Monday, October 30, 2017

risk your kids for the kingdom?

a couple days ago, our next door neighbor was murdered.  shot 10-12 times for refusing to pay on an extortion attempt.  he was driving home from work (in a pickup, full of people in the back) when a motorcycle drove up beside his window and unloaded.

his wife, who was sitting in the passenger seat, was also hit and is now in critical condition.  the truck wrecked and many of the people in the back were thrown and injured - thankfully none died.

this type of thing has been relatively commonplace over our last 9+ years living as missionaries in guatemala.  

i'll never forget our kid's first week of school after our move in 2008.  a father of one of brooke's classmates was kidnapped while shopping at a hardware store that we had just shopped in that very week.  when we arrived to pick up the kid's from school that day, it was locked down and police were everywhere.  

can you imagine how we felt?  it was our first week on the ground...

these are only 2 examples - one from our first week here, and one from just a couple days ago.

it puts in perspective something fantastic that i read recently.  maybe one of the best things i've ever read on missions.  here's an excerpt from john piper's article titled "rick your kids for the kingdom", dated october 23, 2017:

Should a Christian couple take their children into danger as part of their mission to take the gospel to the world?  Short answer: Yes.

Why?  Because the cause is worth the risk, and the children are more likely to become Christ-exalting, comfort-renouncing, misery-lessening exiles and sojourners in this way, than by being protected from risk in the safety of this world.

When Paul said that "anyone who does not provide for... his household has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Timothy 5:8), he was talking about world-idolizing slackers, not self-denying emissaries of Christ.  But even that observation is not the main point.

The question raised by this text, and many others, is this:  What is the greatest good you can do for your children?  What does a real, countercultural, Christian ambassador and exile from heaven think when he is told, "Provide for your household"?  Provide what?  Culture-conforming comforts and security?  Really?

I don't think so.  He is thinking, How can I breed a radical, risk-taking envoy of King Jesus?  How can I raise a dolphin cutting through schools of sharks, rather than a bloated jellyfish full of plankton floating into the mouth of a whale called the world?  How can I raise offspring who hear Jesus say, "The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head" (Luke 9:58) and respond, "Let's go"?

Perhaps we lose too many of our children because they weren't trained as kingdom soldiers.  Maybe we train them in comfort and security, and now they won't leave it.

You can read the entire article here.  For us serving as missionaries, this is one of those reads that - as my wife put it - "ignites our soul."  it speaks well towards the "worth the risk" factor that many of us fully believe in, but find hard to articulate.

i was asked recently why i would move my family to a place like guatemala or even somewhere like iraq.  my simple response was "how could i not?".  people are dying without knowing Jesus.  Jesus commanded us to take the good news of hope, love, peace, forgiveness, and salvation to all the nations.  and there are still entire nations and entire people groups that don't know.  how could we not go?  how can we not send?  how do we just live our comfortable lives?

we didn't go into missions so that our kids could be raised differently, get a different perspective and form different priorities.  we went into missions because God called us through his Word to missions, and we just obeyed.

but i do agree fully with the reference from the article above.  i can't begin to describe all of the challenges, danger, risks, adventures and incidents my kids have experienced in the mission field.  and i am beyond thankful for who they have become in the process.

i wouldn't trade it for the world... and i do believe that they are now young adults that, when they hear Jesus say "are you sure you want to follow me, because i don't even have a place to lay my head?", they will undoubtedly say "let's go."



Thursday, October 12, 2017

welcome fosters; my letter to your boys

first night in guatemala - oct 4, 2017 - welcome fosters!
last week, the fosters arrived on one-way tickets.  they'll spend the next 3 months with us in guatemala, then relocate to honduras early next year with jason and axel.  the next 90 days in guatemala will include an intense missionary training program, 3 hours per day of language school, and lots of rhino futbol for their 2 boys!

something has really struck me being around their family.  its that their boys are the exact same ages that my kids were when we arrived in the mission field in 2008.  jake had just turned 7, brooke was 10, and madi was 11.  in the foster's case, jackson is 7 and alek is 10.

jackson has had a couple tough moments since getting here last week.  nothing crazy, just normal stuff.  its not easy on a kid to leave his friends and family, switch culture's overnight, and have his world turned completely upside down.

