Friday, July 29, 2016

davis family perseverance & need for new home!

when you get a free minute, search "bot fly removal" on youtube.  just don't spend a half-day following links - as tempting as it is!

was that crazy or what?

now...  take that miserable experience you just watched, and times it by at least 10.

can you imagine?

what do i mean by "times it by 10"?  let me tell you about the davis family's last few months...

davis fam and axel on the futre bvsa-travesia site!
already struggling with jessica's lupus symptoms (her health had been on the decline), and shae's skin problems (she had broken out with several rash's and/or allergic reactions), shae noticed a weird bump on her clavicle.  it kind of looked like a normal insect bite...  at first.

ultimately worms and puss were extracted from the hole.  and more worms.  and more puss.  finally - over skype - dr. carlos diagnosed her with what seemed to be a bot fly manifestation.

the good news was that a bot fly is a one-and-done issue.

not this time!  what would follow would be a 2 month battle with dozens of worm extractions, skin infections, fevers, and illness - from every single female member of the davis family.  (which is the entire davis family, minus paul.)

yep, all 5 precious davis girls suffered from these vicious bites, infections, and worms being painfully extracted from their bodies.  all this while jessica's health continued to fail.

my family had the privilege to keep shae in our home for a full month during this time.  she was forced to leave honduras because of the environment and climate, so that she could heal better.  because of jessica's health issues and paul's travel schedule, they sent her to us for a month.

if i can just say - as a side note - that this is what family is all about.  can you imagine how hard it was for her mom and dad to send shae by herself to another country to suffer through this horrible situation without them?  but paul and jess knew she would be loved and cared for, and they trusted us to walk though this time of suffering with their daughter.

it was not easy.  i still remember laying on the pull-out sofa, night after night, holding shae in my arms as she cried her eyes out...  while dr. carlos extracted worms from what was now 12 different bot fly locations all over her body.

including her scalp.

i don't think i need to share every detail.  just know that mikayla (17), shae (14), mckenna (10), and lulu (7) all got hit with this in some form or another.

as i was talking with paul regularly through this, at one point i felt like he was at the end of his rope.  he was the only one who never got sick, but would have traded places with any one of his girls in a heartbeat.

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i share this story because i have been nothing short of amazed at the davis family's fortitude and perseverance.  and i believe, at this point in time, they need an advocate.  

they aren't going to stand up and shout "please help us, just look at how much we're suffering!"

but they do need some help.  and since kerrie and i, and the leiva family, have had a front row seat during their last 3 months, we believe that advocate is us.

let me tell you one more thing before i share some specific needs.

as jessica was in and out of the hospital dealing with her own health concerns during all of this, her and paul said something to me that i will never forget.  i had been wrestling with how to give them some encouragement...  just feeling like everything about "enduring suffering" had been said at that point.  so i told them that if they feel like they need to head back to the US for a while, take some time off, rest, etc - please do so.  i just didn't want them to feel like we had any expectations of them.

without hesitation, their response was: "that's not an option.  if satan is attacking us like this, it's because the village of travesia is worse off than we even know.  the enemy must like travesia just the way it is if he's trying to run us out of town.  the more he attacks, the more committed we are to stick this out.  he's only making us more certain of our call."

and that's been their dogged firm stance ever since.

just a couple weeks ago, paul went out to the site of the future boy's academy in travesia, only to find a bunch of boys running around the property playing soccer.  he sent me a short video of them playing, with a note that in-part read:

"...this is why we do what we do.  this is why we suffer illness and infections, and cry and go to bed frustrated.  why we scratch our heads and wonder if we heard God correctly.  it's so these boys will find the same Jesus that we know..."

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so...  we want to get the davis family out of the filthy area of puerto cortez where they currently live as soon as possible.  we want to get them into the village of travesia.  into a new, clean home that is better for their health and overall well-being!

