|jake and dad|
spiritually speaking, i believe he was doing just that.
because the public school system in guatemala is an absolute joke, our kids have spent the last 4 years in a private school in a neighboring town. its a wonderful school. academically, it is superior. believe it or not, they are well ahead of where corresponding grades are tracking in the US school system. in fact, one of the primary goals at this school is to prepare guatemalan kids to go to college in the US.
jake has made countless friends there, and has truly flourished. while i wouldn't necessarily describe him as an "academic", he has worked hard to the point where he maintains an A average overall (no easy task when studying at that level, and in a different language).
so why on earth would we take him out, and put him in an awful, disaster of an elementary school? a school that has a teacher for every 50 students (when they even show up). where many of the teachers aren't even educated themselves. where kids come and go as if its completely optional. where you can somehow graduate from the 6th grade without knowing how to read, or even spell your name.
its a great question. one that we have wrestled with for months. prayed over, cried over, and changed our minds back and forth a hundred times.
we've settled into a decision that is contrary to every rational bone in my body. it makes no sense. it seems bizarre and even stupid. some would even say we are unfairly punishing jake with the decision - robbing him of the potential for a stellar academic career, which could pave the way for so much more.
jake is a unique kid. we've known it from the time he was little. sure, this comes from the perspective of a biased father :) but God has spoken to us through my son more times than i can even recall. the holy spirit is alive in him. he knows God, loves God, loves life, and loves people. everything i teach him sticks. and when i fall short of living up to my own teachings, he lets me know. if i could only count the times i have said to my wife, "man i wish i was more like jake."
we believe God has a big purpose for jake in this village. things come naturally to him here. much more so than for the rest of us. me, kerrie, and the girls all see it. when we feel out of place, nervous, or just uncomfortable... jake always leads by example with his natural "at-ease" way about himself. the best part is that he doesn't even know it. he's just being jake.
not long after we had moved into the village, i had to go to several "community meetings". everything we did - from buying the land to getting access to water - had to be approved by the committee made up of local men. while i had known many of these men for a couple years, those moments were still some of the most uncomfortable of my life.
tough to describe. but after every meeting (sometimes a dozen men, sometimes a hundred or so townspeople) i distinctly remember being soaked in sweat. there is something about being the "only different one", especially when the focus is on you, you're communicating in a different language, and there are always haters present who are loudly opposed to everything that you're trying to accomplish.
fast-forward... one night, about 6-8 months ago, i had a dream. i was in one of the committee meetings, only it felt completely different. i felt respected and appreciated. it wasn't that everyone was cowering or looking up to me. it was just an "equal" feeling. like my suggestions/comments were desired, and even carried a little bit of weight.
i don't remember the details of what the meeting in my dream was about. but the last part that i remember was one of the men saying something like, "i think we should listen to 'Jacobo', he's been through this before, and he'll know how to get it done."
(jacobo - pronounced "hawkobo", is spanish for jacob.)
it wasn't me in my dream - it was jake.
for weeks i couldn't shake it. it kept coming back to my mind. not necessarily in the form of any prophetic message. but just that feeling of being respected and appreciated. maybe just "accepted" is the best way to describe it.
in my dream, i (jake) didn't have any of the labels (good or bad) that i often times feel here, such as:
- "missionary here to help us"
- "the man to go ask for money, homes, food, or a ride"
- "soccer coach running the boys academy"
- "gringo outsider with an agenda"
over time, both kerrie and i started to sense God working on us. not only from the experience in my dream, but through several other things as well. we saw jake growing in the boys academy - how the boys respond to him, follow him, and how he leads so naturally. his ability to balance being the gringo, the coaches son, etc - without taking advantage of it - is truly amazing.
finally i mentioned the idea to kerrie. i suggested that part of growing up here, for better or worse, is going to school here. just think of how much better jake would understand things, know people, and relate with them. by the time he is a young man in the community, he would be accepted completely, which ultimately gives him street cred, and more influence.
she didn't say anything, but the look she gave me said "absolutely no way." a few days went by. she admitted that she had some similar feelings. we began praying, specifically seeking what God would have us do. we shared it with jake, and he began praying it over as well.
the obvious downside was his education. but the bigger fears are related to the darkness of the school, and the related risks. kidnapping is not at all foreign to where we live, and you have to assume that a gringo kid would be considered a good target. the thought of jake being out of our supervision all day long concerns me. scares me, actually.
as kerrie and i walked through this decision process, our fears and our prayers battled one another. the mind can go crazy and think only the worst if not balanced with prayer and reading scripture.
through his word, God reminded me several times that jake is His son first. he reminded me that while He has given me the privelege of raising my son, jake belongs to Him, not me. and that the best way i can parent my kids is by seeking what God wants for them, not what i want for them.
a much easier concept to agree with when there is nothing too serious on the line.
i am reminded of abraham and issac. in one of the most seemingly bizarre stories in scripture, God is teaching us that he always knows best, and that obedience can often times be irrational. he is teaching us that he always has bigger purposes. and no matter what he asks of us, no matter how drastic or crazy or misunderstood it might be, our job is to trust and obey.
during devotions with the rhinos yesterday, something amazing happened.
maybe God did it just for me, i don't know. i thanked him as if he did, because it brought me immeasurable peace.
my friend and partner at the boys academy, mynor, was sharing with the boys about how jesus didn't come to the world as a wealthy king, respected by all. while God could have done it that way if he had wanted to, he purposefully did not. instead, jesus came poor, and humble. he was one of the common folk.
mynor asked the boys: "why do you think God would have chosen it that way?"
jake raised his hand. "so he could know the people and understand them better."
no one was looking at me, so no one noticed the tears form. it hit me instantly.
i silently thanked God for reminding me - in that perfect moment - that we were doing the right thing. and of all the kids, it came from jake's mouth. his exact explanation as to why jesus was born in obscurity and lived among the people - was precisely why he was attending local school here in the village.
so sweet of God to give me that moment.
its not going to be easy, and i am sure the difficult days are ahead. with almost a week under his belt, jake has already told us a few "dark" stories that make mine and kerrie's collective heart skip a beat.
but we know that God has a purpose for jake's life. and i believe that by going to school in Buena Vista, he is getting the exact education he needs in order to fulfill that purpose.