a 9 year old boy with a cyst on his brain.

after several visits to our home asking for help, his mom finally brought the xrays, ekg, and mri results for us to look at. not that we knew what we were looking at... but her point was so that we would believe her.

we explained that we never doubted her... its just hard to respond to every knock we get at our door. we get several per day, each with important needs. but something was different with her. she was genuine, and she was clearly at the end of her rope.

very long story made very short:

cruz has been diagnosed with a cyst on his brain. he has convulsions, and passes out frequently. he has terrible headaches. he's only 9 years old.

the problem is, the family sold almost everything they owned of value in order to pay for the first round of tests. their beds, tv, radio, etc... and they have no more money to even sustain the medicine that helps the headaches.

we recently visited cruz and his family with a group of friends from journey church. when one of the families returned home to the US, they couldn't get him off their mind. they contacted us, sent money, and offered to cover whatever is needed to help make cruz well.

i remembered that the father of one of my daughter's classmate's is a doctor, so i asked brooke to see if he would call me. he called right away, and offered to see cruz immediately. yesterday, we took him to his office...

the doc confirmed the diagnosis. he said he knew of a group of neurosurgeons that are in town from the US, helping kids who need surgeries. he made a call and found out today was the last day they could see him for evaluation. he told them that we would be coming. when he hung up the phone, he yelled out "how big is our God!!"

chris and julio (his spanish teacher) picked up cruz and his family at 4:15am this morning and headed to the city... he was evaluated, and has an appointment this sunday at 11:00, during which they will determine if his case is accepted. if so, he could be operated on as early as monday or tuesday!!

please keep this in prayer! we believe God connected us with this boy and his family.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

car sales supporting bvsa


as 2010 came to a close, we were praying (and sweating!) about how we were going to support the boy's academy on a monthly basis. we had the leiva family starting full time starting jan 1, with more bills soon to follow. in addition to 2 one-time gifts that came in, what happened within a 2 week span was really cool.

inside a 2 week span i met 2 different guys that God led to support the boy's academy. one owns a used car lot and the other runs a large dealership. they do not know one another, and live in different states. the way that each of them came to the decision to support the ministry is awesome... and only God...

one of the guys, after a visit to Guatemala, decided to give $25 to guatemala from car his company sells. he decided that at the end of each month he would send the total from that month's sales to the boy's academy!

the other guy, being stretched in the area of finances, had recently made the decision together with his wife to initiate a salary cap for their family. they determined a reasonable amount to live on, and committed to give everything away that they earn above their established cap. through talking it over with their pastor, they decided to help support the boy's academy with a large chunk of the money they earn above their salary cap!

both of these guys now know, but at the time they didn't... that as God was touching their hearts to give to the boy's academy, the leiva family was struggling with stepping out in faith to work as full-time missionaries. it was during the same week that the leiva's decided to trust God and leave their careers that i heard from both of these guys regarding their decisions!!!

these stories are so worthy of our praise!! we were praying, as were the leiva's, for this support to come... but we could have never imagined how God was going to make it happen. what a beautiful example of his faithfulness, and of his church stepping up when called!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

love wins - new book by rob bell


b/c of technology, living in a third world country doesn't remove you fully from the hubbub. while i haven't read rob bell's new book "love wins: a book about heaven, hell, and the fate of every person who ever lived", in the last 3 days i have read several reviews and also watched a few of his interviews. having not read it yet, i can only say so much. but based on the excerpts and the interviews, i can comment a little...

i like rob bell's stuff. i have been encouraged by his teaching over the years. he is passionate for the poor, and devoted to rethinking church in (i think) a necessary way. velvet elvis impacted me, as did jesus wants to save christians. i love the nooma videos, and have listened to and appreciated many rob bell messages. in fact the name "deepstream" came from a rob bell message, where he described God's love as a "deep stream"... moving slowly, impacting and touching everything it comes into contact with as it flows, breaking off frequently and starting new streams, etc, etc...

so i have no anti-bell agenda like so many who have already written reviews of this book. tough to be objective in a book review when you already have an issue with the author.

