Sunday, December 21, 2014

Dr. Chew

Julio with Dr. Chew
It was early 2009 when we first met Dr. Allan Chew.  It was not a good day.  But in hindsight, it was definitely a divine appointment!

We were new to Guatemala.  Still barely getting around… no Spanish yet, no real knowledge of our surroundings, etc.  I was in the city when I got the call from Kerrie.  “Brooke’s wrist is broken, I don’t know what to do.”  Certain she was overreacting, I asked if she was sure it was broken, or had she just banged it…  to which she replied “Babe – the bone is sticking out, please hurry!”

My mind was racing even faster than the car was for the hour it took me to get home.  My then 10 year old baby girl was crying at home with bone sticking out of her arm, and I didn’t even know where to take her!  I was calling the few people I had gotten to know by that point, trying to figure out what to do… 

A couple hours later we found ourselves in a hospital in Guatemala City.  Hospitals in Guatemala are nothing like hospitals in Saint Johns County, Florida.  One word described it – CHAOS.  People everywhere, long lines, people yelling, babies screaming, etc.  In those moments something else kicks in… you know what I mean… Courtesy, etiquette, following of the rules – all get thrown out the window.  (Respectfully, of course.  Haha...) 

Way down a hall on the other side of the hospital, I saw a man in a white coat coming out of an exam room.  I ran down the hall and walked into the X-ray room he had gone into.  I tried my best to explain what had happened.  I’m sure my desperation spoke more clearly than my Spanish.  He looked around (as if he was about to do something sneaky) and said, “bring her with me.”

He examined her arm and immediately took her into surgery.

(I shouldn’t even mention the THREE earthquakes that hit DURING the surgery.  Yep, an already near-panicked mom and dad sat in the waiting room of an insanely chaotic Guatemalan hospital trusting a completely unknown man who was breaking all of the procedural rules while inserting pins into our 10 year old unconscious daughter while the building rocked back and forth THREE DIFFERENT TIMES due to earthquakes.)

Needless to say we were praying.

It all worked out.  Dr. Chew has since opened his own practice at a very nice medical center in the city.  He is an orthopedic trauma surgeon with more degrees and awards on his office wall than I can count.  And he has become a good friend.  He texts me when he travels to the US, letting me know what state he’s in and where he’s staying.  I think being in the US just makes him think of his gringo buddy.

Since Brooke’s broken wrist, he has treated Jake’s torn ACL, my torn meniscus, Axel’s broken arm, several broken arms of our friends the Schmidt’s kids, and even done an Achilles surgery on one of the 12x12 employees.

Most recently, he operated on Julio's broken big toe.  Another 2 pins.  Only this time I wasn't nearly as nervous!  Dr. Chew has been another example of God's faithful promise to take care of us as we follow Him.  And he's also become a good friend in the process.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

december full of memories

its been a crazy december!  we always try to finish up the year with some special activities for the boys, especially considering that when they think of "christmas", most of them think of an undesirable time of year when the men are off work and get drunk and abusive in the street.

so part of our goal for december is to fill the boys up with christmas memories that will possibly replace those bad ones.  

we had our year-end trophy celebration and graduation, where we gave out 12 awards and officially graduated carlos, josue, and alex.  all the parents came, so we had over 100 people in the gym.  we served "typical guatemalan christmas food" which i think everyone loved!  we watched the videos from the USA trip and the Honduras trip, which the parents had never seen before.  there were lots of laughs and also some tears...

we had our staff christmas party at a local pizza place in antigua.  this is a party for our employees at bvsa and their families.  keep in mind a lot of these people would NEVER go to antigua and eat dinner... so just that alone makes this a special night for their families!  we did a white elephant gift exchange, which was a blast... and were able to give our employees a christmas bonus!

our graduates at dinner in the city
we also took our 3 graduates out to guatemala city to officially celebrate their graduating from the program.  we allowed them to bring a date along, which sort of confirms to them that they are moving into manhood - and that our role at bvsa is to help them along and support them in their new phase of life.  we went bowling and out to dinner - but my favorite "factor" in that night was how the boys get to watch us men interact with our wives.  when they see us goofing around, having a blast with our wives, it is something entirely new to them.  and even though they see it on a daily basis around the academy, its just different when in public.  another opportunity to teach the boys how to treat a girl. anyway, we had a great time and it was an experience the boys and their dates will never forget.


finally, we wrapped things up with the annual rhinos christmas party.  it was a great night.  we were able to do the gift exchange again this year...  each boy drew a name and had $15 to spend on a gift.  (we took them shopping a couple weeks ago.)  in addition, we had a visit from santa (my friend chris steed) who gave all the boys a soccer ball and a hat!  

my favorite part of the night was when the boys put on a "drama" for us.  normally, us coaches do a drama for the kids, but this year they asked if they could do it.  it was awesome!  it was a story about all the super heroes in the world who were upset because they heard about a new "hero" named Jesus who claims to have come to the earth to save the world.  it was creative, serious, and funny all at the same time.  just watching the boys express themselves while acting was incredible for us.  they have changed so much this year - especially in the area of self confidence.  we finished the night with some worship and prayer.


THANK YOU TO THOSE WHO SPONSORED THESE EVENTS TO HELP MAKE THEM HAPPEN!!  YOU HELPED US CREATE MEMORIES THAT WILL LAST FOREVER.
  

