Wednesday, February 24, 2016

a story about pablo, the son of cesar

tucked away in the rural mountains of guatemala, in a forest called finca florencia, lives the most devoted man of god, and faith-led family, that i have ever met.  i am honored to be a part of their lives, and privileged to record and share their stories!

if you have followed our ministry or family, you probably know about our friend cesar.  if you need some background info, please read a few past blogs to get familiarized:  november 2011june 2012, july 2012august 2012april 2013july 2014november 2015.         

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last week we received some tough news.

pablo, cesar and andrea's son (and one of our rhinos) was sick and having trouble breathing.  we took him to dr. carlos, who ran a bunch of tests including an x-ray to see his lungs.  his lungs were fine, but the x-ray showed that he had an extremely curved spine.

dr. carlos called me right away.  after studying the x-rays, he was concerned that the curvature was so extreme that it could require that pablo wear a "milwaukee brace" for 2-3 years.  (feel free to look up "milwaukee brace" and check it out.  not fun.)  but dr, carlos thought this was a case of severe scoliosis - so extreme that the brace would likely be necessary.  

pablo at the zoo in jacksonville, FL
the next day, dr. carlos broke the news to the family.  he recommended that pablo see a specialist to confirm, but wanted to prepare them about the possibility of the brace.  if needed, it would have to be worn for 2-3 years, 23hrs per day, leaving 1 hour to bath and do some therapy.

keep in mind that pablo's dad has been completely immobilized for about 10 years now with spondylitis ankylosing - a disease that has ultimately fused together his spine and left him paralyzed from the neck down.  so imagine how tough it must have been to hear a doctor tell them that problems with pablo's spine is likely to take his next 2-3 years of normal life away from him as well. 

pablo, along with his mom and sisters, were extremely emotional.  cesar told me that pablo laid on his chest that day and cried...

but cesar, in the same way that he always does, brought eternal perspective into the critical moment.  he looked in the eyes of his crying son and said, "son, if God has chosen you for this, it is because he is doing something amazing!  we should be so excited and honored that he would choose you to suffer for his glory!"

at some point i should stop being dumbfounded by the faith of this man! 

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2 days later we were in the office of a spine specialist in guatemala city.  dr. carlos rayo flores is a spinal surgeon and works out of offices in tikal futura, one of the few upscale high-rises in the city.

it was a difficult visit, and didn't bring any positive encouragement to say the least.  the doctor examined pablo, but was most concerned about cesar's disease - the fact that it is genetic and can be passed from father to son.  he asked for new x-rays (the one we had was of the lungs and only showed a part of the spine), blood tests, urine and feces samples, etc, and to come back as soon as possible.

the visit only left pablo and his mom (and all of us) even more concerned.

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4 days later (today) mynor and I took pablo and andrea back to dr. flores' office with all of the new x-rays and test results he requested.  after 2.5 hours in the waiting room we were finally called back.  as we sat there watching him read the test results, we waited for him to say something.  then he stood up and placed all of the x-rays on the viewer.  there were 4 large x-rays, covering all angles of the spine.

we waited as he studied and made marks on the images.

finally, he turned to us and said:  "este muchacho no tiene nada."  this young man doesn't have anything.

he only said it once, but i swear i heard it echo 3 more times before i could respond.

what?????  are you serious?  how could that be?  what do you mean?  what changed? 

he went on to explain that the almost undetectable curve in his spine was irrelevant, he had no signs of scoliosis, spondylitis, or anything else for that matter.

we were in shock!  andrea was in shock!  we all looked at each other with that blank-face-surprised look.  pablo was grinning from ear to ear (more on that later).  then andrea asked, "so he can play futbol?"

still caught off guard, mynor and I just kept asking questions.  after answering them all, the doctor finally said, "listen, pablo is completely free and clear.  there is nothing wrong with him at all.  he can do anything he wants to do."

i'm embarrassed to say i still had questions.  i have spent the last 4 days reading everything on spondylitis and scoliosis.  i had learned that strict observation is key.  "well should we come back in 6 months or a year, take another x-ray, and see if anything has changed?" 

he responded, "no - he's totally fine."