**WE NEED TO RAISE $58,000**

that amount will complete the davis home, as well as build a small home for axel and jason to share.  (jason is moving from savannah, GA to come join the bvsa-honduras team!)

once the homes are complete, the family can relocate to travesia and begin a simple/basic version of
the boy's academy program.  with just the homes in place, they can begin doing devotions and soccer practices on site.

after that, an additional $133,000 will be needed to build the gymnasium, classrooms, weight room, locker rooms and kitchen (without furnishings) at which point the ministry will be in full operation.
travesia boys standing on the future davis' home site

for now, we are shooting for the goal of $58,000 in order to get the davis family out of their current situation, and into travesia where they belong!

please go to bvsatravesia.com to read more about the davis family, the rest of the bvsa honduras team, and the village of travesia.

and you can click here to donate!  whether you write a check or use paypal, be sure to note "bvsa honduras".

of course you can always contact myself or paul davis with questions or for more information...

thanks for considering helping.  we couldn't do it without you!


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

mission teams & trinity fitness

wisman, elder & the BV rainbow
have you ever literally seen the end of a rainbow?  trinity fitness' recent visit started with a beautiful rainbow coming through the clouds and landing directly in our village!

maybe it was a sign of things to come...  because this was a special group of people that showered the Rinos AND Rinas with love and friendship.

i'm not going to lie...  mission teams can be, well... interesting. sometimes a bit of a challenge :)

in fact, i recently shared a post with my entire family from a girl who works in full time mission work.  her post was about photography, and how people who visit 3rd world countries can sometimes exploit the poor with their search for the perfect shot.  she even went as far to say that some people literally make the trip just to get that ideal selfie or image of themselves serving the poor, or holding an orphaned child.

she quipped, "ever since my experience, my profile picture will never be the same."

maybe a little cynical.  but...  those of us who work on the ground in missions, specifically in places of extreme poverty, can no doubt relate to those situations.

the famous Trinity Victory Pose
for us at dSg and bvsa, we have re-structured how we do mission teams.  always striving to revolve everything we do around the betterment of the village and the local people (not the visitors), we moved away from hosting "mission trips" and renamed them "partner visits."  maybe that seems like a subtle difference, but we see it as more than just a name change.

as we grow, we continue re-evaluating and checking ourselves.  we want to work hard AND smart.  we want our workload to line up with our priorities.  and we want our energy to be proportionately in line with the end goal God has called us to.  anyone is business (and hopefully ministry) know what i'm talking about!

so as we continue to serve this community, in hopes of raising up it's future leaders who will break the generational chains of poverty and abuse, we aim to partner with people who truly want to help in that process.

while some ministries that host mission teams work hard to impact the american visitors, that is simply not the priority that God has laid most heavy on our hearts in this place.   the cool thing is, as we truly dial-in on the goals to serve the local village, it happens anyway.

back to our recent visit from trinity fitness...

these friends came with the intent to serve, love, and work hard.  not once did i feel that anyone was in it for themselves.  real friendships were made, tears were shed, and lives were changed.  i am thankful to anthony and denea widener for many years of friendship.  they have long been supportive of the rhinos and all of our work.  they believe in our philosophy on "partner visits", and they bring folks who also desire to get involved with something meaningful and long-term.

30 Rinas in their new running shoes!
this was a week that included games, dancing, lots of exercise, hiking, visiting families in their homes, praying with struggling moms, blessing young girls with God's love (as well as some new shoes), soccer, music, a special time with our friend cesar, lots of prayer, and lots of tears mixed with lots of laughing.  and it ended with an announcement that trinity fitness had raised the funds to take all 32 boys on a 3-day trip to see the famous ruins of Tikal next month!

i think its safe to say that the trinity fitness team 2016 truly left a mark of love and encouragement.