Thursday, December 11, 2014

julio's toe and his future family

so many deep things going on lately.  i could choose from 10 with this blog.  but i find myself thinking about julio right now.

we sent him back home on tuesday, after spending the last 5 days with us in our home.  he had surgery on his toe last week - two pins inserted - and doctor's orders were a calm environment with virtually no activity. knowing his home is the opposite of that, he stayed with us until he got his hard cast put on.

as a side note, he broke his toe in the final game of an 8-week tournament the week before.  it happened early in the second half... he limped around clearly in pain but unwilling to come out of the game... and made the game winning goal in the last minute or so.  3 days later we got it x-ray'd and the bone had not only broken clean through, but had separated so far that it needed 2 pins to join it back together.  another reminder of how incredibly tough of these kids are...

anyway, as kerrie and i laid in bed talking tuesday night, we were sharing about how much we missed him already.  he's been such a pleasure to have in our home.  he eased in to life with our family so well.  he sat in our family devotions.  my girls really enjoyed hanging out with him.  his great personality came to life even more during his time here.  jake was with him 24/7, helping him get around, playing xbox, watching movies, etc... just trying to keep him entertained.  and andrea (2yrs old)...  man... she loved julio before, but now is in love with him like her own brother.  kerrie cared for him like her own, and i enjoyed the many deep conversations God allowed us to have.

today, in the car coming back from the hospital, he broke the silence with this:  "brock, i want to thank you for all you've done for me.  your family makes me feel special.  i love being with your family.  i really like how your family loves each other and does things together.  i want to have a family like that someday."

i write his words in tears.  for those of you that know our ministry, you know that, aside from all the programs we have in place (soccer, devotions, class, etc), our prayer and mission is that the boys will learn how to be men/husbands/fathers by example.  to hear julio's thoughts reminded me that by example is the best way to teach.  for 5 days in our home, he saw with his eyes what he hears from us with his ears every day.  i was reminded that our simple model - life with the boys - is working.

however, i was also saddened with the rest of the conversation.  i asked julio if he was excited to go back home.  he said not really.  i asked him who he missed the most.  he said not really anyone.  he told me that he and his dad never talk (ever), and that they aren't really close as a family.

and julio's family is best case scenario in this village.

i encouraged him that he can be a big part of changing things.  to take what he "desires" for his own family, and initiate some new things in his current family to make it a warmer place.

more than anything, i feel a sense of thankfulness in my heart that julio's house, when he is leading his own family, will be a place of love, faith, and joy.  and i praise God that we get to be a part of that change process.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

allan to axel: we all look up to you

yesterday we had a sweet but tough conversation with the boys and our staff.  it started as a discussion about the challenges and sacrifices of a life following jesus.

i knew where the conversation was going (the davis family and Axel announcing that they are moving to honduras) but before we got to that point, i wanted the boys to know that following jesus often leads to having to do hard things.

i talked about our move to guatemala from florida 6.5 years ago.  how hard it was to leave friends and family, but how faithful God has been.

then the announcement came.  eyes got teary.  paul shared.  his eyes got teary.  my eyes were teary.  i'm pretty sure kerrie's, mynor's, and walda's were as well.  jessica was sitting in the back - and her eyes weren't just teary… they were leaky.

then a very special moment came.  (lots of them actually.)

Axel stood up and, in front of many of the young men he's grown up with, told them that he is moving to another country to help start another boys academy.

now, before you think "thats not that big of a deal", let me put it in perspective.

NO ONE WHO IS FROM BUENA VISTA LEAVES BUENA VISTA.  EVER.

our town makes small towns look huge.  buena vista, for many generations, has been so far removed from civilization, that "leaving" has simply never made sense.

  • one- the lack of education would never lead to outside opportunities.  
  • two- the lack of exposure to the world outside of BV would never lead to opportunities.
  • three- when something has never happened before, the pressure for it to never happen increases
  • four- the pressure for men to not "do well for themselves" - as bizarre as it seems - is incredibly strong here.  men work a few specific jobs, period.  anyone who tries anything different gets harassed and made fun of.  its a crazy phenomenon that we never expected, and it controls people.
Axel sharing

so there stood Axel.  in tears, with stressed veins in his temple and neck, struggling to get it out… but finally explaining that God has called him to do something, and he's answering the call.  he said its been hard to make the final decision, but that his life has been changed by being in the academy for the last 4 years - and he knows this is the opportunity of a lifetime.

call it cliche to say, but for me it was a moment when time stood still and it was just Axel standing there talking.  maybe it just seemed that way for me, knowing what i know.  understanding the hugeness of what was happening.

after that, some memorable comments were shared.

carlos said he wanted jessica to know how much he'd miss her.  that she has been like his private teacher over the last 2 years and he's thankful for all she's done for him.  (leaky turned to pouring!)

julio asked what its like to feel "called".  it was a great question.  and i had noticed that his mind was working overtime as he was listening to all of us share.  he asked "how do you know when you're called by God?" it lead to a great conversation.

then allan stood up with a very serious look on his face. (not normal for those that know allan!)  with his own emotional crack in his voice, he looked right at Axel and said:  

Axel, I want you to know that I admire you and I am proud of you.  we're all proud of you.  no one has ever left here before to go live in another place.  but you are doing something very big and we will all look up to you for it.  i support you all the way.

it was a special day.  friends are leaving, but exciting new things are beginning.  

there's a group of boys in travesia, honduras, that are a lot like the boys of buena vista.  soon they'll have some great people coming alongside them to love them, teach them, and share jesus with them.   chains of generational sin will be broken there through those boys, just like its happening here in BV. 

sure, following jesus is hard.  but there's no greater call.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

looking back

one of our first soccer camps in BV
we're coming up on another BVSA graduation.  i've been going through old pictures in order to put together a little "video of memories" for this year's graduates.  in doing so, i've come across so many old classics that have gotten me emotional.

its so good to look back.  we focus so much on where we're going, that we don't look back enough... and remember where we were and how far we've come.  whether its our marriage, our business, or our walk with christ...  its important that we take time to reflect.  remember the "old days." remember how different we were, how we've changed, etc.  and just look at old pictures!
joni & oscar on the future BVSA site

as followers of jesus we should be careful not to look back and get high on ourselves for where we currently are.  that would be the wrong motive and could lead toward pride and judging others.  just the opposite, we should recognize how much we've changed/grown, and then long to see even more change/growth over the coming years!

i love looking back at these pictures, seeing what we, and our BV boys, were up to 6+ years ago... and compare it to where we are now. especially as some days can feel so mundane...  it gives me energy to keep pushing!



