Wednesday, December 26, 2012

please help (iris' story)

iris is in her mid twenties with 2 kids.  not long ago, she felt some numbness in her right arm. 

unlike you and me, she couldn't afford to go to a doctor just to make sure it was nothing serious.  she doesn't have any friends, relatives (or friends of relatives) who are doctors to give a call.

before long, it she was completely bedridden, unable to move the entire right side of her body. 

we didn't know about it.  nobody did.  tucked away in a small impoverished village in guatemala, a young mom lays in her bed all day while her husband goes to work and her kids play on the floor.

it got worse.  the paralysis spread, and she began to lose her eyesight.  finally, her grandmother had to do something.  she had to tell somebody.  she had to go find help.

when we answered our door, with tears in her eyes, her first words were "please help."

what a humbling honor it is to receive a visit from someone in desperation.  to know that God entrusts us (allows us) to be his hands and feet, in divine moments sent by him and for him so that we can be him.  almost seems too amazing to be real.

iris had been told by someone that she needed an spinal operation so we were expecting as much.  after some initial testing, it looks as if her spine is fine, and that the injury could be a build up of fluid in the brain.  it is still early, so please pray with us as we begin the process with her, and praise God with us for those who are helping us help her.

unfortunately people like iris are suffering everywhere.  as the hands and feet of Christ, let us be sensitive, aware, and available.  please Lord, dont let us get too busy or distracted (even doing good things) and forget that our primary and simple job as your followers is to love and care for people.


Monday, December 24, 2012

celebrating christmas

tonight and tomorrow, all over the world, christians and non-christians alike celebrate.  some celebrate the "holidays."  some celebrate santa claus, saint nicholas, kris kringle, etc.  some celebrate by simply getting together as families and exchanging gifts.  different cultures have different twists on how they do it.

but all over the world, there are some that celebrate the birth of a baby boy believed to be the son of God.  that he was conceived divinely through a young virgin girl - sent to share the good news, live a sinless life, and save mankind by dying on a cross in order to deliver people from their sins so that they may live eternally. 

from purely an intellectual standpoint, it all sounds crazy.  the idea of jesus sounds just as crazy as that of santa claus!  but to believe, to know him, to trust him - defies knowledge.  paul wrote in 1 corinthians 1:

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:  “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”  Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe."
 
i personally love that the story of jesus - the story that i believe with every ounce of my being - seems too crazy to be believable.  i couldn't imagine putting my faith into anything that makes practical sense, or that is easily understandable.  then it wouldn't really be faith, would it? 

i also love that the seemingly crazy story of the birth of jesus christ is what causes practically the whole world to celebrate on this day, whether they know why or not.

tonight, while fireworks erupt all over guatemala, and millions celebrate all over the world, i remember a baby that was born in obscurity over 2,000 years ago.  a baby sent from an all-powerful God that could have chosen a more "prestigious" entrance into mankind if he wanted to.  but he came poor and humbly - to be one of us, so that we could relate with him.

he lived, died, and rose again - so that i could live forever.  and for anyone else who chooses. 

christmas represents an amazing, magical, supernatural event.  may we all celebrate, and may we all believe!

feliz navidad

all of us at the boys academy wishing our supporters a merry christmas!

click here for a quick video from us and all of the boys!

we love you all and appreciate your support so much.  thanks for all that you do for us.

feliz navidad!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

end of the world

the original mayan calendar suggests that tomorrow, dec 21, 2012 will be the end of the world.   living in the mayan culture of guatemala, there are many people who believe this, or are at least a little nervous about it.  it's been the talk of the boys in the academy all week...

for anyone who believes this to be true, please feel free to leave behind your savings, retirement account balances, etc, to a good cause by clicking here!


Friday, December 14, 2012

mr. burns

there's a guy in our village that the locals call "seƱor burns" - after the character "mr. burns" on the simpsons.  innocently enough, the guy does resemble mr. burns (pictured to the right).

but even innocent jokes can hurt.

mariano is a loner.  he is not from buena vista.  he moved here to live with his brother.  he says that the violence in the city got too intense, and his brother always told him that buena vista was a quiet, friendly village.

while mariano might describe BV as quiet, i dont think he would call it friendly.

we've been friends with mariano practically since we moved here almost 5 years ago.  no doubt he's unique... but we've always liked him.  he's quirky, but also pretty interesting and quite friendly.

it wasn't until recently that i realized how mean the people in the village are to him.

the topic came up in devotion time with the varsity boys yesterday.  mariano had stopped by to ask me to taste some of the pastries he had baked, as he's trying to start a business selling bread and cakes in the local market.  some of the boys had noticed that he stopped by, and i overheard some of the jokes...

as we discussed it freely, the boys shared about how rude, bad, and different mariano is.  "different" because he looks funny.  "rude" because when you greet him when passing him on the street he responds short and quietly.  and "bad" because he smokes cigarettes openly.

the conversation became what i am imagining will be the first of many.  we touched on judging others without knowing their personal stories.  we talked about how jesus loved on the down-and-outs and the marginalized.  we talked about how words hurt - how the things that people yell at mariano as he walks down the street could lead him towards depression and sadness.

