Sunday, April 20, 2014

proud dad / uncle

i'm proud of these two boys for much more than soccer.  they are becoming great leaders.  they are good examples to one another.  they are unselfish and humble.  my son Jake recently told me, "dad, me and Eli are starting to talk a lot more about God together.  we've been friends forever but i think our friendship is getting deeper."

they are 12 years old!  the only thing i was thinking about when i was 12 years old was MTV, girls, pimples, and how to be like mike.  (if you grew up in the 80s you'll understand that reference)

i could on and on about these two boys.  but this post actually is about soccer.

my son and my nephew (at least he's known me as "uncle" practically his whole life) have raised their games this year.  bigtime.  there is no doubt they have become the leaders of their team.

we're playing in 2 different leagues (tournaments) right now.  both are intense.  one is all of the "select" teams in our area.  the other is with a collection of big schools in the city.  all of the teams tower over us and "on paper" should dominate us.

but we are a scrappy team, and we're alive in both tournaments.  currently 2nd in the select league, and 3rd in the other.

in large part, our standing in both leagues is due to jake and eli, who are both 12 years old (playing in 14 and under league).

jake has 8 goals in his last 3 games (3, 3, 2) and has the assist for basically any other goal that's been made.  but more than scoring, his "style" of play has completely changed all of a sudden.  he's playing extremely physical - seeming to enjoy the "fight" on every play.  watching him play lately, i see a 15 or 16 year old... not a 12 year old.

eli too.  he is running the defense with a new passion.  its like something has snapped in his mind all of a sudden.  he is physical, scrappy, and is sooooo fast.  he has saved us so many times.  in a recent game against the all-antigua team, i gave him the game ball because even though we lost 4-1, it could have easily been 10-1 if he hadn't played like such a beast.

one more example...

on wednesday, our varsity boys had a game (18 and under league).  because of suspensions and injuries, we were short on players.  both jake and eli dressed out and played with the varsity.  playing against a "select" team of 18 year olds from magdalena, my two 12 year old boys played like champs.  confident and solid.  no one watching that game would have noticed there were two kids 5-6 years younger than the rest out there.

i can't even imagine the type of players these two will be six years from now, when they actually are 18.  not to mention what kind of men they'll be...

Monday, April 14, 2014

stronger on the other side

the ups and downs that come with raising 30 boys continue.

2 of my favorite boys (am i allowed to have favorites?) did something beyond stupid a couple weeks ago.  something that contradicts countless devotions and simple talks we've had with the boys over the years regarding respecting girls.

over much prayer and discussion, we decided to expel them from the academy indefinitely.  what they did goes against everything it means to be a rhino in this community, and tarnishes the reputation of the academy.  so from an "organizational" standpoint, we felt we had no choice.

i hate legalism.  so the sound of "kicking out the sinner" just makes me feel sick.  we're all sinners.  i did similar stuff when i was their age.  i still do stupid stuff.

so we're going above and beyond to make sure they know we love them. we're having regular dinners, staying close, trying to disciple them through this.  how they grow, react, and change through this can earn them a return to the academy eventually, and they know that...

but at the same time, these 2 boys are nearing 18 years old.  they are young men.  they must learn that there are consequences for dumb decisions.  do stupid stuff like what you did, and you get fired from your job, etc.

but more important than that, they need to learn that the rights of the girl they hurt with their actions must be defended.  she doesn't have a dad that cares.  no one is speaking up for her... defending her... or protecting her.

that's our job.  its not only the right thing to do, but its also the best way i can think of to teach our boys how to respect women, and how to be good husbands and fathers.

please pray for them with us.  while they are not participating in the academy every day, they are out in the streets more, working in fields, and surrounded by the men of BV all day long.  temptation will be stronger without the daily community, devotions, and encouragement they get in the academy.

our prayer is that they make it through this, grow from it, and come out stronger on the other side. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

wilmer's testimony and baptism

wilmer's dad left when he was little.  when he was 7, he started working in the fields.  by 11 years old, he was working a full time job after school, coming home around 8:00 at night. 