--------------------

because of the age comparison, i'm going to use jackson (who is currently 7) and jake (who was 7 when we moved to guatemala) as examples in this post.  i could substitute alek, brooke, or madi's names just as easily (i am so proud of my girls)...  or any young kid who is either moving to the mission field, or who grew up in the mission field!

my letter of encouragement to jackson, and any other kid who follows mom and dad to the mission field.

brooke, madi, & jake - august, 2008 - first week in guatemala
dear jackson:

over 9 years ago, my son jake was you.

one day, he was surrounded by family and friends in his comfortable suburban home where he had grown up.  the next day, he woke up in a crazy new place, where no one looked like him or even talked like him.  it was dirty, chaotic, and strange...

his house "back home" was sweet - complete with carpet and air conditioning!  it had a big TV that played american shows in english.  the neighborhood was safe, clean, and even had sidewalks!  just a short jaunt through the community led to a beautiful swimming pool, basketball courts, and a pristine soccer field.  there was an ice-cream place, a pizza place, a publix, and just about everything else you could ask for... right around the corner!  and best of all - mimi, papa, aunts, uncles, and cousins all lived just minutes away.

jake knows exactly how you feel, buddy.

when he was 7, we landed in guatemala without a clue what we were doing.  he didn't speak one word of spanish, and didn't know anybody.  we were wanderers.  strangers in a foreign land.

within a few months, jake was thrown into a local school where nobody spoke english.  his crazy parents dropped him and his sisters off every day at 7:30am and didn't come back until 2:30pm!  everyone in his class laughed at him and made fun of him.  back in the states, he was the coolest and funniest.  but here, he felt like a total outcast.

when his teacher made him read out loud, everyone laughed.  when he had to ask a question (like "can i please go to the bathroom?"), he would usually pronounce something wrong- and everyone would make fun of him.  one time, for weeks in a row, a kid kept telling him he was going to beat him up after school - just because he was a "gringo."

sometimes jake would come home and cry.  one time, he said "i don't understand a single word they say.  i feel like all i hear is the sound of bees buzzing...  all day long."

but his parents kept telling him about Jesus.  they showed him how Jesus was made fun of, laughed at, spit on, and ridiculed.  they showed jake in the bible where it says that if we want to be a follower of Jesus, we too have to be willing to be suffer and be made fun of.

God began to show jake that He had sent his son Jesus to earth to help people, but even those people didn't realize it.  they didn't think they needed help.  and that's why they were mean.  so jake was able to see that his job, even as a kid, was to be like Jesus.  he realized that the mean people need Jesus too...  and if he would love them, and have faith, Jesus could change their hearts!

jake also learned to laugh at himself.  he learned how to replace pride (that doesn't like to be made fun of or laughed at) - with humility (that doesn't care if people laugh at you!).  he learned how to be nice to someone who had previously treated him like a total jerk.  he also learned how to spot others who were being made fun of - and be kind to them, encourage them, and become their friends.

another really cool thing that happened is God showed jake that not everybody in the world has an x-box, an iPhone, or even plenty of food.  he began to not really care about those things, God started shaping him into a new person.  he started caring more about helping people than he did about having new stuff for himself.

soon jake learned spanish - even faster (and better) than his parents!  over time, he started to fit in and feel more comfortable.  he got bigger and stronger and became the best soccer player around.  but it wasn't his soccer skills that made jake special.  it was his love.  jake had learned to love Jesus more than anything.  and because of that, he learned how to love the people.