every year since my kids were little, kerrie and i have challenged them to keep an eye out for students at school that are different, or left out.  their job?  to reach out, talk to them, learn about them, and make friends.  over the years, some of their closest friends were the otherwise "unpopular".  as they have gotten older, our hope is that it has become completely natural for them to avoid measuring people by their exterior and get to know people for who they are inside.

so i challenged the boys to reach out to mariano.  say hello, shake his hand, or ask him how he's doing.  find out something about his life.  who knows, they might just find out that he's not so bad, rude, or even different.

i'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

my luci

Luciana Andrea meets Cesar
luci andrea is 10 days old today.  its been a great first week- she is precious, calm, and beautiful!  (not to say our sleeping patterns haven't been "tweaked" a little bit!) 

kerrie is doing great.  all the kids are helping out a ton.  LA is definitely not lacking attention!
 
here's quick video link from luciana andrea's first week home...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

already learning from Luciana Andrea


Luciana Andrea Johnson was born at 1:00am this morning, December 2, 2012.  She weighed 6lbs, 4oz.  Kerrie is doing great.  She was amazing...  and Luciana is precious!!

We arrived at the hospital (small clinic) in Antigua around 10:30pm last night.  We had been calling our doctor since before 9pm but he was not answering his phone.  An empty clinic greeted us, with only a security guard to let us in.  But not until we moved our car over 2 spaces in the empty lot since the front one needed to be left open for "emergencies".  Apparently "woman having baby" didn't qualify.

There seemed to be no one around.  Finally a young intern-looking nurse guy led us to a room and told us to wait.  After about 5-10 minutes, I started walking around the place looking for someone to help us.  Kerrie was having strong contractions about every 3 minutes at this point, and I was slightly frustrated that no one was interested.

I finally found a nurse, and explained that my wife was going into labor, and no one was helping us.  She put us in another room and said a doctor would arrive shortly.  You guessed it, a few minutes later, in comes the nurse kid...

I'm sure my eyebrows crinkled up as i immediately asked, "how old are you?"  I could tell by his reaction that he thought my direct question was rude.  He didn't even answer.  So I continued, "you're too young to be a doctor - how old are you?"  He said he was 26 and just finished medical school.  Oh boy, going to be a long night...

After that, our nurses came in and gave Kerrie and IV.  They were sweet, but made me nervous!  I didn't want to judge... but they just didn't seem "qualified."  One nurse timed the solution drops with her own watch, while another looked on from a distance as if she was watching all of this for the first time.

Doctor-boy came back in and took a plastic-glove exam as i cringed and prayed for God to supernaturally warp his credentials ahead 10 years (in which case he would still be the youngest OBGYN by another 10 years that I had ever met).

As I paced the floor and cussed our doctor and his so-called "emergency cell phone number" that he had given us, Kerrie made a comment to me that made my world stand still.  "Babe, calm down.  It's not like our trust is in doctors."

Up until this point, she had been the one worried about the doctor, the clinic, and "delivery day" in general.  I had been the solid one, assuring her that it would all work out.  Man, how quickly that had changed...

Her words hit me somewhere deep.  Here she is, managing intense labor contractions in a small, guatemalan clinic, where we have every reason in the world to be "concerned" - and she exudes peace and confidence.  Not in herself.  Certainly not in me.  But in Jesus.

It was exactly as we had prayed just an hour or so earlier as we left the house.  Together with the Davis fam, we asked God to comfort Kerrie, and to give her peace.  In the hour to follow, as I was getting more and more frazzled, God was answering that very prayer.

From that point, everything changed.  The women who up until that point I had been calling our "indigenous nurses" suddenly became uniquely qualified.  The young doctor proved himself to be capable and knowledgeable.  I became an encourager and supporter to Kerrie instead of a pessimistic complainer.

Our doc soon showed up, apologizing that he had been called into an emergency surgery at another hospital.  I prayed silently to myself, "God forgive me for, among other things, cussing this good man."

Before we knew it, Luciana Andrea joined our family in the same way that Madi, Brooke, and Jake had before. Sure, I can probably count 50 differences throughout the process.  But none were the fault of the nurses or doctors.  

Traditions, customs, and resources easily explain why this delivery was so different then the past ones.  Interestingly, and as it typically does, the situation also exposed to us the unnecessary excess that we had grown accustomed to in the USA as well.  

But we praise God for where we are today.  What a journey we have been on so far.  Each step forcing us to trust more and more in Jesus, and less and less in ourselves.  

Thank you for praying for Kerrie and for Luciana Andrea.  We witnessed God answering your prayers.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH A SLIDESHOW OF DELIVERY NIGHT!