when i met him about 5 years ago, wilmer was a depressed kid.  his emotions were all over the place.  even after entering the boys academy, he remained unstable.  its been a process to say the least.  he has wanted to quit several times.  we've had countless meetings with him and his mom.  helped in as many ways as possible.

for a while now, God has been luring Wilmer in.  not long ago, he accepted Christ, and last Sunday he was baptized.  it was a sweet moment for sure, and an example of true conversion.  there is no doubt that with Christ, wilmer is a completely different person.

last night, with some friends in town from journey church jacksonville, wilmer shared his testimony.  he shared all of the pain of his childhood and the difficulties growing up.  then about all he has learned at the academy, and how his life has changed. 

but my favorite part was when he said that he is teaching his brothers, sisters, and mom everything that he is learning at the academy.  he finished by saying "everyone in my family is changing."

that stretches our vision even further than originally dreamed for.  from the beginning, we've prayed that the cycles of abuse addiction, absence, etc, would stop with the rhinos.  that they would grow up, start a family, and build a different home.

but wilmer is not only going to change his future family.  at 16 years old, God is using him to change his current one as well.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

miracles at immigration

thank you to all those who have prayed for, and financially supported our trip to honduras coming up in may!

one of the challenges we have faced is the that of getting all of the boys their passports.  i think i have mentioned it in past blogs, but its been a long and difficult process. 

in poverty such as this, its not uncommon for people to not even own a birth certificate.  in some cases, the dad is nowhere to be found.  in other cases, mistakes were made on birth certificates or citizenship cards (spelling, etc).  it has been months of hard work just to get to the point where we could take the trip to immigration and apply for the passports.

people donated money, we rented a bus, prepared food, and got all the papers in order.  we left buena vista with all the boys and their parents at 4:30AM.

after 3 hours waiting in line, the doors opened.  one after another, our applications were denied.  small errors on birth certificates and on our power of attorney documents were the primary reason.

we tried to fight on their behalf, but no one was budging. they wouldn't let us in the doors to allow us to help the families explain their side of things.  the parents of our boys were overwhelmed and intimidated... unaware of their own rights, and therefor unable to defend them.

after hours in the hot sun, we had only 4 passports.  i texted kerrie to be praying, that things weren't looking good.  i'm sure others were already praying. 

that's when a little miracle happened.  we found ourselves (based on a tip from a guy who worked inside who heard about our situation) down the street in the immigration central offices.  we explained our situation to the secretary, and asked for someone in charge.

about 20 minutes later, he came out of his office.  obviously short on time, he said "i'm in a meeting, but tell me what's up."  we shared our story... explained what we do at the academy, the upcoming tournament in honduras, and all we had done to get to this point.  from the window we were standing in front of, we could see our entire group - about 80 people - a block away in the parking lot.  i pointed to them and said, "thats our boys and their families, right there."

he responded "i'll  be over there after my meeting, and i'll take care of it."

"wait... what do you mean?", i asked.  he smiled and said, "dont worry, i run this place, i'll take care of it."

a couple hours later, we were all inside (me, paul, and mynor), helping all of our boys' families get through their paperwork to get their passports processed.  our new friend, who we later found out is the director of immigration, was there to push through almost all of the files that had been declined.

after an insanely long day, we walked out with 21 passports out of the 27 boys we had arrived with!

we have specific instructions in order to complete the remaining 6 needed, and we're confident we'll get them done.

we consider what happened today to be a miracle.  we've done enough paperwork in guatemala to know that it doesn't normally (ever!) work out this way.  we believe God is with us as we do our best to defend the rights of the poor.  to protect those who are underprivileged and overlooked.  to advocate for those whose voices are not being heard.

here's a final thought:

today was a groundbreaking. 

its safe to assume that in the history of our village of buena vista, no one has ever owned a passport.  most had probably never even heard of one.

today, 21 boys from BV received their government issued guatemala passport, good for the next 5 years.

while i may not know everything that means or implies... i do know that its exciting!

i also know that in a little over a month, these same boys are going to cross the border into honduras.  i know we'll play in a big soccer tournament, and i know we'll see the honduran coastline and splash in the carribean waters.

...but i have this strange feeling that there's so much more i don't know that God has in store for us on that trip.