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i left out several elements of this story- specific conversations, tears, prayers, etc.  for example, we had a special night last tuesday with all the rhinos and some friends visiting from the states.  everyone gathered around pablo and prayed for him.  it was an emotional and special time.  i know many others have been praying as well.

but about 10 minutes after the free & clear diagnosis, pablo shared another detail that left us speechless.

we took andrea and pablo to KFC (andrea's new favorite food!) to celebrate.  mynor and i were still stunned from the doctor visit.  as we were talking about it, i noticed pablo and his mom whispering to one another and laughing.

i couldn't help but ask what all the whispering was about.  pablo looked at me with big beautiful tears in his eyes.  he looked at his mom, then back at me again.  she nudged him saying, "tell him, tell him."  pablo began telling me the story...

he said that this morning his dad told him and andrea to come pray with him before they left.  andrea was running around doing different things, so only pablo went and sat down on his dad's bed.  cesar held his son close and prayed in the name of Jesus.

after they prayed, pablo got up to leave and his dad grabbed him with his hand and held him close.  then he said: "son, they aren't going to find anything today."  pablo just looked at him.  again, his dad said, "the doctors won't find anything."

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cesar singing with Luci
i have known cesar for many years.  he has been to the edge of death more times than i can even remember.  he has suffered through physical pain like no one i have ever known.  one thing he does not pray for, at least outside of God's will, is his own healing.

when he prays (and i bet i've heard him pray a hundred times!) he prays for God's will, whatever that might be.  if it means he continue suffering, he is good with that.  if it means he is healed, he'd be good with that too.  but he wants nothing more than God's will in his and his family's life.  more than his own healing or health, he only wants God to be glorified!

so why do i mention that?  because cesar would not have given his son those words had he not heard specifically from God that he had been healed.  in fact, he had already been preparing his son to handle the suffering well.  something had changed.

God had healed pablo.  and cesar knew it before anyone else.

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sitting in the car later, mynor and i held up the two x-rays - one from a week ago, and the one with the same angle from today.  we didn't have to be doctors to know that something had changed.  the one from a week ago had more of a "C" shape, and the one from today looked more like an almost-straight line.

in fact, when we got back to dr. carlos' office, and he had a chance to examine the 2 x-rays side by side, his reaction said it all.  laying one x-ray over the other, it was clear that the miraculous had taken place.  he said that in his career as a doctor he had witnessed many miracles, but that he still gets amazed every time.  holding up the 2 x-rays he said "as a doctor, what i see makes no sense at all.  there is only one explanation - God chose to do a miracle."

all we could do was praise God.

no one says it better than cesar himself, and i've heard him say this so many times...


"eres el Dios del Imposible, el Doctor de Excelencia, el Medico de Medicos - 
hay algo imposible para ti?"

"you are the God of the Impossible, the Excellent Doctor, the Doctor of Doctors - 
is there anything impossible for you?"



Monday, February 22, 2016

discipleship: leading others to lead

saturday morning i was sitting on my back porch reading, when a text came in from mark.  he was sharing a quote from a book he was reading.  it said:

"serving the poor is a euphemism for destroying the poor unless it includes with it the 
intention of seeing the poor begin to serve others, and thereby validate the words of 
Jesus that it is better to give than to receive."

i thought to myself, "man that is so true, and speaks so much to the heart of what we're trying to do."  i silently prayed and asked God to help us lead our boys to be servant leaders in their community.

Allan coaching
then a thought hit me.  at that very moment, allan was up in the gym running practice for the rinas (our girls team) - which was mostly his idea and commitment.

at that very moment, milton and robin were out on the 4wheeler running the firewood ministry, serving the ladies in the village by carrying their firewood to their homes so they don't have to carry it on their heads.  a ministry jake started, and those 2 have served in from the beginning.

Axel in Honduras
that same morning we were discussing how to implement saturday night "teens nights" in the gym - intended to help keep teenage boys and girls out of temptation at night by simply giving them something else to do.
an idea of julio's

then i thought of another rhino graduate, axel.  our villages first sent missionary!  living in honduras with the davis family to plant another boys academy and help bring the light of Christ to another dark community.