  


Thursday, November 29, 2012

girls camp & my girls

so proud of my daughters, madi and brooke.  this last week they have been hosting a girls camp for the sisters of the boys in the academy. 

around 20 girls have come each day for activities such as kick-ball, crafts, basketball, nail-painting, and games.  it has been a blast!  so fun to shower these sweeties with love and attention...

the girls camp has also been a great way to introduce the davis girls to some of their neighbors.  they have been adjusting really well so far, and it was cool to see them having fun with guatemalan girls, despite the language barrier!


madi and brooke have more activities planned for next week to extend to the families of the rhinos.  they have also been working several hours each day at the academy.  each have their roles and responsibilities, and have been working hard.  its exciting for me to see them getting involved, taking leadership and initiative, and executing on it.

my baby girls are growing up; becoming beautiful young women.  they make mistakes.  but they love Jesus.  they hear the holy spirit.  its fun watching them navigate through the teenage years.  i couldn't be prouder.

Friday, November 23, 2012

buena vista

"buena vista" is the name of our village in rural guatemala.

"buena vista" means "good view".

to prove its name, check out this picture of my daughter madi letting go of a kite from the balcony at the boys academy (click on pic for full-size).

it may be a poor little village, but its got a million dollar view!

update on doug

doug is going to make it.  apparently one of the bullets just missed his heart... 

he is undergoing surgeries to repair damage in his intestines, liver, diaphragm, stomach, arm, and leg.  while the road to recovery will be difficult, the good news is that his prospect toward recovery is good.  we praise God and rejoice with doug's wife, children, and loved ones.

thank you for your prayers.  it has been a blessing to hear from so many of you who have joined us in prayer, and shared with your friends, family, churches, etc.  the power of prayer is an amazing thing.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

URGENT PRAYER REQUEST

please pray with us for our friend and fellow missionary Doug Johnson who was shot 3 times yesterday while apparently trying to prevent his car from being robbed.  he is in critical condition.

kerrie taught doug's son at the CAG missionary school our first year in guatemala.  we have stayed in touch - he manages facilities at a wonderful girls orphanage that we know well and visit often.  he and his wife sarah have 5 children.

please pray with us.

Monday, November 19, 2012

gaining some respect

following the championship game last sunday
"you're wasting your time."  "all they do is make you run and boss you around."  "you guys train all the time and never get better."  "you should be working."

those are some of the comments that local men make to the varsity rhinos.  they tell us about it all the time.  what makes it worse, is that many of their own dads, grandfathers, and uncles are the ones who say it.

its an abusive, macho culture, and its been that way forever.  we've had men come and tell us they dont like what we're teaching the boys about women, because "women have their place, and it needs to stay that way."

all of this is what made last week that much more special.  for the first time, we hosted a "buena vista indoor men's tournament."  its something we've been wanting to do for a while - reach out to local men, let them feel included in the academy and what we are doing.

they were beyond excited.  the local men formed their teams.  a point system would determine the seeding for the playoffs, the champions would receive a trophy.

our rhinos were in the middle of the field come playoff time.  we had won a couple games, and lost a couple.  in the first round of the playoffs we drew the only undefeated team.  it was alan's brother's team.  (alan is one of our younger varsity rhinos.)  literally the entire starting 5 players were alan's brother's!

in dramatic fashion, alan, who hadn't scored a goal the entire tournament, scord the game winning goal with 30 seconds left in the game!  needless to say it was a confidence boost, and a very special moment for alan.

in the finals, we won handily.  12 to 5.  you would have thought we won the world cup. 

from simply a soccer standpoint, it was amazing to watch.  the boys have improved so much.  hard work is paying off.  they no doubt earned some respect from the men of the village.  these are 15-16 year old boys beating grown men who play in soccer leagues every week.

i know for mynor it had to be sweet.  its been hard to break down the bad habits and start from scratch.  teaching organized, controlled soccer to young men who have played street ball their whole lives is not easy.  and they won because they stayed calm, played their formations, etc.
  
but so much more is happening.

i am thankful for our team on the ground here.  so thankful for mynor and walda.  for our new addition of the davis family.  i believe that God is doing amazing things here, in and through our team, our supporters, and ultimately in these boys.

last weekend was a special memory in the midst of it all.    

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

jhoni

more than 4 years ago, when we were first getting to know jhoni, he was around 9 years old.

my first memory of him is seeing him walking towards me with a plastic soccer ball.  as he approached me, another kid came up behind him and popped the ball out from under his arm.  without thinking twice, jhoni turned around and punched him in the face.  the kid dropped to the ground, and jhoni kept punching.  i remember pulling him off, and helping the poor kid that he was beating up.

when jhoni tried out for the rhinos, my first thought was "there's no way he'll make it."  the boys academy would be focusing on character development and discipline.  jhoni didn't have a chance.

to my surprise, and to God's glory, as we're finishing up our 2nd year at the academy...  jhoni is flourishing.  he is a leader.  he is loyal.  he is learning about jesus.  learning about friendship, honesty, love, and acceptance.  he is learning how to be a husband and a dad.  he shows real signs that he's changing - that the things he is learning, hearing, and seeing, are making a difference.

jhoni is the youngest of 1 sister and 6 older brothers.  his oldest brother kicked his pregnant wife and 2 kids out of his house last week.  typical behavior for the men in this village.

while jhoni is full of charisma and talent, where he lives, the odds say that his charm will be deemed worthless.  in fact, it will likely be used to cause damage and pain in the lives of others.  it just so happens that his oldest brother is pretty likable guy himself.  