Sunday, November 16, 2014

wealth and salvation

click to watch sermon
we recently returned home from a trip to the states.  our friends at savannah christian invited me to preach at their church...  5 services and around 10,000 people if i remember right!

knowing how big of a church SCC is made my stomach turn at first, but i said "yes" before thinking twice.  i knew i had to do it.  here's why...  

a month or so earlier, i had spoken at a mens conference in savannah.  it was a message about what we as men do with our money - and how those decisions actually affect our salvation.  a tough message for sure...  lets just say there were some crickets chirping in the room.

the amazing part is how God gave me that message.  as crazy as it might sound, he gave it to me in a dream.  basically word for word, right down to the chapters and verses.  i know it sounds wild, but its true.  i woke up and told my wife every word of it...  looked up all the passages...  and wrote it all down.

when i returned home to guatemala after giving the message to the men at the conference, kerrie asked me how it went and i remember telling her, "i did it.  don't know how it went over, but i said what God told me to say!"

you can imagine the shock when just a couple weeks later - my friend pastor dave stewart at SCC called to invite me to share the same message with the entire church.  i was stunned!  excited, but stunned.

if you want to watch it, you can click here.  its not the exact same message i shared with the men - that one was much more "raw" b/c of the nature of a mens conference.  i also took out my personal testimony as i had to shorten it quite a bit for the church services.

i am grateful for the teachings Jesus gave us about our wealth and our salvation!  it has changed my life and i continue praying for deeper changes to come.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Honduras Boys Academy Plant

The Rhinos with the boys from Travesia
We have an exciting announcement we'd like to share.  I'll keep this one short, but you can expect to hear a lot more in the near future!

Ever since we came home from Honduras early this year, we knew God was up to something. Our JV boys played in a soccer tournament there, but the trip ended up being so much more than that.

During the trip, God led us to a little village called Travesia.  An extremely poor community located on the Caribbean Honduran coastline. Like Buena Vista, Guatemala, it is a unique combination of extreme poverty and natural beauty blended together in the same place.

We met some people there who were in the beginning stages of starting a soccer program for boys. Interestingly, they had started the program specifically to help keep the boys off the streets.

They told us that in Travesia, all the boys end up selling or doing drugs. In addition, sexual promiscuity and HIV is a serious problem.  3 brothers and a sister had decided to try to do something about it - and a loose soccer program in raw form was how they were trying to help keep the boys out of trouble.
Travesia Boys

It was a moment we will never forget. When we boarded the bus, we immediately prayed together about what had just happened.  We asked God why he brought us to Travesia...  how we could help...  and to please lead us going forward.

5 trips to Travesia, Honduras (and one visit from them to Guatemala) later...  

We believe that God is leading BVSA to plant another boys academy.  And the Davis family has felt the call to lead the plant on the ground and relocate to Honduras! 

Paul, Mynor and I on one of our return visits
In only our 4th year of BVSA, we believe more than ever that the Rhinos are the key to making disciples and winning their community to Christ.  We also know that Jesus commanded us to go into the world and make disciples...  which means, for us, planting more boys academies must be an important part of what we do!

We're excited to be sending the Davis family to Honduras to plant another boys academy! The way they have given themselves and embraced the vision of BVSA during their 2 years with us, leaves us confident as they look to share Jesus through the vision of The Rhinos into a new area with so much need.

More info will be coming out soon.  We didn't want the initial announcement to be overwhelming with details...

Davis family
But please be praying with us as we move forward - working to train up the future generation of leaders who can break the cycles of destruction in their communities!

Pray for the Davis family and follow them on their blog as they make plans and transition to a new country and new culture.  This has not been an easy decision.  We have become one big family, and we will miss very much the sharing of daily life.  But if we've learned anything, we know that we have to trust God when he is shaking things up! 

Follow more updates here on my blog...
Thanks - as always - for the continued prayers!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

steps forward

we've had our share of challenges here at the academy every since we got back from our trip to the states.  its been one of those "rough patches", i guess.  to some extent, we expected it after such an incredible high...

we've got boys suspended, others being disciplined, some struggling in school, one who wants to quit school, one who's [single] mom has literally left him at home alone and left to live somewhere else, and a ton more things going on that are adding stress.

however…  i'm writing this post is to mention something great that recently happened!

for better or worse, thats how it typically happens with us here at the academy.  when things are toughest, something special happens to remind us that God is at work.

one of the varsity rhinos asked to meet with me at my house one night a couple weeks ago.  he shared with me that he has been thinking a lot about all the little kids in the village who spend all their time in street.  he said they don't have any good influences in their lives.  he asked me if he could borrow a few soccer balls, cones, etc, to start doing soccer camps on saturday mornings.

he and my daughter spent a few hours making up invitations, and he passed them around the village the week before.  last saturday, he hosted his first of many (at least thats what he says!) soccer camps for the boys of Buena Vista.

the camp lasted from 8am to 12am.  a couple more rhinos helped him run it.  they did a bible study, some practice drills, and then of course, played a soccer tournament.  according to all who i asked, it was a very successful event!

for me, this was a special moment.  we've been spending years working with the boys - much of our purpose being centered on teaching them to care about others.  to see the problems in their community and respond!  and this was one of the first specific and unsolicited things that we've seen, that didn't require any leading or encouragement on our part.

i have known that God is changing the hearts of these boys.  but moments like these help make that point clear.  it also helps give encouragement during the tough days.