Jesus' discipleship method was to invest several years of his life deeply into 12 men.  during those years he literally gave all of himself to them.  he was preparing them to assume the mantle and carry it forward after his departure.  for several years he gave them all of his energy, time, and love. he was practically with them every day, 24hrs a day.

i like to compare our rhinos to the disciples.  many were uneducated.  they were rough around the edges to say the least.  as i read scripture, i see them as scrappy, dirty, and tough.  some were short tempered.  they didn't understand most of what their leader said.  (oh man, that gives me hope!)

but what thrills me most is what happened after Jesus left them.

after his departure, through the coming of the holy spirit, his disciples shared the gospel in the most passionate, radical and sincere way imaginable.  they took the gospel to the nations.  they ignited the world on fire.  nothing could stop them.  they took on haters, governments and rulers.  they were fearless.  

and the world hasn't been the same since. 

for the glory of God, our role at our little academy in buena vista will be completed someday.  God already knows who will lead it into the next generations.  they will continue shaping boys into godly men, and freeing families from the abusive cycles that have produced destruction for so long.  they will be the missionaries and spiritual leaders in their community and beyond.  

at some point bvsa will no longer need direction from brock and mynor, for the glory of God.  those we have served will be the ones serving others - living out what Jesus taught, that it is better to give than to receive.


Friday, February 19, 2016

what would you say when your wife and best friend unexpectedly dies?

you may have seen that former nba player and current okc thunder assistance coach, monty williams, lost his wife in a car accident a week ago.  this 7min video is of him speaking at her funeral yesterday.

is strength like this possible without faith in God?  without the assurance of heaven, faith in God's purposes, and the certainty of eternal life?

without faith and hope through the cross of Jesus Christ, tragedy and suffering leaves us depressed, empty, or broken.  but an "eternal perspective" through faith in Christ allows us to see things differently, and trust God's purposes in all things.

no doubt monty is hurting.  he just lost his wife and best friend of 20+ years, not to mention taking on the task of comforting his 5 kids who lost their mom.  but he is a man of God.  he's not putting on a show for the cameras.  you will no doubt take note of his resilience as he speaks, and his conviction for what he believes.  i pray and trust that through the the death of his wife ingrid, many others would come to a faith Jesus.  i'm sure ingrid and monty both would consider that pure victory.

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.   
2 Corinthians 4:16-18, The Message


Thursday, February 18, 2016

great week with friends

we just said goodbye to some friends who have been visiting for the last week or so.  they brought gifts, smiles, hugs, and love to the rhinos and many more.  here's a few special moments from their trip -  all things that wouldn't otherwise be likely to happen in our little village...




 our friends delivered 7 "widow gifts" to women in the village who are without husbands.  the huge basket included slippers, earrings, a quality knife set, mixer, radio, apron, chocolate treats, candles, and more!  in this picture, a 19 year old man (and former rhino) from BV puts new slippers on his mom's feet.


each of the members of the group brought new sneakers to the boys.  in this pic, alex is posing with isabel, hulises, and darwin, who are all sporting their new Nike Air cross trainers.  do i even need to try to explain how stoked they were?

pictured here is a friend of ours who grew up playing soccer all of her life and is marrying a college soccer coach.  however, nothing compares to playing the sport you love with a young child hidden in the poor, rural guatemalan mountains.





a new home is dedicated to a family who had been sleeping on dirt floors in a tin and cornstalk house.  but what made this home dedication even more special, is the fact that the donor of the home is a man who has fought homelessness himself.




in our village, killing a pig for a bbq represents an enormous cultural celebration, usually only seen at select weddings or parties where someone in the family is from out of town and has the resources.  our friends purchased this 190 lb pig for what was a monster celebration with the rhinos, and likely the biggest (and best!) meal they had ever eaten! 


allan puts earrings in his mother's ears...


if you look closely, you'll see my "home team" logo on one of these boys shirts.  more donations have come into this village from jacksonville over the last 7-8 years than any of us can possibly imagine.  its always cool to look around and notice all of the jaguars, seminoles, or gators on our friends clothes.