we pour into jhoni and his teammates in hopes that they can break the cycle.  jhoni is the very hope that can change things for his family once and for all.  in jhoni, i see a husband who will adore and respect his wife.  and a father who will lead by example.  a brother, uncle, and cousin who will shine an infectious light of love.

in jhoni, i see a man of integrity who has the ability to change generations to come.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

life is about to change

ever since my family started on our journey to follow Jesus together, life has been an adventure.

for us it meant saying goodbye to the mundane - but also to friends and family.  it meant having to trust God to use the generosity of others to provide for our needs.  it meant relinquishing choices - like choosing where we want to live, what schools our kids go to, and what church to be a part of.  it meant changing languages and cultures.

following Jesus means just that - following.  that means he leads.  we give up the driver's seat.  our ambitions and desires are no longer what push us.  in fact, his leadership often times cuts directly against our personal ambitions!

following Him also means being open to a life of changes.  changes stretch us and make us better.  changes expose us, and force us to work on who we are.  changes can be a blast, and changes can be difficult.

life is about to change for us again.

paul, jessica, and their 4 beautiful girls arrive in one week.  unlike those of us who have moved to guatemala ahead of them, they won't have suffer through the madness of renting an old home full of electric, plumbing, and flooding issues (hopefully, anyway).  why?  because they are moving in with us!

we converted our garage into a 2-level living space for the davis crew.  yep, life is about to get communal.

one thing i loved about our season of life in north st. johns county, FL was the community that God surrounded us with.  you know, the kind that you walk across the street, open your neighbor's door without knocking, and walk straight into their kitchen see what they have in the fridge...  that is a special kind of community life.  mutual comfort, appreciation, respect, and love for one another.  grace, acceptance, and honesty.

if chip or rich hung out at my place one night and emptied my man fridge, i'd come home a couple days later to find it replenished with a thank you note.  and if i needed to borrow one of their lawn mowers, i'd bring it back cleaned spotless with a full tank of gas.

those things sound easy, but not everyone ticks that way. 

but what about when parenting differences collide?  when you discover disagreements on bigger issues?  when personalities clash or certain "quirks" begin to drive each other crazy. 

unlike with most friendships, in a community-living environment, you can't just take a few weeks off of seeing one another.  like with your immediate family, you have to work it out.  and the sooner the better, before things bubble up.  you have to learn how to live together.  how to love one another.

life is about to change.  grace, honesty, and communication will be the key.

we are excited and nervous.  more excited than nervous, because from the time we have spent with the davis', we have really enjoyed being together.  but still a little nervous. 

- what if they have too high of expectations of us? 
- what if we made a good impression in the little time we've had together, and the "real johnson's" really let them down? 
- what if they have an expectation of what life and work will be like, and it ends up being completely different?
- what if it's not as "special" or "exciting" as they are expecting?

my list of what-if's goes on and on!

pray for us!  it's not going to be easy - but God is God.  one thing is for certain, we believe it is Him that has put the wheels in motion to bring the davis crew here.  we believe we have been obedient and prayerful in how we're approaching it.  so it's time to trust Him and His plan.

pray for the davis family!  no matter the circumstances, moving to a foreign country with your young kids is not easy.  new language, new culture, and the surroundings of extreme poverty...  it wears you down.  the first 18 months are the hardest.  it will be a roller coaster.  excitement, home-sickness, fun, depressing, rewarding, etc - all wrapped in one.  pray for their endurance and strength. 

life is about to change.  we're excited!  but mostly, just thankful to be followers of jesus.  thankful that life is full of changes.  and prayerful that the changes make us more like Him.



Saturday, October 20, 2012

grace - the gift we don't deserve (maximo's story)

maximo lost the use of his legs over 30 years ago.  as if extreme poverty isn't bad enough...  he has endured it for most of his life in a wheelchair.

i met him about 4 years ago.  he told me he did wood work, and showed me some cross necklaces he had made.  i started selling them in the teamhouse for him.  he was never satisfied.  honestly, he was a jerk about it.  his expectations were never met.  he always complained that people weren't buying enough.  after a while, i stopped selling them.  i was tired of his attitude and it was becoming too difficult to work with him.

after that, every time i saw him it was awkward.  sometimes he'd give me a gruff head-nod, but usually he'd just give me a stare.

until a couple months ago...  i was walking by his house and i heard him call my name.  i stepped inside.  he said "look at my roof."  i looked up.  it was super old, full of holes and rust.  he said "i know you'd never do this for me, but i thought i'd show it to you anyway."

i responded, a little frustrated, "so... are you asking me a question maximo, or did you bring me in here just to tell me that you already know i won't help you?"  he went on to say that he was embarrassed to ask, because he doesn't like asking for help.

i told him that i would be glad to share about his need and we'd see what happens.

several weeks later, we had some friends coming in for a visit from occ church in jax beach.  when i mentioned the whole story to my friend derek, he responded with excitement:  "i love it!  giving something to people who don't deserve it!  i know i don't deserve what Jesus did for me.  that's what true grace is all about!"