Monday, September 29, 2014

a little bit of our story

on our anniversary - miami airport
we've been together since i was 15 years old.

the first time i saw kerrie leigh haller, i was in 9th grade.  it was toward the end of the school year, just before summer break.  i was hanging out with some friends after school, waiting for my ride.  she was a grade above me, and had come over to my school to change buses.  

i saw her walking across the parking lot.  her long, curly hair grabbed my attention.  she was wearing a red shirt, jeans that were tight-rolled at the bottom, and red "sam & libby" shoes.  not going to lie… i was staring.  i asked my friends if anyone knew who she was.  somebody told me that they thought she was new here.

on the first day of 10th grade, i was pleasantly surprised (thrilled out of my mind, actually) to see her seated in a desk when i walked into anatomy & physiology class.  she was in the middle row, second desk from the front.  with a confident swagger, i passed by her, said "hey", and took a seat in the desk right behind her.

my confidence would soon be swallowed up by the repeated denials she gave me as i asked her to go out with me.  did she not know who i was?  (haha)  she must not have known that i was the man!  did she not know that i started on 3 varsity sports teams as a sophomore?  (she had to know… she was a cheerleader!)  did she not know that girls never said "no" to me when i asked them to be my girlfriend!?

after countless strikeouts, i settled for being friends.  soon we were best friends.  we loved to laugh.  and we could talk forever.  in fact we got in a lot of trouble at school for doing just that.

later that year, she finally said "yes".  but in hindsight, i'm thankful for all the times she said no.  it allowed for a genuine friendship to grow - that has continued to this day. she's been my best friend for more than 23 years.  and as of today, my wife for 18.     

kerrie stood faithfully by me when i was lost, and jumped courageously with me when God saved us.  our marriage hasn't been perfect, but her commitment to being a godly woman, loving wife and amazing mother has been.  and now, as we continue focussing on jesus together, our love for one another grows as a result.

i love you kerrie leigh.  you are beautiful & brilliant, faithful & forgiving, strong & steady.

sometimes i still catch myself staring at you, the same way i did in 9th grade when you were changing buses in the parking lot. 


Friday, September 19, 2014

video: back from the USA



we recently returned from an incredible trip to the US with our 15 varsity boys.  i can't even begin to express our feelings and emotions as we try to settle back into life in our village.


i put together a video highlighting the trip.  sorry, but it was impossible to keep it short! we had 10 days in the US with these guys and we packed in us much as possible. so many memories, so many experiences.  so… please wait until you have an extra 15 minutes in your day to watch this.  still not even close to enough time to capture it all.

here's a few things that i am unable to express in the video:
  • all of the love shown to the boys (and from the boys to others!)
  • all of the prep work, planning, and hosting by soooo many people
  • all of the work and responsibility by our amazing team here at bvsa, as well as trevor "tito" jenkins who trailed us in NY capturing incredible video and stills
  • all of the donations and generous giving from so many that made it all possible
  • how special and important everyone made the the boys feel (something not common to them in everyday life)
  • all of the times the boys cried as they shared their hearts
  • all of the hugs
  • all of the tears
  • all of the sadness and emotions on the way home (and still)
again, sorry for the long video, but i think it will be worth the 15 min investment.
consider where these boys come from (poverty and legalism) - and enjoy watching them take it all in…  and let loose a little bit too!


THANK YOU TO ALL & MUCH LOVE FROM ALL OF US HERE IN BUENA VISTA GUATEMALA!!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Rhino USA Trip Details

this is an incredibly exciting and special time for us here at bvsa!  in two weeks, we will be arriving with our varsity rhinos for a 10 day trip in the USA!  they are unbelievably excited (giddy) as we prepare for the big trip.
from an "opportunity standpoint", this trip will be nothing less than unimaginable. the exposure and experience alone could help mold these guys into young men that will have "seen the world" outside their little village.  i pray they'll bring back a certain confidence that will help them be better future leaders of Buena Vista.
from a "soccer standpoint", this will be interesting!  we'll be playing high-level, US-select teams.  those of you that know our boys already know... we're much smaller!  but we're scrappy.  the boys are nervous!  how will we match up?  no matter what happens, it will be exciting just to be there

will you come out and support the boys?  imagine how special they would feel if the field was packed... surrounded by all of their "gringo friends" cheering them on!!
take a second and think about life in their village... remember the life of extreme poverty where they come from...  and consider how AMAZING it would feel to be cheered on by screaming fans - while playing their favorite sport in the USA!!
please come out and help make these guys feel like the champions they already are!  then come spend time with them at one of the scheduled post-game "rhino fiestas"!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

varisty boys headed to the USA!

when we got the news that the visas were approved!
the details are still being worked out for the varsity boys USA trip, but we're expecting to be in Jacksonville, FL during the weekend of Sept 6th for a series of soccer games.  We are also hoping to get to Savannah, GA for a day, before heading to New York City for a few days as well!

*we still need help. YOU CAN CHOOSE ONE OF THE RHINOS, AND SPONSOR HIS TRIP.  maybe lead a sponsorship effort with your office, ladies group, poker buddies, whatever...  use it as an opportunity to share about the boys and whats going on in guatemala!  

click here to help sponsor a rhino's trip

during the trip, there will be a few different "events" where anyone who wants to come and show some love to the Rhinos will be invited!  we will also post all of the game times and locations as soon as they are confirmed.  more info coming ASAP.