that being said, i fear that rob bell has taken what so many love about him - his healthy approach of asking questions and exploring God's mystery - and taken it too far. questions, searching, and exploring are lacking in the christian faith - there is no doubt about that. but it can also be true that questions can go so far as to imply that we aren't satisfied with what God's word literally says. when passionately searching with open minds becomes too much of the focus, it can cause us to ignore what is there.

while bell is right to say that no one knows everything there is to know about heaven and hell, does the book avoid the seriousness of how Jesus taught on eternal damnation? again, i haven't read it yet, but in the excerpts and interviews, he eludes to the fact that in the end (even in the postmortem) we all get rescued and make it to heaven. this, he says, is the true nature of a loving God.

interestingly, (for me anyway) our church community here in guatemala recently started a study on the fear of God. for me personally, as i seek what God is teaching me through this, i am looking at the recent writings of rob bell and wondering where the fear of God is. this makes me anxious to read the book and see if he touches on it, or if it is avoided altogether. surely we are to have a healthy fear of God, as it is referred to over and over again in scripture through teachings, stories and clear warnings. but if God "loves us so much" that we all get forgiven and make it to heaven... why would we need to fear him?

i see "love" as a God who knows how horrible hell is, and longs to save us from it. i see him as just, punishing the wicked... and as grace, allowing the wicked to repent and go unpunished. i see love in the form of his son on a cross, dying in our place so that we may have life, and avoid the punishment we deserve.

i do agree wholeheartedly with the title of the book - love wins. i think we should be careful to not be overly critical of rob bell - he has been a catalyst in bringing many doubters, searches, and deep thinkers to a place of loving and serving Jesus. i also think we should not be influenced as much by the teachings of men, whether "celebrity pastors" or otherwise, as much as we should our own bibles, our own wrestlings with God, and our own faith communities. i encourage all of us to not care so much about the "debate" - but to truly open our bibles and allow the holy spirit through his living word do the teaching.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

rafaela





with the annual men's team in town, we had the wonderful opportunity to build a new home for an elderly widowed woman.

rafaela lives in the village of tablon - a remote area in rural guatemala. her home is literally a disaster. a rotten tin shack layered in thick soot from her indoor fire (pics attached). her home sits directly behind one of the soccer goals in the village. i have been in her home while the men are playing soccer. the ball bangs against her wall time and time again, echoing louder than you can imagine. she sits on her floor sobbing. its dark, hot, and nasty... and she has nowhere to escape it.

with 16 friends, we rallied together to build rafaela a new home. furnished with a separate kitchen, new beds, linens, towels, and a giant basket of food.

when we had finished, we walked rafaela from her old home to the new one (pics attached). it was a beautiful moment! we celebrated in prayer and laughs, all of us thankful that she will never spend another night in that dirty, smoke-filled shack.

to watch a video from the men's trip with footage from rafaela's home project, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YhsFq4dKkU

"religion that is pure and undefiled before God is this... to look after widows and orphans in their distress..." james 1:27

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

so proud of my girls


the kids are a month into their 3rd year in local school. each year has been a huge step towards becoming "comfortable in their own skin" in a fully spanish speaking guatemalan school. but this year has clearly been different.

all 3 kids have told me already how much they are loving school this year. i think it has a lot to do with the language. their grasp of the spanish language is increasing year-by-year to the point that they are able to fully express themselves. brooke recently told me "i am finally able to be sarcastic in spanish!" (for those that know her, a key component of her personality...)

jake is totally adjusted, and for the most part has been good-to-go from day one. i brag about him all the time... but this post is to share how proud i am of my girls.

we found out a week or so ago that both of the girls were running for office in their student council. while this may sound routine for many teenage kids, remember that they are in a foreign country, speaking another language! we were shocked!!

they both won. madi is the secretary of 8th grade, and brooke is the president of 7th grade!

we are so proud of them. not because they won, but because they were even willing to take the shot. and because they have adjusted so well. they know how to "bounce". they adapt, look at the bright side, don't complain, and trust God in the challenges. they have all struggled through C's, D's, and F's (when they didn't know any spanish), to now all 3 making their honor roll's.

there are still hard times. just a couple days ago, brooke shed a few tears with me as she shared how a group of kids laughed at her after mispronouncing a spanish phrase. we talked it through, gave it over to God, and she got over it. the next day she found out that her classmates had elected her president...