with that, i started ordering materials, and made preparations for maximo's roof job.

as we spent a full day roofing maximo's house, something happened that i will never forget.  maximo was sitting in his wheelchair out in the middle of the street, watching us work.  a man was walking towards him with a horse loaded up with firewood.  as the man drew nearer, he was saying "move it maximo...  move it maximo..."

maximo was trying to spin around in his chair so he could get out of the way, but the guy kept coming - until he purposefully banged into maximo's wheelchair, sending it into a 360 spin.  it could have easily knocked him over.  as the guy kept walking, he looked back at maximo and said "i told you, ass."

as i saw the expression on maximo's face, it left with me an empty feeling in my gut.  i had been quick to right off maximo as a mean old grump - and unwilling to empathize with his situation.  in his environment, his culture, he gets written off as a useless cripple.  probably even considered worthless and getting what he deserves.  sadly, in communities of extreme poverty, there is a tendency to think that "good people are blessed, and bad people are punished."  i felt like God was giving me a glimpse of maximo's reality. 

by the end of the day, maximo had a new roof.  i will never forget the moment that he began crying.  he shared how he and his son had talked about saving up one sheet of tin at a time until they could replace the roof.  he said they both knew they'd never be able to do it.  he praised God for touching our hearts.  tears streamed down his face.

the next day we brought a birthday cake for his mom, and a group picture from the day before.  we sang happy birthday, laughed and ate birthday cake.  he asked that everyone write their names on the back of the picture so he could continue praying for everyone by name.

grace.

the sweetest, most amazing thing imaginable.  none of us deserve it, yet through Jesus it is available to us all. 

i can be such a dirt-bag, and God still extends it to me.  out of thankfulness for that, i want to be better at extending it to others.


Friday, October 19, 2012

volcano hiking with the boys

from their village of Buena Vista, the natural beauty of Guatemala is all around them.  the view is literally breathtaking.  but when you've seen it every day of your life, you can eventually take it for granted.

Guatemala's volcanoes are incredible.  there are 36 of them total, 3 of which are still active - and its not uncommon that their explosions make world news.

the locals here in Buena Vista might hear about the volcanic activity, or see & feel the ashes as they sweep in after explosions. 

but thats about it.  while tourists come in from all over to experience these massive demonstrations of God's creation, the locals (at least the poor) are unable to do so because of admission fees, travel, etc.

last weekend, we were able to take all of the Rhinos on an excursion to hike volcano pacaya.  it was a wonderful day!  they were blown away as we hiked the volcanic mountain, and roasted marshmellows over the lava rocks.

it is always a joy to give an experience to these boys that they may never otherwise be able to enjoy. 

thank you to ruth, derek, dan, aaron, leslie, danny, mynor, hector - and everyone who supports the boys academy!

click here for more pics from the hike!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

facebook

i may not be "liked" very much for this one...

i was looking for some information on a friend, and decided i'd browse my wife's facebook page to try to find it.  i was mesmerized.

the most ridiculous waste of time i have ever witnessed in my life - and it sucked me in for more than a half an hour!

i have never seen more nonsense.  if the posts weren't shallow or self-absorbed (look what i did today! look what i ate today! look what i saw today! guess how i feel today!)...  they were at a minimum pointless.  i felt like i was in the online version of a 10-minute class-change during high-school.

maybe i am just lame and not getting it.  but even among the social network of my own wife (whose judgment i trust more than anyone's) i couldn't believe the silliness of the content.

it would be one thing if facebook was a casual and well managed tool.  i'm sure for many of you that's exactly what it is.  but lots who facebook are straight up junkies.  if not posting constantly, they are checking in constantly.  obsessed with what comments their posts are getting, where their "like" count stands, or simply what the latest chit-chat is.
 
as i scrolled my wife's account i did notice a few nice posts - sharing a family photo, asking for prayer, or wishing a friend happy birthday.

but i would estimate somewhere around 90% was pure junk.  just like during that high-school class change, everyone is into what everyone else is doing and saying, and apparently pretty consumed by how many people "like" them.

my little experience gave me a simple reminder as to why i don't facebook.  it's not that i think it's inherently bad or wrong.  i know there are benefits.  and my wife is a great example that it can be managed well.  but for me, i just don't see sacrificing the 90% for the 10...  seems to add up to a lot of wasted time.

Monday, October 8, 2012

freedom

there are few things as wonderful as feeling free.

free to be who God created you to be.  free to laugh, cry, joke around, and dance.  free to pray.  free to hug someone.  free to share about jesus.  free to be who you are.

i feel honored that God has allowed us to give that freedom to the boys in the academy.  here, they can act freely without fear of judgment.  they can be who they want to be.  they can tell that joke, dance that move, or goof around.

sadly, for most of them, they don't feel free to be that person at home.  i am reminded of this over and over again when i am out in the village and i am with the boys in their home environment.  they respond differently, a little bit paranoid as their family watches them around us.  no way they are going to let their dad or uncles see (what i have learned to know is) their true personalities.

usually at some point during these exchanges, they will give me a winkish-type of a smile as if to suggest that their real self is in there...  just tailoring it down around the homestead...

poverty, legalism, abuse, addiction...  they all choke out our freedom that we have in Christ to be who we were made to be.  it has taken about a year-and-a-half being with these boys every single day to finally start seeing them in their truest form.  completely free.  and it is beautiful.  (watch video below!)

its no wonder that so many of them ask if they can stay.  its a common question...  "can i stay here for dinner?"  "can i stay here and do my homework tonight?"  "its warmer in your house, can i just stay?'

our prayer:  for God to transform these boys so deeply that their love for God, love for others, and freedom to be themselves, would slowly seep into their everyday lives at home - leading their siblings and even their parents towards gradual change.  eventually, when they are young husbands and fathers, they will do things differently, breaking these generational chains of bondage.