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almost a year ago, somebody threw out a comment - seemingly in passing - that if there was any way to get the varsity boys to the US, they would pay for the flights.  i didn't think he was serious.  but several times over the next few months, it came up again.  he was serious.

then... through the referral of another friend, we were invited to pay in some high-level, select-team games in the US!

then... we started looking into the passport and visa processes, and even though it was obviously going to be extremely complicated, we decided to pray and ask God if this was his will.  we decided to pursue it.

then... we had some friends who have a youth ministry in the states do a big fundraiser to cover the costs of the very expensive visa applications, even though there was a good chance we'd be denied (especially considering the immigration issue in the US right now).

then... after months of paperwork, tracking down dads who had abandoned their kids long ago, meetings with lawyers, power of attorneys, trips (30 kids and 60 parents) to immigration and the US embassy, more parent meetings, online applications, interview preparations, and MUCH more...  by God's grace...  we received the visas!

in one month, we will be taking 15 boys who have grown up in extreme rural poverty in Guatemala to see Florida, Georgia, and New York City.  they'll board 7 airplanes.  they'll play soccer on top-notch fields against american kids their age.  they'll see sandy white beaches.  ride a train into Grand Central Station.  see a MLS game.  experience New York City.  Times Square.

are you kidding me?!

most of these kids grew up in cornstalk, tin, and mud brick homes with dirt floors.  they've been walking miles into the mountains each day to bring back firewood on their backs... since they could walk.  most still battle with extremely difficult living situations, not to mention a dysfunctional and/or abusive home.

what a joy and privilege to be able to do this for these guys!  while some might say its too much, overkill, or over exposure... i don't think so.  i think exposure to new things - big things - will help form the boys into qualified and capable men who can lead the village of Buena Vista in a new way.

the upcoming trip to the states is not "reality" for the boys.  they know that.  longing for nice cars, boats, houses, and other material things they may see... is not reality.  in fact, it may eventually help them appreciate the simplicity of life in Buena Vista.  it will lead to deeper conversations, and hopefully, to a very well-rounded perspective.

which is where our job here at the academy comes in.  i've spent practically every day with these boys for several years.  our job as mentors - second parents - is to balance out the nonsense through daily life and example.  no different than all of us do with our own kids.

all of us here at bvsa are so excited about this.  i can't even imagine seeing Pato's face when that first plane takes off.  or Nicho's face while riding the inner-tube behind my dad's boat.  or any of their faces during a late-night walk through Times Square.

i'm also excited that many longtime friends, family, and supporters of the rhinos will have a chance to see the boys while we're there... hug their necks... and cheer them on as the play.

i'm excited for the boys to be in a new place - a new country - and see how God uses the experience to teach them something new.

and i think i'm most excited about the potential bonding experience.  we've been through a lot lately as a team.  we've stuck together and fought through some tough times.  i believe in my heart that this is perfect timing for something special to happen that brings our varisty family of boys even closer together! 

we still need some help making it happen.  if you are interested in sponsoring a boy, 


Saturday, August 2, 2014

dr. Carlos' new clinic

celebrating the opening of the new clinic
over the last several months, we have been working hard on a special project.  with the support of our friends Alex & Marie Dunlap, a new clinic that can serve the community of Magdalena and Buena Vista has been completed.
 
if you have followed our ministry or my blog, you have heard much about Dr. Carlos.  he's been a dear friend for many years.  we've been through so many things together...  and in the process he has earned our absolute trust.  not only is he a good friend and great doctor, but he has demonstrated time and time again to have a unique intuition and understanding of whatever situation is at hand.
 
we believe God has used (and continues to use) Dr. Carlos in a very special way to serve his community.  because of that, we want to get behind his efforts and support him.  over the years we have not found many locals that are truly devoted to serving there own community.  so when we do, we want to provide our full support.
 
dr carlos surprised us with a new sign at the new clinic
last week, with a group of friends in town (made up of primarily Alex & Marie's family), we were able to complete the finishing touches of the new clinic, and officially open it for business!  it was a special and emotional time when we finally opened the doors for Dr. Carlos to see.  (we had kept him away during the week so that we could surprise him at the inauguration.)  at one point during the tour, Dr. Carlos "let go" and enjoyed a long cry as he hugged his wife, Neli.
 
click here for pictures of the new clinic!
 
Dr. Carlos will be offering a free clinic every monday from 9-12, and free physical therapy on tuesdays!  we're praying a special anointing over the new clinic and new home, as well as over Dr. Carlos and his team as they use this new blessing to be a blesisng to others.  

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

a few recent happenings

i feel like i can't even catch my breath lately.  lots of ups and downs.  which is normal for us here...  except that lately, the swings have been dramatic!  thankfully there are always ups.  here's a few from the last week or so... 



always fun to give a family some new beds.  in this case (and in most) en entire family was sleeping in the same bed.  now, milton and cristian have their own space to spread out.  they must feel like kings!  i'm sure mom and dad are pretty happy to have their own bed as well...






we invited our neighbors over for dinner and a "white elephant" game the other day.  it was a blast.  grandpa marcos first opened up a pack of toy cars...  but later on was able to steal the gift he had his eye on - a nice warm blanket!






i came home a couple nights ago to an excited group of rhinos who were spending the night... they couldn't wait to show me what they had put together.  using bananagram letters, they put together a chart of "brock's family", which included kerrie, the kids, and their 3 names.  brought tears to my eyes immediately!





this picture was taken when we arrived back at the academy after a successful trip to the US Embassy last week.  our varsity boys were given temporary visas to travel to the US to play in an international soccer tournament!  we praise God for having favor on us at the embassy and during this process (many were being denied, including other soccer teams).  we believe that he must have a special purpose for this trip.  more details to follow...





our friend cesar has been bedridden for 12 years with a form of spondylitis so severe that his entire spine has fused together.  he has lost the ability to move practically every bone in his body, except for one hand, and his jaw. 

recently, he was having complications and needed to overnight in the hospital for treatment.  (not an easy situation since it is extremely painful for him to have to be moved.) 

as i drove him home, i listened to him in the back of the van, preaching God's goodness the entire way home.  despite the overwhelming pain of the ride, he shared about God's grace and the saving love of Jesus.  some friends were visiting from the states and had gone with us that day.  spencer (facing forward) could barely take it - sobbing uncontrollably the entire way home.  he later told me that cesar's words and example forever changed his life.


oscar update

just want to thank all of you for your continued prayers for oscar.

after posting my last blog, he had a few more attacks.  but through much prayer and fighting, we believe he is now free.  its been almost a week since the last one.

please keep praying for his strength.  we believe satan uses his "anger" as a door to get into his mind.  one of the common threads to all of the attacks was that they started as he became upset about something.  so we have been talking with him a lot about that, and praying for his ability to control himself in those moments, give whatever it is over to God, and have peace.