he even loved those who were mean to him.  to be honest, jake began to even teach me (his dad!) that very truth.  one time, i was upset that a kid was being a bully to jake, and i tried to give him some advice.  i told jake to stand up for himself by saying sometime mean back to the kid - out loud so that the rest of the class would hear it.  jake replied "thats pretty funny dad...  but i think i'll just try to be nice to him and see if he changes."

wow!  i was embarrassed!  but at the same time, i was very proud of who my son was becoming.

jackson, here's the best part.

jake now realizes that all of those "blessings" he had back in the american suburbs... they were actually hindering him from knowing Jesus.  the luxuries (toys, games, electronics, etc), safety, security, and comforts - were actually preventing him from experiencing Jesus.

the challenges associated with changing cultures, facing persecution, and being surrounded by poverty, diversity, and insecurity...  led jake straight to Jesus!  and today, as a young man, Jesus is his everything.  jake is not perfect, and (trust me!) he makes plenty of mistakes.  but God used his life in the mission field to humble his heart, simplify his life, give him a new perspective, and mold him into who he is.

jake recently received a scholarship to go play college soccer in the USA.  in 9 months, he'll leave his life in guatemala behind (the only life he really knows), and return to the country where he was born.  its a culture he doesn't know anymore.  his memories there have become faint, and his experiences there have been defined by 1-week visits.

he's nervous!  he doesn't like to read and write in english anymore, and sometimes gets uncomfortable around americans because he doesn't understand some of their phrases and jokes.

jake and jackson - oct 2017
but i know he will shine bright.  and not because he's handsome, funny, athletic, and charming.  he'll shine bright because he has learned how to hear Jesus' voice and obey it.  he will shine bright because he wants people to know Jesus.  he will shine bright because he learned how to love Jesus, and how to love all people, with his whole heart.

jake will be the "different one" again.  people will probably laugh at him.  but he won't care this time.  he will probably embrace it and enjoy it!  he will live totally different than his teammates.  he will love people differently, and he'll share openly about his faith.  he won't care if you are black, white, latino, or asian.  or even christian, muslim, buddhist, or atheist.  he has learned to see all people as people.  people who cry, laugh, and hurt.  people who need a savior.

i can promise you this...  jake doesn't regret his move to the mission field one bit!  he even realizes that he didn't just "follow mom and dad to the mission field."  today, he sees that God put him there with great purpose.  and in fact, he credits growing up in the mission field for the person he is today.
 
so when you're having a bad day, frustrated and angry...  remember jake!
when they are all laughing at you...  remember jake!
when you're mad at your parents and just want to go home...  remember jake!

and when you remember jake, may you be reminded of God's faithfulness, and be filled up with the unconditional love of Jesus.

oh...  and if on any given day you just need some encouragement or advice, don't hesitate to call jake.  i know he would stop everything to take your call :)



Thursday, October 5, 2017

rhino wedding

this past saturday marked a very special highlight in my life.  i had the privilege of marrying one of
our rhino graduates, allan marroquin, in the gym at bvsa.

allan walked into the academy the first day that our doors opened in 2011.  he was a little punk!  and even though he was 13 at the time, he looked like an 8 year old.  he was an angry little fella - not to mention rude and mean.

a couple weeks ago, we had some visitors here at BVSA.  when one of them asked allan why he wanted to get married in the academy, he told them, "this is where i learned about Jesus. it's also where i learned to be a husband, so this is where i want to start being one."

adding to the symbolism of the day... allan's wife glendy grew up in our friends' (the schmidts) ministry - educate BV.  as we were teaching allan about Jesus over the years, glendy was learning about Him as well, right down the street.

all of this is what made the day was so special.  it was a symbol of a new generation of men in our village.  a new generation of dads and husbands and men who love Jesus.  a new generation of marriages centered on Jesus, and willing to do things differently.

to put it simply, this is why BVSA exists!  what a joy it was to host a rhino wedding.

CLICK HERE FOR PICTURES FROM THE WEDDING!