God, please help us and bless our work!  bless our work as we seek to change these boys and their future families!  we believe it is your heart and your desire.  let it be done by your power alone.





Thursday, October 4, 2012

davis home project update


After a slight tweak of plans, we are down to only $2,000 needed to finish the construction project for the Davis home!  Plus a little more to help them with appliances...

Heeding some counsel from many, we've decided to go ahead and add a kitchen into the Davis home.  The upside is that it will allow our families to wake up and start our days with some brief family time, and close out the evenings with some as well, when needed.

Thank you for letting us share this new journey with all of you!  The idea has been changed and tweaked a few different times now, but we think we're settling in on where God has been leading us.  

Many loved and trusted friends have given this advice, to allow for separate spaces to be together around the table as families as needed.  In addition, with as many visitors as we have, it will allow for each of us to host company without being on top of one another the entire time.

We are no less excited about getting communal in our approach, and are excited to begin sharing life with the Davis'!  

Please let us know if you would like to help out in this area!!  You can make a donation by clicking here, and noting "Davis Family Home" in your check memo, or in the paypal information box.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

noah

me with noah (mynor and walda's boy).  love this little guy, could squeeze him all day long!

one of my favorite pics ever.

Friday, September 21, 2012

why we're called the rhinos

When we started the boy's academy, we announced the team name for the official 30 boy roster would be the Buena Vista Rhinos (or in Spanish, Los Rinos de Buena Vista).
 
Here's a quick summary explaining "why the rhinos?".
 
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, addiction, and spiritual emptiness. Many dad's beat their wives and kids because they have never seen a man in their life who didn't. The root of the problem runs deep.

As we spend the coming 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 rotate, allowing various teammates to step up and lead while the loyal crash runs hard alongside them.

I know that for me personally, my rhino crash is invaluable.  They encourage me, challenge me, push me, convict me, and call me out.  They love me deeply.  We share life together and we carry one another's burdens.
 
I pray that these BV boys will form their "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.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

a 5th grader's justice

"Alone: We Are Nothing"
more than a year ago, my son asked me a question.  "dad, why do you and mynor get under armor shirts for the coaches but not for the boys?"

i explained that its too expensive since their are so many boys in the academy.  he responded that he didn't think it was fair...  and that he was going to save his money so that he could buy all the boys an under armor shirt.

keep in mind this was coming from a 10 year old kid.

he asked me the price of the shirts, did the math, and came up with his number.

"Together: We Are Rhinos"
for over a year now, he has saved every penny.  seriously.  he has not bought himself a single thing that i can recall.  birthday money, chore money, report card money...  everything he's earned he has tucked into his sweet, velcro tony hawk wallet.

a couple weeks ago, after improving in 11 of 12 classes, he finally earned enough money to buy a new under armor shirt for his entire 15 member team.

i heard him scream from his room "cabal! cabal!" which in guatemala slang-spanish is like saying "bam! exactly!"

he came running out of his room to count it out in front of me.  his excitement was overflowing.

i have to admit, until he actually reached his goal, i hadn't given it that much thought.  

but as i watched my now 11 year old boy literally beaming as he counted the money, the awesomeness of the moment overwhelmed me.

he could have been saving for a wii, an ipod, or new shoes.  but none of that stuff matters to him.  he wanted to share it.  he wanted these boys, who could never otherwise know the plush feeling of an under armor shirt, to have one of their own.  justice mattered to him, and was worth sacrificing for.  in his 5th grade perspective, this would set things right.

the simple reason for his actions: "because its not fair."

and he was right.

he chose a shirt that has a message about teamwork, and i can't think of a better teammate than jake.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

ministry work isn't sexy

into our fifth year here in guatemala, we continue to learn.  while its been a long journey, it still feels like its in its infancy.  so much more to do, so many more goals and dreams.
one of the many things we have learned is that ministry work is not sexy.  we can be tricked into thinking that it is.  like in any career, our flesh wants to be recognized.  we all have ambitions, and we like to feel successful.  being "career missionaries" doesn't change that.

so for me, its been a process.  on one hand, i want our supporters to know that we're getting things done, working hard, changing lives, and sharing jesus with people.  i want to assure them that God is doing amazing things.  on the other hand, God assures that if these things are happening, the glory is solely his, and none is reserved for me.  as i grow as a christian, i consider this an honor.  the more i love him, the less credit i want, and the more uncomfortable i feel when praised.