thank you for fighting these battles with us!  we definitely feel your prayers.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

casting off darkness with the armor of light (rom 13:12)

thank you to all of you who have lifted this situation up in prayer.  scripture says prayer and fasting is critical in dismantling demonic activity.  we have felt your support in a big way.

jesus carried me through one of the toughest weeks i've ever had here in guatemala. crazy thing is, it started off pretty amazing.

a week ago sunday, we had the privilege of baptizing oscar, one of the rhinos who recently accepted christ.  i've known oscar for almost 6 years.  he's been in the boys academy for more than 3 years, ever since we opened.
me and oscar in early 2009
his baptism party was joyous.  he is a changed young man, no doubt.  we've seen it coming for a long time.  as our friend cesar later told us, there was surely a fiesta in the heavens as another young man from the village of buena vista is freed and now knows the grace of jesus christ.

oscar's baptism - july 13, 2014
the next day, oscar experienced the first of several demonic attacks that would hit throughout the week.  for me its been a crash course in demon possession/oppression - reading as much scripture as possible, hearing from people i love and trust, and from simply being thrown into the fire.  there has been much prayer and discernment as a group here at bvsa as to how to handle things.  and much seeking as to what our role is, as those filled with the holy spirit.  i had seen some things before, but never been so personally involved.  and the things i had read or studied in the past had done nothing to prepare me for the real deal.

during the attacks, he loses control of his body, and doesn't know who he is.  he becomes amazingly strong- usually taking several of us to hold him down. during one of them, he drove me into a block wall as if i was half his size (he is half mine).  he foams at the mouth, rolls his eyes back, becomes rigid, etc.

the first time it happened, it scared me.  i think it scared all of us. we began digging into God's word, and becoming strengthened by faith. each time it happened after that, i felt stronger and more confident in claiming the blood of Jesus Christ as supreme authority.  as a team here, we knew that the same blood that purchased each of us is sufficient.  with each following attack, we prayed over him, sang, worshiped, and demanded, in the name of Jesus, that he be left alone.

late thursday night during a time of worship, singing and prayer, he passed out.  he had done this before, but it had only been after the "attacks", never out of the blue.  after several minutes, he woke up, and seemed much better- much more alert.  the next day, we had an incredibly sweet time of prayer and sharing as a team (all the rhinos).  they prayed over him, encouraged him, and promised to always have his back.  beautifully, these "events" have brought them closer in ways that i haven't seen in the last 3 years since the academy opened its doors.

it has been 2 days since then.  we've kept a close eye on him since, and he's doing great.  we are believing that he has been delivered.  right now as i type, i can hear him in the other room with jake and milton, laughing and messing around just like normal.

this is far from over.

paul put it this way during varsity team devotions on friday (as best i can recall).  i thought it was a perfect summary of where we are:

paul:  "tell me some of the things that are 'dark' about your village." 
the boys:  "abuse, addiction, beating up women, not caring about their families or others."
paul:  "how long has it been that way here?"
the boys:  "forever."
paul:  "what are you guys trying to do about it?"
the boys:  "change it."
paul:  "so if those things make your village dark, you guys are like lights, trying to illuminate the darkness...
the boys:  nod their heads yes
paul:  so if satan likes his darkness, do you think he's going to be ok with it if you start turning on the lights?"
the boys:  "no"
paul:  "so basically what we've started here in the village is a war - light verses darkness.  do you understand?"
the boys:  "yes"
paul:  "if you want an explanation for whats been going on with your teammate this week, here's an easy answer.  he accepted christ recently and decided to jump into the front lines of this war.  in a war, the front line is always the most dangerous spot.  the enemy struck him, but he's back up.  through the power of jesus, we lifted him up together, and he's strong again.  in fact, all of us are stronger.  and here's the best news...  we know who wins the war!  because we fight for a king that has never been defeated, and never will never be defeated.  his name is jesus."

after this time together, one of the boys raised his hand and said "i want to fight.  oscar has been my friend longer than anyone, and when i saw him going through the attacks, i wanted to trade shoes with him and take his place.  i want to fight too.  i want a shot at the enemy."

i was fighting back tears.  we have a verse from john 15 on the gym wall that says "there is no greater love than this, to lay down his life for a friend."

do you hear this satan?  you have made us stronger.  we know you're not going away.  but we claim the blood of jesus in this place.  we claim victory in the mighty name of our king, the commander of our army, Jesus Christ.  you know him, and you tremble at his name.  and we are filled with him.  you have enjoyed your darkness here for too long.  we're not going anywhere.  together, with our rhinos, we are turning on some lights.  and we dont plan on stopping until our little "village on a hill" is lit up so bright that the whole world sees it.

"the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light.  and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned."  
Matthew 4:16

oscar's team - the varsity rhinos

Monday, July 7, 2014

waking up to a 7.1

pic from today of a damaged home in the san marcos region
at 5:20 this morning a 7.1 earthquake had our house rocking back and forth.

one of the stronger ones we've felt in a while for sure.  so strong that by the time kerrie and i ran out of our room, our kids were already running out of theirs.  within seconds we had andrea scooped up out of her crib, and were headed outside. 

the giant block wall of the academy gym was waving and bending like a flag.  not joke.  it was crazy.

praying for all of those who were hurt, injured, etc.  i read in the news today that several were killed, many injured, and countless had their homes ruined.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

world cup in brazil

alex, chad, me, and mynor at the argentina game
not long after the 2010 world cup, my bro chad and my buddy alex - both longtime supporters of my family and BVSA since its inception - threw out an offer.

they told mynor and i that if we could save up some money between then and 2014's world cup in brazil, they would cover the rest of the costs and take us to the cup.  we tucked away little by little for 3 years.

we recently got home from a 10 day trip to brazil.  we saw 4 games in two different cities.  in those games we were able to see 4 of the final 8 teams that are still alive in the cup! 