anthony - i never would have thought, when you walked into my sports agency in 2002 looking for representation... that our story would lead us to where we are!  we were both lost at that time, pursuing the wrong things.  we were both rescued by the grace of jesus the following year, and then in 2005 God reconnected us and restored our friendship - this time centered around Him!  he truly is the Redeemer.  its an honor to be in this fight with you my friend.  through all the ups and downs, God receives all the glory.  lets keep running hard together!

thanks to the entire trinity fitness team for a great week!  and for not being "that kind of missionary" that the above mentioned girl was talking about in her blog post :)


Trinity 2016 team with the Rhinos (holding up their Tikal trip ticket)


Thursday, July 14, 2016

saying goodbye to my baby girls

i had no idea this would be so hard.
brooke and madi at their new apartment

last week, i said goodbye to my 2 baby girls.  we pulled away from their apartment with tear filled eyes and lumps in our throats, headed to the airport to fly back to our home far away.

i remember when my parents dropped me off at college.  knowing they were a 90 minute drive down I-10 made it pretty unemotional.  i could shoot home on the weekends anytime - and certainly for birthdays and holidays.

not the case this time.  we knew how far away we were going, and knew it would be a long time before we'd see them again.

our youngest, luciana (3yrs) cried and screamed the whole car ride.  "i want the girls!"...  "take me back to their house!"...  "papi, please pleeeease turn the car around!"... tears streaming down her face.

i can't even describe the hurt i was feeling in that moment!  i wanted to ball myself, but tried to be the strong one (yeah right) for my wife, luci, and jake (15) who was no doubt struggling as well.

thankfully as jesus followers, we know that growth comes from pain.  and we know that through our sacrifices, God is glorified.

i am seriously clinging to that - because right now i kinda want to bag the whole missionary thing and hunker down somewhere comfortable and just be with my family.

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ever since God rescued me from a life of empty pursuits and false hopes about 13 years ago, our family has been extremely tight.  i can't even tell you how many times we've been comforted by the fact that "at least we've got each other."  we've been through so much together.  like many families, we've been through tragedy, loss, and pain.  we've done several relocations, including to a third-world country where we didn't speak the language or have any friends.  there's nothing like THAT to bring a family together!

i'll never forget...  we had been in guatemala less than a month when brooke came home from school with a letter notifying parents that one of her classmate's dad had been kidnapped.  the letter contained important safety information and reminders, and asked families to be praying.

we realized right away we were not in suburban north florida anymore!

there's something about growing a family in another culture - especially an underdeveloped country of extreme poverty, corruption and violence - that forms a unique bond.  our kids didn't grow up with a huge social network.  not many extracurricular activities.  no fun youth group.  not even a general feel of safety or confidence to just go hang out with friends...  go to the mall, to a movie, etc. 

girls going away party with the rhinos
one product of an environment such as that, is that it meant we were always together.  and since we love being together, we didn't mind that!  school, work, ministry, weekends, activities...  all together.  in fact the girls were such an instrumental part of our ministry, when we hosted their goodbye party i had never seen so many tears!  the boys were losing not only their "tutors" in the classroom, but their sisters of whom they had grown up with.

for kerrie and i, saying goodbye to them was more than just proudly watching our kids "leave the nest"...  it was more like saying goodbye to life partners and best friends.

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my girls get nervous when they have to speak english in a formal environment.  i never knew that until recently, when they were interviewing for jobs and confessed to me how hard it was for them!  they tend to do/say things that, when speaking spanish, are perfectly appropriate in formal settings, but when speaking english just sound plain weird.  hard to explain, but trusts me...  its a real thing.

they feel awkward in groups of american kids and young adults their age.  their stories and interests just aren't the same.  they would describe it as being the third wheel that just feels awkward or out of place.

despite all of their experiences that will certainly give them a unique perspective on life, there are also some things they never really learned in light of their circumstances.  they can be around extreme poverty, pain, sickness and suffering - and feel right at home.  yet i watched them in a restaurant last week, struggling to figure out how to use the fancy soda machine - and ultimately just letting people pass them so they didn't have to wait on them.  sound silly?  maybe so... but in the moment, those little things can make you feel like a real idiot!  