he has taught me through his wonderful and living word that feeling good about myself, feeling appreciated and successful, is not part of the equation.  that humility and hard work far outweighs recognition and praise.  that everybody doesn't need to know all that we do, and that our work is to be focused towards eternal glory rather than earthly.  (read the challenging passage below!)

all of this leaves me thankful for our friends and supporters.  they are the ones that continue supporting our work and our vision.  knowing all the while that its not a quick-fix.  its not going to leave them feeling warm and fuzzy every day.  but rather that we work toward long-term, generational changes.  any parent knows that raising young boys into godly men is not going to happen quickly or easily.

we hope to have "success stories" to share along the way.  but its a fight against the flesh to want to force them.

i am comforted by Gods word.  humility, steadfastness, renewal of the heart and mind, patience, and not growing weary as we seek the see the fruit of our work...  all biblical truths that force me to turn from my flesh and what it naturally longs for. 

Lord, keep us humbly devoted to you and to the job you have assigned us.  let these boys, their families and their village be our focus and our energy.  let us not seek recognition for what we do, but let the goal of every day be that seeds are planted, watered and nurtured in secret - and your church may grow larger and stronger and your name may be glorified in heaven and on earth! 


"Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.  When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—‘playactors’ I call them—treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out."
Matthew 6: 1-4 (The Message)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

goodbye george

george & frank
saturday morning was no different than any other morning for george, our 8 year old boxer.  he played hard with frank (our 2.5 yr. old schnauzer) in the yard.  they played with their toys and ran around on the property.

after a couple hours of hanging out with a bunch of the boys from the academy, we came in the house to find george dead on the floor.  completely unexpected and shocking.

the kids lost it.  so did kerrie.  eventually, i did too.

he has been the best dog we've ever had.  friendly and loving, combined with intimidating and protective.  the last few days, we have been recalling memories.  some friends emailed their memories of george as well...

*ripping down and eating our blinds, and washing them down with a collection of library books...
*chasing neighborhood kids, and biting one in particular that was taunting him (he deserved it!)...
*doing his normal 25 to 30 twirls before curling up on a miniature pillow that seemed impossible for him to fit on...
*his fear of thunder and lightening...
*busting loose here at the academy and chasing julio and luver as they screamed bloody murder...
*the guilty look on his face when he knew he did something wrong...
*ripping through the screen door when a stranger/worker walks by...
*loving to ride in the back of the pick-up...
*being sad and refusing to eat if we left him too long or went out of town...
*chasing birds on the beach...
*allowing little ole frank to bump him out of the way while he ate or slept...

we'll miss our boy.  there will never be another george.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

make a memory

allan's dad is an alcoholic.

and i dont mean the guy who struggles with alcohol, occasionally getting drunk on the weekend.  i mean daily staggering in the streets drunk, until he finally falls, hits his head, and goes unconscious.

his mom has given up hope.  she works long days, sees very little of her kids and grandkids.  out of necessity, she is absent.

allan misses them both.

he has 10 brothers and sisters.  all older, all married.  all doing their own things.

on this day (pictured riding wilmer's back), he wasn't thinking about any of that.  he was having a blast.  making a memory that will last forever.

there are people all over the place in need of a new memory.  they are hurting, dying inside because of something going on in their lives.

might be divorce.  maybe one of their kids is struggling.  maybe they are out of work.  their husband/wife is cheating.  or they are cheating.  maybe they are living two lives...  and they hate it as much as they think they enjoy it.  maybe they are simply empty b/c they don't know God's love.

reach out.  who cares if you don't know them that well.

who cares if they are "totally different" than you.

love on them.  give them a new memory.  maybe its a lunch out - your treat.  maybe its a surprise gift.  a movie.  a hug.  a conversation.  a slip-n-slide.

a new memory does more than just distract people from their problems.  it softens their hearts.  it warms them up towards opening up about their situation.  it helps start friendships.

and a new friendship is a step towards healing.

allan is a great kid with a ton of issues in his life.  every new memory loosens him up.  it softens his hard heart.  it takes his mind off the troubles that surround him.  it leaves him feeling loved.

we all have allan's in our lives...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

exactly where we're supposed to be

its a great feeling when you know that you've never been more sure - that you're exactly where you're supposed to be.

despite all the issues and challenges that come with the territory, i love what i do.  i love these boys.  i love them when they do something well (improve in their grades, ask a great question during chapel), and i love them when they screw up.

i love the nuances of their personalities.

i love it that i know them so well, that i can tell when something is wrong.  and also when they are faking, lying, or hiding something.

sounds a lot like parenting!

that's our commitment - to treat them as our own.  share their burdens, joys, and sorrows.

today included an emergency hospital run for a sister of one of the rhinos who was in labor, checking in with a teacher, a check-up on one who is sick, 2 being punished, a lot of laughs, and some serious talks.

just knowing that you're exactly where you are supposed to be...  makes the hard days more do-able and the challenges more manageable.  it gives you energy for the daunting task that is in front of you.

i am thankful for clarity for where we are as a family, and where we are focused as a ministry.  thankful for the leivas and their shared passion and commitment.  and for the davis' who are on the way to help share the load.