we saw lionel messi single-handedly win a game for argentina in the final minutes.  and we saw the home team, brazil, win a classic against chile that went to penalty shots - with neymar hitting the game winner.
"cristo redentor" - rio de janeiro

we juggled soccer balls on copacabana beach with new friends from all over the world.  and we made it to the top of the mountain where the famous "christ the redeemer" statue overlooks rio de janeiro.  (check that one off the bucket list!)

but my favorite part?  hanging with good friends.  we had a blast.  we laughed so much and so hard, i think i pulled a muscle in my stomach. 

it was wonderful to come home.  i missed my fam and i missed the rhinos.  the boys have been on the edge of their seats for every story, picture, and video we can share about brazil.  they still can't believe that we were at the world cup

for those who know my story, professional sports was my life for a while.  i became immune to athletes, super bowls and pro bowls.  been there, done that. 

juggling on copacabana beach - another bucket lister
but world cup is different.

32 countries and all their fans - all in the same place?  insanity.  flags everywhere.  songs, anthems, and chants fill the streets all hours of the day & night.  pure madness.  if only we got that excited about jesus...

hysterically, the amount chad and alex asked us to save up was literally insignificant when compared to the final bill on this voyage.  THANKS GUYS.  your generosity created a very special experience.  obviously for me and mynor...  but also for all the rhinos that have been glued to my pictures and videos!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

extravagant generosity

i've prayed for healing over people many times.  but rarely am i the one prayed over for healing...

going back a couple of months ago... it was the final day of hosting our friends from journey church in jacksonville, FL.  they had come on a mission trip, to serve the boys in the academy.  it was a great week, and we had just wrapped up a wonderful, spirit-filled final night of worship together.

our friends from journey church (antoine far left)
several of the boys had gone deep with their testimonies, which led to several members of the journey team doing the same.  we all felt God breaking-through to us in some really special ways.  as the boys were leaving, there were lots of tears and heart-felt goodbyes.

i had broken my thumb playing basketball about 6 weeks before that.  a couple weeks later, dr. carlos re-set the dislocation (one of the more painful experiences of my life! haha) and wrapped it up in a bandage.  but during the week leading up to the journey team's arrival, it had been hurting much worse.  in fact, the day before the team arrived, dr. carlos looked at it again, told me that i had clearly re-injured it, and that it was now "severely broken."  the break was obvious even to the naked eye.  he said i should see an orthopedic doctor right away, have it re-set again, and have a hard cast put on for 6-8 weeks.

i decided to wait until the journey team left.  i felt that i was supposed to play guitar and lead worship for their team.  even though it hurt to play, i prayed about it and believed that God wanted me to do it.  i asked my wife to pray as well, and we made the decision to wait one more week.  i kept my hand wrapped up, and used my pointer finger sticking out of the bandage to strum chords.

back to our final night.  as we sat there in the silence after all the boys had left, one of the members of the journey team asked if they could pray for jessica's health.  we all gathered around, laid our hands on her, and prayed.  again, i have prayed for healing over people many times - but this time was really special.  the sincerity, beauty, and passion of the prayers led to an experience with God that had us all in tears.

then suddenly, a guy named antoine asked me for my thumb.  he grasped my bandage-wrapped-hand, and began praying.  acknowledging that God's will and purposes are greater than ours, he boldly asked God to heal my thumb.  

at this point, i must confess that i was somewhat against these prayers.  i know... that sounds awful.

but as he prayed for my measly thumb, i couldn't stop thinking about the people all around me that need healing much worse than i did.  not only is the majority of our village sick, abused, addicted or broken - but i was also thinking about jessica, who was sitting right next to me.  she battles with the autoimmune disease of lupus every day of her life, and was currently dealing with some extreme pain and complications.

but as everyone continued praying - once again - the presence of the holy spirit was overwhelming.  i could feel him there with us.  seriously.  later that night, kerrie (who is normally not one to report "visions" or spiritually cooked-up stories) told me that she literally saw the shadowed outline of an additional person sitting there with us praying.  she was certain that it was the presence of Jesus.

sounds of crying and passionate prayer filled the room... until antoine interrupted by asking me loudly "brock, does your thumb still hurt?"

i hesitated to answer.  i think i just said "i don't know man."

then he asked again, "well, does it hurt or not?"  i knew why i didn't want to answer.  i didn't even want to try moving it around to check.  i feared having to say "yep, it still hurts."  my concern was that it would be a "moment killer" if it wasn't healed.  i didn't want it to be awkward.

but i couldn't be dishonest either.  i responded, "i'm not sure", hoping that we could move on and continue praying for jessica.

antoine insisted: "brock, take off the bandage."  busted.  i had no choice, so i took it off.  he grabbed my thumb and starting twisting it around.  my first reaction was to hold my breath and cringe in pain!  i had been dealing with this thumb for 6 weeks at this point, and i knew the level of pain it was causing me.  any contact with it, like reaching into my pocket, opening a door, brushing my teeth, etc...was excrutiating.

so my natural reaction was to pull my hand away from him quickly in order to avoid the pain.  but he didn't let go.  he continued... massaging and twisting my thumb around in a gentle, but confident way.

that's when the reality of the moment hit me like a ton of bricks.

there was no pain.  it didn't hurt at all.

i know i must have gone stone-faced at that moment, because i don't even remember my reaction.  i do remember finally saying "bro, i don't feel anything."  he continued, "well, move it around and see what you can do."

so i did...  i wiggled it around, and squeezed my hand into a fist.  things that would have been impossible just a few minutes earlier.  i continued opening and closing my hand, over and over again.

with tears in my eyes, i finally said, "no pain.  nothing.  it's healed."

we broke out into prayer again.  everyone was praising God.  i remember looking at kerrie, then paul.  the looks on their faces must have been as shocked as mine!

all i could do was fall down on my knees, rest my hands on jessica's feet, and beg God to move the healing over to her.  i still felt like i didn't deserve it.  my thumb was nothing compared to her disease.  it just didn't make sense.