more importantly though, there is a known thing about MK's and PK's (missionary and pastors kids) that is very true.  they can sometimes grow up in their parents shadow, even leaning on their parents faith and, spiritually speaking, just "go along for the ride."  while i know that is not the case with my girl's (their faith stories are very much their own), i do believe that mom & dad's absence will allow them to grow in their relationship with Jesus.   

we know that this adjustment needs to happen.  it's time to leave the nest.  to learn and experience some things they haven't figured out yet.  to depend more on God.  to round out their "experience and exposure" in helping them become the women that God would have them be.

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our talks with the girls over the last year have centered around one theme.  they are being sent to an american university as missionaries.  the purpose for this move is not to "get a degree" or simply "to go to college."  and its not just to gain the experiences that i already mentioned above.  

that would be the world's logic.  

if they graduate with college degrees in the process, that's great.  and we've encouraged them to work hard at school and do their best.  but most importantly, we send them to represent Jesus in a place where he has in large part been forgotten.  we send them to be a light in the darkness, an extension of love, truth, and grace to a classmate, neighbor, and co-worker.

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the morning after we had arrived back home in guatemala, luciana went to the girls' rooms to wake them up.  i guess she was confused or had forgotten.  when she saw their empty beds, she began to shout their names and sob uncontrollably.

it may take a while for the "new normal" to settle in.  but madi and brooke's empty rooms now serve as a reminder that God has called them to a new phase and a new challenge.  and in the moments when i want to cry and scream "this sucks!" (like right now) i will need to remind myself that growth comes through pain, and God is glorified in sacrifice. 

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yesterday i received an encouraging text from paul davis, who is in honduras with his family planting another buena vista boys academy.  it served as a reminder for me as to why we do hard things as christians.

after heading out to the property of the future boys academy of honduras, he saw that a bunch of local boys were playing soccer on their property.  touched by the moment, he sent the following message to me and a couple others, along with a short video of the boys playing:

Walked onto our beach today and saw this happening...just on its own.  This is why we do what we do.  This is why we leave family and say goodbye to our daughters; why we go thru brutal infection after brutal infection; why we cry and go to bed frustrated and wake up in the same state; why we scratch our head wondering if we heard God correctly.  It's so these boys will find the same Jesus we know and go thru the same trials and ask the same questions...all the while knowing that grace, peace and hope are a few steps away.  We have the honor of doing what Jesus loves, we have the honor of following his leading...we have the honor of being with him thru all that!  Love you guys and thankful for all the crap we go thru together as a team!

it was a beautiful and timely reminder that i needed to hear.

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i can sometimes have strong opinions about american suburban culture, how it can lead to a me-focussed life, centered around ambition, success, fun, sports, activities, and entertainment.  but you know what?  i'd be lying of i said i didn't want it!  that's the whole battle, right?  to fight against the desires of the flesh?

but God asks us to die to ourselves in order to save ourselves.  sacrifice what we want for what He wants.  i'm going after the fruit that comes from sacrifice.  the joy that comes from pain.  may God be glorified as we let go of our own desires for the sake of others, and for his glory.  may he be glorified as we say goodbye to our daughters and return to guatemala to focus on the mission he has called us to.

we must look toward our reward in heaven, instead of our "best life now."  and i am so thankful to have people in my life - my family, my church, my rhinos - to run with in that direction.

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God be with and protect my baby girls - they are more yours than mine.  thank you Jesus that they are best friends.  thank you that they love each other and are so good for each other.  i pray that their foundation of faith holds them up strong when temptation comes.  i pray for comfort over their sensitive hearts when they miss their family.  i ask that they learn to depend on you during this time.  i pray that they shine like bright lights and that people will come to know you because of their witness.  i ask you God to use them for your glory - however you want to.