together, with the other families on the ground working towards different initiatives, we are making a difference.  slowly but surely.  may God be glorified, and may the future generations reap the benefit.

i can't wait to see these boys as young men with families, following Jesus, loving their kids, respecting their wives, and bringing light to darkness.

just the thought reminds me that we're exactly where we're supposed to be.

www.bvboys.com

Monday, August 20, 2012

cesar update: eyes open

after 2 months in darkness, cesar finally opened his eyes!

the first thing he said when he saw us was "oh my, how the kids have grown!" 

he spoke of the dreams he had been having, some of our family, of he and I playing soccer, of the rhinos, of jake and his son pablo, etc.

he was full of life and smiles as we visited.  he shared how special it was, during the 2 months that he was unable to open his eyes, to receive so many visits, hear our voices, and sing with us.  he recounted all the families, teams, and visits, and shared how each one brought him encouragement from God during the tough time.

he quoted scripture.  he talked about the streets of gold that await him us.  he told jokes, and we all laughed.  his wife andrea... smiling as big as i have seen her smile in quite some time. 

we left his house in awe, once again, at God's goodness.  cesar is amazing - and how much more amazing is our God!  his ways are so out of our league to fathom.  not too long ago, we were all pretty certain that we were saying our goodbyes to cesar.  today, he looked better than i have seen him in a long time.

as usual, he repeated his mantra: "if i live, for Christ i live - and if i die, for Christ i die..." 

there is not doubt that he lives for Christ. 

andrea told us that cesar ate beef stew yesterday.  unbelievable.  for months he has only been able to take liquids.

pray with us for healing!  God is the God of the impossible.  he amazes us.  he does miracles. 

cesar reminds me of that every time i see him.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

brooke's 14th birthday

brooke's friends from school are over.  they are funny.  they are loud.  they are sweet.

so special to hear my girls laughing, joking, singing...  in spanish.

i remember, 4 years ago, when they were just starting to learn the language.

3 years ago when they were hacking through it.

2 years ago, starting to get comfortable - finally.

1 year ago, finally able to be themselves.

today...  it is second nature, completely normal, fully comfortable in their new language.

i am always shocked when they get together with friends, at how much they sound like native speakers.  i guess b/c we dont speak too much spanish to each other at home.  they speak it all day at school, and i speak it all day at the academy, but when we're together as a family in the evenings, we typically speak english unless people are over.

anyway - kerrie and i have been truly enjoying sitting back and watching them have a blast with friends.

check out the short video of brooke and her crazy friends.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCDzGg17Lno&feature=plcp

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BROOKE!  LOVE YOU SO MUCH!

Friday, August 17, 2012

softer hearts

team leader Sarah headed down the slip N slide with Axel
a team from savannah left this morning after spending a week with our family and the rhinos.

one thing i love seeing happen during weeks like this is how the boys' hearts soften.  something about the combination of:

- slip n' slide 
- twister
- daily worship
- human foosball
- prayer
- soccer (of course)
- mini bow-and-arrow fights
- delivering food baskets and good news...

add it all together, mixed with a lot of love...  and hard hearts tend to soften.

when boys, many of which who are abused at home, are genuinely loved on by grown men...  their hearts soften.

this team left the boys feeling special, appreciated, and loved.  this team left us with hearts just a bit softer than they were before, and that is something we can work with!
 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

a big lesson from a wee little man

funny how i still think of certain bible stories as "kids stories"...  and when i teach them to kids, they end up teaching me something real and applicable to myself.  if we're not careful, we can let the fun bible songs rob us of something deeper - making us think that these stories are "cute" instead of amazing, real, and profound.

you remember the song...  "zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he..."

if you grew up in church, i bet you just finished the whole song.

during chapel time at the boy's academy, we've been teaching on the topics of honesty and apology (out of necessity!).  God led me to the story of zacchaeus, so we've been digging into it.  zaccheus gave us an incredible model on how to apologize.  do you remember the story?

he was a thief who overcharged taxes and pocketed the overage.  (yes, he was also a tiny man who climbed up a tree to see Jesus...  but that is so far from the point!)  when Jesus visited his house, zacchaeus became ashamed of who he was and the things he had done.  so he apologized and confessed.  but following the words that left his mouth, were actions.

not only did he confess with words, but he repaid each person 4x what he stolen from them.

words, followed by actions.

thats what we've been teaching the boys here at the academy the last couple weeks.  and thats what God has been teaching me.

a sincere apology is great.  a confession of sin is great.  but what follows? 

zacchaeus showed us that genuine repentance is followed by actions.  it is the actions that prove the sincerity.  similarly, james taught us (in james ch. 2) that faith, without action, is dead.

i love how jesus responds to zacchaeus.  "today, salvation has come to your house." 

was it his beliefs or his works that saved him?

it seems to me that it was the combination of the two - that one without the other doesn't cut it.

similarly, an apology or confession, followed by nothing, is of little value.  if we're sorry, our actions show that we're sorry.  and if we confess, our actions that follow will show if we mean it.