Romans 11:33 says:
"oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  how unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!  who has known the mind of the Lord?"

God didn't heal jessica that day.  but he healed my broken thumb.

- maybe my faith needed challenged.
- maybe He has more purposes to accomplish though jessica's illness.
- maybe He healed my thumb to do a work in antoine's heart, or to grow his gift of healing.
- or maybe instead of hypothesizing, he simply wants us to praise him in all things - good, bad, and difficult to understand. (1 thess 5:16-19).

as eugene peterson put Romans 11:33 in the message bible:
have you ever come upon anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom?  its way over our heads.  we'll never figure it out.

i have been hesitant to share this story because of my personal wrestling with the "why" part.  ...that sense of feeling unworthy to have had my thumb healed.  why use a miracle to heal my thumb, that can heal itself in 6-8 weeks in a cast... when there are so many more severe needs all around me?

--------------------------
last friday, we were doing some physical conditioning with the boys in the gym... when the song came on the stereo.  "there is power in the name of Jesus...  to break every chain, break every chain, break every chain."

as i thought of these boys that i love, considering their challenges and circumstances, and began to sing those lyrics over them in prayer. as they did box jumps, cone drills, and push ups, i prayed over them, "God break every chain, break every chain, break every chain..."

i suddenly remembered where i had heard this song before.  it was the song that antoine was singing out as he prayed over my thumb 2 months ago!  such a special night.  he was crying this song out as a prayer.  the entire team from journey joined in, and soon we were all singing it out.  people were laying on the floor - face down.  tears streaming.

that night was the first time i had heard that song, and i had never heard it since - until friday's workout.

my heart was exploding.  i hid my teary eyes from mynor, paul, and the boys.  God was speaking to me. "Brock, in the instant of my choosing, I healed a broken bone in your body.  do you still believe in my power?  that i can do all things?  including break every generational chain in this village?"

among all of his purposes for healing my thumb, one of them is that I needed reminded of God's power.  there is power in the name of Jesus...

my silence about this amazing miracle has exposed my lack of faith.  and it has been an unintentional attempt to suppress his fame and his glory.  and what a tragedy that is...  as his fame and glory is all that i care about.

God, forgive me for letting my lack of understanding get in the way of my faith in you and my love for you.  Jesus, thank you for being with us that night as we cried out to you.  thank you for my friends at journey church, and for antoine's bold obedient prayer.  and thank you for healing my broken thumb!  and God... thank you for answering all of our prayers, whether it be simply by bringing peace to the heart, staying strangely silent, or by doing the miraculous - as I trust that all of your ways are perfect.  I know that there is power in the name of Jesus, and i believe in you to break every chain!


Thursday, May 22, 2014

negrito

when we moved from magdalena to buena vista, it only took a few weeks for jake (my son) and robin to become attached at the hip.  no joke, if we've lived in BV 1,200 days, he's been a fixture in our house 1,100 of them.  he's a member of the fam.  if he's not at the dinner table, as if any of my kids weren't there, somebody is certain to ask "where's robin?"

the boys call him "negrito" since his skin is darker.  he's an average student, a monster of a goalie, and has a smile that can warm up a room.
   
like almost all of the rhinos, i have grown to love this kid like my own.  the only difference with robin is that he almost is my own.

his dad was murdered when he was young.  he's the youngest of 3 brothers and 3 sisters, all of which are married or aren't home much.  he calls me "dad" in english every day.  i don't know if he's just repeating jake, or if he really knows/means what he's saying.  either way, i really like it.

his mom ester is very sweet.  she's a good mom... but she is hardly ever home either.  she leaves for work around 5am and comes home around 8pm.  she calls me regularly, checking in on robin.  she's thankful that he stays at our place, as it keeps him off the streets and getting into trouble.

lately i've seen a lot of changes in robin.  he is starting to mature and think through his decisions. he is becoming more helpful, asking what he can do around the house to help.  he adores my 1.5 yr old daughter andrea, and is always willing to take care of her.  and he and jake have begun having more meaningful conversations about life and faith.

robin will be a part of the movement that will forever change this village.  i believe he'll be a HUGE part of it!  he's going to be a great husband, dad, and leader.  who knows, maybe he'll continue the mission and ministry of BVSA when we're long gone...

if you would, please say a prayer for robin right now!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

back from honduras

i have a sweet feeling from the spirit of God that you will be hearing more about honduras sometime in the near future...

but in the meantime, i wanted to post that our trip was INCREDIBLE. 

if you follow our ministry, you already know that our JV boys were invited to play in the "mini world cup" in honduras last week.  God made it happen, despite many things that came up that we now know were attempts by the ENEMY to keep us from going.

now back home in Guatemala, I praise God for:

- safe travel.  no issues, corruption, extortion, etc, when crossing the border
- new friendships and connections made
- no injuries, sickness, or problems of any kind with the boys
- all who provided financially to make the trip possible
- all who cared for us while there - the sweet people at la iglesia filadelfia and their orphanage
- how our rhinos ministered to the hearts of the orphans... loved on them, accepted them, played with them, and worshiped God with them. something absolutely beautiful to see.
- my team here at BVSA who worked hard to handle every detail of this trip.  passports, legal docs, school permissions, food, sleeping bags, sheets, pillows, parent meetings, uniforms, and on and on....
- all who prayed for our trip!
- Jesus for your divine purposes and faithfulness.  you told us to get to honduras no matter what, that you had more there for us than we could imagine...  and you are faithful to your word!

pictures attached:  #1 is at the tournament with our boys. #2 is wilmer and his 2 little brothers at the orphanage. their father killed their mother 4 years ago, and they've been in the orphanage ever since. #3 is pablo (cesar's son, for those who know cesar), who gave his shoes to a boy we played against. the kid played the entire game with no shoes...